How to Find Hidden Assets During a Divorce
When you get divorced in Nevada, you generally have the right to split shared assets equally. You also have an obligation to disclose all of your assets so that a fair distribution of assets can occur. What happens when one spouse attempts to hide assets from the other, though? Uncovering hidden assets in a divorce can be challenging, especially if your spouse has gone out of their way to attempt to conceal their property.
If you are involved in or planning a divorce and suspect your spouse may have hidden assets, contact Mills & Anderson. Uncovering hidden assets and accounts can be difficult, particularly if you try to find them on your own. Having experienced, relentless family law attorneys like those at Mills & Anderson can make the difference between discovering assets and searching in vain. Our experience has taught us about where to look and the kinds of tricks people use to hide assets.
Asset Distribution in Divorce
Nevada is a community property state. Unless you or your spouse sign an agreement to the contrary, nearly all property either spouse earns or otherwise acquires after the marriage begins is community property belonging equally to both spouses. Exceptions to this rule are separate property and include:
- Property owned before the marriage,
- Gifts to one spouse,
- Inheritances, and
- Personal injury lawsuit damages.
This means that when you get married, you and your spouse share all other property acquired from that point forward equally. Newly acquired property remains community property until divided by the Court or by an agreement between you and your spouse.
When you divorce, Nevada law declares that community property should be split equally unless compelling reasons exist to distribute assets unequally. So, if your spouse acquired community property during your marriage, you are typically entitled to half of that property.
How People May Try to Hide Assets
You may have reason to suspect your spouse of hiding assets in offshore accounts. It may even be part of your motivation for getting divorced. But you may not know where to begin your search to find secret offshore accounts. Common countries people use to hide property offshore include:
- Hong Kong,
- The Cayman Islands,
- The Seychelles, and
Although this list is a good starting point, your spouse may also have offshore accounts in several other countries.
Apart from offshore accounts, your spouse may try to conceal property by:
- Creating trusts you cannot access,
- Giving “gifts” on the secret agreement the gift will be returned once the divorce is final,
- Requesting compensation be delayed or paid in cash or other easy-to-conceal formats,
- Manipulating operational business costs, or
- Manipulating bank statements or other financial records.
If you suspect your spouse is trying to keep assets from you in offshore accounts, it often pays to investigate whether they are using other techniques to hide assets as well.
Asset Discovery During Divorce
During the divorce process, you are entitled to what lawyers call discovery. Discovery allows you to request that your spouse turn over all documents relevant to the divorce, including information about all community and separate property they own. You can also perform your investigations if you suspect they are not being forthcoming.
If your spouse refuses to turn over or allow you access to documents, you can generally file a subpoena compelling a bank or other financial institution holding such information to provide it. The court can also assist in gathering the necessary information by finding a spouse who consistently refuses to turn over information in contempt of court. The court and also issue additional penalties and sanctions to compel the disclosure of requested information.
Techniques for Finding Hidden Assets
During discovery, you have the chance to investigate your spouse’s assets with the force of law behind your requests. Often, you want to look at several items:
- Your spouse’s tax returns,
- A record of deposits into shared and separate bank accounts,
- Bank account transfers to strange locations or for undisclosed reasons, and
- Paycheck and bonus information from your spouse’s job.
In complex cases with high asset value, hiring a forensic accountant can be very useful during this period to ensure you do not overlook anything. Discovering hidden assets often involves reviewing several years’ worth of financial information, which makes a forensics accountant very helpful.
Consequences of Hiding Assets
As mentioned, if you discover your spouse has been hiding assets from you, the court may hold them in contempt. Contempt of court is a unique, quasi-criminal charge that can result in fines and even jail time in rare circumstances.
In addition, the court can consider one spouse’s attempts to bypass the requirements of the law when it determines whether a compelling reason exists to distribute assets unequally. The court can order the spouse to be awarded less than half of community assets or otherwise refuse to provide benefits the spouse requests. The court can also order the misbehaving spouse to pay your attorney’s fees and other court costs.
Nevada law also authorizes you to file a motion with the court after the divorce has been finalized upon discovery that your spouse hid assets from you. You must request the court divide the property within three years of when you discover the concealed assets or when you reasonably should have discovered them. However, completing a thorough investigation during discovery will help to avoid the necessity of coming back to Court after divorce to divide something you may have missed.
When the court grants your request related to the newly discovered property, it still splits assets equally unless compelling reasons suggest it should not. If the court determines that the assets were intentionally and fraudulently concealed during the divorce proceedings, it may award up to 100% of the asset to the party who discovered it and brought the fraud to the Court’s attention.
Mills & Anderson Can Help
Divorce is one of the most stressful events you can go through. Dealing with an uncooperative spouse who refuses to be forthcoming can make it even harder. Hidden assets in divorce can frustrate the entire legal system, resulting in serious consequences for the concealer. If you need help working through a divorce, including locating assets your spouse may be attempting to hide from you, Mills & Anderson can help. Our years of experience in family law mean we know where to look for assets or who to ask to help us find them. Contact us today to learn how we can take the pressure and frustration of trying to locate everything you are entitled to off your shoulders.