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How to find those hidden assets

You and your spouse decide to split up, and he or she puts together an initial financial statement detailing what half of the assets looks like. You take one look and your gut tells you there's no way that's really your fair share. You must have more coming your way.

Honest, real mistakes do happen. Your spouse could have simply overlooked something and he or she will be happy to make the alterations moving forward. However, there's also a good chance that your gut is right. Your spouse may be trying to hide assets from you, shifting the division of assets unfairly in his or her favor. Here are a few tips to help you find anything that's been hidden away.

1. Pull credit reports

Credit reports are going to include any loans and lines of credit that have been taken out. You may see your home, your cars, the vacation cottage, and the like. When you spot things you don't recognize, like a second mortgage on a property you've never been to, that means there are assets your spouse hasn't reported.

2. Check over the tax returns

Perhaps you didn't have much to do with the tax returns, just allowing your spouse to work on it. Getting copies of those returns and going over them can give you an accurate picture of how much has been earned for years. Though that doesn't mean your spouse still has that money - you have to balance this with spending and expenses - it can paint a better picture of the real financial situation.

3. Look for recent gifts or fake debts

People sometimes try to give away money right before divorce so that they can claim they don't have it. For instance, your spouse may "suddenly remember" that he owed his or her friend $10,000 or a purchase they made together, or your spouse may decide to give a "gift" of $50,000 to his or her parents. The idea here is that, once the divorce is over, those who have been given these gifts will simply return them, cutting you out of your half.

4. Look for money that was spent far beyond the norm

This isn't a tactic to hide the assets, necessarily, but to waste them. Your spouse may suddenly decide to take that vacation to Switzerland, for example, spending $40,000 in the process. Your spouse is essentially trying to spend $20,000 of your money so that you can't get it. While other purchases, like new cars or homes, can be sold to recover the money and split it up, something like a vacation can't be refunded. You can argue, in some cases, that you still deserve your cut of these expenditures.

When there is a lot of money on the line, you simply must know your rights and legal options. If you think your spouse is wasting or hiding assets to keep them from you, find out what steps you can take to protect yourself and your own financial situation.

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