It is more common than women might think for husbands to try and conceal assets. If a husband manages to hide assets successfully, the divorce settlement is unfair, and the woman does not get what she deserves. A woman may also not receive enough child support because her husband has lied about his income.
Why do husbands do this? They use every excuse to justify such behavior, from revenge for infidelity to fear of being left with not enough money. They may feel as though they should not have to give up what they have worked so hard to earn. Hiding assets, however, not only immoral and unethical but illegal too.
As a licensed private investigator, I’m often called in to help a wife to find hidden assets or to collect information that would help in a custody battle after the divorce. Sometimes all that’s needed to win a custody battle is concrete proof that a spouse is shirking parental responsibilities.
Ways to hide assets
Hiding assets is easier when one spouse, often the woman, allows the other to handle all the finances and remains unaware, uninformed and uninvolved.
There are several ways that husbands can hide assets. If real estate is owned in the husband’s name, he may sign the deed over to a family member or friend to get it out of his name. Valuables such as art or coin collections may be “given” to a friend and claimed not to exist. Large sums of money may be withdrawn from bank accounts and placed in safety deposit boxes in other people’s names.
Phony debts may be created with the collusion of family members or friends. The idea here is to list these debts in financial statements to lower the bottom line. A family member may be sent cash to “pay loans” and the money is returned after the divorce. Stocks may even be transferred into the name of “dummy” companies and transferred back after the divorce is finalized.
If a husband is cheating, he may be buying assets for a lover, such as jewelry, designer clothing or even an apartment. A private investigator may be required to conduct surveillance in such a situation, to provide concrete proof.
Assets are often hidden for some time before the divorce, with small steps being taken at a time. A spouse may use a debit card to make expensive purchases, like an antique carpet or a valuable artwork, planning to sell them after the divorce.
The list goes on and on, and it’s often up to the spouse with less financial resources to prove the dishonesty. Sometimes this can be difficult if the assets have been hidden over the long period of time. However, hiding large sums of money is not that easy today in our highly technological world where most records have gone electronic.
Ways to deflate income
If a spouse is self-employed, it is not so difficult to “cook the books” and artificially deflate income. As his own boss, he can take measures to draw less income himself and make it appear as though his business is not doing well. If he works in a small company, his boss may assist him by saying that his hours have been cut.
A husband working in a salaried job may also use several methods to decrease his take-home pay such as increasing retirement fund contributions or not submitting expense reimbursement sheets. He can overpay on income tax too, knowing he will get it back, or ask for any bonuses to be withheld until after the divorce.
Locating hidden assets
The first step in dividing assets during a divorce is to create a complete financial picture of all the assets owned by each spouse. This “discovery phase” may involve issuing subpoenas for employment records, bank statements etc. if a wife thinks a husband is being dishonest.
Uncovering hidden assets is easier today due to technological advancements. The days of manually searching through bank statements and records are long gone, and advanced software can pick up anomalies. However, not all individuals, including divorce attorneys are aware of high tech strategies or comfortable with using them.
If a husband is reluctant to produce information, a deposition is a good way to get information. If he lies under oath during a deposition he will be charged with perjury. Along with a competent lawyer, licensed private investigators can help to discretely gather information about hidden assets being withheld.
These private investigators have access to many databases and can retrieve any number of useful documents, securing valuable information in legal ways. Additionally, a private investigator may use surveillance on the husband to establish proof of wrongdoing. Cross referencing names, locations, and other information to find patterns and possible places where assets are hidden is also part of the job. Most licensed private investigators use a combination of methods to provide a very comprehensive report. They may even provide court testimony if necessary.
Typically, a wife should wait to depose a husband until all the necessary information has been gathered. Once he is faced with incontrovertible proof, he has little chance of getting away with hiding assets and a fair settlement can be obtained.