GOING FOR GOLD
The majority of our divorce clients are looking for a resolution of their financial relationship with their spouse – a ‘show me the money’ thing. The amount of money your spouse has and the income that he or she earns makes a significant difference to the end result in claims for spousal support, child support, equalization of assets, and even whether you will be able to hang on to the family home and continue to live there with your children. A large financial settlement may make it possible for you to afford to buy out your partner’s interest in the house and/or a significant income from support will allow you to qualify for financing.
There are a number of popular and often heard statements made by clients when we ask them about the family finances and their spouse’s income. For example:
- I haven’t got a clue
- He looked after all of that
- I know he probably has a bunch of secret bank accounts
- He has cash stashed away but I don’t know where
- He earns mostly cash but I can’t prove it
- I know he used to have large investments but I don’t know what happened to them
- He has given all his money to his girlfriend
- All his money is somewhere ‘offshore’
Certainly as your lawyer it is our job to turn over stones to find the money. We know that in many (but certainly not all) cases, someone is not being perfectly candid about their income and assets. However, there are things you can do to help both your lawyer and yourself and make the divorce process easier for yourself and certainly less expensive. I cannot stress enough what a huge help it is when clients come in to see us with file folders full of their spouses’ bank account statements, investment statements, RRSP statements, tax returns, Notices of Assessment, and copies of mortgages, credit card statements, RESP statements, and whatever else they have been able to put together.
There are several ways to get this information which, once obtained, should be stored in a safe place outside of the matrimonial home and away from the reach of your spouse. I have had people tell me more than once that they had all of these things but everything disappeared just before their spouse told them the marriage was over.
Here are a few things you can do:
1. Ask your spouse for his or her financial information. Even if you never get divorced this is valuable information to have. If one of you dies the other needs to know where the assets are, what the debts are, and where to find them.
2. Most people have a desk or cabinet where they put their important papers. Find that place and start making copies. Just make sure you store those copies in a secure place.
3. Check the mail. Often envelopes arrive with the names of financial institutions printed on the envelope. Make a note of those institutions. That information will later prove to be invaluable.
4. If your spouse comes home with a big pile of cash from some business transaction try to find out how much there is and then write down the details including the date, time and amount.
5. If your spouse just always seems to have a lot of cash and you can’t figure out where it came from again just make note of the details in your diary.
6. Computers are wonderful sources of information. Look on the home computer and see if your spouse has set up a file listing income, assets, bank accounts, locations of safety deposit boxes or any other useful information.
It is unfortunate but a fact that many people lie about their income and assets. I cannot begin to even describe how helpful it has been to me to have a client bring all of their spouse’s financial information and present me with it. That way when we get a financial profile that leaves out significant assets we have the ammunition to go for the gold – and to get the gold.
This BLOG has been published by Steven Bookman on behalf of Bookman Law Professional Corp., 416 – 488-2243, 1881 Yonge Street, Suite 504, Toronto, Ontario, M4S 3C4. www.bookmanlaw.com