Every divorce in Minnesota will end with a court order dividing assets. For some marriages, that will be a highly contentious issue either because of the value of the assets or because of the emotional attachment one or both spouses has to the asset. Although in the vast majority of cases the spouses are straight forward about what assets there are to actually divide, some unscrupulous spouses may decide to try to hide assets to prevent the other spouse from receiving his or her equitable share in the property division done by the court.
If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, you can use a process called “discovery” to help determine whether there are assets being hidden and sometimes even where those assets have been stashed. Discovery is a process during which your spouse will be required to answer questions in writing and produce certain documents. Your attorney can ask any question that is reasonably designed to lead to evidence that is admissible at trial. In addition, he or she can request a large number of documents, as long as the request is not unduly burdensome. Through this process, you can receive detailed answers about what has happened to certain assets, the location and contents of financial accounts, pay history, or any number of other pieces of information. If you think your spouse is hiding assets, a detailed review of these answers and documents will usually show particular red flags. For example, if your spouse is suddenly making much larger than necessary payments to creditors, his or her income has gone down without a good explanation, or a family-run business is suddenly doing very poorly or making large purchases, these could all be red flags that your spouse is trying to hide assets or defer income to prevent you from receiving your appropriate equitable share.
Especially where your assets are complex, hiring a forensic accountant may be a good way to uncover your spouse’s hidden assets. Forensic accountants are trained to review particular documents to discover discrepancies and find where the assets are being held. If your accountant does find the assets are being intentionally hidden, your spouse can face harsh penalties, including attorney’s fees and or even being forced to give the entire hidden asset to the other spouse without receiving a share.