Sometimes in separations, one spouse may try to avoid sharing relationship property or paying child support.

So what can you do if you feel your ex-partner isn’t providing the full frank disclosure required by law, and is instead secreting away assets or hiding income?

You may feel helpless; however, options are available for uncovering hidden property.

You can search public property registers, including Land Information New Zealand (for land and buildings), and the Personal Properties Security Register (for chattels including vehicles). These searches are low-cost and simple to run.

However, search results do not necessarily disclose the full picture, including recent valuations and how much debt is owing against the property.

If your ex-partner does not provide full disclosure, you can apply to have the Court examine them. Your ex-partner will then have to attend Court and your lawyer can cross-examine them as to their finances. This can prove useful for obtaining information when it isn’t being offered voluntarily. They can be ordered to produce certain documents confirming their financial situation.

If an order for examination has been ordered and your ex-partner fails to attend Court for examination, the Court can issue a warrant to arrest him/her.

If you know that your ex-partner has certain property, and you have a valid claim to protect, you may be able to take enforcement action directly against your ex-partner’s property. For example, court action to prevent them selling an asset.  What you can do will depend on the nature of the property and your interest in it.

Other professionals may also be able to assist, including data forensic experts or accountants. Data forensic experts may be able to recover deleted files, and scan browsing history, which could provide evidence of assets that have not been voluntarily disclosed.

Family-owned laptops, phones, home computers, and even printers, can be scanned for details on financial transactions. When searching property and digital files, the general rule is that family chattels are open game. With separate personal or work property the rules may be different and sometimes a Court order is needed.

Forensic accountants examine statements for patterns of funds deposited into undisclosed accounts, and can assist in identifying alternative income streams. This is useful as income is usually relationship property if earned during a qualifying relationship under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

With child support matters, the Inland Revenue Department may be the appropriate investigator. The IRD administers child support, and can chase unpaid child support and ensure further deductions from income.

A variety of options may be available if you feel your ex-partner is being less than honest about their financial position.

Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.