Hidden assets can impact both the property division and the award of support payments. Assets hidden by one spouse deprive the other spouse of his or her share. If the hidden assets include income-producing assets such as a business venture or an investment portfolio, the spouse receiving support could receive a lesser amount of support to which he or she is entitled.
Some of the most common personal and business assets hidden during a family law case include:
- Offshore bank accounts – Bank accounts can be hidden no matter where they are established. Overseas bank accounts are often easier to hide and more difficult for a spouse to access even if they are discovered.
- Real estate – Rental real estate (income-producing) is easier to find because it often creates tax paperwork. Real estate that is not rented may not create a tax paper trail, making it harder to find.
- Collectibles, including antiques, jewelry, precious gems, coins, sports memorabilia, and artwork – These types of personal property are portable and, therefore, easy to move and hide.
- Rare livestock, including animals such as thoroughbred horses – Even though these assets are a bit more difficult to hide because of their size and the care required, their true value might be concealed.
- Assets transferred or sold to related parties and entities – Friends, family, and business associates may take possession of valuable assets while a divorce is pending. Cash, business interests, investments, stocks, and bonds are some of the more common items that may be given to related parties for safekeeping during the family law case.
Spouses should make comprehensive lists of all assets they believe are owned at the time of separation. Making those lists early is critical so that the forensic accountant has time to investigate the status of each asset.
Also included in this chapter:
Identifying and Classifying Assets
Asset Search Client Questionnaire
Classifying Marital or Separate Property
Uncovering Hidden Assets