Clients frequently ask what’s involved in searching offshore for hidden assets. More often than not, the answer is, “it takes time and a lot more money than it’s probably worth, unless you’re looking for millions of dollars.”
While not every divorce case involves millions of dollars in an offshore bank account, even an onshore search follows the same principles: look not just for money in the name of the person but in the name of secret companies that person created.
Unless there is hard evidence that a person has hidden assets offshore, we like to start onshore for a few simple reasons:
- It’s a lot cheaper, and if you find a good haul of assets you may find your way to a reasonable settlement. The extra money offshore could still be there, but it may not make financial sense to go after it because of the fees and the length of time it could take to litigate in Caribbean and other tax havens.
- It’s easier to find onshore side companies because of the much larger store of public information in the U.S. compared with most overseas jurisdictions.
- The onshore records may provide good leads to the offshore companies. You may find a property deed notarized in the Cayman Islands or Isle of Man, for example. If you get the tax returns in discovery to a new onshore company, you could see payments from an offshore company that could end up being the subject’s secret company.
If you have reason to suspect that your ex may have offshore accounts or secret onshore accounts, it’s best to discuss your options with an attorney.