Uncovering hidden assets in divorce cases

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Virginia law provides that all marital property is subject to equitable division in the event of a divorce. To protect some marital assets from division, some spouses have been known to hide assets. Hidden assets can include cash, bonds, mutual funds and insurance policies. They can also include personal property such as art, jewelry and antiques. Sometimes hidden assets are maintained in the names of relatives or friends, or money may be transferred as payment for a phony debt with the expectation of the money being returned when needed.

During the divorce action, a spouse who suspects the other party is hiding assets will sometimes hire an investigator. It is important to provide the investigator in such cases with accurate details regarding the other spouse and any relatives who may be helping them hide assets. Information on the spouse's lifestyle and travel habits can be very helpful. The investigator will usually want to look at income tax returns, which can be invaluable in tracking down any hidden assets.

The investigator may also scrutinize savings account and money market fund records because deposits could be evidence of interest or dividend income from hidden assets such as stocks or bonds. Bank statements and cancelled checks should also be examined to look for any investments not disclosed to the other spouse. Cash flow in a business can also be analyzed as well as any suspicious transactions. Credit card records, insurance policies, bank statements, ATM transactions and off-shore accounts can also be scrutinized to track possible hidden assets.

Hiding assets can have substantial legal consequences. A spouse who successfully uncovers such conduct will have a significant advantage in the property division process.

Source: Association of Divorce Financial Planners, "Techniques for Discovering Hidden Assets and Unreported Income During the Divorce Process," accessed on June 20, 2015

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