7 Ways to Uncover Hidden Assets During Divorce

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Once the divorce process starts, many individuals will do whatever they can to hold on to what they feel is their own money when martial property is divided. Some people even have secret accounts and other financial activities during the entire length of the marriage. Exposing these hidden assets is the only way to make sure you get a fair divorce settlement.

How to Look for Hidden Assets During Divorce

Being aware of the methods and resources used by divorce attorneys and financial professionals may help you avoid being victimized by a spouse or ex-spouse who is hiding assets. Below are some ways assets might be hidden.

Tax returns are one of the best places to start.

Most people are honest out of fear of penalties, fines, and even prison. Even a spouse who is trying to hide income from you is going to think twice about hiding it from the IRS. Go back at least 5 years to look for any inconsistencies in income, the presence of trusts, partnerships or real estate holdings.

Checking account statements and canceled checks can be revealing.

A canceled check for a purchase you never knew about, such as an investment property, can make a substantial difference in total assets to be divided. Checking account statements and canceled checks from accounts you didn’t know about are even more revealing. Make sure to request copies of ALL financial accounts during the discovery phase of your divorce.

Savings accounts may reveal unusual deposits or withdrawals.

Deposits and withdrawals could point to a hidden asset such as a dividend producing investment. If you notice any unusual, withdrawals or deposits take notice. Also, be sure to make copies of all financial account statements before you separate.

The courthouse is an invaluable resource when checking for hidden assets.

If they have borrowed money from a bank or mortgage company, their loan application will be on file at the courthouse. A person fills out a loan application in anticipation of obtaining money from a bank. On that application will be a list of assets the person owns and an estimation of their value.

Because it is a federal crime to lie on such applications, you will be able to get a pretty clear picture of an individual's assets.

Don’t forget the county tax assessor’s office.

If money has been taken from savings accounts and used for buying real estate property, the tax assessor will have all pertinent information on record. Any land or homes they own will be listed with an address and the assessed taxable value of the property.

Your spouse’s boss may help hide assets.

A boss may be persuaded to wait to give an earned bonus until after the divorce is final. This can also happen with stock options, retirement benefits or pay raises. These monies would not be considered during the settlement negotiations which means an inequitable distribution of assets.

Help may come from a friend or third party.

It wouldn’t be unusual for a friend to help your spouse hide assets. This can be done by conjuring up a phony debt to the friend with the understanding that the money will be returned once the divorce is final . Also, if there is another man/woman in the picture, assets may have been used to pay for gifts, vacations, rent, and so on.

Additional Tips:

  • Don't make the assumption that your attorney will automatically look for hidden assets. You have to take a proactive role and insist that there be an asset search.
  • When it comes to assessing assets, don't make the mistake of taking your spouse's word for it. Guilt and emotional pain can cause a certain level of denial that may get in the way of a fair divorce settlement.