A client came to us and asked us to look for assets owned by her husband. They were going to get divorced and she needed to know what he had.

In briefing us, she told us that she didn’t know much, but one thing she was certain of was that a piece of property she and her husband owned was not worth much and not worth spending any time on. “I already know all about that,” she said.

In the space of an hour we found:

  1. The property was in fact very valuable.
  2. The husband and his relatives had secretly and improperly sold the property to his brother.

When we found the property, we saw that it was at the intersection of two interstate highways and contained a large facility to service long-haul trucks. There was no way this was a valueless piece of property. In addition, we told the client that she had probably not seen any of what should have been years of substantial rental income from the truck facility.

Even worse was the way her husband’s family had disposed of the property behind her back.

She had been induced to provide a signature specimen the year before and had never understood why it was needed. The husband’s family took that signature and convinced a county clerk to take it as her consent to sell the property. Worse still was the counter-party in the sale: A company controlled by the husband’s brother.

This was easily discoverable because the family had taken no measures to conceal the ownership of the purchasing company. A few dollars to set up a Delaware company would have done it, but they had assumed that the wife would never check and would never hire anyone to check for her.

The asset went from $30,000 in perceived value to more than $2 million. Our bill was $2,400.

The case is one I’ve discussed when I talk to the American Bar Association’s Section of Family Law and the National Association of Divorce Professionals. I belong to both.

Brief Us, Then Let Us Work

In addition to the obvious value to the client, the case stands for the proposition that as well informed as a spouse may be about their partner, there is often a danger that the spouse can turn your investigation off before it even gets going.

After all, if they knew everything, they wouldn’t need to hire someone to do the asset search in the first place.

So, in the nicest possible way, I tell our new divorce clients (in so many words): Tell me everything you know about them, be prepared for some questions along the way, and now please step aside and let us do our work. You may be surprised at what we come up with.


Want to know more about how we work? Our website has a wide range of publications and videos. You can also read my book, The Art of Fact Investigation which is available at bookstores online and for order from independent book sellers. And check out our other blog, The Ethical Investigator. We take you through the process step by step in Why Does My Investigation cost $2,400? A Breakdown of a Typical Bill.