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Is Your Partner Hiding Assets or Cash From the Asset Pool?

Under the Family Law Act 1975, parties have a duty to make full and frank disclosure to the other party of all information relevant to an issue in the proceeding. However, sometimes when a relationship looks like it is coming to an end or even after a separation, one party decides to hide cash and assets from the other party. It is usually the wealthier party, or the person with more control over the finances, who does this in the hope of reducing the asset pool to be divided at the property settlement and thereby retain more property for themselves. This article outlines some of the steps a person may want to consider taking if they think their partner is hiding assets or cash from the asset pool.

So if your relationship looks like it is going to end, or if you have recently separated from a spouse or partner, what are some of the telltale signs that they may be hiding assets or property from you? Moreover, what can you do about it? What can be done to prevent them from destroying evidence that incriminates them?

How can I tell if my partner is hiding assets or cash?

Some of the signs that your partner may be hiding assets or cash include the following:

  1. Financial mail is no longer being delivered in the post or to your email address. Such mail includes bank and financial statements. Make sure you do have copies of all statements for accounts in your name. Check with your financial institution to make sure you do have copies of these if you notice a change in what you are receiving.
  2. There has been a decrease in spending by your partner or a decrease in their salary. This may be evidence of their deferring salary or holding off on receiving bonuses or commissions until a later date (such as after the divorce or separation is finalised);
  3. There have been overpayments to accounts from which money can be returned at a later date. For example, your partner may overpay on tax. They may do this with the expectation that they can get a refund later, but that in the meantime the amount they have spent on tax will not be included in the asset pool. Similarly, they may lend money to family members knowing that the family members will return the money after the separation or divorce is settled. They may also transfer money to the children;
  4. Your partner’s business is not getting any new clients but is hiring a number of new staff. This may be a sign that your partner is trying to make their business look less valuable than it actually is;
  5. Your spouse is exhibiting secretive behaviour in relation to finances. This could be a further signal that they are transferring or dissolving assets.

Sometimes if you are suspicious that your partner is not completely truthful about finances, it may be worthwhile hiring a private investigator or forensic accountant to determine the truth about the matter.

What can private investigators assist with?

Private investigators will use many methods to determine whether your partner is hiding assets or cash. These methods may include the following:

  • Reviewing special databases to which they have access to find assets;
  • Reviewing public records about properties, tax filings and other documents;
  • Conducting surveillance to determine whether your spouse is travelling to locations they have not disclosed or meeting with others who could be assisting them to hide assets;
  • Reviewing information such as names and addresses to discover patterns or places that may indicate hidden assets; and
  • Reviewing your spouse’s computer records or web search history to identify whether any cash or assets have been hidden.

Once an investigator has completed their review of a situation, they will most probably compile a report that can be used in court as evidence.

What can forensic accountants assist with?

If you have a number of financial reports already but need assistance interpreting them, it may be best to hire a forensic accountant to assist with this. In other situations, where you need to gain access to such reports, you may wish to hire both an investigator to locate the reports and a forensic accountant to interpret them.

Forensic accountants are skilled at critically reviewing information to ascertain the true financial position of a party and whether that party may be hiding any of their finances.

Forensic accountants can assist with the following in a dispute relating to property in a family law matter:

  1. Identifying the true asset pool;
  2. Analysing and reporting on findings;
  3. Acting as a witness in court or other dispute resolution processes relating to property settlement.

What can I do to prevent my spouse from destroying evidence that they are hiding assets or cash?

If you are worried that your spouse may be likely to destroy evidence in their possession that proves their wrongdoing, you may want to consider applying for an Anton Piller Order. If you are successful in obtaining such an order, an authorised representative for you can enter your spouse’s premises and take possession of potential evidence that relates to the dispute.

In order to obtain an Anton Piller Order successfully, three requirements must be met. These are:

  1. There must be evidence that your spouse is hiding assets or cash. For example, an intercepted voicemail message or email in which they discuss this;
  2. That you would be at a great disadvantage if documents were destroyed such as missing out on a large sum of money at property settlement;
  3. There must be evidence that documents are in existence and in your spouse’s possession that evidence their wrongdoing. For example, you may be able to demonstrate that there are financial records held on a computer located at their residence.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Kathryn Sampias

This article was written by Kathryn Sampias

Kathryn Sampias has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Kathryn was admitted to practice in 2005 and practised law for more than eight years, working both in private practice (mainly in defence litigation for professional indemnity disputes) and in the public service for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in enforcement.

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