New York Divorce and Property Issues

Searching For Hidden Assets

By Staff Writer

In New York divorce, marital assets are divided between the parties. All too often, however, feelings of betrayal, anger, fear and anxiety can lead one party to try to take advantage of this process and his or her spouse. It is all too common for parties to hide assets in an attempt to avoid dividing them with the other party.

Because there is no litmus test for determining if your spouse will resort to such dishonest tactics, it is crucial that you protect yourself. If you are facing a divorce, there are steps which you can, and should take, to avoid being denied your fair share of the marital estate.

One of the first places to start is a review of the financial records and assets in your home. If you and your spouse have retained copies of bank and other financial statements, review and make copies of the same. If not, take care to review the mail for statements and other records. Once you have access to this documentation, make photocopies or, at the very least, make note of the financial institution, account number and other basic information regarding the asset. You should also obtain or review copies of cancelled checks and account registers. Often, parties will transfer money to family members or friends with the tactic agreement that, once the divorce is finalized, the money will be given back. Any large transfers that immediately precede, or occur during the pendency of a divorce action deserves careful scrutiny.

Be careful not to overlook valuable items in your home such as antiques, artwork, jewelry and collectibles. Valuable items have a way of disappearing during the pendency of a New York divorce. You should catalog these items and obtain copies of any existing appraisals. Keep your notations and copies in a safe place.

Do not limit yourself you carefully scrutinizing only your spouse and his or her records. You should subpoena records from and possibly depose any other individual who has control over or access to your spouse’s income and marital assets, such as your spouse’s employer. Ensure that all assets have been disclosed and that others, such as bonuses, stock options, retirement benefits, or pay raises, have not been intentionally withheld by agreement with your spouse until after the divorce is final.

In addition to your "leg work", the services of professionals should be obtained in order to ensure that all assets have been disclosed and accurately valued. A forensic accountant is one such expert who will help you trace assets, evaluate records, and determine the accurate value of assets such as business interests, pensions and degrees. If necessary, this expert can be called to testify on your behalf at trial.