In a Massachusetts divorce, the Court will divide the marital assets and debts between the spouses. Generally, everyone is quite willing to make the debts known because no one wants to get stuck paying them. However, that is not always the case with the assets, as spouses sometimes attempt to keep all for themselves by hiding them.
To help begin to understand the hidden asset problem, you should consider the following list of ways that spouses commonly use to attempt to hide assets:
- Collusion with an employer to delay bonuses, stock options or raises until after the divorce. You might find this information by taking the deposition of your spouse's boss or payroll supervisor, but more likely you'll need a forensic accountant.
- Salary paid to a nonexistent employee. The checks will be voided after divorce. Again, you might find this information by taking the deposition of your spouse's boss or payroll supervisor, but you'll probably need a forensic accountant.Money paid from the business to someone close - such as a father, mother, girlfriend or boyfriend for services never rendered. The money will no doubt be given back to your spouse after the divorce is final.
- A custodial account set up in the name of a child, using the child's Social Security number.
- Delay in signing long-term business contracts until after the divorce. Although this may seem like smart planning, if the intent is to lower the value of the business, it is considered hiding assets.
- Skimming cash from a business he or she owns.
- Antiques, artwork, hobby equipment, gun collections and tools that are overlooked or undervalued. Look for lush furnishings, paintings or collector level carpets at the office; income that is unreported on tax returns and financial statements.
- Debt repayment to a friend for a phony debt.Expenses paid for a girlfriend or boyfriend such as gifts, travel, rent or tuition for college or special classes.
- Investment in certificate "bearer" municipal bonds or Series EE Savings Bonds, which do not appear on account statements because they are not registered with the IRS.
- Cash kept in the form of traveler's checks. You may be able to find these by tracing bank account deposits and withdrawals.
If you suspect that your spouse may attempt to hide assets, it's best to start investigating your household and business finances before initiating divorce proceedings. Make copies of important documents such as tax returns from the past several years, bank account statements, pay stubs and any other documents that reflect joint assets or debts. Keep copies of these documents outside the home if you're still living with your spouse or partner. Also, as a precautionary measure, you might want to open a separate savings account in your name only. If your spouse hides assets, you may find yourself in need of a nest egg. Down the line, you may have to relinquish some of your savings to your spouse after all, we're not encouraging you deal with a dishonest spouse by stooping to his or her level but having a little extra cash on hand may ward off a crisis in the wake of your divorce.
Having an experienced attorney can go a long way toward identifying, locating, and valuing such assets, but sometimes it becomes necessary to hire experts, such as forensic accountants, in particularly complex cases. The more that spouses can educate themselves on this issue, the more guidance they can provide to their attorney, their experts, and ultimately to the Court.
Contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar to schedule a free one hour consultation either via email or telephone 978-844-4095 to discuss your situation.