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When you know your spouse is hiding assets in divorce

What options do you have when you suspect your spouse is not reporting all assets for marital property division in your Florida divorce?

This blog post discusses some steps to take if you suspect hidden assets and what options you have if your divorce judgment has already been handed down.

Many ways to hide or undervalue assets

In complex, high-asset divorces, discovery of assets is frequently one of the most important steps in the settlement or litigation process. It seems that the more complicated the investments, the easier it is to find ways to devalue assets, become a silent partner in a business or even hide assets in an offshore investment scheme. Uncovering them requires an attorney with experience in complex marital property disputes and connections to professional resources.

Follow the tax money

Many married couples manage to keep their financial world's separate from each other. If you and your spouse filed separate tax returns over the years, it is a good idea to suspect that there may be more to the financial picture than you are aware of. Subpoening tax returns is a good place for your lawyer to start. After all, assets and investments are usually hidden to avoid paying taxes. Tax returns will show how the investment was reported as a loss of earnings, and where it was invested. There may be investments reported on the tax returns that didn't make there way onto the deposition or affidavit of assets. Particularly look for trusts and foreign real estate holdings.

Bank accounts

Sometimes, people just aren't as smart as they think they are. Often, simply reviewing checking and savings account records going back over the entire duration of the marriage (if available) will reveal transfers of money that were not reported in the back of the checkbook.

Records of loans taken out for a hidden real estate investment will be available at your local county courthouse, which will be a matter of public record.

What to do if you discover hidden assets after the divorce is final

While simply modifying a property judgment isn't an option, Florida law gives you the right to reopen your case if you discover that your spouse either fraudulantly or unwittingly left assets unreported. You will actually be filing two separate motions. The first motion will be to reopen the case. If you find that the assets were deliberately unreported, your second motion will be based on "claim preclusion" or often referred to as "collateral estoppel."

If the court agrees that your spouse hid assets fraudulently, there may be punitive damages paid to the court, and possibly to you. The court may also agree that all of the hidden assets should be awarded to you, as an amended judgment.

Hire an attorney with experience in high-asset divorce

Discovering hidden assets, either during the divorce process or after the judgment requires an in-depth understanding of Florida's marital property laws. If you suspect your spouse didn't come clean about money or property, talk to divorce attorney David B. Mitchell in Corar Gables.

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