Uncovering Hidden Assets in a High Net Worth Divorce
In Wisconsin, the marital estate consists of property that was accumulated beginning with the date of the marriage. Unless an asset was inherited or was owned prior to the marriage, all of the property that a couple obtains essentially belongs to both spouses. Therefore, it is easy to see how property division may become a highly contested issue during a high net worth divorce. Vacation homes, boats, yachts, rental properties, financial accounts, stocks, retirement benefits—all of these and more are suddenly subject to division. In many cases, either one or both spouses attempt to hide valuable assets from each other in hopes that they will not be divided.
If your spouse has been hiding property, however, there are ways to uncover these assets. In most divorce cases, the parties engage in discovery. During the discovery phase, the parties request documents from each other. They may also send lists of questions that they want the other party to answer. Discovery requests are conducted under oath. This means that a party may be guilty of perjury if he or she lies about property during discovery.
What sorts of items are commonly sought during discovery? Bank statements, stock reports, appraisals, tax returns, and other financial documents are often requested and exchanged.
The spouses may also be deposed at some point during the divorce proceedings. Depositions are also conducted under oath. In a deposition, the spouses may be questioned by the opposing attorney. A court reporter will be present and will transcribe the deposition. Statements made during a deposition may be used throughout the remainder of the case, including a trial, if one becomes necessary.
In some cases, a private investigator is hired to monitor the activities of one spouse. If one spouse appears to do business with a specific bank, and the other spouse was unaware that there were any accounts with that bank, the private investigator may have discovered some hidden bank accounts. Additionally, a private investigator may catch a spouse visiting property the other spouse did not know about.
Attorneys may also serve subpoenas on financial institutions if a spouse believes that the other spouse has accounts at that entity. These financial institutions must turn over the requested information once it is properly requested. Subpoenas may also be served on other entities to evaluate the marital estate. For example, a subpoena may be sent to employers to evaluate retirement accounts.
A number of other experts may be used throughout the property division phase of a divorce. A forensic accountant may be hired to help a party uncover any hidden accounts. A forensic accountant will also analyze financial data to determine if it matches what a spouse reports as his or her financial status. Financial accountants often prepare reports with their findings and may testify at trial if necessary.
Depending on the nature of one’s assets, some or all of the above measures may be necessary during a divorce. Though it may be a tedious, expensive process, it is worth receiving your fair share of your marital estate.
If you think your spouse is hiding assets in anticipation of your divorce, contact the skilled Wisconsin high net worth divorce attorneys at Bandle & Zaeske, LLC as soon as possible to begin an investigation. We offer a free consultation to discuss your legal options. We serve clients in Washington County, Ozaukee County, and Waukesha County. To schedule your free consultation, call (414) 359-1424 or contact us online.