Traditionally, attempting to hide assets and income from a spouse during a divorce was something men did because they were the sole breadwinner in a family.
But as more women own businesses or have careers with responsible, well-paying jobs, we’re finding that as often as men tried in the past to hide income or assets, now it is the wife who try to obscure her financial position: How much she earns and what assets she has built up during the years of the marriage.
For divorcing men and fathers in New Jersey, hiding assets can complicate the negotiation in what New Jersey law calls an “equitable distribution” of assets liabilities. This doesn’t mean splitting everything 50-50; rather, it requires the settlement – or a court decree if the couple cannot agree of how to divide assets and liabilities – to reflect the contribution to the marriage of each person. While one spouse may earn the bulk of a family’s income during a marriage, the court also looks at the overall contribution of the other spouse to things such as raising children, taking care of the home, and the emotional support they’ve provided.
Even in an amicable divorce, negotiating the division of assets and liabilities can be complex. But if one of the people attempts to hide and divert marital assets, or runs up inappropriate debts, the process becomes much more complicated and difficult.
Under New Jersey divorce laws, both the husband and wife in a divorce have a proactive duty and responsibility to disclose their financial position, listing things such as income, businesses and real estate, bank and investment accounts, antiques along with art and other valuable collectables, plus their debts including mortgages, business or personal loans and credit cards.
Failing to discloses these fully is both unethical and illegal.
But as New Jersey attorneys who represent men and fathers in a divorce, we have a number of tools we can employ when a client suspects their wife is not fully disclosing her financial situation. There are things we can do during what is called “discovery” to uncover the truth. Some of these involve:
- Issuing subpoenas for financial documents and related information
- Take a deposition from your wife under oath
- Request she admit or deny key financial facts in a sworn affidavit
- Submit written questions to her asking about financial matters
At the same time, we will analyze her tax returns if you filed separately, profit and loss statements from any businesses she may own, review bank records, examine W2 or 1099 documents, look for any undisclosed sources of possible income, and whether she has improperly sold any marital assets.
Sometimes, what the financial records do not say is as revealing as what they disclose. That’s when we bring in financial experts including forensic accountants, asset tracing services and even private investigators when doing so is appropriate.
When either or both people in a marriage have a business or key corporate job, have acquired assets and taken on financial obligations, achieving an equitable distribution as part of the divorce can be a complicated process. While we always start with the assumption that both individuals will act honorably, when we suspect your wife may be less than forthcoming about her situation we will act aggressively and quickly to uncover the truth.
If you or someone you know is contemplating a divorce and want to discuss how marital assets, property and liabilities will be distributed equitably, feel free to call me or any of the family lawyers Montclair in New Jersey at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.