Last week, while my post about hidden assets was racking up thousands of readers, news broke that a Russian billionaire allegedly bought an $88-million (U.S.) apartment as a ploy to scam his wife during their divorce.
The topic of husbands hiding assets hits a nerve with many women, and husbands hide assets (or at least, try to hide assets) much more frequently than most wives expect.
To dig a little deeper into the topic of hidden assets, I've enlisted the help of my colleague, Miles Mason, Sr., JD, CPA, founder of Miles Mason Family Law Group in Memphis, Tenn., and author of The Forensic Accounting Deskbook: A Practical Guide to Financial Investigation and Analysis for Family Lawyers, published by the American Bar Association.
As Mr. Miles points out, it's important to shine a spotlight on the topic of hiding assets because divorcing women are often too shy or intimidated to report their husbands' dirty tricks. Why? Because divorce victims are much like fraud victims.
"Fraud victims are often too embarrassed to report the crime," Mr. Miles explains. "Spouses married to persons lying, cheating and stealing in the divorce become demoralized. The spouse counts on the victim's will breaking down. Victims blame themselves and want to settle for less than a reasonable settlement."
If you're divorcing, please don't let that happen to you. Educate yourself and lean on the expertise of qualified divorce counsel to help you get the settlement you deserve. To help you wrap your arms around this complicated topic, here are a few of "the basics" Mr. Miles teaches his clients:
Red flags seem obvious, once you know what to look for. You may have good reason to be suspicious if your husband:
• Maintains complete control of bank account information and online passwords.
• Is secretive about financial affairs.
• Owns a P.O. box or private mail drop box, which receives account statements and bills.
• Has meaningful unreimbursed business account expenses.
• Deletes one or more personal financial programs, Quicken or Quickbooks.
• Says the computer containing important financial records has mysteriously "crashed." Then, he removes the hard drive for a data retrieval attempt, and it's never to be seen again.
• Acts pushy when obtaining signatures on important documents, like tax returns and deeds. "I need to get this to our accountant today," he insists.
• Proposes an execution of mutual durable power of attorneys for "estate planning" purposes.
• Enjoys out-of-town business junkets with his befriended, slippery financial adviser.
• Develops SIDS (Sudden Income Deficit Syndrome). "My business is failing" suddenly crops up.
• Suffers an income decrease without a corresponding reduction of expenses.
• Binges on unusual purchases of flashy items, such as a car and jewellery.
• Reports a dramatic decrease in value of marital and/or business investments.
• Owns multiple cellphones or numbers over a relatively short period of time.
• Makes frequent trips to countries with relaxed banking laws.
• Exhibits childish greed and claims of entitlement.
• Makes unusual purchases of toys or art that could be sold later.
• Starts drawing on large amounts of debt.
• Is involved in drug abuse.
• Gambles more frequently than usual and is placing money "on account" with casinos.
• Opens multiple business or personal bank accounts without obvious reasons for having that many.
Remember, your husband doesn't have to be a billionaire to be guilty of hiding assets. Dirty tricks happen more often than women expect, and you'll need to keep your emotions in check so you can keep your finances intact during the divorce proceedings while you plan for a secure financial future.