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Tax returns can reveal if your spouse is taking money pre-divorce

If you think your spouse might be squirreling away money to keep it from you in a divorce, there's one place you can look for a number of clues: your tax returns.

Take, for instance, the story of a retired accountant who had made hundreds of thousands of dollars in estimated tax payments. Curious about the status of their tax returns, his wife got a history of their tax account from the Internal Revenue Service.

She uncovered his deception. Apparently, he had withdrawn about $500,000 from a joint brokerage account, overpaid the taxes and planned to file as a single person after the divorce and get a big refund.

The plan was thwarted. His ex-wife got half of the return.

Tax returns hold a lot of information about a couple's finances. Pay attention closely. You can see if your spouse has put money into a deferred compensation plan or maybe a health savings account or a 401(k) account.

Why is that important? Because it reduces your spouse's taxable income, therefore, potentially reducing the amount of child support or alimony they will pay. Knowing if your spouse has a 401(k) also is important because you could be entitled to share it.

Tax schedules also can hold clues. For instance, if you find that your tax return contains a Schedule D, that means there are capital gains or losses. Your spouse could have taken money out of a brokerage account, unknown to you.

Your divorce attorney also can help you discover financial improprieties in your accounts and might even call in a forensic accountant. It's worth it. You've worked hard for that money, too. You don't deserve to have it taken from you.

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