What to do if spouse is hiding assets
In a previous post, we discussed some of the ways to tell if your spouse is hiding assets from you or the court in a divorce proceeding or before a divorce petition has been filed (financial statements disappear from your inbox or spouse starts making expensive purchases, overpayments, or gifts and “loans” to friends and family…). Parties in divorce or anticipating divorce might start hiding assets to keep certain property from being divided by the court or to change the financial picture that determines matters such as child support or the payment of alimony. It is therefore critical to make sure each party is fully reporting assets. If you’ve uncovered evidence that your spouse is hiding assets, what do you do? Here we explain some important steps to take. If you need help dealing with a difficult spouse or contested issues in your New Jersey divorce, call an experienced family law attorney at the Union Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro for assistance.
Financial disclosures are required by law
A mandatory part of obtaining a New Jersey divorce involves completing a Family Part Case Information Statement. Court Rules require that the form be fully completed, filed with the court, and served on the opposing party within 30 days after the filing of an Answer or Appearance in the divorce proceeding. Failure to file the statement can result in the dismissal of a party’s pleadings.
The Case Information Statement is nine dense pages long and requires extensively detailed information regarding one’s employment, including self-employment, and insurance coverage. The statement asks for individual income information but also provides columns to display joint income as well as the opposing spouse’s income. This form is the first opportunity to include what you know about your spouse’s income as well as your own. If your information about your spouse’s income doesn’t line up with theirs, a discrepancy will automatically arise.
The income information requested is exhaustive. It includes all forms of present earned income and expenses, starting with gross income and proceeding to net income by including tax deductions and other deductions. The form also requires disclosure of unearned income (unemployment, disability, social security, interest, dividends, rental income) as well. Questions on the form require one to disclose how much they are paid and how often, including bonuses, commissions, and other compensation.
Information must be disclosed regarding dependents as well as alimony or child support one is paying or receiving. A lengthy section asks for disclosure of all monthly expenses related to shelter, transportation and personal expenses. One is also required to create a balance sheet of assets and liabilities.
Finally, the Case Information Statement includes a section for special problems, such as special medical problems of a family member, complex valuation problems for a closely held business, etc. The person completing the form is required to attach income tax returns, wage statements, pay stubs, benefit statements and other documents that validate the information provided.
Recourse against a spouse hiding assets
Hiding assets or failing to disclose them in a divorce proceeding can backfire. The court can use a failure to disclose as a reason to rule against the party and/or award a greater share of marital property to the other party. In one famous case, a woman won over a million dollars in the lottery and filed for divorce less than two weeks later, failing to include her lottery winnings in her financial disclosures. When the court learned of the omission, it didn’t just make sure the husband got his share; instead, the court ordered the wife to turn over her entire winnings to her husband in the divorce. New Jersey law requires an equitable distribution of marital property, and principles of fairness might lead to an unequal division when one party is behaving badly regarding financial disclosures.
The Family Part Case Information Statement is an official document filed with the court. The person signing the document certifies they are aware that they are subject to punishment for any willfully false information contained in the statement.
Falsifying court documents can lead to charges of perjury and contempt of court, which could lead to fines and jail time. Family court judges are used to dealing with conflict and emotional behavior in contested divorces, and they rarely go so far as to impose jail time on a party for contempt. Nevertheless, they are not likely to sit still for lies and deceit in their courtroom and may take other measures, including ordering the guilty party to pay the court costs and legal fees of the other party related to the matter.
Hiding assets or making false statements in court documents will also lead the court to take a closer look at all of the party’s other filings; it can call into question the other party’s allegations about issues in dispute, including what happened in a given incident, the grounds for the divorce, allegations about domestic violence, etc.
A divorce lawyer can help uncover hidden assets
Financial disclosures required in a divorce proceeding are complex. This complexity makes it easy to make mistakes, but it also invites the opportunity to hide assets from the court or the other party. Sadly, parties hiding assets in divorce cases is not at all uncommon. Even though you might not expect it to happen in your divorce case, it’s wise to be aware of the possibility and follow up on any suspicions you have or red flags that get raised.
An experienced divorce lawyer can help. They are used to dealing with these financial statements and disclosures; they can help you fill yours out correctly and make sure your spouse is doing the same. If necessary, your lawyer will hire a forensic accountant to uncover any hidden assets or other financial irregularities that are being concealed from the court.
Call an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyer for Practical Advice and Effective Representation
If you’re considering divorce, or if you’re dealing with issues involving financial disclosures, equitable division of property, alimony/spousal support, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the experienced and compassionate Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.