In the heat of a divorce, when emotions are running high and the trust has gone out the window, it’s not a farfetched idea that your soon-to-be-ex could potentially be hiding valuable assets from you and your divorce attorneys. If your spouse comes to you and says they want a divorce and they’ve been thinking about it for a while, you would be wise to at least suspect that they may have taken steps to prepare for what’s to come. Including moving money around so that you don’t receive a fair share of the property when it’s all said and done. Or maybe you weren’t that involved in managing the family’s finances so you really have no idea what there might even be to hide? What can you do in that situation? You can’t outright accuse them because they would surely deny it and you’d undoubtedly just be adding kindling to the fire. Do you do some snooping of your own? Or do you hire a private investigator to do it for you? Well, actually, if you’ve hired a divorce attorney, you’ve already hired a private investigator of sorts. Keep reading to find out what we mean by that.
The Divorce Discovery Process
What if your soon-to-be-ex was primarily responsible for the bookkeeping in your marriage and you played very little part in tracking the finances? What if you don’t have immediate access to, or knowledge of your finances, but your spouse does? No need to panic. First step is to try to gather any financial documents as soon as you can. Go through your files for paystubs (even if they’re not so current), account statements, credit card and other bills, mortgage statements, real property settlement documents, etc. As soon as you suspect you might be headed for separation or divorce or if there are issues in your marriage, start collecting these records so that you are better prepared for what lies ahead.
Even if you don’t have any access to this information and you think your spouse is hiding assets from you, you and your attorney can work together using a formal, legal process to gather the hidden information. This process is referred to as the discovery process. The discovery process varies from state-to-state but in Maryland parties can obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods: (1) depositions by way of oral examination under oath or written questions; (2) written interrogatories (aka questions); (3) inspection of documents; (4) mental or physical examinations; (5) requests for admissions of facts or genuineness of documents. Unless the court says otherwise, these methods of discovery can be used in any order but cannot be used as an excuse to delay another party’s discovery. The court may (and usually does), at any time, impose a deadline by which all discovery must be completed.
Maybe your spouse produces the information at first request and you’re starting to think that the information gathering process might not be so difficult. But this is rarely the case. In some cases, the ex can’t find the necessary documents. That’s okay; your next step here would be to work with them to find it. In our online world, it’s fairly easy to gain access to account records and statements. You can also send requests (sometimes by way of subpoena) for information to mortgage companies, lenders, banks, etc. Unfortunately, the ex may refuse to produce information or may lie about their inability to gain information because they are attempting to hide assets from you. In this case, you and your lawyer would need to utilize some of the methods outlined in the discovery process to gain access to the necessary information.
What to Ask for during Discovery
The most obvious answer to this question is any and all documentation pertaining to assets, income, debts, and liabilities. And remember that assets come in many forms: tangible assets are things like cash, jewelry, cars, houses, fine art, tools, Longaberger baskets, etc.; intangible assets are savings accounts, checking accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, royalties, copyrights, patents, etc. So be sure when making your request that you’re requesting a wide variety of records including receipts, loan and bank statements, stock certificates, royalty agreements, W-2s and other tax documents.
Give us a call!
Ferrante and Dill’s Family Law attorney, and one of its founding partners, Jennifer Dill is a top-rated divorce attorney in the state of Maryland. If you believe your spouse is hiding assets from you, give her a call today. You’re going to want someone with extensive experience in asset discovery on your side. Even if you don’t suspect your spouse is hiding assets from you, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney to make sure you’re asking the right questions of your ex. Don’t wait, give us a call today at (410) 535-6100 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.