Many people facing divorce will try to hide assets to prevent them from being distributed in the settlement. This is especially common in high-net-worth divorces. The National Endowment for Financial Education estimates that 2 out of 3 divorces involve hidden assets. Digital technology makes it more difficult to hide assets than in the past, but plenty of people still try. Learn what you can do to uncover assets your spouse may have hidden from you.
While electronic sources or GPS monitoring may be a tempting place to begin your investigation, you should be aware of privacy laws. Violating these laws can result in your findings being inadmissible in court, and you may face legal action. Consult your attorney about what you are allowed to do, and where you can turn for help uncovering hidden assets. You may be able to use a forensic accountant or private investigator to help with your search.
Privacy laws can be tricky. You are able to search public information, such as a Google search or what they post to their social media accounts. The line becomes less clear when it comes to reading text messages, digging through internet browsing histories, or using GPS tracking on the car they drive. Unless you are able to prove sole ownership of the vehicle, computer, or mobile device, your snooping could break privacy laws. Logging into any banking, social media, email, or other private accounts also can constitute a violation of privacy laws.
What Can You Do?
Directly looking for the information by checking accounts, messages, and other sources can land you in legal trouble, but what are you able to do? You can request a “discovery process,” in which your attorney can gather information about your spouse’s finances in court. There are several methods to use in the discovery process, including:
- Document demands. Your attorney can ask for specific documents, such as tax returns, financial statements, loan applications, or account records.
- Interrogatories of requests for admission. Your spouse must answer specific questions or admit specific statements in writing.
- Inspection demands. Your lawyer can request to inspect property, including real estate, safe deposit boxes, or collections.
- Testimony given under oath. An oral deposition will take place in front of a court reporter, and your spouse must truthfully answer questions asked by your lawyer.
The discovery process can be used to legally gain access to private information that your spouse may try to hide. The court can compel your spouse to cooperate with proceedings, and can impose punishments for failing to obey. The discovery process can also be especially helpful for questioning a dishonest spouse, as lying under oath can result in perjury charges. Your attorney should know what questions to ask to get the most information, but you should wait to begin the deposition until you have financial records to examine. This can give you clues as to what questions need to be asked.
A forensic accountant can be especially helpful to examine financial records and uncover clues that other assets are being withheld. Forensic accountants are trained to look for issues in financial records, and can use the data provided to find evidence of fraud or other unethical practices. They also can construct a representation of your spouse’s real income, called imputing income.
Your Lawyer’s Role
Your attorney leads your divorce team. They help to guide your decisions, ask questions, help you find other professionals to provide information, and can help you understand the legal process of your divorce. When choosing a lawyer to represent you, you should ensure they have the necessary experience to handle your case. Ask them about their experience uncovering hidden assets, handling high-net-worth divorces, or any other situations that may apply to your case.
Do you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets from you? Our tenacious Glen Allen divorce attorneys can help you uncover these assets and gain your rightful settlement. Our team has over 50 years of collective experience fighting for our clients. Contact DeFazio Bal today to schedule a consultation.