For New York spouses in the middle of a divorce, one of their greatest fears could be that the other spouse has siphoned off some of the marital estate and is hiding it. The issue is even worse for the spouse if the assets are being hidden pursuant to the laws of a state and cannot be touched.
One couple is divorcing after being married for 30 years. The husband became a billionaire as a trader. He informed his wife that he wanted a divorce by registered mail after engaging in an affair. In the years before the divorce, he established trusts in South Dakota. The state has laws protecting trusts that place it on par with foreign asset protection havens. He removed his wife as the beneficiary of the trusts and was not even required by law to inform her. She has been exhaustively trying to repatriate his assets and has been running into the fact that he has legal protection from the state. Now, the wife may get next to nothing.
This episode has focused attention on the fact that South Dakota has become a haven for those who want to hide assets. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in trusts in the state. People are reportedly moving their money there from overseas as Chinese billionaires try to hide their assets from the government.
Those in the middle of a divorce when the couple has a high net worth may seek the services of a divorce attorney in order to ensure that their spouse is not hiding assets. It generally requires someone who knows what they are looking for in order to find hidden assets. The attorney may start in discovery and continue by scrutinizing the clues that are contained in the obtained financial records.