Three tips for uncovering hidden assets during a Pennsylvania divorce
To find hidden assets during divorce, spouses should review all available financial documentation, know what to look for and obtain professional help.
Under Pennsylvania law, almost all property that a couple acquires while married is considered marital property. If the couple divorces, this property must be divided either by the agreement of both spouses or by a family law court, which is tasked with reaching an equitable distribution of marital property. Unfortunately, a number of spouses who face the prospect of asset division may attempt to avoid a fair and reasonable distribution by hiding marital property.
Statistics on asset concealment in divorce are lacking. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, research does show that over half of spouses who combine their assets have hidden cash from their significant other. Another three-tenths of spouses in this group have engaged in other forms of financial deceit. This suggests that many spouses may face asset concealment during divorce and may benefit from knowing how to uncover hidden property.
1. Know the warning signs
First, divorcing individuals should be aware of indications that their spouse might have hidden marital assets. Forbes states that assets can be concealed in many ways, including secret accounts, understatement of income, creation or exaggeration of debt, transfer of assets to accomplices, dissipation of assets and purchase of items with questionable value. As a result, the following developments may signify some form of financial misconduct:
- A spouse reports losing income or suffering a sudden decrease in the value of a personal business, practice, property or investment.
- The spouse starts buying items, such as jewelry, art and vehicles, which could easily be undervalued during the divorce and sold later.
- The spouse begins gambling, taking on debt or otherwise losing money.
- The spouse regularly spends more than his or her income should allow.
People who are divorcing should also take note if a spouse goes to unusual lengths to maintain financial secrecy, such as using multiple cell phones, deleting computer files, maintaining a private post office box or refusing to share financial documents.
2. Perform financial research
To investigate whether assets really have been hidden, spouses should collect all available financial documents, including tax returns, account statements and bills. Spouses should then review these for discrepancies, abnormal or mysterious purchases, secret accounts and unknown sources of income. The Wall Street Journal also recommends conducting online searches to determine whether a spouse owns other property or has earned money from undisclosed transactions.
When gathering all of this information, spouses should take care to avoid engaging in legally questionable activities, such as using software to spy on the other spouse. Information obtained in this manner may not be admissible in court, and illegal actions may also hurt a spouse’s divorce case.
3. Hire a professional
To improve the likelihood of hidden assets being located, spouses should also seek assistance from a professional with knowledge of forensic accounting and asset detection. An attorney who has experience in these areas may be able to help identify red flags and take any necessary steps, such as subpoenaing financial documents or deposing the other spouse, to uncover hidden assets