Discovering Hidden Assets in Divorce
Financial matters are among the most common sources of marital discord, both during the course of a marriage and in the divorce process. Determining how to proceed with the division of property and debt can be extremely stressful and, at times, rather contentious between divorcing spouses. This can be especially true in a high-asset divorce, or when there is a large disparity between the income and assets of each partner. Despite the difficulty, fair division of property can only be accomplished with financial transparency on the part of each spouse, with no attempts to conceal hidden assets.
Illinois law requires that marital property, assets, and debt be distributed equitably between divorcing spouses, which means fairly, but not necessarily evenly. Doing so requires a clear understanding and valuation of the couple’s assets and debts, to ensure nothing is left unaddressed. This requires each partner to be thorough and forthcoming about any accounts, investments, or other assets that may exist. If one spouse fails to do so, intentionally or otherwise, he or she may be guilty of hiding assets, an illegal practice detrimental to an equitable divorce agreement.
How to Find Hidden Assets
When one spouse has hidden assets, the other spouse may be forced to take action, especially in a divorce situation. A qualified attorney can often provide significant aid to the spouse trying to uncover concealed funds or assets. Financial experts offer some advice on ways to go about revealing hidden assets, if they, in fact, exist.
- Examine Tax Returns and Documents: Review any and all tax documents, including 1099s to ensure interest and dividends are being properly reported. Also, be sure to note that the income and expenses being reported match what has been presented in the divorce.
- Search Public Records: Property and real estate ownership is a matter of public record, so if a spouse owns property, chances are good that documentation exists. Checking public records can help verify that all owned real estate has been properly disclosed.
- Verify Compensation and Deposits: A spouse may consider subpoenaing compensation and benefit information from the other spouse’s employer. This information can then be used to review bank deposit and expenditure history. Salary and benefit amounts that exceed disclosed banking activity may indicate the existence of alternate and secretive accounts.
- Review Household Expense Payments: An examination of bank statements and cancelled checks, combined with a thorough review of the household budget may help identify an undisclosed means of income. Payments being made from an unknown account and family expenses exceeding known income are often signs that money is being generated from another source.
- Scour Credit Card Records: Hidden assets can sometimes be found in the underestimated value of recent purchase items, such as jewelry or artwork. Purchasing these items, however, may appear on credit card statements or account histories. By closely matching credit records with previously disclosed purchases, a spouse may be able to find undisclosed property, both in the form of goods and real estate.
- Interrogatories or Depositions: Many spouses hide assets as long as they feel relatively safe in doing so. Relatively few, however, are willing to actively deceive the court or lie under oath. Therefore, in some cases, written interrogatories or sworn depositions may be options of last resort for discovering hidden assets. A spouse suspected of hiding property or funds will be forced to disclose all appropriate information or risk potential legal consequences.
If you are going through a divorce and believe that your spouse has hidden assets that should be disclosed to the court, the help of a skilled divorce lawyer can be invaluable. Contact an experienced family law attorney in Kane County today for a free consultation, and get the legal representation you deserve.