If you’re a woman going through a divorce, you need to ask yourself two tough questions: Could your husband be hiding assets? And if he is, does that mean you won’t get the divorce settlement you deserve?
Hiding assets during a divorce is sneaky, unethical and illegal – and it happens much more frequently than most women suspect.
Many couples have complex financial portfolios. Yours might include your marital residence, rental or vacation properties, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement and pension plans, stock options, life insurance and probably much more. It can be difficult to keep track of all these moving parts in the best of times. During a divorce that task can be exponentially more complicated.
Unfortunately, as you go through the divorce process, your husband may try to take advantage of the situation by hiding income and/or assets. How can you tell? What steps can you take to ensure you have an accurate accounting of your family finances?
Be on the lookout for telltale signs that your husband has some dirty tricks up his sleeve and make sure you work with a qualified divorce team to ensure you have the professional expertise and support required to receive a fair settlement.
In many divorces, a lifestyle analysis will be conducted by your divorce financial planner to establish a clear picture of your standard of living during the marriage. Not only can this be used to help determine alimony and child support, but it also serves as a tool to help detect hidden assets or income. Analyzing a couple’s marital living expenses and connecting them to all known sources of income, assets and loans, makes it fairly easy to see if there is a mismatch – a telltale sign of concealed income or assets.
You should also be aware of the most common unethical practices husbands use. If he wants to undervalue or hide marital assets he may:
- Purchase items that could be overlooked or undervalued. Maybe no one will notice that expensive antique that’s now in his office. Were you wondering why he recently made several significant additions to his coin/stamp/art collection?
- Stash money in a safe deposit box, somewhere in the house or elsewhere. Think through his recent activities. Does anything lead you to believe he is hiding assets in actual cash?
- Underreport income on tax returns and/or financial statements. If it’s not reported, it can’t be used in a financial analysis.
- Overpay the IRS or creditors. If he overpays, he can get the refund once the divorce is final.
- Defer salary, delay signing new contracts or hold commissions or bonuses so that income won’t be “on the books” during the divorce proceedings.
- Create phony debt by colluding with friends or family to establish phony loans or expenses. He can then make payments to them, knowing he’ll get the money back after the divorce is final.
- Set up a custodial account in the name of a child using the child’s social security number. He could also use his girlfriend’s social security number, making it difficult to locate the account.
- Transfer stock or investment accounts into the names of family members, business partners or dummy companies. The assets can be transferred back after the divorce.
Such behavior is not only unethical; it’s also illegal and subject to severe penalties if discovered. Unfortunately, the burden of proof often rests on the spouse with fewer financial resources, typically the woman. That’s why women must play it smart, become knowledgeable and keep their eyes open.
Ideally, you should be financially aware and involved from the onset of your marriage. Consistent involvement from the get-go is critical for two reasons:
- Should your husband become incapacitated or die, a working knowledge of your assets, liabilities, income and expenses, as well as the location of all your accounts and important documents will be vitally important.
- If your husband has been hiding income and assets over years or decades, it will become virtually impossible to locate them .
Don’t snoop. Scrolling through your husband’s private emails, listening to his calls or voicemails or anything of that nature can land you in serious legal trouble. Consult your divorce attorney to learn what is –and is not –permissible under the laws in your state.
Instead, find legal ways to protect yourself. If you believe your husband has financial dirty tricks up his sleeve, start organizing your personal finances and important documents under the guidance of a qualified divorce financial strategist. You’ll need to Think Financially, Not Emotionally® so you can keep your finances intact during the divorce proceedings while planning for a secure financial future.
Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA™ is a Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC, a firm which exclusively advises affluent women throughout the United States before, during and after divorce. He assists women and their divorce attorneys with deciding on the most advantageous way to divide marital assets and enable them to negotiate more favorable settlements, especially when there are complicated financial and tax issues. He also writes for Forbes.com and the Huffington Post.
For further information, please go to: http://www.BedrockDivorce.com or email Jeff at: Landers@BedreckDivorce.com.