I Think My Ex Is Hiding Assets From Me
When a couple separates, disputes about the division of assets are common. However, if there is distrust about disclosure and one of the parties suspects that the other is concealing assets, a volatile situation can become even more challenging.
If you think your ex-partner is deliberately hiding assets from you, it is in your best interests to immediately seek legal advice.
The starting point for any property settlement after a separation is determining the asset pool.
Parties have a legal obligation to disclose their full financial status, right up until the property settlement has been finalised. They have a continuous obligation for full and frank disclosure of all assets and liabilities including all sources of income, any property, investments, inheritance, debts, loans and so on. It doesn’t matter where these assets and liabilities are held (e.g. in a company, a trust or any other structure). What matters is that both parties are aware of the other party’s balance sheet.
Disclosure is by way of a Financial Statement, which is a legally binding document required by the Court, and providing supportive documents (“disclosure”). Information and documents have to be amended if there are any significant changes to the financial position of either party, such as the sale of an asset or an inheritance. In other words, if one of the parties acquires or disposes of an asset during their property settlement negotiations, or has a windfall, or has any material change in financial circumstances, they are required to declare full details.
It is also important to know that disclosure does not depend on the other party making a specific request; it should be a proactive process.
If you think your ex is hiding assets from you, this is what you should do:
- Engage a family lawyer.
- Request your former partner’s Financial Statement, further information, disclosure list and a copy of any relevant documents.
- If you are still concerned about full disclosure (or lack of), you can apply for a court order to compel the other party to disclose relevant documents.
- Where matters are complicated, a party may sometimes engage a forensic accountant.
- Under certain circumstances, you may seek a court order compelling the other party to provide a written undertaking in relation to discrete issues, including disclosure.
- If none of the above allay your fears, you may be able to issue subpoenas to entities or persons, including banks, employers, stockbrokers and other institutions, to release financial records relating to your former partner (a separate process may occur for superannuation funds).
There may be serious consequences if your former partner is found to be in breach of any order made by the Court, including being charged with contempt of court, which may be punishable by a prison sentence.
At West Family Lawyers, we understand the issues that arise with disclosure, and hiding assets at the time of property settlement negotiations. Where that occurs, and it is later discovered that that there was actually significant non-disclosure (and hidden assets), it is possible to apply to the Court to set aside the original settlement/orders and start new proceedings.
We always encourage separating parties to talk to a lawyer early on as this can save a great deal of time, money and angst. However, if you are concerned about non-compliance with disclosure obligations, immediate legal advice is strongly recommended.
We support our clients in every way to achieve a just and equitable division of assets. We know from experience that the ideal outcome is a solution without court intervention, but when this is not possible, we can help with the relevant Court applications.
We invite you to look at the comprehensive FAQ section on our website which covers every aspect of family law including property settlement, parenting matters, de facto situations and divorce. You can also book an obligation-free consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers in Perth at www.westfamilylawyers.com.au or call us on 08 9380 911. We are here to help you.
Please note that this article is general in nature and should not be construed as legal advice.