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Pre-Divorce Planning

Much of the business of the private investigators comes from spouses engaged in pre-divorce planning. Savvy divorce lawyers tell prospective clients to find out as much as possible as early as possible-before the papers are served. It is much easier, and ultimately more accurate, to gather evidence about financial assets beforehand, when the waters are relatively calm and before the other spouse has begun to think about issues such as hiding and protecting assets. The plan, which is recommended by the attorney, involves a thorough asset search by a qualified private investigator. A report will be prepared listing real estate, business interests, and bank and brokerage account numbers with balances and transactions. These assets can then be identified and frozen at the time the divorce papers are filed. Once the divorce case is filed, money and property often begin to “move.” When this happens, locating assets can become a messy and expensive task.

A Business Week article illustrated the difficulties a spouse can encounter tracking assets after the divorce litigation has begun. Two months before filing for divorce, Swiss industrialist Donald Hesse allegedly transferred $200 million of stock in Hess Holdings to an offshore trust in Gibraltar. Joanna, his American wife, has purportedly spent $600,000 in legal fees in numerous unsuccessful attempts to assert a claim on the funds.

In the book called Tao of Divorce/A Woman’s Guide to Winning, divorce lawyers Steven L. Fuchs and Sharyn T. Sooho advise women to “win” the divorce battle with ancient Chinese tactics of strategic planning, stealth, and deception.

While still living in the marital home, you have a unique opportunity to acquire this information and to continue to maintain close physical proximity to your husband, his financial records, and his confidants. Sage Warriors can gain advantage by accessing strategic information during this window of opportunity we call the pre-filing, “planning stage.”

The authors advise women to perform thorough asset searches, photocopy important documents, monitor telephone calls, and build evidence of adultery, in secret, “while still living in the marital home.” It’s not to clear to us exactly when this “planning ” is supposed to start. How early in the marriage does the “Sage Warrior” begin to formulate her battle plan? Should she even wait to get married? Why not start on the first date with a little discrete photocopying-maybe a quick dash over to Kinko’s on the way to the restroom?

Private investigators are experiencing a booming business in asset searches for strategic planning during all phases of a personal relationship. We have apparently reached the point where preparing for marriage includes a search by each side for the assets of the other to determine the necessity or accuracy of the prenuptial agreement. During marriage, staying informed means acquiring regularly updated asset reports and an analysis of phone records and credit card purchases. But when the marriage is over-is when the real action begins.

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