Delphin Law Offices PLC

How The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty Can Help

Family Law

In just about every divorce, asset division needs to be addressed. If the couple signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that stipulates how that division should be addressed, the issue can be quickly settled and the couple can move on to other issues that need to be resolved in their divorce.

Unfortunately, many couples do not have these types of agreement in place and so they need to negotiate this distribution. Another unfortunate reality is that many spouses – especially those with a high net worth – will attempt to hide their assets in an attempt to keep the other spouse from getting their fair share. The more assets the couple has, the messier the divorce often is.

Equitable Division vs. Community Property

When it comes to asset division in divorce, the majority of states in the country use the equitable division standard. This means that the court will decide what it feels is a fair division of the couple’s assets and property, however, that division may not necessarily be in two equal halves. There are a number of factors the court uses to make its decision.

The other method of asset division used in divorce is community property division. This is when the assets and property acquired by the couple during the marriage are equally divided in a 50/50 split, regardless of who purchased or earned the asset. The states that are community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Regardless of which asset division doctrine your state uses, there is still a risk that a spouse will attempt to hide assets. It is not uncommon for the spouse to hide these assets in other countries, in offshore accounts, where the other spouse cannot access the funds.

Fighting Against Hidden Assets

While it may seem like funds hidden in offshore accounts may be lost forever, there is a powerful tool that asset division divorce lawyers have to help clients in obtaining the funds that are rightfully theirs – 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 that are being hidden by one party from another in civil lawsuits, particularly if there is fraud suspected. One of the most common ways that MLAT is used today is by divorce lawyers who suspect their client’s spouse of hiding assets in another country can use the treaty to force the 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.

Contact an Asset Division Law Firm

If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets in an attempt to prevent you from a fair asset division settlement in your divorce agreement, contact an experienced asset division lawyer to ensure that your best interests are protected.

Thank you to our friends at Robinson & Hadeed for their information about asset division.