One of the unfortunate realities in many divorces is that one spouse will attempt to hide assets from the other to avoid having to divide them down the road. This is particularly problematic for the “non-financial” spouse – the one who took a hands-off approach to involvement with the couple’s finances during the marriage.
These non-financial spouses usually will not understand or have immediate access to records or documents related to marital property like investment accounts, real estate holdings, business interests and the like. Not having any information on marital assets can make it very challenging to ensure that the non-financial spouse receives a fair share of the marital estate.
If you are a non-financial spouse facing a divorce, your first priority should be identifying and locating documents related to all marital assets. While sometimes you can get this by simply asking your spouse, usually the spouse intent on hiding assets will delay or refuse outright.
In these cases, you or your attorney will need to rely on the legal process to obtain financial information from the unwilling spouse. In legal jargon this is referred to as the “discovery process” and can become a complicated and costly affair. However, it is one of the most effective ways to compel an unwilling spouse to turn over financial records.
Even after you receive the requested information, another problematic situation arises when the unwilling spouse has an ownership interest in a privately held business. In these cases, you will usually need the help of a forensic accountant to study the financial statements and records of the company to determine an appropriate value for the business and identify any unusual transactions that suggest assets are being hidden.
For any non-financial spouse experiencing the issue of hidden assets in a divorce, it is important to seek out the advice of an experienced divorce attorney or forensic accountant who can provide advice on the best course of action, depending on your circumstances.