During divorce, division of assets is often the most intricate and contentious phase, with immediate implications for the lifestyles of both parties and long-term implications for their respective financial futures. Although New Jersey operates under the model of “Equitable Distribution,” this fundamental premise may be undermined if one spouse attempts to conceal certain property during the division of assets process. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is all-too-common, posing a significant threat to fairness in the divorce process.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the concept of equitable distribution. In New Jersey, equitable distribution means that all marital property in divorce is subject to fair and equitable division among divorcing spouses. This does not necessarily mean that all property will divided equally, but only that it will be divided fairly, according to a variety of factors, including the incomes of both spouses, their earning potentials, the child custody arrangement, and many more.
Obviously, one would hope that both spouses would disclose all of the assets that exist to their knowledge, allowing for accurate valuations of assets and appropriate division. However, one spouse may attempt to conceal certain assets shortly before filing for divorce or during the divorce process as a means by which to maintain the entire value. When these instances do occur, an experienced divorce attorney can enlist private investigators and forensic accountants to identify and expose the existence of hidden assets, ensuring that you receive the settlement that you deserve.
There are many methods that individuals can employ when attempting to conceal assets, including taking significant cash withdrawals from bank accounts, establishing separate bank accounts, entrusting money to a third party such as a friend or relative to maintain until the divorce is finalized, opening individual safety deposit boxes, or wiring funds to another country. Due to the myriad of assets, accounts, and financial documents that may be required during the division of assets process, it is possible for certain things to simply fall through the cracks. When gathering documentation related to your assets, remember to consider all of the possibilities, including:
- Real Estate
- Bank accounts
- Retirement accounts, pensions
- Business ownerships or partnerships
- Investment accounts
- Rental agreements
- Cars, jewelry, antiques, collectibles, and other items of significant value
During high net worth divorces, the list of assets can be extensive, and it is often helpful to work with a financial analyst or adviser to ensure that all marital assets are accounted for. Your divorce attorney can also utilize a number of legal mechanisms to ensure full disclosure during the division of assets process. For example, formal discovery methods, including document requests, depositions, interrogatories, and subpoenas can be used to compel your spouse and his or her attorney to produce necessary information. If they attempt to circumvent these requests, private investigators, computer software, forensic accountants, and other resources can be used to reveal hidden assets.
Divorce cases that involve hidden assets are among the most complex and sensitive. It is highly advisable to enlist an attorney with extensive experience in this area, as a specialization in division of assets, complex property distribution, and high net worth divorce will provide him or her with advanced tools for navigating potential issues.
At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our practice is dedicated entirely to divorce and family law. Our three partners are among the only 2 percent of attorneys recognized by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorneys and they have significant expertise in divorce-related financial issues. For example, Partner Paul H. Townsend has been published in the informational treatise Forensic Accounting in Matrimonial Divorce, which allows him to provide invaluable insight into cases involving hidden assets and complex property division. If you suspect that your spouse may be attempting to conceal assets during your divorce, contact our offices in Bergen County at 201-397-1750 for a cost-free consultation with one of our knowledgeable divorce lawyers today.