“I’m worried that my spouse will try to hide assets from me if I ask for a divorce. He owns a business and never tells me anything about it or allows me to see his income tax returns. How can I be sure I get a fair share of his business and other assets? And how can I prevent him from hiding assets — or find them if they’re already hidden?”
First, assemble all of the information you can. Take a written and video inventory of your household contents. Copy all of the legal and financial records you can find (car loans, mortgages, wills, bank statements, etc.), and transfer them to a safe place. If there are any business records at home, such as corporate or partnership tax returns or financial statements, copy them also.
Next, have a discussion with your spouse about money. Choose a time of day that is relaxed and convenient for both of you, such as a weekday evening or a Sunday afternoon. Choose a neutral location (not in bed) and a time when both of you are in a relatively happy mood. Tell your husband that you have not been shouldering your half of the responsibility for the finances in your marriage, and you would like to become more educated so you can do your share. Ask to visit the business and learn more about how it works. You may find yourself starting a new partnership with your spouse.
If this doesn’t work, you haven’t lost anything. Keep your eyes and ears open, and make note of or copy everything that pertains to finances or the business. You can ask the IRS to send you copies of your income tax returns by filing Form 4562. If you end up in a divorce, your lawyer can request that your husband produce records or subpoena them, and hire a forensic accountant to determine if funds have been shuffled or hidden.
Ginita Wall is a San Diego CPA (Certified Public Accountant), CDS, and CFPª practitioner specializing in divorce. She is author of The ABCs of Divorce for Women and It’s More Than Money — It’s Your Life: The New Money Club for Women. She’s the co-founder of the Women’s Institute for Financial Education (www.WIFE.org). She can be reached at (858) 792-0524. View her website.