Relatively early in the divorce process, Ohio law requires both spouses to provide complete and accurate disclosure of their financial condition. This includes disclosing any bank accounts, investment accounts, tangible personal property, and other assets. This mandatory disclosure is intended to ensure that both spouses have a clear picture of the assets that will be subject to equitable distribution, as well as to ensure that their divorce decree provides for just awards of child support and alimony.
But, this only works if both spouses openly and honestly disclose the information they are required to disclose (and comply with the eight automatic restraining orders that apply in an Ohio divorce). Unfortunately, as you might expect, in contentious divorces this does not always happen. If you are concerned that your spouse may be hiding income or assets, what can you do?
Methods for Uncovering Hidden Income and Assets
The good news is that there are several methods available for uncovering hidden income and assets in a divorce. The typical ways that spouses try to hide assets are not new, and with thorough investigation and effective use of the judicial process, one spouse can often uncover assets that the other thought was securely hidden away.
1. Constructing a Paper Trail
First, you may already have some of the information you need to at least get started on uncovering your spouse’s hidden assets. These days, it is difficult to move assets without leaving some sort of evidence, and your bank statements, financial records from the family business, phone records, and other documents you have at home (or online) may all be useful for piecing together a paper trail that ultimately leads to assets that are subject to distribution in your divorce.
In addition to the initial mandatory disclosure, during your divorce, your attorney will also be able to request “discovery” from your spouse. This includes requesting the production of documents, answers written questions, and even oral testimony under oath. There are serious penalties for failing to comply with discovery requests (for your spouse and potentially for his or her attorney as well), and effective use of discovery will often result in the disclosure of previously-withheld information.
3. Forensic Investigation
A third option (often used in conjunction with the previous two) is to conduct a forensic investigation. Financial experts, computer forensics experts, and other professionals can be extremely effective in uncovering hidden assets during a divorce. These individuals know where to look and how to interpret complex data and information in order to track down assets that divorcing spouses do not want to be found.
Legal Remedies if a Spouse Attempts to Hide Assets in a Divorce
The general rule when it comes to dividing property in an Ohio divorce is that the spouses’ marital assets are subject to equitable distribution. However, this assumes that both spouses have been forthcoming with their financial disclosures and have faithfully participated in the divorce process.
When one spouse attempts to hide assets in a divorce, Ohio law contemplates a departure from the general rule that is designed to compensate the other spouse. Specifically, Section 3105.171(E)(5) of the Ohio Revised Code states:
“If a spouse has substantially and willfully failed to disclose marital property, separate property, or other assets, debts, income, or expenses as required . . . the court may compensate the offended spouse with a distributive award or with a greater award of marital property not to exceed three times the value of the marital property, separate property, or other assets, debts, income, or expenses that are not disclosed by the other spouse.”
Attempting to hide assets in an Ohio divorce is serious business. If you believe that your spouse may be concealing assets, the law protects you, and you owe it to yourself to stand up for your legal rights.
Contact a Cleveland Divorce Lawyer at Laubacher & Co.
If you are concerned that your spouse may be hiding income or assets, we encourage you to contact us for a free, confidential consultation. To speak with an experienced divorce attorney, call our Cleveland, Ohio law offices at (440) 336-8687 or contact us online today.