Sometimes in high asset divorce cases, your spouse may intentionally hide their assets with hopes of retaining more after the divorce process. Hidden assets can include jewelry, credit cards, fine art, offshore accounts, real estate, inheritance, etc. Unless you begin to look, these assets may not voluntarily show up in divorce proceedings. You probably don’t know whether your spouse is hiding assets—and you probably don’t know how to find out. So, what do you do?
The discovery phase of your divorce is integral to obtaining information concerning hidden assets because it allows for an investigation of your spouse’s records and holdings. During the discovery period of your divorce, you can request documents from both your spouse and third parties, question your spouse and third parties under oath, obtain written answers to questions you submitted to your spouse, and conduct public record searches of your spouse.
Providing your lawyer with information such as tax returns, loan applications, bank records, deeds, mortgages, etc. will allow your lawyer to better understand known assets and begin to investigate potential hidden assets.
Ways to Find Hidden Assets
Request for Production of Documents
A Request for Production of Documents refers to written requests submitted to your spouse and spouse’s representation for copies of documents including tax returns, loan applications, financial statements, bank records, etc. These requests must be both specific but also broad enough to comprehensively cover any potential documents that could lead to the disclosure of a hidden asset. A deep drill down into the detail is required.
Interrogatories are formal, written questions submitted to your spouse and your spouse’s representation. These questions must be answered fully and under oath. There is a limit to the number of questions so the best practice is to keep the questions broad (i.e. name ALL bank accounts). The answers can help gather more information on potential hidden assets or even discover a new hidden asset.
A deposition is when, under oath, you can ask your spouse, or other persons of interest, specific questions. The person being questioned is called a deponent. The deponent must answer the questions promptly, without conferring with their representation. This allows for less rehearsed, less advised answers with immediate follow ups by the person doing the questioning. This process that could lead to clues about hidden assets.
Subpoena duces tecum
A subpoena duces tecum is the tool that permits a party to require documents or other evidence as well as compelling the attendance of a person at a deposition. These answers and documents will allow you to have a clearer understanding of whether your spouse is hiding assets, and if they are, integral information about those assets. Third parties such as banks and businesses most often receive requests for information.
Public Record Searches
Another way to discover whether your spouse has hidden assets is to conduct a search for public records. Usually, using your spouse’s name, social security number, and birthdate will allow you to find deeds, real estate, mortgages, etc. if they exist. Public record searches can help you discover whether your spouse is hiding assets.