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Chances are if you're getting divorced, you already feel like your spouse hasn't told you everything. Especially if you're involved in a high asset divorce, you might get the sense your spouse hasn't told you where all the money is.
Not every high net worth ex-spouse is interested in keeping their money from you, but chances are good that if they can protect their assets from you, they will try.
And chances are, if you're reading this, you're not a forensic accountant. So how do you know if your soon-to-be-ex is trying to hide money? And how do you uncover hidden assets in a divorce process?
Even in a contentious divorce involving marital property disputes, each party will make some voluntary asset disclosures. These disclosures usually come at the beginning of the discovery process. They can be considered the opening move in determining who gets what.
Make sure you carefully review any disclosures and make a note of any errors or omissions. Common ways people hide assets include:
If your finances are not joined (or if your ex had a habit of opening accounts or buying things without telling you), it can be hard to know what you actually own. It is harder to understand what these marital assets are truly worth. Comments like "that boat is old and broken" might imply something is worthless, but unless you know boats well, you can't be sure on your own.
You can always request to inspect any property or assets or have them independently appraised if there is some dispute.
You can also make formal requests for financial and asset information with which your spouse is legally bound to comply. Known as interrogatories or requests for information, these must be answered truthfully and within a specified time frame.
Interrogatories can include specific or general financial questions. They can also demand:
Any of these documents can be useful in identifying hidden assets. You may need to consider hiring a private investigator during the divorce proceedings to discover assets your ex is hiding.
You (and your divorce attorney) may also have the opportunity to depose your ex before appearing in court. Depositions are sworn testimony in front of a court reporter. Both parties' attorneys listen to what is said, and it can be used later in court.
A deposition is a great way to get your ex on record regarding assets, hidden or otherwise. Once the assets are revealed, they will help determine property division and how much alimony (spousal support) or child support you can get.
Some information will be impossible to find on your own. However, if you suspect assets are hidden, you can use the internet to confirm your suspicions. Things that do not add up can clue you in, such as:
Experienced law firms that have dealt with high asset divorce cases in the past will have the best chance of tracking down any hidden assets during a divorce. These firms have investigators and forensic accountants on hand and will assign you an individual member of the firm to examine your case.
The family law attorney you are assigned should have experience with property division and can provide you with sound legal advice.