In most separations, whether the parties were married or lived common-law, division of assets can become a contentious issue. Regardless of the amount of funds a couple has, it is possible that one spouse could misrepresent family income or try to hide assets. This is particularly true when the couple splitting is financially well off.
There are certain things that could indicate that a spouse is engaging in the misrepresentation of family income or hiding assets. For example, there may have been changes in habitual behaviour that are unexplained or changes in pattern due to addiction. Someone being caught in deception or lying behavior is also a sign.
When it comes to financial transactions, a spouse could conceal certain details of transactions or there may be repeated or unusual withdrawals of cash. Loans or gifts of money to friends or family that are kept secret could also be a sign. Other indicators include, opening new bank accounts or credit facilities in only one spouse's name, significant overpayment of a credit card or electronic transfers to unfamiliar accounts.
Even if these signs are present, it may be difficult for a spouse to prove this is going on. In these cases an investigative or forensic accounting professional may be of assistance. These individuals can uncover things such as:
- Determine the actual income of the family
- Verify claims of "co-mingling" marital and separate assets
- Determine the validity of a potential claim for dissipation of marital assets
This information is uncovered via the review of a wide variety of records including retirement accounts, business ledgers, bank statements, tax returns, credit-card statements and appraisals of properties.
Of course a family law lawyer is the first professional someone should contact if considering separation or divorce. That person can help determine if and when other professionals should be brought in.