The house, the cars, the vacation home — who gets these in a divorce? There are many questions surrounding divorce.
In Ohio, which is an equitable distribution state, property and assets are divided in a way that is determined to be fair. This might be an equal division or it might not, depending on what the court thinks is equitable.
But what if your spouse is hiding assets? How can the court fairly divide assets if one person is concealing assets to avoid having to share them with their soon-to-be ex-spouse?
If you suspect that your spouse has concealed assets and is trying to hide things from you and the courts, you’ll want to take steps to uncover those assets so that a fair division of property can occur.
1. Look For Red Flags in Tax Returns
If you and your spouse file separate tax returns, that is one easy way that they can hide assets from you. Most people are honest on their tax returns for fear of fines and penalties and even prison time, so this is one of the first places you should look if you suspect they are hiding different assets.
You can find interest from investment accounts that you might not know about, income that they are keeping from you, or even taxes paid on properties you didn’t know about.
This could also apply if you file a joint return but your spouse handles the filing and all you do is sign it. You can easily get a copy of your tax returns, so don’t overlook them when trying to locate any hidden assets.
2. Review Your Bank Statements
How often do you actually pay attention to the day-to-day activity on your bank account or review your monthly statement? Chances are, it’s pretty rare. even if you are the spouse who handles the financial responsibilities, most people do not scrutinize their bank accounts.
If you are going through a divorce and wonder if your spouse is hiding anything, you should look to your bank statements. Look for any small transfers to accounts that you don’t recognize or transfers to a new account that your spouse has opened in your child’s name.
Your spouse could set aside a large amount of money if they are doing this regularly without you noticing. If you have a high income and lots of accounts, you might even want to talk to your lawyer about hiring a forensic accountant.
3. Monitor ATM Usage
Your bank statements should tell you how the money was spent and where, as well as where any transfers go. It also indicates when a debit card is used at an ATM machine. If your spouse never withdraws cash but then suddenly starts making regular ATM withdrawals, that could indicate that they are trying to hide money or pay for property or possessions you don’t know about.
4. Examine Business Records
If you and your spouse own a business, it’s always a possibility that they are using the business to hide assets. You should go through your business accounts to see if there are any discrepancies or large write-offs, which might indicate that your spouse is moving money from the business into a personal account.
Your spouse could also pay a salary to a fake employee to funnel money out of the business. Once the divorce is finalized, they can just cash the checks for themself.
5. Request Your Credit Report
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once per year. Use this opportunity to obtain your report and check for any irregular activity on your joint accounts. There are three major credit bureaus, so get a report from each one as not all of them report the same information.
Look for any unusual financial activity or accounts that you didn’t know about that may be opened with your name on them.
6. Consider All The Possibilities
If your spouse really wants to hide assets from you, they might get creative. You might not think they are capable of hiding money or property from you, but you never know what kind of situation they may be in.
They could have offshore accounts, have a third-party they are working with to squirrel money away or help them hide things from you, or they could even be working with business partners to use the business as a way to funnel money into personal accounts.
7. Testimony Under Oath
If you or your lawyer suspects that your spouse is hiding assets, you can request an oral deposition where they must testify under oath. Your spouse must swear to tell the truth and is questioned by your attorney.
It’s always a possibility that your spouse lies during the deposition, but since they are under oath, they could be charged with perjury if they lie and you can prove that they are lying.
This should be one of your last steps in uncovering hidden assets, as you want to give yourself the opportunity to review financial records so that your lawyer can ask questions about them.
Don’t assume your spouse is always telling the truth. Anger, emotions, or guilt could cause your spouse to be dishonest when it comes to the division of assets.
Locating Concealed Assets
You should take a proactive approach in trying to find any concealed assets that your spouse may be hiding from you, like bank accounts, purchases, property, or investments. You should be looking out for your own well-being during a divorce.
If you are in the Columbus area and in need of a divorce lawyer, contact us today. We handle divorce, especially property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support.