THE BLOG
08/15/2014 02:08 pm ET Updated Oct 15, 2014

Uncovering Hidden Assets in Divorce Litigation

If you're considering hiding assets in your divorce, you might want to think twice. Alternatively, if you're concerned your spouse may be hiding assets from you know that you have options.

For better or worse, the reality is when marriage gets tough people often hide money. Regardless of their wedding vows, many couples experience such breakdown in their marriages that they rationalize and justify building a secret financial stash in anticipation of divorce. Why should they have to divide their marital assets or community property in the event of a divorce? One good reason is because the law says so.

Often such funds are surreptitiously held offshore or transferred to a family member or friend. Other strategies involve safe-deposit boxes, secret stock brokerage accounts, investment accounts and so on. In today's highly advanced technological world most records have gone electronic, therefore hiding large sums of money is no longer as easy as it may have once been.

The Electronic Trail

If you're suspicious of your spouse hiding assets, dig around a little bit to find clues in social media, your browser's history and so on. You can easily install software to gather information on your computer, spy apps on your smartphone and hidden GPS devices in your car to find out where you've been making secret ATM withdrawals. If you find any clues or even merely suspect financial infidelity you should promptly consult with a divorce attorney who has had proven success in uncovering hidden assets.

Hire an Attorney Well-Versed in Uncovering Hidden Assets

It's critical to hire a divorce attorney well-versed in uncovering hidden assets. Although uncovering hidden assets is now easier with the technological advancements we've made over the years, not all attorneys know about them or are comfortable implementing such high-tech strategies. While many divorce attorneys fall down on the job in discovering hidden assets in a divorce, attorneys well-versed in uncovering hidden assets are using such cutting-edge strategies to help their clients get what they deserve.

Long dead are the days of flipping page by page through bank statements and other records to catch a spouse who is hiding assets. Now advanced software performs deep analysis of financial statements in seconds to find anomalies.

Although there may be privacy laws in place to prevent suspicious spouses or others to conduct such investigations, uncovered information can still be detrimental. Even when information obtained through surreptitious means is inadmissible in court, it can still lead to other evidence that may be admissible. Knowing where to look and what questions to ask is critical to the negotiation, litigation and discovery process. Illegally obtained information can also be very helpful as leverage during settlement negotiations, if not in court.

Are Hidden Assets Common in Marriages

According to research by National Endowment for Financial Education, secretive hidden funds are seen in 2 out of 3 marriages. In statistics published on the website of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 9 out of 10 lawyers report that they see their clients using smartphone spying to uncover financial infidelity. They look for text messages and messages on social networks that offer glimpses into a hidden financial life, emails from PayPal that betray large sums of money stashed away and so on.

Is it Difficult to Catch Financial Infidelity?

In a word, no.

Some financially unfaithful spouses try to protect their retirement or pension account, claiming that they don't have one or more when they actually do. Although emails, account statements, company benefits websites are easy targets for such information gathering.

Some spouses secretly hold homes or real estate investments. Tax returns will show if such assets are being reported to the state or federal government. Most states have websites that show property records for free to the public. You just need to know where to look and how to conduct the searches. Often times it's easier to have your attorney, private investigator or forensic accountant do such searches.

The notorious history in your web browser can easily leave a trail of one's unscrupulous behavior. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice a new bank or investment brokerage account name on the browser's history. Just like suspicious spouse's catch aulterous spouses daily by viewing a suspicious entry in their web history, it's just as easy to find clues of financial adultery too.

Ever think your spouse could have a business on the side you don't know about? It happens. Sometimes people are foolish enough to announce such business ventures on LinkedIn but fail to tell their spouse. The internet is a suspicious spouse's ally when it comes to uncovering what's really going on.

We have dealt with numerous cases where spouses cry poverty but then we find pictures of them on Facebook vacationing in some tropical local with their new girlfriend. It always is surprising that people post such incriminating photos of themselves on the internet. It's like they want to get caught.

In one curious case here in New York, a husband who was cheating on his wife was suspicious that his wife was also cheating on him. He installed keylogger software on the family computer to see what she was chatting about online. The wife suspected that he had installed keylogger software, found the software and used the software he had installed to snoop on her against him. She discovered her husband has over $100,000 in a secret off-shore bank account. She used her findings to make her husband look like a crook in court and in the end got what she was entitled to.

Spying with Smartphones

In hundreds of cases around the country, spouses suspicious of financial infidelity simply enable the phone tracking software. While this software is intended to track phones when they are stolen, people often use this functionality to track their spouses whereabouts. They can quickly find out if their husband makes regular visits to ATMs in a strange part of town, jewelry stores, strange residential neighborhoods and so on.

Smartphones often hold caches of information that can be utilized in a divorce. Emails and text messages from secret bank accounts, stock brokerage accounts and so on.

Do People Get Away with Hiding Assets?

Unfortunately, despite all of the technology at our disposal, spouses do get away with hiding assets. If one doesn't have the financial means to pursue divorce litigation and is unable to get an award of attorneys' fees from their spouse, it may not financially be possible to hire a top notch divorce attorney and employ a team of forensics. The bottom line is that divorce litigation costs money. If you don't have the means to pursue litigation through a private attorney some states provide legal aid or pro bono attorney services. It also is possible to be awarded attorneys' fees if your spouse is the monied-spouse. Contact a local divorce attorney to review your rights and options.