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Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and offshore assets

In a divorce where assets or accounts are located offshore mutual legal assistance treaties can be useful in location and retrieval. In situations where there may be an investigation into locating hidden assets, they can be essential for cooperation of all parties.

A Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) is a formal agreement between two countries, recognized by the United Nations. In its simplest form, its purpose is to ensure that both countries will cooperate fully in providing mutual legal assistance to each other. For example, one will allow the other access to offshore accounts pertinent to an investigation. Though public records, information on these treaties is not always easily accessible. You can find an updated list here.

Though most often utilized in criminal matters by law enforcement or government officials, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) are also available privately. However, obtaining one is a complex and time intensive procedure best handled by a knowledgeable attorney. In high-asset divorces, offshore bank accounts are not unheard of. If it is suspected that one party is hiding or attempting to move funds via one of these accounts, an investigator operating under an MLAT can find and freeze those assets until a U.S. judge enters an order for their disbursement.

Again, these are very complex matters that should not be attempted alone. Each country has its own central agency which handles treaty requests differently. Rules will depend on which country hidden assets are suspected to be located in. An experienced attorney is highly recommended, if not required, to operate under an MLT for divorce purposes.

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