Spouses often take an oath to stay married “for richer or poorer.” But when faced with divorce, this promise can take a dramatic turn, leaving one spouse poverty stricken due to a cutoff of finances. Finding out where your marital assets are held can be an arduous task made worse if your spouse attempts to conceal their location. But, if you know where and how to look for hidden assets, the process of locating your legal fair share is easier.
It is often hard for people to think financially as opposed to emotionally during a divorce. This, of course, is understandable. However, the more business-minded you can be, the better. The risk of being uninformed about your finances only adds to the stress of a divorce.
So what can you do to become informed about your finances during a divorce?
The first step is to attempt to work with your spouse. If your spouse handled all of the bookkeeping, then you are probably not aware of your true financial status. Ask for copies of all financial records as quickly as possible. If your spouse can’t find the financial records, work together to access records online. Send requests to all financial companies, including banking institutions, credit card companies, and mortgage companies.
If your spouse refuses to comply with your requests, it could mean that he or she may be hiding assets. This is when hiring an experienced and proactive attorney is crucial. Not only can your attorney uncover and locate hidden assets, but your attorney can pursue legal remedies in order to restrain financial accounts so that your spouse cannot liquidate or hide other assets to which you may be entitled.
The primary method by which an attorney can assist in asset recovery is through the discovery process. Because the court has the power to order compliance, the discovery process is highly effective. Among other methods, your attorney can ask your spouse to produce all relevant financial information dating back several years, including tax returns, financial statements, and loan applications.
If your spouse fails to produce information requested by your attorney, the judge can order your spouse to comply with the requests. If your spouse still does not comply with the order, the court can impose a sanction with penalties that include reimbursement of attorney’s fees, fines and even imprisonment.
Your attorney can also take your spouse’s deposition. During an oral deposition, all relevant parties appear before a court reporter, often at your attorney’s office. Your attorney will ask a series of questions of your spouse in order to determine the whereabouts of financial accounts and other relevant assets. Before the deposition begins, the deponent (the person whose deposition is being taken) swears an oath to be honest before the court reporter and, if he or she lies during the deposition, he or she would be committing perjury. A good attorney can normally reveal a dishonest spouse through skillful questioning and can uncover the location of assets of which you were not previously aware.
Another very helpful tool is the use of a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order that must be complied with. Your attorney can send a subpoena to individuals, businesses and financial institutions demanding that they provide copies of anything in your or your spouse’s name.
Finding hidden assets often requires specialized knowledge. Seek the services of a family law attorney if you suspect your spouse has committed financial misconduct by attempting to hide marital assets.