While hidden assets can be difficult to detect during a divorce, working with a team of professionals who specialize in this area is your best bet. I highly recommend having a lifestyle analysis conducted if you suspect anything is amiss.
Unfortunately, it is fairly common for individuals to hide assets during a divorce. I have read that funds are hidden in as many as two out of three marriages. Obviously, the extent to which funds are hidden varies widely but that’s still a pretty big number. Clues about hidden assets may come in numerous ways. The very best thing you can do to protect yourself when you are still married is to stay involved with the family finances. It is much easier to spot changes when you are already involved. Even if you are not familiar with your finances, there are still several places to look.
Below, find 4 ways to find hidden assets during a divorce
1. Unreported Income
This is a tough one but if your husband works in cash, he might not be reporting all of his income. If you suspect that is the case, you can get a lifestyle analysis done by a Divorce Financial Analyst, which will go through all sources of income and expenses. It will be clear if something does not match.
Not so long ago, I was working with a wife whose husband had a cash business. Based on the analysis that I conducted, we determined that he was making about $50,000 per year more than what he was reporting. In this particular case, having this information saved the wife thousands of dollars in maintenance as he was requesting it from her under the guise of making a lot less than her. It turns out they made just about the same amount of money.
2. Tax Returns
There is a wealth of information available on the tax returns so it is worth taking a close look over the last few years. When I am working with clients, I consistently find information about accounts that were not previously disclosed and always review at least the last three years of tax returns. Here are some examples where hidden money might be identified on a tax return.
- Interest and dividends. Income from interest-bearing savings and investment holdings will be reported. Additionally, dividend income is reported. Take a look at Schedule B to identify accounts paying out more than $400.
- Mortgage interest. Review Schedule A for clues about other loans/properties that you did not know about.
- Profit/loss from a business. Look here to see if there is a side business of which you were not aware.
- Overpaying taxes. Check to see if you usually get a tax refund and how your current year tax payment has compared to prior years. Your spouse may be planning a tax refund for himself after you are divorced.
If your spouse has his own business, there are numerous ways for him to hide assets. For example, he can do things to intentionally lower the value of the business such as delaying a large contract, prepaying employee benefits or other expenses or using the business for personal expenses. It is worthwhile to hire someone to conduct an independent valuation of the business. Remember that professionals hired by your spouse are looking out for his best interests and not necessarily yours.
4. Collectibles & Other Valuables
Some hide money in tangible assets such as cars, artwork, antiques, etc. It is important to have these items appraised to determine a fair value. Take note, if you see your spouse accumulating things where they have not shown an interest in the past. Again, if there is a business, some of these items might be located at the business. It is common for items to be kept at some other location that is not the primary residence.