Search And Declare: Seeking Hidden Assets In Divorce

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Explore:  Divorce Marital Assets

The financial principle of all divorces in Florida is equitable distribution of marital assets. People facing divorce frequently dwell on the first word of this phrase, “equitable,” with their legal counsel thrashing out what is the fairest way to divide the pie. While defining what is equitable in light of the unique circumstances of each divorce is without question a huge focus of any divorce in which there are significant assets, the first step must always be to define what assets exist to be divided. Depending upon a spouse’s financial behavior during and before a divorce, this task may represent a major challenge at the outset of any divorce. 

Behind closed doors, and accounts

Unfortunately, the events that lead up to divorce often include trust-shattering secrets that prevent the couple from continuing the marital union. Not least of all, this may include discoveries related to heretofore unknown assets, such as stashed cash, deferred salaries and other hard-to-detect valuables. Many spouses are surprised to discover that their feelings of bitterness over financial betrayal rival those related to actual infidelity. 

Why suspicions might be raised

Qualified divorce attorneys frequently assess an opposing party’s lifestyle based on factors such as costs of living, luxury expenditures, and frequency and location of vacations. Such criteria are compared with income levels and declared assets, which may provide the first indicators that there are undeclared assets in the shadows. Erratic financial behavior may also be a tip-off, such as drastic lifestyle changes. Normal milestones, such as promotions and retirement, may also lead to additional assets, the precise figures of which may be difficult to ascertain with certainty. 

Where do hidden assets lurk

One way to check up on a spouse's assets involves simply analyzing IRS Form 1040, where the spouses have actually listed assets in prior years before they decided it behooved them to try to hide them. Experts have also identified a number of common schemes used by spouses attempting to hide assets:

  • Conspiring with family members to create fake debts that must be “paid off”
  • Transferring investments to partners or shell companies
  • Purchasing antiques, art, collectibles or other items whose cash value may not be apparent