You want to make sure you have covered your bases and are not being duped by your spouse with hidden assets. To make a martial settlement agreement as fair as possible consider the following.
Start with looking at your expenses. Are your expenses higher than the income that is coming into the house? If so, where is this additional income coming from? When discovering a financial discrepancy one of the best places to start is looking at your spouse's tax return forms. Some of the key items you want to look at while reviewing tax forms for the last five years are: real estate, trusts, partnerships and inconsistencies in income.
Should you find out after the divorce that your spouse was illegally hiding assets the law permits you a reasonable time to back track and get your share. However, it's best to do this before you sign the settlement agreement, thus saving you a lot of headache.
Overpayment is a method some spouses will use to hide money. While you are looking at the tax forms, take a look and see if your spouse made a significant overpayment. Your spouse could be banking on that you aren't going to find out and later on he/she will get a nice refund after the divorce. This also holds true for creditors, don't overlook these payments.
Third parties are another good source to scrutinize. Did your spouse suddenly have to pay off debt to a friend? Often these types of arrangements are made with the condition that the money be given back after the divorce. Is there a lover in the picture? Was there money spent on a girl/boyfriend – vacations, rent or gifts? Is your spouse and his/her boss close? Would his/her boss wait to pay that big bonus or give a pay raise until after the divorce? Don't forget to look at stock options and retirement benefits an employer may be holding onto until after the divorce. Also, see if there any contracts that your spouse has been delaying in signing.
Time to visit some government offices. At the County Tax Assessor's Office you can learn about any home or land that your spouse owns, you will get the address and the assessed taxable value of the property. The courthouse is a must when searching for hidden assets. Records from the courthouse will tell you if your spouse has borrowed money from a mortgage company or a bank. These records will hold information about each asset the person owns and the value, it's required for the loan application(s).
Bank accounts should be checked for a few different things. Look at the savings account, has there been a huge withdrawal/deposit or unusual patterns of activity? Take a look through cancelled checks. You may find payment for something you weren't aware of, for example a property payment. In addition, be on the look out for children's bank accounts which sometimes do not have to be reported as income to the IRS. Don't forget to make copies of all your financial records.
Once you discover all of your marital assets you can hammer out an agreement with your spouse. Contact Attorney James Cairns for a marital settlement agreement questionnaire to help guide you. Cairns Law Offices prepares marital settlement agreements at an affordable cost. Make sure to check out our settlement agreement blogs and settlement agreement page on our website. Contact Attorney Cairns at 888.863.9115 or click on the words DIVORCE WIZARD to get a free case analysis.