Figuring out how to split up your assets is one of the most challenging parts of a divorce. What you want and what your spouse wants likely won’t match up exactly, leading to arguments and increasing the potential for a difficult court process. In the heat of a divorce, one or both spouses may do things that they would otherwise think of as unethical.
Those unethical actions may include intentionally hiding assets both from one spouse and from the courts. Hidden assets unfairly skew the outcome of your divorce because the courts can only split up the items they know about. Knowing where to look for hidden assets is a first step to ensuring the outcome of your divorce is fair.
Physical items can represent substantial monetary value
Typically speaking, items purchased with income earned during your marriage become marital property. Regardless of whether you desire the item in question, you should receive a portion of its value. The courts will have you create an asset inventory checklist that contains all of your major assets and their estimated values. The courts will use this as a guideline when they split up your possessions.
When your asset inventory does not contain all of your possessions, you may receive less than half of your marital assets. Taking the time to locate and accurately price anything purchased or acquired during your marriage that was not a gift or inheritance can help ensure a fair outcome.
Look into items that you have no interest in owning, including collectibles, items related to a hobby and even fine art or jewelry. Each of these items can represent hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of value. When a collection is substantial, having a professional place a price on it may be the right decision. Other times, you may want to use the purchase price as the benchmark for the value of the items.
Look for hidden accounts and transferred assets
Some people engage in secretive, inappropriate behaviors throughout their marriage when it comes to finances. These behaviors could include depositing a small amount of each check into an account your spouse does not know about or otherwise intentionally hiding money or value from a spouse.
In some cases, your spouse may even take the extra step of giving away or selling for an inappropriate price assets that would belong to both of you. They likely do so with the hope of gaining the items back after the end of the divorce through a verbal agreement with the other party.
When it comes to hidden accounts or dissipation of your marital assets, working with a financial professional may be the best way to handle the problem. A forensic accountant or similar professional can track income and assets that move in and out of your shared bank accounts and help you determine if anything seems to be missing. They can also let you know if there are any red flags that make it look like your spouse has been building up a cash reserve that is physically hidden somewhere.
Locating hidden assets is an important step to ensuring a fair outcome in your divorce. If you have any reason to suspect that your spouse may attempt to hide money or valuable possessions, you may want to invest some time and effort into looking for potentially hidden assets.