How do you know your spouse has hidden assets from you?
That is not an easy question to answer. You don’t know what you don’t know, I always say. So if you never managed the finances you may never know if your spouse has hidden assets in anticipation of divorce. And if you don’t have a good knowledge base of investments, retirement plans, filing taxes, bank accounts, keeping the books on a business, etc., then it would be a very difficult task to explore yourself. As a CDFA I am trained to review all of these records and determine the value of marital assets and debts. But I know more now than I did when I started more than 7 years ago! After being in the financial services industry in various roles including a branch manager of a bank, a licensed financial advisor and experienced in not only my own divorces but the many that I have helped through the process, I can say with confidence, it doesn’t take long to suspect assets may be hidden. There is no exact science to it, just experience. Your attorney with his/her experience probably has a good idea if your spouse is not being forthright either by their behavior. I just can’t say it enough without giving away the secrets, that it is of the up most importance to have the experienced divorce team on your side.
Where is the book on hiding assets?
If you have read the book let me know about it! I’ve scoured Amazon and searched for books on the subject. They just aren’t out there. But what I do know is there is a bond of divorced spouses who share the secrets with each other. Most often the man is the breadwinner and these secrets are shared on the golf course or in the club house over drinks (at least that’s what I’m told). Once I was in my doctor’s office (receiving an injection in my back) when he asked, ‘So how does someone actually go about hiding assets?’ I was not about to give away the secrets! I just laughed it off (after the injection) and told him ‘I don’t hide assets, I find them!’ So what do you do if you think your spouse has hidden assets during your divorce? Or before the divorce process starts? See an attorney experienced in family law and find a certified divorce financial analyst.
Is it worth the extra expense to hire a financial expert?
Maybe. Depends. If you know you always lived broke married and in debt, then probably not. But if you and your spouse had good incomes, lived under your means, and saved for retirement, then probably. Years ago I had a client who had only 2 weeks to prepare for court. The attorney thought I would be worth the cost to look through the documents. In my digging around I found an $80,000 account that the other spouse claimed was non-marital, but according to my tracing it was found to be marital. My fee was 1.5% of the missing account. Was it worth it to the client?
There have been other cases where hidden assets were not always found, but the spouse wanted to pay the money to have the peace of mind to sign the final order. But more times than not, missing assets are found. My job is to trace the money and supply the attorney the documentation they need to prepare a good case for their client. And to educate the client on which assets would be more beneficial to take for their budget and cash flow needs, and for their retirement.
Remember: You don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s OK. Just turn to the experts who can educate you and help you prepare for court, mediation or settlement negotiations.