Make Sure All Assets are on the Table
Regardless of how friendly a divorce may seem, there are certain facets to the proceedings that can easily get lost in the shuffle. One of these is the division of the marital assets themselves. It is easy for people to get consumed with making sure the assets (and debts) are distributed evenly; however, they could very well forget to make sure that all of the assets are on the table. It is challenging to divide assets evenly if people are unable to know whether or not all of the assets have been revealed. Despite the intimate nature of marriage, it is still possible for people to hide assets from their spouse in the event that a divorce does arise. Alternatively, the spouse owning the assets, or the higher earner spouse may not share the details of the marital estate with the other spouse simply because the other spouse may not be interested in knowing that information during an intact marriage. It is when the parties consider getting a divorce that the spouse that has been kept in the dark during a marriage needs to become educated in the finances of the marriage.Overseas Accounts
One of the places that assets could be hidden is in overseas bank accounts. Across international borders, if the assets were never revealed during the marriage, the other spouse may not even know that the accounts exist. Money from the marriage that could technically belong to both parties may be hidden in such an overseas account. When the time for the divorce proceedings rolls around, these assets could then be hidden from any legal proceedings simply because they exist under the radar. It is important to take a look at where all of the funds from the marriage have traveled to ensure that everything is divided in a fair manner, particularly if you are the lower earner spouse or the spouse with less assets. Assets funneled overseas may be discovered by a close review of the tax returns.Talk to Relatives
Another place that assets often hide are with relatives, Spouses could ask relatives to hold on to funds for them during the divorce proceedings until after the proceedings have been finished. While the assets may seem like they belong to the relatives, they could belong to one of the parties in the divorce instead. Other times, an account could be titled in a spouse’s name together with another relative. In those situations it may be challenging to know whether the funds in the account belong to the spouse or to their relative. This is a common method that some spouses use to hide assets, particularly if they were in charge of the family's finances, until the assets have been divided. It is vital to follow the paper trail and make sure that funds are not being hidden in the possession of one of the spouse's relatives or friends.
These are only a few of the many ways that one spouse may try to hide certain financial assets from the other party during divorce proceedings. It is important for anyone going through a divorce proceeding to ensure that all of the assets from the marriage are in plain view to ensure an equitable division of the assets. In a complicated situation, it may be beneficial to one or both of the parties to retain the services of a forensic accountant to investigate the marital estate and to determine the status and location of certain assets. Some couples may prefer to each retain their own forensic accountant to complete such an investigation. Others may choose to retain a neutral forensic accountant to investigate the status of a marital estate. A neutral forensic accountant will save the parties’ money in fees in the long run, as they are paying for the services of one professional as opposed to two. It is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can provide guidance with respect to a forensic accountant and can advise if one will be beneficial to a case.
Article updated October 1, 2020.