Hidden Assets and How to Find Them in a Divorce
While most people hope to end a marriage amicably and without a fight, sometimes a soon-to-be ex spouse resorts to hiding assets in order to keep or grab a larger portion of the marital assets. Divorce can be an emotionally and financially draining experience. Dividing assets, including not only money but also property, belongings, or businesses, can be complicated and time-consuming. Add in children, pets, treasured mementos, or even a favorite picture, and you could be ready to agree to anything just to resolve the conflict. However, the agreement or judgment you enter into in divorce will affect you and others you care about for many years, and should be entered into with all the assets carefully identified and equitably divided. Hidden income or assets concealed through fraud could have a serious effect on the divorce settlement and on your ability to recover and move on with your life.
Ways to Hide Money or Property in a Divorce:
There are several ways a spouse may use to try to funnel money or assets to themselves, while hiding the transfer from you. Some of them are easy to spot, some may be cleverly hidden or come with an emotional pricetag. The most common ways to conceal money are to:
- Open a new bank account or investment account in their name only. This tactic can also sometimes include creating an account in a foreign country.
- Make a “loan” to a family member or friend. Variations of this tactic may include making a fraudulent loan to your children or step-children. When the person repays the loan, your ex-spouse may or may not keep a record of the payment.
- Use marital asset money to buy items, ranging from something like a car for a family member, or items for the new household they are planning, to things like expensive “extras”—often items like tools or jewelry that can be re-sold for cash– that they do not disclose.
- Neglect to mention a recent raise, new job with a higher salary, or a bonus that affects their overall income.
- Remove high-ticket items such as lawn tractors, security systems, antiques, etc. from the marital home. It is common for a spouse who wants to hide these assets to either stash them with a third party, or even sell them for cash, which they then neglect to disclose.
- Unilaterally and without your knowledge or permission gift items of marital property to others, including and often to family members, even children or stepchildren. Your spouse knows that if you do discover the gift, you will be reluctant to demand these items be returned.
What You Can Do About Hidden Money or Property in a Divorce:
When a spouse actively hides marital assets, it can be a difficult and emotional process to recover the items. You should attempt to prevent this fraud and the temptation by your spouse to hide assets by setting up a logical process for identifying, listing, and finding all assets at the beginning of your case. This includes providing your attorney with detailed financial documents, including tax returns, pay stubs from both you and your spouse, bank account information, and all investments. In addition, you should regularly review your bank and investment accounts to make sure that your spouse has not withdrawn or transferred any assets without your prior knowledge and agreement. Look for all credit card accounts, secure balances, and monitor all accounts for any purchases that you were unaware of.
As part of the divorce process, your attorney will normally file interrogatories and a request for information that your spouse must answer. This is a tool designed to identify marital assets and provide the attorneys and the court with an accurate picture of the assets and debts to be divided. It is not uncommon for a spouse to be untruthful and deliberately misstate or fail to report items in response to your discovery request. The court requires each party to answer these interrogatories and request for information truthfully and completely. If you believe that your spouse has not been truthful, or is deliberately hiding information on these documents, it is important to highlight the inaccuracies, gather any evidence you may need, and bring the omission to your attorney right away. Quickly proving fraud may prevent transferring assets or allow you to recover the item or money before it is gone. If it is discovered that your spouse is engaging in fraud, you need to show the evidence to the court so that you can reach a reasonable, equitable divorce settlement or at least preserve the item(s) through a temporary restraining order.
If you suspect your spouse in engaging in fraud, you need to take additional steps. You do not have to face this situation alone. Contact our experienced team at Van Den Heuvel Law Office in Grand Rapids @ 616-698-0000 or clickforhoward.com. Here at Van Den Heuvel Law Office we are very familiar with spouses who attempt to hide assets or commit fraud. We are experienced in successfully identifying and recovering fraudulent transfers and hidden assets. In addition, we at Van Den Heuvel Law have resources and a list of outside professionals we have used in the past who can help you locate hidden assets. Our relationships with outside professionals include private investigators, forensic accountants, computer specialists and others who are experienced and adept at catching and proving fraud. Let Van Den Heuvel Law Office put its skills and experience to work for you.