How does a forensic accountant use bank statements in a divorce or family law case? Tracy Coenen explains why bank statements and credit card statements are requested in these cases.
Posts Tagged ‘hidden assets’
One frequently asked question from divorcing individuals is what to do if the spouse is suspected to be hiding assets. I recently outlined the steps that should be taken if a spouse is worried about the other spouse manipulating assets and income:
If you think your spouse may be attempting to hide income or assets during your divorce proceeding, your first step should be to tell your divorce attorney. Your attorney should know how to handle situations such as this, and the sooner he or she can act, the more likely you are to see results.
You should also quickly gather and secure any documentation that might prove your allegations. Financial documents that you can legally access should be copied and turned over to your attorney. This might include tax returns, pay stubs, credit card statements, bank statements, brokerage statements, contracts, or any other documents which might prove the existence of assets or streams of income.
The article can also be found in the Spring 2013 print edition of Divorce Magazine.
Experienced family lawyers are familiar with the common ways spouses attempt to commit financial fraud in divorce: hiding or undervaluing assets, overstating debts, concealing income, and inflating or fabricating expenses. All of these are done in an attempt to get more than the spouse’s fair share in the property division, and to influence the amount of support that will be paid or received.
Successfully advocating for your client involves more than just knowing that these things occur during the divorce process. You must also be able to identify the red flags that indicate the financial issue(s) must be investigated further. Some are easier to spot than others, but once you have identified two or three red flags, it is time to get a forensic accountant involved. The financial analyst’s experience with fraud and deception will be invaluable in evaluating the red flags and determining if there is something of substance to investigate further.
Family law cases often focus heavily on financial issues. Whether the parties to a case are of modest means or great wealth, both sides want their own version of what is fair. Unfortunately, this can lead one or both parties to hide income and assets. With the help of a financial expert, counsel can identify income and assets that might otherwise go undiscovered, and hopefully reach an equitable end to a divorce or child support case.
Sources of income and assets owned can be identified with the right documentation. Attorneys need to be familiar with some of the most common financial documents so they know what to request. Attorneys with financial knowledge can also help identify issues that may need further analysis in a family law case.
We’ve all seen it before: A spouse owns and operates one or more businesses. Divorce is filed, and the “out” spouse is told that the businesses have little or no value. Further, there is no income available to pay support, thanks to the poor financial condition of the businesses.
How can this be when the married couple has lived a good life for years, always having more than enough money to pay for homes, living expenses, and vacations? It’s the case of the disappearing income and asset values, brought on by the divorce.
Child support, spousal support, and property division are often evaluated in light of the income of the each of the parties to a divorce.The parties fill out financial disclosure forms and purport to tell the court and the spouse the truth about their income. If one spouse is not truthful about his or her income, this can provide a great opportunity for the other side.
The spouse immediately appears to not be credible, and this can affect the entire case. If he or she is lying about income, he or she may be lying about other important things in the divorce.
The first step in evaluating claimed income is comparing it to documents that can confirm or refute the claims. This may include:
While it is common for one spouse to have control over the money in a marriage—be the major breadwinner, manage spending, and maintain control of financial documentation—family lawyers and their clients can increase the chances of finding hidden assets during a divorce by being aware of some of the schemes used to hide money.
Understanding the common schemes that may be used to hide assets and income can help the spouse in the lesser financial position protect himself or herself in the divorce; and, by knowing about these schemes, you can look for signs and hopefully limit the success your client’s soon-to-be-ex-spouse will have with them. Some of the more common schemes used to hide money in divorces include:
In many divorces, women are at a significant disadvantage, especially when it comes to money. In many marriages, the husband has been the main breadwinner. He often controls the purse strings, and often knows much more about where money has been spent and what assets are owned.
In contrast, the wife has often had lower earnings, and has had little to no control over the money. She may have been free to spend money as she saw fit, but she did not see the bills, pay the bills, or maintain control over bank and brokerage accounts. At divorce time, she has no idea where the money is, where is may have (improperly) gone, and may have no access to it.
One way to foil your spouse’s plans to hide income and assets from you during your divorce is by being aware of some of the schemes that can be used. It is very common for one spouse to have control over the money in the marriage, be the major breadwinner, control the spending of the money, and maintain control of financial documentation.
The spouse in the lesser financial position must take immediate proactive steps to protect herself or himself in the divorce. One of these steps is understanding some of the common schemes that may be used hide assets and income. By knowing about these schemes, you can look for signs and hopefully limit the success your soon-to-be ex-spouse will have with them.
It is not uncommon for one spouse to hide assets during a divorce. Everyone is in love until they’re not, and then they may not feel much like splitting everything with a soon-to-be e-spouse. If hidden assets and streams of income remain hidden, it may be impossible to get a fair divorce settlement.
Women are very often in the lesser position when it comes to the finances of the family. The money earner in the family is most often the husband. Even when both spouses work, most often the husband earns more than the wife.
Assets are hidden in divorce more often than you would expect, and women are disproportionately affected by this due to their tendency to be in the less powerful financial position.