How to uncover hidden assets during a divorce

The most recent divorce figures by the UK Office for National Statistics for England and Wales were released in 2016. With an estimated 42% of marriages ending in divorce and around 50% of these divorces taking place in the first ten years of marriage, divorce is a hot topic in Britain.

Most divorce cases are resolved through agreements with both spouses happy to openly and honestly disclose their finances. However, an increasing number of cases in the UK are arising from one or the other spouse hiding or not disclosing assets. If you are currently going through or about to enter divorce proceedings, read on to find out more on hidden assets in divorce and how your lawyer can instruct a forensic accountant to help discover if your spouse has hidden assets from you.

Uncovered assets meaning

If an asset isn’t included in a divorce settlement, then it cannot be split and even if the asset is discovered after the settlement is made, it may have already been sold. These assets are known as hidden assets and if you or your spouse are found to be hiding assets, the courts take such matters very seriously. 

If such assets are uncovered while the case is open, then the person doing it can be penalised by having to pay the other side’s legal costs or may receive a less favourable settlement. Alternatively, if the assets are uncovered following the settlement, the court can reopen the divorce case and make a different order.

The most common types of hidden assets in divorce

Many assets – such as cash, bonds, mutual funds, insurance policies, stocks, and annuities – can be hidden and even converted into cash to then buy luxury items. There have been many high-profile cases in the UK involving assets being hidden in offshore accounts.

However, a more common scenario is an individual giving their assets to a close friend or family member who can temporarily store their assets during the divorce settlement. Another common scenario involves employees speaking to their employers to postpone bonus payments and contracts until after the divorce.

If a spouse owns a business they can cook their books by making payments to non-existing individuals, use their corporate identity to hide assets and even underreport their income for the year on tax returns and financial statements.

The statistics on how often assets are hidden in the UK

A recent OnePoll survey of 800 people divorced in the UK discovered that just under a quarter of them admitted to trying to hide finances or items from their spouse. Although these figures cannot be taken as being representative of the UK, one in seven of those who answered the online survey said their main objective for hiding some of their assets after deciding to get divorced had been revenge.

Hidden assets in divorce – are they discoverable in the UK?

Divorces can quickly turn into a lengthy and confusing process with complicated assets and finances on both sides. In the UK, hidden assets can be found by enlisting the help of a forensic accountant who can be highly effective during the divorce settlement and can help the whole process run smoothly.

Forensic accountants investigate accounting discrepancies, financial inaccuracies and both business and personal finances. Such skills are particularly useful to expose hidden income, to investigate any claims of non-disclosure, to help trace offshore assets and advise on the likely value of assets including businesses which may have been artificially deflated.

If you’re wondering how to find your wife or husband’s hidden bank accounts, or suspect your partner of hiding assets or even property; a forensic accountant can help you to find out if there’s any truth to your suspicions. Please discuss this with your lawyer in the first instance, who will then be able to contact our specialist forensic accounting team and financial experts in Manchester City Centre to get more information about our forensic accounting services.

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