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Finding Hidden Assets

Updated: Jan 8, 2021

Are you worried about your spouse ripping you off in your divorce proceedings?

Duncan Calder, former KPMG senior partner and head of its W.A. forensic services and business valuations practices advises you of the signs that you need to look for that your spouse may be hiding assets from you during your divorce.

Have you considered - “Is my spouse hiding assets from me?

Hiding assets during a divorce is both sneaky and unethical – but, sadly, it happens much more frequently than most people expect. Concealing money, property, and liabilities is illegal, but that doesn’t always act as a deterrent.

If you have always left money matters to your spouse and are now either considering divorce or in the middle of one, financial infidelity can affect what assets you receive and how much you are awarded in alimony and child support.

Calder, who runs the boutique forensic services and business valuations firm, Contour Capital, argues that the following are some of the typical ways that your spouse could potentially hide money and assets from you.

  • Skimming cash from the business. This is especially prevalent wherever cash transactions can happen.

  • Underreporting income on tax returns and/or financial statements. If it’s not reported, it can’t be used in a financial analysis.

  • Delaying signing business contracts until after the divorce in order to lower the value of the business during the valuation process and also to present the business as being in a vulnerable or declining financial position for the purpose of reducing spousal maintenance or child support.

  • Overpaying creditors including the taxman. He/ she can get the refund later, after the divorce is final.

  • Creating phony debt or transferring assets. Your spouse can collude with family members and/or friends to establish fake loans or expenses knowing that all the money will be returned after the divorce is final.

  • Paying money from the business to a trusted third party such as the spouse’s father, mother, girlfriend, boyfriend or close associate.

  • Deferring income entitlements such as bonuses and payments from debtors until after the divorce settlement is negotiated.

The likelihood of uncovering these various schemes increases dramatically IF you use of a skilled forensic accountant (such as Contour Capital) with substantial experience in business valuation and accounting.

Once a forensic accountant analyses a couple’s marital living expenses and connects those expenses to all known sources of income, assets and loans, he can see if there is a mismatch. If the amount of living expenses exceeds the amounts of known income, assets and loans, a giant red flag appears! Discrepancies like this are one telltale sign of concealed income and/or assets.

Remember - At one point in time, your spouse was not scamming; the marriage was good. Finding that benchmark point in time is one way a forensic accountant will figure out ways to “triangulate” what is truth and what is deception.

Calder, who has spent more than two decades helping people work through complex family court matter provides advice on how to uncover your spouse’s ruses to rip you off.

How can hidden assets, hidden sources of income or understated income come to light during divorce proceedings?

Forensic accountants are routinely engaged in divorces to look for these things such as unreported income and under the table cash. How are they going to find that?

  • Looking at cash flowing out of business accounts or into private accounts

  • A good forensic accountant is going to be analysing all sources of business income and look for examples of increasing the expenses or cash outflows of the business during the post separation and divorce period to decrease business profitability in an attempt to minimise the marital settlement. The ATO is also likely to look at these areas of misreported or underreported income. They are going to ask about cash transactions, cash on deposit, asset and share transfers (with and without consideration).

  • If the Forensic Accountant asks questions in a court context or pursuant to an ATO investigation, the spouse may be forced to commit perjury in order to conceal the actions taken to artificially (and temporarily) reduce or shift the value of a business.

Duncan Calder, based in Australia, sees that the role of forensic specialists, like Contour Capital, is to uncover the truth and endure that the Court is aware of the true financial position of parties to divorce proceedings.

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