Hidden Assets in Divorce
At one of the lowest points in my divorce process, I remember what it felt like when I discovered some important and very sentimental items of mine had mysteriously disappeared. These items wouldn't be considered an asset of the marriage but not being able to locate them caused anxiety all the same. I had not yet relocated from the marital home and by that time, I had already been on the receiving end of a series of manipulation tactics involving possessions. Fortunately, days after expressing the worry and disappointment my Grandmother would feel if I had to tell her about the loss, the most sentimental of the "missing" items suddenly made their way back to where they belonged. Some of the other items on the other hand, would never return and I wrote those losses off for the sake of moving forward.
What if your missing items are in fact assets that should be divided? In other words, resources you will need to make a more successful transition in your life after divorce. Looking for hidden assets can be time-consuming, tedious, and challenging; much like finding a needle in a haystack. This process is something a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ is equipped to assist with and is within the scope of engagements here at SoulFINANCIAL. If you suspect assets are being hidden or have not adequately been disclosed, here are a few places to start:
Look closely at each of the schedules as they can reveal many leads such as, real estate transactions, income from investments and investment properties, depreciation from business related expenses, disposition of previously held assets, overpayments to the IRS, etc. Reviewing your tax returns with a tax advisor or CPA can be especially helpful.
The financial documentation required by lenders for mortgages is exhaustive. The data gathered includes all income sources along with assets and liabilities. Since borrowers generally want to paint their best financial picture in order to get the desired home at the best interest rate, this level of documentation tends to shows a comprehensive view with great detail.
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, one report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) is available to consumers annually for free. The data disclosed within each of the reports, regardless of the bureau, can expose a wealth of information. You'll discover important details such as, names used, home addresses, places of employment, account history associated with closed and open accounts, current financial obligations along with the ownership, authorized users, balances, and payment schedules. You'll also see any associated negativities such as, delinquencies, unpaid tax liens, and account write-offs. For a fee, you can also include your score. Obtain your free credit report here: www.annualcreditreport.com.
Couples who are in more complex financial situations, hiring a Forensic Accountant might prove valuable in finding hidden assets. Other areas where forensic accounting could be helpful include bookkeeping analysis of small businesses, discerning separate property from marital property, and/or providing expert witness testimony in court. Heads up - this expertise comes at price so you'll want to weigh their costs against the potential gains to you.
If you need documents from your spouse and they are unwilling to provide any to you, then your attorney should make the request on your behalf during the discovery process. Don't take desperate measures on your own and pretend to be your spouse. This type of false representation could be considered fraud and lead to unintended consequences and further complicate your divorce proceedings.
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