In various areas of law, the use of electronic data in court has grown by leaps and bounds. Certainly the same can be said for divorce litigation. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article discussing the use of technology to find hidden assets, particularly money being socked away:
Sometimes, uncovering mischief just takes some basic electronic detective work. Thomas Burrage, an Albuquerque, N.M., forensic accountant, had a client who asked her husband, from whom she was getting divorced, if he’d get a pension from his company. The husband said that he wasn’t sure. Mr. Burrage did a quick search on the company website and discovered the husband was in fact eligible for a large pension—something he had hidden from his spouse for more than 14 years.
Scott Maier, a forensic accountant in East Hanover, N.J., recently searched a free public database and discovered that his client’s husband owned real estate in another state. Another simple Google search discovered a client’s husband had sold his company for millions of dollars when he had told his wife it had no value.
Spouses are also doing basic detective work themselves. Gordon Cruse, a San Diego-based family lawyer, has seen spouses discover hidden assets by looking through the browsing history of the family computer and finding things like visits to bank websites where the couple doesn’t have an account.
The article also warns against the perils of attempting to use illegal or less than honorable means of collecting evidence, such as using keystroke logging programs or hacking into a spouse’s e-mail or Facebook account. There are more than enough legitimate means of uncovering hidden assets in a divorce without resorting to these tactics. Moreover, in Texas, the rules for discovery allow litigants in a divorce to request electronically stored data from the other party. There’s no need to hack into someone’s account to obtain information when all you need to do is demand it from them through formal discovery requests.
Our office is prepared to use any ethical and legal means of discovering hidden assets in order to ensure that our clients receive all marital assets to which they are entitled.