Louisiana Family Law:
Divorce —Finding and Protecting Assets (Part 1)
In a divorce situation, whether in a community property state like Louisiana, or in a state that uses “equitable distribution” as a means to determine the ownership of property when a marriage terminates, finding and protecting assets can be a real problem.
This article is taken with permission from the book Tao of Divorce, a Woman’s Guide to Winning, by Stephen L. Fuchs and Sharon T. Sooho. As you can see from one of the comments, there is a bit of controversy over the methods suggested by Mr. Fuchs.
Trace Hidden Assets and Income
Assessments are the first order of business in military operations.
— Sun Tzu
Documents help uncover hidden income and assets. If you can not retrieve the actual documents, try to find out where the documents are stored, then employ a secret agent/investigator to retrieve them, or use “discovery” as a last resort.
The palest ink is better than the best memory.
–Old Chinese Proverb
Photocopy the Master List of Documents in Appendix “A.” Even seemingly unimportant papers help trace hidden assets and income, so copy everything! If your husband keeps his records at work, build alliances and enlist allies among his professional colleagues as described in Chapter Three.
Keep the enemy uninformed of your activities until disclosure gives you a strategic advantage–timing is everything. The importance of secrecy is evident when you start investigating husbands who operate cash businesses. You must recreate the family’s financial history, but if you conduct your investigation openly, your husband may take countermeasures to mislead you. Covertly investigate whether family expenses exceed reported income. For instance, if your husband claims he earns $50,000, but family expenses are $150,000, ask the court for support orders based on an annual income of $50,000 plus the “imputed” income of $100,000. Naturally, your husband will claim you are overestimating his income, but if you cannot agree on finances, your case goes to trial–a risky and traumatic event. Therefore, build a meticulous case against your husband during the planning stage, then offer the irrefutable “proof” to your husband and his legal advisor, who will be forced to urge him to settle.
The following fact patterns may alert you to possible deceptions practiced by your husband.
- Good Times
You live in a fine neighborhood, own luxuries, send your children to private schools, and travel abroad frequently. For no apparent reason your husband cuts back on necessities and eliminates luxuries. Does this mean that business is bad? Your husband may be hiding income. Investigate!
- Not so Good Times?
You live a modest life style despite your husband’s long hours and hard work at his privately-owned business. Families occasionally live below their means, but if you did not manage the family business, you need insider information to uncover income and assets. Family members and disgruntled employees are excellent sources of information so check state labor department records for employee lawsuits.
If your husband is secretive, but keeps records at home, you may want to follow this example of a housewife married for 25 years:
Martha’s husband Henry was obsessively secretive, but kept extensive business records at home. She arranged delivery of a rented photocopier to the marital home, and over a two-day period while Henry was on a sales trip she copied several hundred documents. Her photocopy expense at 10 cents a page was minimal compared to the quality of the information and the fortune she saved in legal fees. How could Henry hide his high sales commissions when confronted with Martha’s well documented proof?
TIP: This article suggests using private detectives if the situation warrants. For a list of licensed detective agencies in Louisiana, go to the Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners.
WARNING: We would have to agree with one of the comments posted about this article (see “other comments” below) that the emphasis seems to be on husband-bashing. However, that is the perspective that the author, Stephen Fuchs, chose to take. If you look at other comments about his book, you will see that the controversial nature of his writing may be deliberate. We would agree, from experience, that wives can be every bit as manipulative, as the comment points out.