Finding the Hidden Assets

The first step in any family law property division is working out what are the assets and liabilities. This may be as easy as making a list. But it can be difficult where one person largely controlled the finances during the relationship; where there are companies and trusts involved or where one person tries to hide assets.

In such cases digging is needed to find out what assets exist. Lawyers put on their private investigator hat as there are number of ways to find hidden assets.


Get and review all available documents

Starting point is to get all available financial documents. Documents needed vary from case to case, but the starting point includes bank statements, tax returns, wage slips etc

Sources of Information and documents

  • Each party has a duty of disclosure under the Family Law act provide each other with all relevant financial information and documents.
  • The accountant
  • Past solicitors who may have had conduct of real estate or other transactions. Their file is not privileged.
  • Bank statements for last 7 years can be obtained from banks and are often available through online banking portals at no cost.
  • Australian Taxation Office will have all past tax returns and other information about tax payments
  • Past and current loan and credit applications are a good source of information.
  • Super funds
  • ATO MyGov super search
  • Lands Title searches of
  • ASIC
  • Will of any recently deceased close relative
  • Facebook

What lawyers look for

When reviewing financial documents, what lawyers look for include;

  • references to unusual transactions
  • large transactions
  • transfers to or from bank accounts that are not known
  • bank accounts referred to in payslips tax returns that are not known
  • super funds that are listed on payslips are not known.
  • sources of income listed in tax returns,that you share dividends or interest on bank accounts.
  • Tracing where  money came from and went to from real estate and other large purchases and sales.

Legal Tools

If court proceedings have been commenced the court system offers a number of additional tools.

  • Court Orders for disclosure
  • Subpoenas
  • Discovery of documents
  • Notice to Admit Facts

Dig Deeper

In most circumstances, if needed, forensic accountants are engaged to dig deeper into financial transactions.

Reversing Transactions

If it is found that a party sold,gave away or transferred a major asset which significantly impacts on the other parties family law entitlements, and the family Court has power to reverse that transaction.


Putting assets and trusts will not protect the asset from a family law claim. In family law generally, it does not matter whose name and asset is in ( including a trust name), it is an asset associated with the parties it can be brought into account.

Golden Rule - trying to hide assets is usually pointless. It will also add considerably to legal costs and place the person trying to hide assets at the risk of a significant cost order against them.