Member of the Standing Committee on Law Library of Congress Advisory

The American Bar Association (ABA) appoints Dori B. Hightower as a member of the Standing Committee on Law Library of Congress Advisory.

Read the appointment letter.

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Does Your Client Know Where Their Marital Assets Are? Do They Really?

In the midst of a divorce, a husband or wife may take advantage of the situation by hiding income, money, assets, property, or sabotaging a business. In order to alter the fair division of assets, a spouse may report lower than actual revenue, higher than actual expenses, hide or undervalue assets, or overstate debts. This is unethical, immoral, and possibly illegal conduct, but for this individual’s spouse, it can also compound feelings of betrayal.

Suddenly the financial picture, and the life that he or she knew, appears to unravel with newfound lies. It is important to put aside these emotions and instead, take a step back and devise a thoughtful approach to unearth the facts, locate hidden funds, and develop an accurate financial picture moving forward.

The picture will be constantly changing as the exploration unfolds, but with some hard work, a story will begin to emerge that can be used to support an argument as to how the assets should be divided.

When the numbers don’t add up, highlight the discrepancy and work with your team to strategically trace the trail.

Developing a strong financial team including an experienced divorce lawyer, personal accountant, and divorce financial planner will help to level the playing field and give the spouse a much-needed support system. In some cases, a forensic accountant may be needed to follow the money trail and value business assets. On the personal front, if necessary, in order for clients to have the emotional stamina to get through the financial discovery process, I would encourage them to get additional psychological support.

It’s important for a divorce attorney to empower a client to identify discrepancies, investigate further into leads, and ask tough questions. I am not suggesting ever engaging in illegal conduct (i.e., breaking into computers, secure files in the home or office, monitoring cell phone or surveillance) as this can result in significant legal consequences. Rather a client needs to be his or her own best sleuth — learning about the family’s finances, taking the initiative, and requesting copies of important documents: mortgage statements, bank statements, utility bills, retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, insurance policies, etc.

Download the complete article, reprinted with permission from the Connecticut Law Tribune.

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