You are going through a divorce; the relationship didn’t work out for whatever reason, and now it is time to divide up your life– assets, debt, and the kids– but do you really know what you have? The kids are obvious, but items sometimes overlooked are racked up credit cards, hidden bank accounts, and investments. How can you be sure you are receiving your fair share or not getting stuck with debt? Read on to find out!

If you want your divorce settlement to be fair and feel your spouse may have been hiding financial matters throughout your marriage, it’s time to play detective. Chances are they feel these hidden assets are rightfully “theirs” and will do all they can to protect them.

In addition to hiring an attorney to assist you with your divorce, you may consider a forensic accountant–like you see on CSI, except this guy analyzes your financials. You can certainly go it alone, and if you do you can start your investigation with the tips below.

  • Tax returns. Reviewing your tax returns from the past 5-7 years is a great place to start! You are looking for any inconsistencies in income, business partnerships, or real estate investments. Don’t have access to them? You can contact the IRS and acquire Form 4506. By filling out and returning this form, the IRS can provide you with signed copies of your prior returns.
  • Does your spouse own a business? In this case, you are looking for salary changes and personal expenses charged to the “company.”
  • Your checking account. Hours of reviewing your monthly statements and cancelled checks for the past few years may score you a better divorce settlement. For example, you may uncover purchased assets such as real estate, investment property, or vehicles you never knew about. If they were acquired during your marriage, you may be rightfully entitled to a part of these assets.
  • Savings accounts. These are great places to “hide” money and could be anywhere! Your ex may have several accounts in different locations.
  • Expense accounts. There is a fine line between “business related” expenses and what people actually use expense accounts for. In some cases these become additional income for the abuser of the account. Uncovering discrepancies can be tricky. You are looking for inconsistencies in expense account disbursements and savings/checking account deposits.
  • Children’s bank accounts. Nothing says sneaky like hiding money in a bank account opened for your child that your spouse doesn’t know about. Your ex may have opened a custodial account for your child. Interest on these accounts goes unreported as children don‘t file tax returns.

So before you agree to settle, be sure you review the list above and do some detective work to determine if you are receiving a fair settlement offer. After all, you owe it to yourself to obtain an equitable settlement as you start your new single life.

UNCOVER FINANCIAL SECRETS IN A DIVORCE BY SUZANNE CRAMER