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'Hidden assets' are hidden, how do you uncover them?

In our Phoenix Divorce Law Blog, we recently wrote about a Twitter investor that failed to disclose during her divorce the shares that she owned in the company. When Twitter went public, her ownership of the stock was discovered. Would this have occurred if the company had not gone public? We can’t answer that question, but we can share some helpful hints for uncovering assets that may not have been listed in a property disclosure.

Let’s take the example of stock from above. Stock ownership has its perks, like dividends. These must be reported on a tax return, and by looking at the return, a spouse can uncover brokerage accounts. Tax returns also help uncover hidden bank accounts, because the interest from them also has to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

Sometimes, a spouse has to look at the big picture, the finances as a whole to uncover concealed marital property. For instance, combining the totals for bills such as credit card payments, the mortgage or utilities can help determine whether monthly expenses outweigh the monthly income stated on the disclosure. Are other income sources or assets being used to pay these bills? Does the W-2 income match up with the monthly bank deposits or is a portion getting squirreled away somewhere else?

Going one step further, a spouse can take a look at the payment documentation for these bills. Can they be traced backed to accounts that have been disclosed? Do they trace back to ones that the other spouse didn’t know existed? How about the credit card statements? Are there any large purchases or payments for items you didn’t know existed?

Public records are another source for information. These records, as the name shows, are accessible by the public and can help uncover real property in the other spouse’s name.

Don’t forget the power of a subpoena either. A spouse can subpoena an employer to determine any information related to benefits, whether retirement, stock or deferred compensation. Subpoenas can also be issued for the payment information we mentioned above or other financial records.

This last helpful hint leads to one of the greatest tools spouses have in their bag for uncovering hidden assets; and that is their Phoenix attorney. Attorneys have experience with these types of situations and also know when to call in a third-party, like a forensic accountant.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Discovering Hidden Assets: What Your Spouse Hasn’t Disclosed During Your Divorce,” Bonnie Sockel-Stone, Oct. 30, 2013

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