It is common for one spouse to handle finances for the family. In fact, the other spouse may have no idea of the family’s take-home income, the value assets, investments, retirement plans and other things of value. Ignorance may even be bliss as long as the family lives comfortably, but it is not an option when dividing marital assets during a divorce. While family law attorneys are skilled at identifying hidden assets, spouses should still know what to look for even if they previously were uninvolved in the finances.
Hidden assets could be an honest oversite, an intentional act, or even fraudulent actions. Typical instances include:
- Undervaluing a family-owned business
- Delaying employment benefits, bonuses or business opportunities
- False repayment of debt or services or creation of a false debt
- Foreign or offshore bank accounts
- Bank accounts in the minor children’s names
- Overpaying taxes, knowing there would be a refund
- Denying an asset exists
- Hiding cash
- Transferring cash or assets to a third party
Look for red flags
Each spouse must have a comprehensive list of assets and debts. If it looks incomplete or inaccurate, it may be time to dig deeper. The spouse can look at the family’s tax returns and itemized deductions. They should also try to gather information on the family business’s profits and losses and other supplemental income. Also, search for lists of passwords, evidence of safe deposit boxes, or even indications that there is the use of a digital currency.
This is a lot to ask a relative neophyte to interpret this information, but gathering the information is helpful when meeting with a divorce attorney. Regardless of what a spouse tells themselves or each other, spouses should divide marital assets equitably. So, it is in a spouse’s interest to get as complete a financial picture as possible.