Here’s how they’re typically found during a divorce case.
Because of the fact that assets, which may have at one point belonged to one spouse, often become shared between the two during or after a divorce, some spouses try to hide them in order to protect what they feel is rightfully theirs. However, thanks to what is known as discovery, hidden assets and incomes are brought to light during divorce proceedings. When the division of assets begins, the assets in the marriage are separated into three different groupings: Marital, Separate and Comingled.
Marital assets are property that is acquired during the marriage, and separate assets are acquired before the marriage, after the spouses become separated, or if the asset is a gift or was inherited. Comingled assets are when the marital and separate assets are combined in something like a bank account or retirement fund.
In most marriages, only one of the spouses handles the “bookkeeping” and managing and tracking of the finances. If you are not this spouse, it is important to ask your spouse for copies of all financial records from the marriage. However, depending on how long the marriage lasted, it can be rather difficult to supply all the information, so you should be willing to work with your spouse to gather all the information. Most account records are available online, and you and your spouse can send joint requests for records from places like mortgage companies, banks, retirement plan administrators, and other third parties.
However, this all falls under a “best case scenario” type of situation. Usually, the spouse will produce information because they are hiding assets. If you aren’t an attorney, the process of tracking down these assets can be very difficult, so if you think that your spouse is hiding some assets, you will want to contact an attorney with experience in asset search & investigation.
The discovery process, as mentioned above, includes document demands, interrogatories/requests for admission, inspection demands and testimony given under oath. The combination of all these will make it very hard for your spouse to keep these assets hidden.
– Document demands are when your attorney will ask your spouse, and their attorney, to produce specific documents like tax returns, loan applications, account records and financial statements.
– Interrogatories/Requests for Admission: These are written questions that your spouse must answer in writing, or admit specific statements that you believe are true, before you ask them. This way, instead of it being assumed, it is on record.
– Inspection demands: You can request that property such as a safe deposit box or even something like a wine collection be inspected, not only to see if there is something that wasn’t included before, or to valuate the property.
– Testimony under oath: Also known as an oral deposition, both you and your spouse, and the lawyers involved, would appear before a court reporter. During this time, your spouse would be sworn to tell the truth, and must answer questions from your attorney. Keep in mind; you will be under oath as well if asked to give testimony. Lying under oath can lead you to be charged with perjury, but this would be a good way to pressure your potentially lying spouse to tell the truth about hidden assets. Depositions usually occur after you and your attorney have obtained some financial records, from which you can formulate your questions. If your spouse fails to produce a document that the court orders them to, they can suffer what is known as a sanction, which can be a monetary fine or a judgment against your spouse in a particular part of the case.