Hide and Seek: When Assets Go Missing During the Divorce in Mississippi

Could your spouse be hiding assets? And if assets are being hidden does this mean you won’t get the divorce settlement you are entitled to? Unfortunately asset-hiding happens much more often than you would think—and generally by the more financially affluent spouse, leaving the other spouse “high and dry,” so to speak. Hiding assets is not only unethical, it is illegal, however that in itself does not prevent spouses from squirreling away assets in order to keep their partner from taking half during the divorce.

Many of today’s couples have extremely complex financial portfolios including the marital home, rental or vacation properties, retirement and pension plans, stock options, life insurance with cash value, a business or professional practice and multiple bank accounts. Statistics show that over 85% of the time, it is the man in the relationship doing the asset hiding and at least 20% of all couples include one or both parties who have attempted to conceal money or assets from the other.

How Would You Know if Your Husband or Wife Was Hiding Assets?

Although most of us believe we would know if our spouse was hiding assets, in truth the person in the relationship who has less money is usually less involved in taking care of that money. They may not be responsible for paying the monthly bills, checking the bank statements or paying the property taxes, therefore may not have a comprehensive picture of what is owned.  While it is easier to let someone else handle the details, such a move could come back on you with a vengeance during a divorce.

If you feel in your gut that your spouse is hiding assets—then he or she probably is. Bring in a professional early on in the divorce before the assets are so deeply hidden as to never be found. Your divorce attorney can recommend a good forensic accountant or financial investigator; although these services may seem expensive, in the long run such a move will pay off. Further, if it is found that your spouse was indeed hiding assets, your divorce attorney can ask the court to require your spouse to reimburse you for the money you spent finding the hidden assets.

What is a Lifestyle Analysis?

In some cases your forensic accountant or financial investigator may start with what is known as a lifestyle analysis. This task will establish a clear picture of your overall standard of living during the marriage. The marital living expenses will be connected to all known sources of income, assets and loans—a mismatch will show up fairly quickly. Discrepancies can be a red flag signaling concealed assets or income. You may wonder just how people accomplish asset hiding. Hiding assets can actually be fairly simple for the spouse who routinely handles the finances if the other spouse doesn’t make a point of asking questions and looking at bank statements and other financial information. Some of the primary methods of asset hiding include:

  • The most obvious way of hiding assets is to actually hide cash in a safe deposit box, with friends or family members, or even in your home in places you won’t think to look.
  • Buying expensive items which can easily be undervalued is another method of hiding assets. A painting which doesn’t look particularly pricey but really is, additions to a coin collection or new equipment for a business can all be ways spouses hide money.
  • Underreporting income on tax returns or financial statements is common; if there is less income that means less to have to divvy up.
  • Overpaying the IRS is also a commonly used ploy; after the divorce is final, the spouse submits a corrected return and is given a refund of the overpayment.
  • Transferring stocks to family members, friends or business partners or even creating a “dummy” company to transfer assets to is another tactic used by those who are determined to hide assets.
  • Creating fake debt; the spouse may set up false loans with family members or friends, making payments on that debt. Following the divorce, all the money comes right back.
  • Some spouses may even put a hold on a commission or bonus or defer salary until the divorce is final to avoid having to share.

Protecting Yourself

If you have any inkling that a divorce is on the horizon, start now making copies of all financial records including bank statements, tax returns, retirement statements, paycheck stubs, and all legal documents having to do with real estate, automobiles, businesses, rentals and vacation properties. Make a list of all antiques, artwork, jewelry and any other expensive items the two of you own. Take a look at your spouse’s ATM habits to see if there have been any changes in withdrawals. Most importantly, hire a highly qualified divorce attorney early on and discuss your suspicions. Matthew S. Poole is a very experienced divorce attorney with a goal of ensuring you receive your fair share of the marital assets. Matthew is committed to helping his clients through the roller-coaster ride of a divorce and gives individualized attention to every client. Call (601) 573-7429 today to speak with Matthew Poole.

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