What if my partner is hiding assets after divorce?

What if my partner is hiding assets after divorce?

By Ezra Sarajinsky

· Read time: 5 minutes

During a divorce, there may be heightened tension and conflict which can lead to secrecy and mistrust between you and your former spouse. In this situation, it is common for one person to be suspicious towards the other of hiding money and assets. Although these concerns are very justified, most people realise the importance of remaining honest and having full disclosure of their finances so as not to commit fraud,  the consequences of which can include heavy fines and possibly a jail sentence. However, in circumstances where assets are hidden, it is usually done by the person with more control over the finances, in an attempt to reduce the divisible assets and keep more for themselves.

How can my ex-partner hide assets from me?

If you think your former spouse is acting dishonestly, you may want to consider the following ways they could be hiding assets:

  1. Not declaring their full income amount –deferring bonuses or salaries could make them appear to have less funds (meaning they would have less to go towards spousal maintenance and child support).
  2. Declaring bankruptcy – this may give the appearance that your ex-partner has no money to contribute to your shared asset pool.
  3. Loaning money to family or friends – this may be done with the intention of having the money returned once the divorce is finalised.
  4. Depositing money into accounts of your children – meaning you will have no control over this.
  5. Stockpiling cash – this may involve your former spouse requesting to be paid entirely in cash so that the income is never reported.
  6. Minimising bank account balance – your former spouse may buy expensive items with the intention of returning/reselling them after settlement.
  7. Offshore accounts – they may create overseas bank accounts in which they can keep money in secret.
  8. Overpaying expenses and debt – your former spouse may pay off credit cards in higher amounts than needed so that the company owes them. They can then wait until after settlement to request a refund.

What are my options?

The best way to ensure your former spouse is being honest and disclosing all assets to you is through a Hidden Asset Search.

There are 3 main types of these:

  1. A Brokerage Account Search – used to find shares and bonds owned by your former spouse or their company. 
  2. A Bank Account Search – used to find any accounts linked to your former spouse.
  3. A Public Assistance Search – used to find any payments or benefits from government departments that your former spouse is receiving.

To gain access to these searches, you will need either a private investigator or forensic accountant.

Private Investigator:

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A private investigator searches for information about your former spouse’s financial position to uncover any assets or money they are hiding from you. This involves utilising different methods depending on each individual circumstance. These include:

  • Examining restricted databases to search for assets
  • Reviewing public records about relevant documents
  • Closely observing your former spouse to see whether their travelling patterns or potential meetings suggest dishonest behaviour.
  • Focussing on names and addresses in information to see if further patterns show.
  • Conducting searches for your former spouse’s computer records and browser history

A private investigator’s findings can then be used as evidence in court.

Forensic Accountant:

A forensic accountant interprets and reviews financial information to help you achieve the best possible outcome. They are very helpful in situations where you have access to financial reports already (possibly obtained through a private investigator) but require explanation. Forensic accountants specialise in analysing given information to determine the actual financial status of a party. In doing so, they can ascertain whether your former spouse may be hiding assets from you. This ensures you have access to and knowledge of the entire asset pool. In Court, your forensic accountant can act as a witness to present their findings in the dispute resolution process.   

What steps can you take?

Before seeking professional help from one of these experts, there are some steps you can take to prepare. You may consider:

  • Collating any relevant financial documents you have and gathering evidence of card payments, receipts, withdrawals, loans, stock certificates, statements, tax, online activity and large gifts to family or friends
  • Writing down any important information you know about you or your former spouse’s bank accounts, investments, or partnerships
  • Recording all assets you and your former spouse have (either owned together or individually)
  • Recording the details of your ex-partner’s family members and business partners
  • Tracking electronic transactions and mobile payments involving your former spouse
  • Reviewing any cancelled checks

How do you stop an ex-spouse from destroying the evidence?

You might be concerned that your former spouse could attempt to destroy evidence of hidden assets. Here, you should think about applying for an Anton Piller Order. This order allows a representative for you to go to your ex-partner’s house and retrieve potential evidence that is relevant to the dispute and allegations.

To obtain an Anton Piller Order, you must show the following:

  1. Evidence of hidden assets such as the findings or report from a forensic accountant
  2. That you would be significantly disadvantaged if such evidence were to be destroyed (such as losing a great amount of money)
  3. Evidence that the documents proving your ex-partner’s illegal activity exist and are in their possession.

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