When people divorce, both sides seek to protect their interests. Occasionally, one side will cross the line and deliberately withhold significant assets from the discovery process. Assets can be anything of value: cars, real estate, investment portfolios, collectibles and entire businesses.
People shield their assets from discovery using a number of different approaches, some of them ill-advised and easily detected, and some criminal. Spouses may maintain secret financial accounts. They spend down their mortgage, reducing the assets to be divided. They empty joint bank accounts. They set up offshore accounts and protective trusts. They create dummy corporations, and sign titles over to their children and other parties.
Businesses are often used by owners to deceive the courts, moving debts and assets back and forth to suit their needs. This can happen without the other party's knowledge. One spouse may believe the business is in trouble, while the other uses it as an ATM.
The challenge is to identify these tricks and deceptions and include the assets that were hidden from the marriage partner's view. The courts do not look fondly at fraudulent practices, and will cite deceptive spouses for contempt, ultimately costing the deceiving party more than it would have gained.
For more difficult hidden asset schemes, we recommend private investigators who are adept at finding things that don't want to be found. We also partner with skilled forensic accountants to arrive at a proper valuation of located assets.
At Christian D. Smed, P.A. in Winter Park, we locate and identify these hidden assets and include them as marital property. When a spouse is acting in bad faith, the court may appoint a receiver to prevent further misbehavior. Sometimes, a case requires a private investigator. In most cases, however, the assets are not really hidden, and our lawyers can easily locate and identify them using available electronic records.