It is an unfortunate reality, but divorce sometimes bring out the worst in people. When confronted with the thought of parting with half of their money, that same person you used to love and trust may suddenly become secretive. And if they are the one who asked for a divorce, they may have started squirreling away assets before they even told you they wanted out. If you suspect your spouse may be hiding assets, it helps to know where to start looking.
This is the best place to start. Start reviewing bank statements of any joint accounts that you have, and if your spouse has an individual account that you can access, review those statements as well. You want to look for large transfers of money, which could be a clue of a recent purchase, investment, or new account. But it’s not just large transfers of money that should catch your eye. Look for small amounts that are consistent…. the same amount of money withdrawn or transferred multiple times. Small amounts add up over time, but they are sometimes less evident than one large transfer. This is the same tactic criminals use when they steal your credit card number, hoping you won’t notice!
Also, look around in the desk or home office, wherever important mail is kept, and make a copy of any statement that has an account balance or account number. This includes debts as well as assets.
If your spouse still receives paper paystubs, make a copy of a recent one. The paystub will show you if money is being directly deposited into a retirement account, a health savings account, or another account that you didn’t know existed.
You’ll need the complete return, including all schedules, worksheets, and 1099s if there are any. If there is an investment account or interest-bearing deposit account, those will frequently generate tax documents. If any assets were sold or transferred, they may show up as a 1031 exchange transaction or as short- or long-term capital gains. If you’re not the one who prepares the tax returns and all this sounds complicated, you may need to hire an expert in this field.
Ohio Secretary of State website
Ready for some real sleuthing? This is a multi-step approach to see if your spouse might be concealing assets other than money. Here’s a step-by-step approach you can try:
- Enter this URL: businessearch.ohiosos.gov
- Click on Business Search
- Use the dropdown arrow and select “Agent/Registrant”
- Click on the SEARCH button
- In the right-hand column, under View Report, click the SHOW DETAILS box. This will let you see the PDF that displays the registered address to ensure it is the right person, and not someone else with the same name.
If you find your spouse’s name, they have likely opened a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which they can legally do without your knowledge. Download the image to a PDF, print it, or copy the URL, but you will want to give this information to your divorce lawyer in some format, and you will need it for the next step.
Next, open a new tab and enter your county’s name followed by “property records”. Each county’s website will be different, but your goal here is to find the real estate records and locate a search screen that will allow you to search by owner name. This will help you find out if your spouse’s LLC owns any property that you may not be aware of.
Hire an Expert
Forensic accountants are experts who can examine data to determine where missing money has gone and how to recover it. If your situation is complex and you are unable to find any documentation on your own, you may want to consider hiring an expert. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to recommend a good forensic accountant in your area.
Your Divorce Attorney’s Role
If you have a spouse who is attempting to hide assets from you, it is imperative that you hire an experienced divorce lawyer who only practices family law, like the lawyers at Kirkland & Sommers. An expert divorce attorney will have seen these tricks before, and they will know the right questions to ask. If you found a secret LLC, your divorce attorney will request bank records for that LLC during the discovery process. There may not be property, but there may be money. And if the magistrate handling your case is made aware that your spouse is attempting to hide assets from you, that might very well be taken under consideration as they rule on your case.
Don’t leave your divorce settlement to chance, and don’t accept everything your spouse tells you at face value. If you are in the greater Southwest Ohio area, contact the divorce lawyers at Kirkland & Sommers today for a free consultation, and let us help you get what you deserve.