How To Handle Hidden Assets In A Divorce

Any New Mexico legal separation or divorce can involve hidden assets, and that can affect child support and property division. You deserve the share you’re truly entitled to, so if you believe your spouse isn’t being completely honest about the assets in your marriage, here are some typical scenarios to be on the lookout for.

Child support moves

The amount of time each parent has with the child and the parents’ combined gross monthly income are usually what primarily determine the child support obligation. Gross monthly income includes money from various sources, such as bonuses, trust income, unemployment benefits, wages, tips and pensions.
In child support, hidden assets often involve failing to report all income or purposely keeping income down via unemployment or underemployment. Proving income isn’t being fully reported can be difficult and often involves parents who make money “under the table,” or in a way that’s not reported on taxes and can’t be officially traced. The burden of proof in these cases is on the parent who is claiming the other parent is hiding income, and his or her attorney can use a discovery process to review taxes, bank account statements and other relevant documents. Your attorney can also have your spouse give a deposition under oath about his or her income.
For an unemployed parent, New Mexico courts are allowed to impute, or calculate, what that parent’s income would be at minimum wage. Underemployment is a little harder, as the support guidelines don’t offer a lot of direction in this area. The judge has discretion on the decision of whether a parent is earning less money intentionally. As with unemployment, the judge can impute the potential income of an underemployed parent based on his or her earning ability and use that income as a basis for the child support obligation.

Community property reduction

New Mexico is what is known as a “community property” state. That means that outside of inheritances, settlements from personal injury cases and gifts, assets accumulated during the time a couple was married are community property and are split 50/50 or however the parties agree to divide them upon divorce. Sometimes, one party – often a majority earner – will try to hide property that is community and should be part of the property division. There are a variety of ways to do this. Community money can be moved into a separate bank account, or property is transferred into another person’s name. Property can also be sold for a price that is far too low, as the selling spouse has an agreement with the receiver of the low-priced asset to take ownership back after the divorce is finalized.
As with child support, your attorney can start a discovery process to look for hidden assets. In complex cases, an attorney may hire a private investigator to conduct a thorough investigation of one party’s assets, accounts and financial actions to see if there are any red flags, such as money being moved between accounts, sudden decreases in wages, large purchases or unexplained hikes in debt. Similar to child support, suspecting your spouse is hiding community assets alone isn’t enough; you will need to find evidence that you can present to the court that shows your spouse is attempting to keep some assets out of the proceedings.
If you believe your spouse is trying to hide income or assets during your divorce or legal separation, it’s important to speak to a family law attorney about your case. You may end up walking away with less than your fair share if you don’t take action before your case is finalized. Contact The Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer for help today.