My brother is going through a divorce. It has been a long effort to negotiate a settlement agreement, but his estranged wife keeps asking for more money and changing it to her benefit.
I have good reason to believe that she has been embezzling money from the business account for years and stashing it away in private accounts. My brother doesn’t want to believe that.
However, there have been many “questionable” transactions on their accounts that simply state “transfer” without any information on where they went. She has been doing the books for years.
Is there any way to find out if she has money hidden away in accounts that she has not revealed during the discovery process?
Brother & Brother-in-Law
<STRONG> <EMPHASIS> <STRONG> <EMPHASIS> <STRONG>You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at email@example.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://twitter.com/Quantanamo">Twitter.</INTERNET></STRONG> </EMPHASIS> </STRONG> </EMPHASIS> </STRONG>
By all means, give him advice on where to look for signs of suspicious activity, but ultimately it’s up to him to take action. Hiding assets prior to a divorce is, like placing withdrawals in a safe-deposit box, not so uncommon. It’s a high-risk strategy, and obviously not looked upon favorably by divorce courts.
Embezzling money could also lead to criminal charges, which may be why your brother is reluctant. He would need to hire a divorce attorney with experience in finding hidden accounts or a forensic accountant who knows how to sniff out the breadcrumbs from such accounts, should they exist.
“This can protect you from privacy laws which may prevent you from conducting these investigations on your own,” according to the law firm Johns, Flaherty & Collins . “It may also protect the information that comes to light through the investigation, so that it is legally admissible in court.”
“With the help of an attorney, you can subpoena many valuable records, including employment records, bank statements, loan applications and other account records,” the firm adds. “Do a search of public records online to determine possible aliases your spouse may be using.”
And if suspect transactions do exist? Bank statements will have large cash deposits and/or transfers to either mystery accounts — identified only by the last four digits — or Venmo or PayPal PYPL . Check trash and spam folders for emails or evidence that paper statements were sent to a PO Box. Also, look out for mystery expenses.
Bottom line: Your brother needs to have the willingness to pursue such funds, if he suspects financial malfeasance. One strategy is to pitch it not as an accusation of wrongdoing, but as “good practice” to have a thorough review of all financial transactions before signing the divorce papers.
<STRONG>By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. </STRONG> By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.
<STRONG>Check out <INTERNET LOCATION="EXTERNAL" URL="https://www.facebook.com/groups/moneyist/">the Moneyist private Facebook</INTERNET></STRONG> <STRONG>group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.</STRONG>
The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.
More from Quentin Fottrell :
• ‘I’m getting compassion fatigue’: My parents said they’d rather quit their jobs and lose everything than get the COVID-19 vaccine • ‘I don’t want a permanent freeloader as a boyfriend’: We met during the pandemic — and he moved 900 miles to be with me • My mother-in-law changed her will and left everything to her second husband. Can her children contest the will? • My brother-in-law died, leaving his house in a mess. His landlord wants me to repaint and replace the carpet. What should we do?