In many divorces, particularly in Fairfield County, Connecticut, it is common for a party to suspect his or her spouse of hiding assets. Methods of hiding assets can be simple, such as filling a safe deposit box with valuables, or skimming cash from a small business. The less obvious methods of hiding assets are more frequently overlooked– such as pre-paying or over-withholding taxes, overpaying credit cards, using a corporate entity to conceal or transfer funds, establishing a trust to “shield” assets, or failing to disclose equity interests.
Top family lawyers who practice in towns such as Westport and Darien understand the possibility of undisclosed assets and take the necessary steps to discover them. For example:
Insist on a signed, sworn Financial Affidavit thirty days after the return date. Connecticut Practice Book Section 25-5(c)(1) requires the parties in an action for Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union, Legal Separation, Annulment, or Application for Custody or Visitation, to complete and exchange sworn Financial Affidavit within thirty days of the return date. Believe it or not, this rule is often ignored and rarely enforced. There are instances where one spouse may take months to provide a signed, sworn Financial Affidavit, simply because they have not been pressured to comply with the Practice Book, and the Court is not made aware of the delay.
File a Request for Production of Documents. One of the critical steps in identifying and verifying marital assets is almost always the filing a Request for Production of Documents. Seasoned family law attorneys ask for information that extends beyond the mandatory disclosure and production requirements (which includes only basic documents) and request documents that may in fact lead to the discovery of hidden assets, such as documents related to travel, business expenses (reimbursed and unreimbursed), tax payments and refunds, retirement plan contributions and distributions, rental income, schedules and attachments to tax returns, leases for safe deposit boxes and storage units, verification of gifts and loans, financing applications, trust documents and vesting schedules.
Obtain additional information that is easily accessible but often overlooked. There is a wealth of information regarding property and business ownership and salary history instantly available by conducting a basic internet search of town land records, state public records (in Connecticut, online users can search C.O.N.C.O.R.D for business registered with the Secretary of the State) or websites such as Bloomberg and LinkedIn. Additional information can also be collected by a party on his or her own, including documents and paperwork located within the marital home or office. Old bank and brokerage statements, loan applications and life insurance policies, for example, can be extremely helpful in determining whether there are additional assets that are not included on a current Financial Affidavit.
Call in the experts. Experienced divorce lawyers help their clients identify whether the issues in his or her case warrant hiring a forensic accountant or a private investigator. A forensic accountant or similar expert may be necessary to trace income, identify and value interests that are not readily determinable, and review whether a party who is a business owner is operating the company above-board. If a private investigator is necessary, attorneys should be prepared with personal identification information such as legal name and variations (nicknames, abbreviations, common misspellings) as well as known aliases, recent addresses, date of birth, and social security number.
Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC is the largest family law office in Connecticut, with a focus on divorce, custody, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and enforcement or modification of orders. We handle cases throughout the state, with the highest concentration in Westport, Greenwich and surrounding Fairfield County towns. We represent a wide range of clients including high income and high net worth individuals in the hedge fund and private equity sectors, where complex compensation structures and asset holdings require particular expertise. In all of our cases where children are involved, we make issues of custody and parenting time paramount in our representation. In addition to being highly experienced lawyers with proven results, our hallmark is the attention we give to each of our clients. Additionally, whether a case requires aggressive litigation or a mediated solution, we always exhibit an abiding compassion for the people we represent and their families, recognizing that our mission is to assist them through a very difficult, life changing event. More on Asset Evaluation/Distribution