Hidden Assets, Divorce and What You Need to Know
When it comes to divorce proceedings, things can get very ugly very quickly, especially when it comes to finances. Even an amicable divorce process can break down and become contentious when the matter of how to divide up the family assets raises its ugly head. Making matters worse is the fact that it is not uncommon for one spouse to attempt to hide assets from the other in an attempt to avoid paying out more in the dissolution of the marriage.
In a typical divorce, all the assets of both parties in the marriage are divided. In some states the assets are supposed to be divided equally, while other state divorce laws require them to be divided fairly or equitably.
If you are involved in a divorce proceeding, or think you will be soon, there is of course no way to know ahead of time if you spouse has hidden assets, or will attempt to do so. If you do feel your spouse has hidden assets, it is important to notify your divorce attorney as soon as possible. He or she can then take the steps needed to attempt to ferret out any fraud or hidden assets.
Perhaps the most important way to prevent a divorcing spouse from attempting to hide assets is to document as much as possible of your financial life before the divorce. It is important for both parties in the marriage to be involved in financial decisions, and to know what kinds of financial assets the family holds. That includes knowing the approximate balances of all bank accounts, brokerage accounts, mortgage loans, car loans and all other financial transactions.
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, it is important to sit down and go through all of these financial documents prior to making your move. It is a good idea to compile a simple form showing all the assets and all the liabilities held by both parties in the marriage, and all of those held jointly as well. It is a good idea to come up with an estimate of the net worth of the household prior to any divorce proceeding. Be sure to write down all account numbers for credit cards, bank accounts, brokerage accounts and other financial records. Also make copies of any recent tax returns, as well as deeds and other important financial documents. All of these records should be kept in a safe place, where your soon to be ex spouse will not be able to access them. This information will be incredibly valuable to your divorce attorney as things proceed, and it may well help keep your soon to be ex spouse from being able to hide any assets during the divorce proceedings.
If you cannot find bank statements, tax returns and other such documents in paper form, there are other ways to obtain these records. Tax returns, for instance, can be obtained directly from the IRS. Request copies of the returns you need and have them mailed to you at a secure location, such as your office or a post office box. Likewise, duplicate bank statements and brokerage statements can be requested from the broker or bank, and mailed to a private location where they will be safe.
When doing your financial inventory, do not forget assets such as jewellery, artwork, antiques and other valuables. Be sure to create a complete catalogue of such property, and to take photographs to document that inventory. A digital camera works great for this purpose. You can quickly and easily snap digital pictures of all the valuables in your home, then store those photos securely and portably on a thumb drive or flash card, where they will be ready should such documentation be needed.
Taking these steps will go a long way toward stopping a dishonest spouse from hiding assets in the event of a divorce. The better you are able to document the financial holdings of the family, the more likely the chances that you will get the divorce settlement you deserve.
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