Experience & Understanding
In the event of a divorce, the best case scenario is for both parties to agree upon fair and equitable division of assets. But what if those negotiations are entered into fraudulently? What if one party is hiding assets from the other in order to avoid sharing the value of those assets? If you suspect your spouse may be trying to hide assets during a divorce, sometimes your best recourse is finding a family law lawyer with experience uncovering hidden assets. Jason P. Howie is Certified as a Specialist in family law by the Law Society of Upper Canada and has over 25 years of experience uncovering hidden assets in divorce proceedings.
Unfortunately, even in a modern, computerized age, there is no central repository of all the financial holdings a private person might have. Banks, credit unions, and trust companies will all have detailed records, but those records need to be sought out individually, and without some sense of where to look, it can feel like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Then there are accounts and holding that may be held in other provinces or countries.
There are still more ways to hide assets and funds. Safety deposit boxes are often used, as there is no required disclosure or record of the contents of a safety deposit box. Assets are sometimes transferred to a relative to disguise true ownership, or even “paid” to relatives as repayment for a loan which was never given. Sometimes the value of assets is simply disguised in purchases or undervalued to disguise actual value, in the form of art or collectibles that have not been appraised, for example.
This is where forensic accounting and investigation come into play. It can be a tedious and complicated process, so it helps to have the assistance of an experienced lawyer with the contacts and resources to facilitate the investigation. Tax returns and bank records will need to be carefully scrutinized, along with credit card returns, and activity in known accounts.
Some hidden assets are uncovered through lifestyle analysis. Simple questions regarding spending and whether it falls in line with a spouse’s reported income. Is the spouse’s lifestyle more lavish than reported income suggests? Cars, electronics, art, collectibles, travel, taken individually, these things may not appear to be significant, but when added together, they can help to build a better picture of someone’s overall wealth.
At some point, a sober, logical determination has to be made regarding the likely value of the suspected hidden assets. Despite the moral and legal ramifications of a spouse hiding assets during a divorce, a good lawyer should ask the question “is it worth it?” The investigation and pursuit of those hidden assets can end up being both expensive and time consuming, and sometimes it may simply not be a worthwhile expenditure. A good lawyer should have your best interests in mind, and not be concerned with billing you for a lengthy investigation which may not bear fruit.
To speak with an experienced Windsor family law lawyer about divorce and/or suspicion of hidden assets, call 519-973-1500 or contact us online. We serve clients in Windsor, Essex County and throughout the region.
Jason P. Howie, Professional Corporation
420 Devonshire Road
Windsor, ON N8Y 4T6
Serves clients in Windsor, Leamington, Tecumseh, Essex, Chatham-Kent, and throughout South Western Ontario.