Finding Hidden Assets in a Divorce

By Jeff Adams

The Truth about Assets and Divorce

Divorce is a complex process that is only made more difficult by being an emotionally taxing time for the couple being divided. In the heat of the struggle, emotions can drive people to commit unscrupulous acts of desperation or greed to shield assets from their spouse in an attempt to foster a lower divorce settlement. However, there are also times when a mutually amicable divorce can unintentionally lead to an unequal split of a couple’s assets because both parties were uninformed about what was and what was not an asset.

What Are Assets?

In the world of finance, assets are the combined total of an owner’s equities and liabilities. That literally means that assets are comprised of both what one owns and what one owes to others. This is where many people become confused when determining the assets of a spouse because they assume that assets are limited to things owned and cash. However, debts in the spouse’s name as well as other liabilities are also considered a part of one’s assets. Discovering a couple’s full asset holdings can require the assistance of a forensic accountant.

Examples of Commonly Hidden Assets

Through oversight and misunderstanding, many assets can be hidden. Some common examples include the cash value of sick-leave, the value of tools and hobby equipment and anticipated payments that may be pending during a divorce. Through collusion, some former spouses have deferred their acceptance of bonuses, profit shares and stock-option purchases. There are even reported cases of income being hidden in bank accounts under children’s names, artificial paychecks to fictitious employees and gifts to extramarital companions. Assets may exist in both cash and non-fiscal forms, which is why the services of a competent accountant during the discovery process can be crucial to discerning an accurate settlement.

How to Search for Assets

In the case of a divorce, personal distrust between former spouses can foster wrongful assumptions about the integrity and honesty of the other person. To discover all hidden assets, forensic accountants conduct interviews and review financial records as objective third-parties to the situation. This makes honest assessments easier because there is no danger of emotional interference while everything is calculated. It may make both parties uncomfortable to allow such a personal examination from an outsider, but it may simplify the divorce proceedings overall.

When a marriage ends, the emotions of the situation can cloud people’s judgment. The discovery of assets during this time can be limited if professionals are not allowed to intervene and investigate a couple’s holdings. The process can seem invasive, but only through this deep level of investigation are accurate totals possible for a fair and final division of a couple’s assets.

Article Courtesy of Madrid Law in Houston, TX

Jeff Adams

About The Author

Jeff Adams is contributing author to, and writes regularly on divorce and family law topics.