Hidden Assets During Divorce
As our article on preparing for divorce suggests, tracking finances and obtaining documents and statements is critical when preparing for a divorce. Being attentive to the financial details of your relationship is crucial to ensuring that the divorce settlement you achieve is fair and equitable.
Discovering hidden assets can be difficult. Often times all signs of ownership have been concealed. With time, patience and a little luck it is possible to trace assets being disguised by a spouse. It is important to take the time to discover these assets because if a court does not know of their existence, the court can't distribute them.
Many hidden assets are liquid in nature. Examples include bank accounts, stocks, cash, bonds and mutual funds. These are common types of hidden assets because of the ease with which they can be hidden. They can easily be transferred into the name of a relative, friend or business entity owned by the spouse. Other times the funds may simply be in a separate account maintained in the name of the spouse.
When tracking down these assets, it is important to start with older financial documents. You should look for accounts that existed in the past but are no longer showing up in records. You should also look for suspiciously large transactions. It is also important to look for cash withdrawals. Sometimes a party may make a series of small cash withdrawals in order to deposit the cash into a separate account.
There are several other, less common methods of hiding assets. For example, assets are sometimes hidden as debt repayments where no debt existed. Sometimes disbursements of bonuses, stock options, or accounts receivable are intentionally delayed while a divorce is pending. Other times a party may make an excess tax payment while the divorce is pending and then file for the refund after the divorce. Another example if when a party gives a service provider such as a landscaper a large deposit, never has any work done and then demands a refund after the divorce.
Hidden assets play a significant role in divorce proceedings. It is important to be diligent in checking records in order to ensure that all assets are disclosed. Your attorney may employ the services of a forensic accountant to help you. Of course, the cost of hiring such an expert should be weighed against the expected amount of assets to be recovered.
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