Hidden Assets in Divorce Settlements
Even the most amicable divorce can be messy and complicated. In the main, it isn’t a particularly pleasant topic to talk about, but with 101,669 divorces processed in 2017, it is unfortunately a common discussion point among my profession.
The Office of National Statistics reports that unreasonable behaviour was the most common reason for heterosexual couples divorcing with 52% of wives and 37% of husbands petitioning on these grounds; it was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing, accounting for 83% of divorces among women and 73% among men.
A large portion of divorce proceedings is around division of assets. The simplest way is for each party to agree on how this will happen, but in a lot of cases, amicable discussion and fair compromise are unlikely, especially in hostile separations.
When these decisions come down to the Courts, it can be a much more complicated task. Section 25 of the Matrimonial Courses Act 1973 sets out the rules which courts much apply when dividing property and money, as well as setting out maintenance payments.
The court makes a decision based on a variety of factors including income, age, financial needs, health, contributions to the family, assets they brought in, among others.
What are hidden assets?
When divorcing, it is each party’s responsibility to ensure all money and property is declared; but in many cases one or both parties purposefully fail to disclose certain assets – these are known as hidden assets.
The most common types of hidden assets are things which could easily fly under the radar. For example, cash, bonds, stocks, or money held in offshore accounts. Temporarily ‘gifting’ assets to others can also be means to hide them during divorce settlements. Falsifying business financial data is another method used to influence divorce settlements.
Regardless of amount or motive, hiding assets during divorce proceedings is highly unethical and is taken very seriously by the courts.
How to uncover hidden assets?
In divorce cases involving high net- worth and multiple properties, uncovering hidden assets can be particularly tricky. This is especially true when one party is the ‘bread-winner’ and in control of the finances. In a many relationships involving a great deal of wealth, one party will hold all the cards while the other is unaware of incomings and outgoings. This makes it easier for hidden assets to go unnoticed, but statistically it is the unaware party that requests the courts look into possible hidden assets.
Unfortunately, uncovering hidden assets is not a simple task for just nybody; otherwise nobody would do it.
A private investigate and/or forensic accountant are able to uncover inconsistencies or inaccuracies in personal and private accounts, and can provide much needed insight to help with fair and accurate divorce settlements.
The investigator can petition the courts for access to financial and personal information and can look at how the party handles their money to spot discrepancies or potential hidden funds.
Looking for accounts with similar names is the next step. Slight misspelling is a good trick as it could pass fraud checks but not necessarily be tied with the individual.
The investigator will even look as far as where they have travelled and who they associate with to build up the relevant information.
Are you concerned about a partner’s hidden assets? Before, during or even after divorce, it’s not too late to get what is rightly and lawfully deserved – get in touch today to see if you could be owed.