In family law matters that either start in mediation or come to mediation early, the questions of hidden assets or income sometimes arise. Income is at issue for any child support or spousal maintenance case, and assets are at issue in divorces, legal separations and annulment matters.
The following are ways mediators can help address concerns of non-disclosure:
1. Mediators can facilitate the exchange of information requested by each participant. The participants can enter binding agreements in mediation about what documents they are going to exchange, or what releases they are going to sign, and when. The participants can also agree to consequences for non-disclosure during the mediation process.
2. Mediators can explain to the participants the Disclosure Rules. Mediating a divorce, paternity action, or other family law matter does not make one immune from the Disclosure Rules. See Arizona Rule of Family Law Procedure 49. Mediators can also discuss more formal discovery. While during the mediation process it is uncommon to have formal discovery requests or subpoenas issued, it is possible.
3. Mediators can assist the participants in jointly retaining a forensic accountant, if necessary.
4. Mediators can explain that litigation may not solve the issue of a party hiding assets or income. It can be very difficult to find hidden funds. One cannot subpoena every financial institution to look for assets. Litigation often does not help, except to compel discovery or disclosure where a participant will not comply.
5. Mediators can help the participants draft terms in their Decree to address a participant’s concern about hidden assets, like awarding an asset found after the entry of the Decree to the other participant, or requiring ongoing disclosure.
Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.
Simmons & Gottfried, PLLC
8160 E. Butherus Dr., Suite #7
Scottsdale, AZ 85260