Article written by Axis Geffen
We’ve all heard the term “leave no stone unturned.” But in family law, failing to turn over stones can literally cost some people millions of dollars, security in their advancing years, or benefits to their children. Sadly, in many cases, there is no recovery from failing to turn over every stone but luckily, you’re reading this article and you can make sure that you’re protected!
In most separations or divorces, the client only thinks about the items that are close to home. Often foreign properties, foreign investments or foreign assets are not even considered. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
I’m reminded of a client that was going through a divorce and had tried to gain proof that her ex had more money than he was claiming. Time and again, he provided financial records and CRA documents to prove that he had virtually no income. All the while, he was driving a current model Porsche and was still spending cash like it was going out of style. Her lawyer asked her to talk with me and in our conversation, she mentioned that his family was from Costa Rica.
I asked if he had any interests there and she said that she didn’t believe so. Her ex’s parents had moved there to retire around the time of the separation, and he had not taken a trip to Costa Rica since very early in their relationship.
She decided to allow me to conduct a couple of searches and that was when we found out that he owned several properties in Costa Rica and sat on the board of two corporations there. Through the work that followed, we located an undisclosed bank of assets totaling in millions of US dollars.
Similarly, another client inquired about a property in the Ukraine and sure enough, we proved that the property belonged to the ex and not the parents as our client had been told many times.
So how do you find hidden assets that are thousands of miles away? Well, that’s where a professional private investigator comes in handy.
Although some records can be publicly accessed without any credentials, the requirements are different in every country, and often there are differences within that country. Even if you do locate what you need on your own, it may be challenging to obtain that information and use it for your family law case. It is always best to have someone with experience do it for you.
Okay, but then it will cost me thousands of dollars to send you on a vacation?! No. Surprisingly, it is very rare that we physically need to travel anywhere. In most cases, we can have a local agent do the leg work for us. I have completed many investigations all over the world without ever leaving my desk. Your investigative team should advise you of what can or cannot be done without travel, and in the event that travel is warranted, they will explain to you in detail exactly why, how much it will cost, and what the risks are well in advance of you making your decision.
As long as there is some place that is out of sight, there will always be someone that tries to hide assets there to keep them out of mind. Spending some time with a qualified investigator could be of benefit to you, especially if you suspect that some major asset is missing from the big picture.