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The new world of asset tracking through electronic discovery

As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article: "It's getting a lot tougher to keep a secret stash."

Many commentators, ranging from divorce attorneys and forensic experts to accountants and private investigators, note that both rapidly evolving and firmly established technologies have upped the ante on couples seeking to uncover information about each other pursuant to high-asset divorce and other family law matters.

Property division in a divorce is obviously predicated on assets that are identified and valuated, and many techno-tools now provide for discovery in a manner that simply could not have been contemplated even a few short years ago.

Much of present-day investigation is collectively termed "electronic discovery," and what that allows for is truly vast and impressive. For starters, a spouse can simply dig around the Internet to check surfing history and various social networks to find activity of stock trading, cash transfers, references to pensions, other homes, bank accounts, credit-card payments and just about anything else that is financially related.

Furtive partners addicted to online activity should know that tools like keystroke monitoring are also available that check every letter or number typed on a keyboard. New smartphone models can readily indicate the locations of other smartphones used by family members. In one noted case, that let a woman suspicious of her husband's financial doings see how often he was visiting a particular ATM machine for cash withdrawals that he was seeking to hide from her.

There are of course issues related to whether using new tech tools to uncover information about a partner is legal and admissible in court in a certain instance.

Those questions are bound to increase, with the growth of electronic discovery in court disputes. A recent survey indicates that nearly 60 percent of spouses admit to being deceptive about money with their partner, with numerous other polls and surveys revealing that there is a clearly increased reliance on smart technology to uncover that deception.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Why hiding money from your spouse has gotten a lot harder," Veronica Dagher, April 30, 2012

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