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Your divorce and the search for hidden assets

The subject of hidden assets may not come up in every divorce, but it frequently enters the conversation when the couple’s personal or business assets are substantial. The law requires equitable distribution of the marital estate, but one partner or the other may not want to share everything.

Hidden assets may indeed exist. In fact, the spouse who has property the other has never heard about or cash carefully squirreled away may have been preparing for the possibility of divorce for some time.

Common strategies for hiding assets

In a high-asset divorce, one of the first places to look for hidden funds is an offshore account. Your spouse might have also transferred money to a family member or friend for holding until the completion of the divorce. There might be a secret investment account or valuables stored in a safe deposit box in a bank other than the one you use. Here are a few other asset-hiding strategies

  •         Your spouse may convert cash into a valuable asset like a painting that he keeps at the office, then underreport its value.
  •         Your spouse could hide cash in a custodial account in the name of your child, using his or her social security number to set it up.
  •         If your spouse owns a business, he could pay assets as a salary to a fake employee.
  •         He could hold municipal bonds or Series EE Savings Bonds that you may not know exist, as interest from these investments does not have to be reported on your tax returns.

Experts on the trail

What your spouse will probably not realize until it is too late is that your divorce attorney can assemble a team of experts to help in the quest for hidden assets. These professionals might include forensic accountants, CPAs, business valuation experts and vocational evaluators. In preparing for divorce, participants must reveal the many details involved with the value of the marital estate, including bringing to life all the hidden assets.

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