When divorce ensues, things get messy and fast. That person you once loved, or perhaps still love, may change in the blink of an eye. If you are facing this, don't fear, there is another life awaiting, and although it is difficult to see it now, I promise things will get better.
How You Can Find Divorce Assets Now (Do This Before Filing For Divorce)
Before you hire an attorney, hire a private investigator. When you hire an attorney, they will likely hire a private investigator unless they specialize in divorce asset investigations (likely not). You will pay for their time and possibly a markup should the attorney hire the private investigator. The other problem with hiring an attorney beforehand is they may have a paralegal look up information using databases. They are not private investigators. They are paralegals (processors of legal paperwork). The work will often be subpar at best.
Here are six steps you should take now to find divorce assets:
Keep silent. Although it is tempting to threaten your ex with legal recourse and how you will take your partner to the cleaners if you play detective, then act like a detective. Don't share anything that you are doing to investigate them.
Collect documents. I don't care what it is, collect anything and everything. This includes bank statements, tax returns, Social Security Number(s), birth certificates, credit card statements, business records, and names of books they are reading (share later why).
Sort and sift. Now that you have a bunch of information, it is time to go through it. Group everything in like manner. For example, 2022 bank statements - personal account; 2022 bank statements - business account, Identifiers -— photos of ID, birth certificate, and Social Security Number, etc. Get everything into a logical order.
Identify what is essential. Now that you have organized your documents, it is time to extract meaningful information. Start a spreadsheet if you are able. List everything critically. Such as how many bank statements you could obtain, the year, and the months. Names of businesses your spouse is known to have, the bank they use, and the account numbers (if known). Create your logical sequence, and ensure you get all dates, account numbers, and any names associated with the documents.
Prepare a summary. You have done a great job! Now that you are at this point, I want you to write an outline as if you were writing a report. Begin with who you are, where you live, and that you are facing divorce. Do this in a paragraph or two at most. Then, in a section, you should indicate what you believe led to the divorce. Just state facts. Leave emotion out of it. I then want you to write about what documents you located, how you discovered them, and what they contain. More on this later.
Take a partner. Now that you have investigated, it is time to understand what it all means and how it can play out. Talk to your closest confidant that knows your partner well. They may jog your memory on something else you need to gather before it is too late and information disappears.
Hire a professional asset searcher that can aid you especially in finding bank accounts.
Don't Hire a Divorce Attorney Yet
Lawyers cost a lot. Get your ducks in a row before hiring a lawyer.
You may think that private investigators are against lawyers. We're not. We love working with good litigators and attorneys. We want you to save some money and be well organized. You're likely still going to need the attorney.
You, like me, understand full well that every second is billable to an attorney. Every piece of paper they photocopy, every minute of a phone call (6-minute increments), and the list goes on. According to Dad's Divorce, the average attorney in California is $330 per hour, this was in 2020, and most of the attorneys I know charge $395 + per hour.
A great private investigator will be between $125-250 per hour, thus saving you substantially in legal fees with a law firm. You can find good private investigators for $150-$195 per hour, and in some parts of the United States, you can get a good detective for $95-125 per hour.
Uncover Divorce Assets - Additional Steps
Hiring an attorney is likely a good idea, but our steps will help you prepare to hire an attorney or a private investigator. Here are some things I want you to remember during the six steps we discussed.
When possible, photograph every document rather than take the record. This helps ensure that your partner is none the wiser. If you take the paper, you may be stealing or, at the very least, tipping your hand. Take good quality photos that accurately depict the account numbers, names, line items, etc., and make them readable. An excellent modern cell phone can easily do the trick.
Do not do anything if you have a restraining order. Stop and consult an attorney if there is a sort of injunction or restraining order.
Look for what your partner may be reading. Perhaps it is on a tablet, on their phone, or at their bedside. But do your best to pay attention to that. If they are reading about money, finance, law, or anything else that may apply to their situation, they may learn ways to protect their assets. Make a note of this.
The summary I asked you to prepare is to help in a few ways. It enables you to collect your thoughts concisely. It aids you in reviewing what you have found and may assist you in thinking of other issues that may need looking into, such as the forgotten IRA or pension account. In addition, this summary can be given to your private investigator should you need to take a partner. And indeed, please provide this summary, along with a supporting spreadsheet and documentation, to your attorney. Rather than your attorney spending two hours and $800 of your money listening to you, they can take 30 minutes and read your summary, review evidence and make a strategy from there.
Be careful when you take a partner. Our 6th bullet point was to aid you in jogging your memory and to support you. Why not call your private investigator if you cannot trust another person? For $200, you can get a phone consultation that will review your documentation, advise filling the missing gaps, and suggest a divorce lawyer.
Use Professional Bank Account Search Companies
When it comes time to searching for bank accounts and brokerage accounts, leave nothing to chance. A professional and ethical asset search that looks for bank accounts needs to be done legally. Use professional bank search firms (see link), and leave nothing to chance.
When To Hire a Divorce Detective To Find Assets
Everyone goes through a divorce similarly, even though they may lead very different lives. Each case has its distinct characteristics and yet has many similarities.
As divorce detectives for 30 years, the sooner you hire a divorce detective, the better you are. Why? Because should your partner get the inclination, they may begin hiding assets or obscuring their paper trail. This makes the investigation more costly and your legal case more costly, as alternative methods will need to be used to find hidden assets.
The more obscure the paper trail, the more impetus to hire a divorce detective.
Divorce Detective's Find Hidden Assets
Use a Divorce Detective™ to connect the dots.
When the trail runs cold, you can hire a divorce detective to assist you in tracking down information that fills in the gap from your investigation. Detectives in private investigation divorce have experience in asset location services that help their clients win favorable resolutions.
Hire A Divorce Attorney To Help Get What You Deserve
Divorce attorneys and divorce detectives have two distinct roles. The private investigator is there to gather facts that the lawyer uses to create the legal strategy when representing your divorce before the courts.
Our entire goal in writing this article is to inform you on how to organize your investigation to provide the divorced detective or the attorney with quality facts to help you save money.
Divorce is expensive, with the average cost being around $11,000 in fees just for lawyers and filings. A divorce detective can help you save money by investigating before it gets to the law firm, where costs and expenses are usually double a high-caliber divorce detective.
Gather your facts as we have outlined above. Remember to ensure you are discreet. Photograph everything, but make sure your photos are clear and show what is most important. Write the summary and create the spreadsheet to organize everything. All of this will certainly aid you in locating assets for your divorce proceedings and help professional legal services such as a divorce detective or divorce attorney understand your matter clearly and help fill in the missing pieces.