For many couples going through a divorce, the division of assets can prove to be the most difficult aspect of the process, other than arranging a parenting plan. Especially in situations where there is a dramatic discrepancy between the income of spouses, there may be stark disagreements about what is a fair way to divide assets, including the equity in your home and even your retirement account.
Unfortunately, wanting to feel like the "winner" in a divorce can prompt people to do things that are unethical or even illegal. One such common behavior is the attempt to hide assets from the courts to reduce how much the other spouse receives in the asset division process. Sadly, the more assets you've acquired during your marriage, the greater the potential temptation your spouse may feel to try to hide some of them.
The courts can only divide what they know about
Unless you have a legally sound prenuptial agreement on record, chances are good that the courts will need to step in and make a decision regarding how your possessions and debts get handled in the divorce. In order to ensure accuracy, the courts request an inventory of all marital assets and debts.
This document will then help guide the courts to find a fair and equitable manner to divide assets. If one spouse has taken steps to hide assets, ranging from secret bank and investment accounts to physically hiding money, that could result in an uneven and unfair outcome to the asset distribution process.
Finding hidden assets isn't always an easy process
Trying to locate something that another person has intentionally hidden isn't always simple or straightforward. In some cases, valuable possessions could be hidden in plain sight, such as in a collection owned by one spouse. The other spouse may not think to review the value of items like fine art or memorabilia purchased during the marriage that have significant market value. That could prove to be a serious mistake.
Many times, people hide their assets in even more complex manners, which could mean you need professional help to find them. A forensic accountant can review the financial records from your marriage, including tax returns and receipts, to track down hidden assets.
A forensic accountant could also help you place a value on items that you have no interest in retaining. Collectibles and other personal items of high value obtained during your marriage, so long as they weren't gifts or from an inheritance, should be included in your marital assets. Determining their purchase price is one way to put a reasonable value on these hard-to-price items.