Often when divorce papers are filed, suddenly marital assets are shifted, shuffled and hidden. Even though it‘s illegal and unethical to conceal marital property the practice is more common than you think. Wealthy people have been known to squirrel away assets in foreign trusts. But asset diversion is no longer a shill game of the rich.
Spouses of ordinary means may give interest-free loans to girlfriends as they contemplate divorce. Or business owners may place their mistress on the payroll at extremely high salaries. A spouse may even overpay their income taxes, often when the payment exceeds the actual income tax debt, and then, after the divorce is over, file an amended return with a request for a refund of the over payment so that the refund is not shared with the other spouse.
There are examples of guys who stop paying the mortgage on jointly-held property and allow the bank to foreclose. Then at the foreclosure sale, the ex will have his parents buy the property back so the ex-wife is cheated out of some of the marital property.
One New York attorney estimated that asset hiding tricks occur in half of all divorces. Suspecting this, women need to have an accountant comb tax records, credit card bills, bank statements and stock reports. The law works against ex-wives who may not have access to all of the financial information. This places them at a great disadvantage.
Business owners may devalue their share of the business but ex-wives may not be able to prove otherwise. It's clear that divorce courts favor the more powerful spouse, usually the guy. Judges don't have the time nor inclination to challenge the stated value of the property.
Women who are divorcing without many assets need to gather bank and credit card statements and financial transactions on your home computer. Start setting aside cash in your own name to pay for legal bills prior to a divorce settlement.
The bottom line — during the marriage ask questions about money matters, and, more importantly, everything you and your spouse buy or acquire during the marriage is legally owned by both of you and is considered marital property.
Be smart, be thorough and protect yourself.
Some further help: a member of our social network recently shared with the community five places to look for hidden income:
- Identify discretionary spending habits. Next, look for changes in those habits.
- Understand sources of deposits including other than compensation. Example: the spouse has a paycheck every two weeks; no bonuses; no reimbursements; no part-time job; yet, there are deposits being made to the account other than the paychecks.
- Medical reimbursement. Why this? Some plans/companies have 100% reimbursement.
- Swapping loan balances. Look at brokerage and bank account statements for unexplained deposits.
- Look for a particular expense that has gone up substantially. Look to see who is the recipient.
This, of course, was followed by a word of caution — "I would strongly caution you to keep these things (assuming you find something) to yourself and/or your attorney (NOT friends/family/etc). The temptation to confront will be STRONG. However, as long as you keep it to yourself the trail of evidence will not change and you can continue to track it; OR speed up the divorce proceedings."