The process of seeking a divorce from the person with whom you've built a life together is never an easy one -- and this decision can be even more fraught with emotional and physical upheaval if you suspect your soon-to-be ex-spouse (STBX) has been hiding or diverting marital assets in an effort to prevent you from getting a fair divorce settlement. Although it may seem easier to simply cut your losses and move on, it's important that your own financial future remains secure following such an upheaval. Read on to learn more about some signs that your STBX may be planning to exit the marriage with the lion's share of financial assets, as well as some steps you can take to ensure you receive a fair settlement.
What are some signs that your spouse is hiding or concealing marital assets?
Often, the breakdown of a marriage can actually be triggered -- or at least detected -- by one spouse's concealment of assets or off-budget spending on an addiction or affair. For those who don't handle the ins and outs of daily finances, or who have separate finances and each spouse pays certain bills or expenses, such spending patterns can be difficult to detect. However, there are some common signs that your spouse may be overspending or hiding assets:
- He or she immediately takes any unopened mail, hiding bills and bank statements (or you notice you're no longer receiving as many bills as you once did, possibly because they're being routed to a different address);
- You notice a change in the way your spouse dresses or accessorizes;
- A credit report indicates that one or more joint credit cards you hold with your spouse is carrying a balance when normally all cards are paid in full; or
- Your spouse seems particularly stressed or defensive about money or work even if he or she is working a typical number of hours.
What should you do to ensure you receive your fair share of the marital estate?
Your first step if you suspect that your STBX may be hiding or diverting assets is to contact an experienced divorce attorney (if you don't have one already). Dividing the finances for a couple who have built a life together can be no small task, and even if you already have a good idea of what you want or what you're willing to let go, there may be long-term or tax-related consequences to certain decisions you're about to make. For example, you may wish to give up the house to your STBX -- but if he or she doesn't have the extra cash to "buy out" your share or the equity to refinance in his or her own name only, you could find that your name remains on the mortgage of the house for years to come, vesting you with responsibility for unpaid property taxes or mortgage payments without any corresponding right to own the home. Seeking legal counsel can help you avoid any pitfalls in the property division arena, as well as help evaluate exactly what assets are available to be divided.
Another valued member of your legal team should be a forensic accountant. Like forensic scientists, who are portrayed in popular culture as the detectives easily able to solve "cold case" murders with just a few scraps of physical evidence, forensic accountants can work through your marital finances to detect any unusual patterns or a drop in income that could indicate secret accounts or extramarital spending. Once you have obtained some concrete evidence that your ex-spouse has attempted to hide certain marital assets from detection, you'll have a strong case and may find yourself entitled to a larger or more substantial divorce settlement than you'd otherwise have received.
Even if a forensic accountant doesn't uncover any evidence of hidden assets or other financial infidelity, you'll have the knowledge you need to go forth and begin your new life with no strings (or uncertainties) attached.
For more information, talk with an attorney or forensic accountant directly, or visit websites like http://www.eppsforensics.com.