Dividing assets and money in an Ontario divorce is a complex and intensive process. Add in attempts to hide date of separation assets and artificially inflate debts, well it becomes even more contentious and complicated! (And note that in Ontario, we don’t really divide assets and money; rather, we ‘equalize’ the disparity in wealth the two spouses have accumulated during the marriage. So, we are also looking carefully not only at the situation at the date of separation but also at the marriage date assets and liabilities as well.)
You might be worried that your soon-to-be ex-partner might hide – or already has hidden – assets. Or that ‘scoundrel’ may have created artificial debts. There could well be a program in place that intends to skewer the proper sharing of the wealth accumulated during the marriage,
Where to start looking
Hiding assets (and artificially increasing debt) can take many forms, from physically hiding cash or property to undervaluing businesses. Regardless of how simple or elaborate these efforts are, you can start by looking in certain places.
Start by looking for irregularities or suspicious transactions in your bank accounts. Large withdrawals or smaller deposits than usual can be red flags. Transfers to and from account numbers that you do not recognize can lead to undisclosed assets.
You might also keep an eye out in your mail. Suppose you start receiving bank correspondence from unfamiliar banking institutions, or statements you usually receive stop showing up. In these cases, it could mean that your partner has opened secret accounts or does not want you to see what’s going on in your accounts.
Buying large items with money and then hiding that property can also be a way someone might try to conceal assets. You can check public records to see if your spouse purchased property, a car or a recreational vehicle without telling you.
Income can come from several places, and there are different types of income. If your ex is concealing assets, they may do so by failing to report income from employment, investments, rental property or pensions.
Examining previous tax returns can help you identify any income sources your ex may not be reporting. Forcing the other spouse to produce any and all loan and credit card applications can be a very fruitful source of damning information.
Getting help from professionals
Hiding assets during a divorce is not just unfair – it is illegal. And parties may go to great lengths to get away with it, making it highly complicated to track down information without substantial financial and economic knowledge. (Ontario’s courts have been decrying for years the plague of failure to fully disclose date of marriage and date of separation details and documents relating to both assets and liabilities. And they don’t leave out understated and hidden income either from their very clear attacks.)
Thus, you and your lawyer may consider hiring professionals like a forensic accountant who can conduct a thorough examination of assets and liabilities. Sure, a professional can render great help. But sometimes it’s just as simple as having a lawyer on your side to ferret out the truth and see through the misinformation.
Together with these resources, you can uncover suspicious activity or fraudulent actions to ensure that Ontario’s “equalization of net family property” process is protected in your case. “Property division” as lay people call it, has to proceed forward with accurate, complete information. Let those in the know help you.