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"I didn't think they'd find out."

Several years ago we represented this particular guy of rather substantial means in his divorce from his long term wife.  She had caught him rather red handed as he repeatedly stepped out with his lady friend. We talked about it and he readily and thoroughly owned up to it.  "Yes, I did it," he admitted.  When evaluating their assets he also provided a detailed inventory which ranged into significant numbers.

We prepared our assessment.  The wife's side prepared their assessment.  We all met.  

Surprisingly, the two side's assessments were no where near the same.  It wasn't even in the same ballpark.   To say that the wife was out for blood would be putting it mildly.  From the numbers we put up, she wanted every ounce of blood, every pound of meat and most of his bones, too.  She didn't want a divorce. She wanted him dead.

We knew we had a lot more work to do, not the least of which was determining the source and the reason for the extent of the wife's vitriol.  Demanding more than the guy made and owned, even when the wife wanted him dead, is illogical. It forces a trial and is a guarranteed loser scenario because the judge will never award more than the guy makes and holds.  We knew there was more to the story.  We just didn't yet know what.

Much later and many thousands of dollars down the road, we were finally able to glean the truth from the wife's attorney.  He finally shared the evidence he had been holding fast hoping for some magic moment for revelation that would tear our world assunder.  I don't think his conscience got the better of him (he isn't known for that).  The pressure of his duty to disclose eventually became sufficient and his desire to not waste time in a trial with his client (who was far less than pleasant) caused him to cough up the source of the wife's anger and the demand for outrageous sums.

Our guy hadn't just one other romance.  He'd had at least five, all around the same time.  And he hadn't just the significant sums he had disclosed and ardently maintained were the breadth and entirely of his holdings and earnings, he had attempted to hide about half again more in off-shore accounts and twice as much in diverted income.

We confronted our guy about this 11th hour surprise.  "I didn't think they'd find out," was his best reply.  With photographs, video, bank statements and credit card receipts, they'd found out, big time.

When you live with the enemy, expect them to spy on you.  When you live with the enemy, expect them to find out.  When you live with the enemy, there are no secrets left to keep.  The wife was a good spy.  Our guy was a dim witted mark with a less than stellar moral compass.

The moral to the story?  Hold nothing back from your attorney, no matter how damaging you think it may be.  Assume the other side knows it all already.  Your release of damaging information works so much better coming from you than giving the other side that gift.  Don't let them manage your story, good or bad.

Always expect them to find out.

Michael Manely

1 Comment

Really excellent post Michael. I once had a case with a similarly disingenuous client who was trying to hide a significant overseas asset. In responding to discovery I found the asset and asked him about it. At first he wanted me to help him hide it. Of course I would not do that but I did inquire about the asset. It turns out that he owned it pre-marriage. In my state (Texas) that makes it non-divisible separate property. All we needed to do was disclose the asset and provide documents to show it was owned before the date of marriage. Fortunately, I discovered it before the other side did and before my client perjured himself. Sometimes clients are their own worst enemies.

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