Anyone who thinks all is fair in love and war never had a spouse who hid bank accounts on them. It happens, unfortunately, and when it’s time to call it quits on a marriage, you deserve a fair split of assets. But that’s tough to negotiate when some assets are hidden. And according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, the problem is widespread. Hidden assets exist in two-thirds of marriages, according to, "Uncovering Hidden Assets in Divorce Litigation" on huffingtonpost.com.
So, what if you suspect your spouse is among those hiding assets? And how can you find hidden bank accounts when you’re getting a divorce? First, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding hidden assets: some things to keep in mind
- In marriage, nearly everything you acquire is considered a shared asset.
- There’s almost always a trail when assets are hidden. If high-level investors can get brought to justice for hiding assets, there is most certainly evidence that can help you find what’s rightfully yours.
- If you signed a prenuptial agreement, you may or may not have rights to hidden assets depending on how they are categorized through the legal process, but those assets do need to be accounted for, depending on state laws. In general, assets may be categorized as marital, separate or comingled, but these categories can differ depending on the state where you and your spouse live. Overall, it’s important to account for all assets because a court may consider separate assets when determining how to split marital property and debt responsibility. Hidden assets can have an effect not only on property distribution but also maintenance and child support, so it’s important to bring all assets to light.
How to find hidden bank accounts
Here are some strategies for finding hidden bank accounts when you’re in the midst of a divorce.
- Hire a reputable divorce attorney who is knowledgeable about finding hidden assets. You want someone on your side who is looking out for your financial well-being, so partner with an attorney who knows how to uncover hidden assets. This can protect you from privacy laws which may prevent you from conducting these investigations on your own. It may also protect the information that comes to light through the investigation, so that it is legally admissible in court.
- With the help of an attorney, you can subpoena many valuable records, including employment records, bank statements, loan applications and other account records. Many of these are difficult, if not impossible, to get on your own.
- Do a search of public records online to determine possible aliases your spouse may be using, relatives, business associates and more.
- Keep in mind, hidden bank accounts aren’t the only concern. Unscrupulous spouses have been known to hide money in myriad other ways, such as withdrawing large sums and placing them in a safe deposit box under someone else’s name, for example. They might make a large purchase with the intention of selling it when the divorce is final. If they own a business, they may have other ways of hiding their income, for example, by paying a new employee you’ve never heard of. They may even artificially deflate their income by paying themselves less if they are their own boss or asking their boss to hold off on raises and bonuses.
Uncovering hidden assets: an essential step toward a fair divorce settlement
Uncovering hidden assets is no small concern, and it’s certainly not a matter to be taken lightly. Having the right legal team on your side is essential to making sure you navigate the process legally and effectively, while securing a split of the property that is fair to you.
Do you fear a spouse you are divorcing is hiding assets? Contact us to determine how we can help you.
By Sonja Davig, Family Law Attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC. For a divorce lawyer, call her at 608-784-5678.