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How can I use tax returns to look for hidden assets?

When some couples choose to get divorced, the process is not terribly complicated. They may meet with legal counsel a few times, draw up documents and call it a day (more or less). However, when a marriage involves significant assets, the likelihood of a straightforward, simple divorce is exponentially less likely.

Although this is not a hard and fast rule, human nature often gets the better of one spouse or the other, and he or she chooses to hide assets to avoid splitting them in the divorce settlement negotiation.

Not only is this highly unethical, in some cases it is illegal.

If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, you can take steps to address this on your own and with the help of an experienced attorney. Ultimately, you deserve a truly fair divorce settlement, and should not accept anything less.

Follow the documentation

Unless your spouse chooses to operate outside of the legal financial system altogether, simply making money disappear entirely is very difficult. This does not mean that hidden funds are always easy to find, just that they probably have some form of documentation if you know where to look.

A good place to begin is gathering and reviewing all the relevant tax returns you can get. Be sure to look for complete tax returns, not summaries or only the first few pages of them.

Your spouse may think they can fool you by only giving you part of a return that does not include complete disclosures or leaves out additional schedules that detail specific income or holdings. This is why it is important to always make sure you review complete returns when looking for proof of income.

Is a tax return fake?

Another common tactic some spouses use when trying to conceal income or assets is preparing a fake tax return (or dummy return) to give to their spouse, and a real tax return to file with the IRS.

If you have any misgivings about the validity of the tax documents your spouse provides you, you can request transcripts of those returns from a local IRS office. In this way, you can not only confirm the validity of the return, but you can identify any amendments your spouse filed that may point to concealed assets.

However you choose to proceed, be sure to take proper precautions to keep your actions professional and legal, even if your spouse does not. You certainly don't want to commit ethical or legal violations that may jeopardize the strength of your case before a divorce court.

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