How do you identify assets in the marital estate if the other party always handled the finances?   The most recent income tax return (Form 1040 or 1040 EZ are common) is a good starting point.  The tax return will describe each source of income, whether it be interest, dividends, rental income or, gain or loss from the sale of a stock.  Each page of the return should be carefully examined for information.  W-2s reveal more than just salary – they can also reveal deferred compensation and other employment perks.  Tax returns can show:

  • Interest and dividend income for unknown assets
  • Property tax payments for unknown real estate
  • Property or income in other states
  • Deductions for safety deposit boxes
  • Deferred compensation and other executive perks
  • Over-payment of taxes
  • Contributions to retirement assets
  • Retirement distributions
  • Sale of business assets
  • Accelerated depreciation – or expensing of business assets

Other places to look:

  • Statements for bank or credit union accounts
    • Are there deposits of unknown origin?
    • Are funds transferred to another account?
  • Credit card statements
    • Are there large or recurring charges?
  • Passports:
    • The stamps on a passport will tell you where a party has traveled – and when.
    • This may clues concerning possible waste of marital assets or foreign assets.
  • Loan Applications:
    • People are much more likely to be honest about full extent of income and assets on a loan application.
  • Public Records:
    • County Property Record Cards
      • Assessed value of property
      • Pricing from sales disclosure forms
    • Secretary of State UCC Search
  • Electronic Information:
    • Web browser history
    • Emails
    • Texts
    • Social media:
      • Facebook,
      • Twitter,
      • Instagram,
      • etc.

You will also want to look out for methods used to disguise marital assets, such as:

  • Deferring income – typically applies to bonuses and/or commissions (maybe raises, too)
  • Giving assets away to friends or family members
  • Transferring assets into a trust, maybe over time
  • Burying assets in a business
  • Obtaining cash from a mortgage re-finance
  • Pre-paying mortgage escrow
  • Advancing rent deposits
  • Significant purchases of coins, art, items for collections
  • Delaying the execution of business significant contracts
  • Delaying the recognition of business revenue

The attorneys at Bays Family Law can help you with this process and determining if additional discovery methods would be useful in your case.  Contact us today for a consultation.

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