Arons & Solomon | July 24, 2018 | Articles
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means marital assets are divided in a manner the court considers fair- not perfectly equal. Each case begins with the presumption of a perfect 50/50 split, but the evidence and facts of the case will sometimes guide the courts to award a larger contribution to one spouse over another.
For this reason, a higher-earning spouse may consider hiding assets and under-reporting income to minimize the amount of money given to the other party. This is an illegal activity with significant legal consequences if the deceptive party gets caught.
Finding this missing financial information can be the most challenging part of the divorce process, especially for spouses who did not handle the family finances during the marriage. However, it is possible with the help of a savvy and experienced divorce attorney.
If you suspect your spouse is hiding financial information from you during your divorce, follow these tips to keep the process honest.
15 Ways Your Spouse May Be Hiding Assets
- Are there banking, credit, and investment statements coming to the house in your spouse’s name only? Have statements stopped being delivered to your home?
- Examine all shared accounts for odd withdrawals, small or large. If debit account purchases seem unusually large, consider the possibility your spouse is taking out cash back withdrawals.
- Make sure all property deeds are in your name. Spouses will sign property deeds over to friends to temporarily hide the asset during a divorce.
- Check shared accounts for suspicious wire transfers or electronic payments. Are there any transactions involving an account you don’t recognize? What account is paying your credit card bill? Where does your spouse’s paycheck get deposited? Banks can be subpoenaed for relevant records in your spouse’s name during discovery.
- Check the history on your home computer for visits to PayPal, Venmo, or other online banking websites that are not shared with you.
- Check those pockets while you’re doing laundry. Do you see any ATM receipts from unfamiliar accounts?
- Have your attorney, accountant, or financial advisor help you identify overpayments to credit card companies or the IRS. This is a strategy commonly used by spouses to temporarily move assets and receive a refund later.
- Be on the lookout for recent expensive purchases (artwork, antiques, jewelry, cars, tools, designer furniture, etc.). This is a common technique for spouses to spend away cash, underreport the value, and then resell them later. If you notice any major purchases, your divorce lawyer can help you hire a certified appraiser to determine the accurate value of an item.
- Spouses may underreport income by delaying promotions, salary increases, bonuses, expense reimbursements, or lucrative client contracts. They may also increase their work retirement plan contributions in exchange for less take-home pay.
- Self-employed spouses may manipulate the business ledger to deflate income and put fake employees on the payroll, usually friends who have agreed to accept phony paychecks and return the money after the divorce is finalized. If accounts receivable is down, but the business is hiring new employees, that is a major red flag.
- If your spouse recently opened a custodial account, they may be hiding money in your child’s name.
- Spouses may pay off fake debts to a friend who has agreed to give the money back after the divorce is finalized.
- Look for small charges being paid to the bank or post office. Your spouse may have opened a P.O. Box or a safety deposit box to hide statements, cash, and other valuables.
- Is your spouse buying lavish gifts or paying expenses for a girlfriend or boyfriend using your marital assets? You may be able to recover this money.
- Did your spouse invest in bonds with no interest? No reported interest means these assets don’t necessarily have to be reported on a tax return.
Hire a Divorce Lawyer to Guide You Through Discovery
If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, your case is only as strong as the evidence you can produce. An experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer can help you gather the right documents and ask the right questions.
Discovery is a process that requires both spouses to provide the full disclosure of all debts, liabilities, incomes, and assets. This begins with both parties submitting a “Case Information Statement” to the court, a legal document listing the individual’s assets, liabilities, and other relevant financial information. In New Jersey, this must be completed within 20 days of the Divorce Complaint being answered.
In theory, Case Information Statements should give a full financial picture of the household (assuming both parties answered honestly). The form requires the person completing the information to sign an oath that the financial disclosures are complete and accurate, and acknowledging that an intentionally incomplete form is illegal.
What Information Can I Collect During Discovery?
You can collect a wealth of information during discovery, including:
- Bank statements, tax returns, loan applications, and other relevant financial documentation
- Inspections of homes, offices, safety deposit boxes, storage units, and more
- Helpful admissions from your spouse through interrogatories (written questions that your spouse is required to answer) and deposition testimony under oath
Other Experts Helpful to Finding Hidden Assets
If you are not satisfied with the evidence gathered during the initial phase of discovery, your divorce lawyer can help you assemble a team of experts to continue pursuing hidden income and assets. This team can include:
- Private Investigators: to gather proof of unreported businesses, false expenditures, and other fraudulent financial activity
- Forensic Accountants: to help you find discrepancies in your spouse’s tax returns, business profit and loss statements, and personal banking records
- Accountants: to help you conduct a Lifestyle Analysis to confirm your spouse’s reported income matches or exceeds their reported expenses
Hire a North Jersey Divorce Attorney
When you are trying to assemble a full picture of the family finances, there are a lot of moving pieces to the puzzle. With all the emotional stress that accompanies divorce, it’s a smart idea to delegate the financial headaches to a specialist who has successfully navigated this process many times before.
In some cases, divorce can be a respectful and collaborative process. But not always. If you suspect your spouse is not being entirely honest and forthcoming, we can help.
Arons & Solomon holds decades of experience in locating hidden assets and unreported income. We have access to a network of established investigators, appraisers, financial planners, and forensic accountants to protect your financial interests. Contact us for a free consultation.