Hidden Assets and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty

It is not uncommon for couples involved in divorces to suspect each other of not being completely honest, especially when it concerns assets and property. The more assets a couple has, the messier the divorce can become.

The majority of states in the country are equitable division states. This means that the marital estate is not necessarily divided 50/50, but instead the court will decide what it feels is a fair division of the marital estate. The other method of property division used in divorce is community property division. This is when the assets and property acquired by the couple during the marriage are equally owned by both of them. The states that are community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington.

Regardless of what type of division of assets and property your state adheres to, not all spouses agree with that law and attempt to hide assets from the other spouse. These assets often end up in other countries, and presumably, out of the reach of the other spouse.

The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty
Although at first glance it may seem like funds hidden in offshore accounts may be lost forever, there is a powerful tool that divorce attorneys have at their disposal to assist their clients in obtaining the funds that are rightfully theirs. This tool is the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).

The MLAT is an international agreement that has been signed by over 100 countries, including the United States. Originally, the MLAT was established to enable law enforcement agencies to seize illegal funds and assist in the prosecution of those criminally responsible, such as in tax evasion, illegal drug dealing funds, or money laundering cases.

However, it is becoming more and more common for civil attorneys to utilize the MLAT in order to gain access to assets which are being hidden by one party from another in civil lawsuits, particularly if there is fraud suspected. For instance, a divorce attorney who suspects the other spouse of hiding assets in another country can use the treaty to force production of documents, call witnesses, freeze the accounts the funds are in, and even seize the assets.

In addition, anyone who is suspected of advising or assisting the spouse in the hiding of those assets – such as an attorney or accountant – could face criminal prosecution.

Division of Assets
If you are considering a divorce and anticipate that your spouse may be hiding assets or income from you, you need to contact a skilled high asset divorce attorney to ensure that you receive all the property and assets you are entitled to under your state law. Call a lawyer, like a divorce lawyer from Pioletti Pioletti & Nichols, for an initial consultation and to discuss your legal options.