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Category: Money

What Can I Do if My Spouse is Hiding Assets?

Hidingmoney-163502_640 money in a divorce is not just wrong – it’s illegal. If you believe your spouse is hiding money in your Alabama divorce case, here are some tips you can follow to uncover the truth. In many cases, one spouse alone is responsible for managing the money and paying the bills. Often, the other spouse has very little idea of the total assets and debts. In a divorce, this spouse can be at a disadvantage financially. After all, it’s easy to hide something if no one knows it exists. That is why anyone considering divorce should take stock of all assets and debts immediately to help avoid the issue of hidden assets.

Step 1. Retrieve records, paperwork, and statements.

Retrieve your tax reports, bank statements, credit card statements, retirement statements, and loan statements for the last three years. If you or your spouse owns a business, get the business tax reports and financial filings as well. The IRS allows you to access prior tax returns easily. Often you can view and print bank statements, credit card statements, and loan statements online. If you cannot, simply call the institution and ask them to send you the statements. They may tell you they charge a small research fee, however if you plead your case, they sometimes will provide these statements free of charge.

Step 2. Analyze all statements thoroughly.

This is the tedious part! Grab a notebook, a highlighter, and a pen. Begin with any loan statements. Search for any unusual or suspicious withdrawals. If you find any, highlight them. Then, find the most recent statement and write down the balance. Next move on to your credit card statements and do the same. Finally, review your bank statements. Look for unusual cash withdrawals or large expenditures. Also keep an eye out for recurring charges that do not look familiar. If you are unsure about a charge, often a quick search on Google will help you identify the vendor. Highlight any unusual purchases or withdrawals, and again make note of your balances. Finally, review your tax returns. Unless your spouse is hiding money from the IRS as well, these should indicate income. If you are familiar with the business, you can analyze the tax returns. However, you may want to hire an accountant as these can be technical and difficult to understand.

Step 3. Hire a forensic accountant, if necessary.

A forensic accountant investigates accounts and financial records in order to determine if they are accurate or if they show evidence of deception. A forensic accountant is fairly expensive, and should be reserved for cases involving significant assets. In such cases, however, a forensic accountant can be invaluable! A forensic accountant can sniff out signs of fraud, such as overpaying creditors or creating fake debt. If your case involves a business or sizeable assets, a forensic accountant can ensure those assets are fairly valued and that you, therefore, receive what you deserve. A forensic accountant can also testify in court to these facts and, given their background, their testimony carries great weight.

After you have arranged and analyzed your financial records, an experienced Alabama divorce attorney can help you determine if you need a forensic accountant on your case. At the Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC, we will work diligently to ensure that you receive a fair divorce settlement. Contact us today at (205)623-1001. 


Alimony and Spousal Support: What Options Exist

Alimony or sphand-83079_640ousal support may be awarded during divorce proceedings when one spouse earns significantly more than the other spouse. A judge can order support to be provided during the divorce proceedings, for a limited time after the divorce and, in some circumstances, permanently. The court considers a number of factors to determine alimony, and must conclude that one spouse has a financial need and that the other one is capable of providing support. One key factor is the length of the marriage. If the marriage only lasted a short time, spousal support may not be awarded or, if necessary, is brief.

Before spousal support is awarded, property division must be complete. The court then considers the assets of each spouse and if any support is required. A number of factors may play a role in the court’s decision to award alimony, such as the age of each spouse, their health, their earning ability, the requirements of any dependent children, the previous role of the spouse as a caregiver or parent, and any contribution given to support the career of the other spouse. Finally, the court may take into account any behavior or choices that contributed to the dissolution of the marriage.

In Alabama, there are six different types of alimony that can be awarded:

Periodic alimony – Permanent alimony means that the alimony will last until either spouse dies, remarries, or lives with someone of the opposite sex. It is generally reserved for lengthy marriages in which one spouse was a homemaker or cared for the children while the other spouse worked. Periodic alimony refers to traditional alimony, paid biweekly or monthly. It is tax deductible for the spouse that pays the alimony and taxable for the spouse that receives alimony.

Lump sum alimony – When alimony is awarded at one time, as a large payment instead of ongoing payments, it is considered lump sum alimony.

Alimony pendent lite – Alimony pendent lite is awarded, when necessary, by a judge to help support a spouse during the divorce proceedings.

Rehabilitative alimony – Rehabilitative alimony is paid during a specific period of time to give a spouse the opportunity to seek education, get a job, and become self-sufficient.

Alimony in gross – Alimony in gross is alimony that is received as part of the property settlement and cannot be modified. It is not tax deductible and the spouse that receives the alimony does not have to pay taxes on it.

Alabama does not have a formula to determine alimony, and much discretion is given to the judge. Unless otherwise stated, the court can reconsider alimony periodically based on a significant change in circumstances, such as the loss of a job or a demotion. Alimony payments end if the dependent spouse either remarries or cohabitates with another.

If you have questions or concerns about alimony, contact us online at (205) 623-1001. We will answer your questions and guide you through your divorce.

Text and Email messages as evidence in Divorce cases.

In April 2015, The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decided Smith v. Smith, 2015 (Ala. Civ. App. April 3, 2015).  It was a case where the mother's text messages were admitted as evidence of her trying to buy prescription drugs illegally from a non-party.  Those text messages were verified by the non-party testifying that she indeed received the text messages from the mother.  The court noted that they decided whether proper authentication of emails would make them admissible in court.  Culp v. State, was the case they previously decided the issue of e-mails.  Simply the Court noted that circumstantial evidence such as emails or text messages only had to be established to be what they were claimed to be and that was sufficient.  Such circumstantial evidence could include the following:

  1. Email Addresses;
  2. cell phone number;
  3. screen names connected with the message;
  4. content of the messages;
  5. style of writing; or
  6. metadata

The Court went on to say that the evidence needs to establish only a reasonable probability that the document is what it is claimed to be.  After that is done, then the messages are admitted and it goes to the weight.  In fact, business records may show that a particular message came from a particular computer or phone and that would be reasonable enough to show that the person had access to the computer or phone to make the messages admissible.  Other forms of authentication can be by distinctive characteristics like appearance, contents, and ways that the person talks normally. 

In this case, because the receiver/sender of the messages testified to their authenticity, they were admitted.  The Court can judge a person's creditability at the time the person testifies.  If the Court did not think the testimony was truthful, they could disregard the admitted text messages since the judge gets to determine how much weight to give each item admitted into court.  More information can be found on the web


How Divorce Affects Retirement Plans And Being Financially Savvy.

  Divorce and your retirement savings.

In a recent study by researchers at the University of Connecticut, Social Security Administration, and National Institute of Aging they looked at the Census Bureau and Social Security data for the 40-year period from 1968 to 2008.  They compiled over 2,000 women who divorced from 1968 to 2008.  When looking at the data, the results were surprising.  Those divorced spouses who were forced to enter into the work force were able to save more for retirement years than those who remarried. 

During marriage today couples need to save for retirement individually which is a different mindset than in previous years.  In the years pre 1970 women who stayed at home did not save for retirement and instead depended upon their husband's savings plan for their retirement.  The issue that arises is when that long term marriage ends and the woman has to seek out legal help to get a portion of her husband's retirement so that she will have some savings later in life. 

Married couples who have a plan in place for the wife or husband to stay at home with the children need to formulate a separate savings plan for retirement.  Even the stay-at-home spouse needs to be able to contribute to their own retirement account.  This new financial way of thinking has now been considered the better option.  Then when faced with divorce each party has their own retirement funds and the need to divide one spouse's account is lessened especially in cases where they have even amounts saved and there is not fault in the marriage.

This new financial planning comes on the heels of the study where it was proven that when stay-at-home spouses are forced to enter the work force following divorce, they become financially savvy with savings for retirement.  The now employed spouse has to start fresh most often times with no savings at all.  Only those couples in a long term marriage are those divorcing couples who are looking at separating a retirement account through divorce.  In Alabama a long term marriage is considered to be a marriage over 10 years.  That definition sometimes hurts those couples who live together, raise children together, act as married couples for several years and then decide to formalize their marriage.  The date of marriage then becomes the yard stick at calculating the number of years.  The disadvantage comes in when a spouse has been with their spouse prior to marriage for many years.  Those years are not counted toward that 10 year mark. If then they were not financially savvy enough to save for retirement, they are starting a new post divorce life with no retirement funds.

In the world of divorce, it is vital that you seek legal advice when it comes to the division of assets and financial accounts.  Dividing financial accounts and assets that can turn into a retirement benefit can be very litigious.  Having the right attorney can make the difference in your post divorce retirement funds.  Judge's have the power to enter Orders that divide retirement accounts and ensure no tax consequences for either party if they are rolled over into another retirement account.  Our attorneys have experience with long term marriages and the financial impacts that divorce creates on those spouses.  We have tools to assist you complete your financial picture with a real solution to your divorce issues.  Call us today (205)623-1001 to get real solutions. We have great resources on our site at


Collecting your money after divorce.

Following the end of your divorce, a judge may award a party a money judgment for various things.  There could be attorney fees, alimony, child support, a moneyproperty settlement, or portion of retirement accounts, etc.  It is vital that the attorney you hire is able to collect those sums for you.  During the interview process or consultation, a good question to ask is do you ask for reimbursement of attorney fees?  And if I get any sort of money judgment, are you able to use your efforts to collect those awards?  A money judgment is only worth what can be collected.  Chasing your money can be a daunting task for any client.  You don't want the award to be a worthless piece of paper that says you get an amount that you will never see materialize in your checking account.  There are various ways an attorney can get the money.  When the case is over, the collection of any money given has just begun.  Discovery of accounts, employment and investments are typically uncovered during the case that can be used to collect any money award given.  Don't just let your on a piece of paper just sit around and collect dust.  My job does not end with the Final Judgment.  If a client receives a money judgment following the end of a case, I will typically begin discussions of how we can collect that for each client.  I have had several clients come to me years after receiving a piece of paper that has a their financial award on it and ask me how do they make it worth what it says.  Those are the fun cases because it is rare the client knows that interest and the amount of court filing fees used to collect it can be recouped during the collection process.  Then that piece of paper becomes worth even more to them.  Being a full service firm that handles your case from start to finish that includes collection of any judgments makes our clients happy.  The emotional roller coaster of a divorce becomes somewhat lessened when the client is able to collect the money awarded to them by a judge.  Whether it is reimbursement for attorney fees, child support, alimony, a property settlement, or retirment funds, we are here to help you collect.  Call us 205-623-1001.  We can discuss all options available to you.

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