In many if not most divorces, the spouses are emotionally separated for months or even years before they physically separate and one of them files for divorce. These slow-fade divorces present ample opportunities for spouses to conceal financial assets from one another.
A thorough discovery process accompanies almost all contested divorce cases, so these shenanigans will eventually be brought into the light. However, it is much easier to address these situations early on, before the financial damage is done, because as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.
So, it’s important to not only recognize the signs of financial misdealings but also know what to do about them.
Wage Withholding Adjustment
There are a number of legitimate reasons that a person may increase wage withholding. One of the most common is avoiding a spring tax bill. Some people also use tax withholding as forced savings, so they have sizeable refunds in the spring.
The latter tactic is a problem in divorce proceedings.
Almost any property acquired during the marriage is community property which belongs to both spouses. Many times, if one spouse anticipates a divorce, s/he will increase wage withholding, reasoning that the divorce will be final by the time the next tax filing season rolls around, and s/he will pocket the forced savings.
In the temporary orders, judges routinely order parties not to adjust wage withholding or estimated tax payments, and an attorney can ensure that this provision is both in place and strictly enforced. If a petition is filed within a month or so, any loss should be minimal.
Misappropriation thrives in darkness, which is the main reason that account holders usually cancel account alerts, or at least redirect them, before undertaking such activities.
For example, Wife might cancel daily e-mail account balance alerts in a joint checking account, or redirect these notices to her work email. When confronted, she may even have a plausible explanation, such as “I was getting tired of them” or “It’s easier for me to check them at work.”
In cases like these, the other account holder can usually cure this dilemma with a few clicks of a mouse. If the situation is more complicated, perhaps because each spouse has a separate account, contact an attorney. Apropos of nothing, even if the spouses have separate accounts, the money therein is still marital property.
It is easy to ignore letters or emails from such-and-such LLC, a purported trust, a transactional attorney, and other such correspondence. However, such mail often indicates that one spouse is developing a trust or corporate entity to shield assets, either from the other spouse in property distribution proceedings or from the court for child support purposes.
If these entities must be brought into the divorce, and that will be necessary if they have any money, the legal process will become exponentially more complicated and more expensive. Therefore, while there is no reason to panic, it is important to confront the other spouse straightaway and, if the situation is not fully resolved with no compromise on your behalf, contact an attorney straightaway.
Reach Out to an Experienced Attorney
Knowing the signs of financial abuse, and knowing how to react, can save much time and money during subsequent divorce litigation. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Tempe, contact the Law Office of Ronald L. Kossack. Our main office is conveniently located off the Superstition Freeway between Highway 101 and Interstate 10.