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How to Find Hidden Assets in a Divorce

Posted by Gina Colaluca | Jul 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

Unfortunately, sometimes in divorce cases one party will try to hide assets from the other party in order to deprive the other party of their share in the assets. This is most commonly seen with undisclosed financial accounts, unreported and/or diverted income, or other hidden valuables. The developments of low-maintenance peer to peer financial transaction managers, like bitcoin, haven't helped matters much, as it has made hiding certain transactions easier. However, there are ways to find hidden assets, or at least some hidden assets, if you know where and how to look.

In the State of Illinois, all parties to a divorce are required by law to complete a financial affidavit which lists all of that party's income, assets, expenses, and liabilities, and provide a copy of this financial affidavit to the other party.  The financial affidavit must be signed under oath so that both parties are required to be truthful in completing the financial affidavit. However, that does not mean that everyone is truthful in completing the financial affidavit. In fact, I have had cases where the other party has intentionally left off certain assets in the hopes that my client would not find those assets and ask for their share. So, how can you avoid being taken advantage of if you feel your spouse has lied on his or her financial affidavit? One way to verify the veracity of a party's financial affidavit is to issue formal discovery. Formal discovery is a process whereby one party asks the other party to turn over certain documents (such as bank account statements, pay stubs, mortgage statements,  vehicle titles, etc.) and to answer a list of specified written questions about his or her income, assets, expenses, and liabilities.

Although some hidden assets can be discovered during the formal discovery process, unfortunately parties can also be untruthful in the discovery process by stating they simply don't have a certain bank account or other asset. So, what can you do if you feel your spouse has lied in his or her formal discovery response? Simply issue a subpoena! For instance, if you suspect that your spouse has a savings account at Chase Bank, but your spouse has not disclosed this account on his financial affidavit or tendered the bank account statements as part of his response to formal discovery, go straight to the source and ask Chase if he has a bank account there by issuing a subpoena for bank records in the name of your spouse. Most companies/third parties will comply with a lawful subpoena and provide the requested information to you; however, you may incur a fee from the third party for their work in tendering this information.

Unfortunately, proving a party is earning unreported income or is diverting income to a third party can be a harder to prove. Although subpoenaing the party's employer can be helpful in some cases, it can be difficult to prove a party is earning unreported income when dealing in cash. In these scenarios, it is best to look back at the party's earnings and cash deposits as far as possible (typically three years is allowed), and see if there are any patterns of cash flow into or out of that party's accounts.  If there is no paper trail, sometimes all you can do is testify to any knowledge you may have regarding their earnings and hope the judge finds your testimony to be credible. Although this may sound bleak, it can and does work in certain cases. I once had a case where the other party was diverting nearly half of his income to a third party, and not reporting that income on his taxes. We were able to get a judgment for my client for half of the diverted income simply by having my client and another witness testify to their knowledge on the matter and comparing the other party's past and current earnings.  In the end, the Judge believed my client and our other witness was more credible than the other party and found that the other party had improperly diverted his income away from the marriage.  Trying to discover hidden assets can be a difficult task that requires the expertise of someone who knows where and how to look for these assets.  If you believe your spouse may be hiding income or assets from you, feel free to contact us for your free consultation to see if we can help you find what is rightfully yours.

About the Author

Gina Colaluca

Gina L. Colaluca began working as an Associate Attorney at the Law Offices of Laura A. Holwell in 2013, where she focused her practice mainly in Family Law. She now continues to focus on Family Law, as well as Insurance Law and Appellate Law, here at Holwell Law Group, LLC.


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