Divorce cases can quickly become contentious because of the emotional conflicts that might arise. The process of ending a marriage can also become complicated when the estranged spouses try to negotiate how to divide their marital property. Unfortunately, some people try to conceal or hide assets to prevent their spouses from receiving fair portions of the marital estate. If you think that your spouse might try to hide assets or has already taken steps to conceal them from you, you should contact an experienced divorce lawyer at the Ziegler Law Group immediately. We can help to find concealed assets to ensure you receive an equitable share of the assets you and your spouse have built during your marriage.
It can be stressful for a spouse to try to find hidden assets. In many cases, people who need to search for assets did not control the financial decisions in their relationships and might not know where to look. A divorce lawyer in New Jersey at our law firm knows how to locate hidden marital assets and will advocate for you to ensure your rights are protected.
What Are Marital Assets?
In New Jersey, the property in a divorce case is classified as either separate or marital property. Separate property includes assets that either spouse owned before the marriage, obtained by gift, or received as an inheritance during the marriage. Marital assets include all of the assets that either spouse acquired during the marriage.
Under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1, courts will consider any contributions a spouse made during a marriage to the appreciation of assets. For example, if one spouse owned a business before the marriage, but the other spouse contributed to its growth during the marriage, the increase in the value of the business might be considered a marital asset. The contributions a spouse might make during the marriage to marital property do not need to be financial but can also include other actions such as homemaking that supported it.
The Problem of Hidden Assets
Even though spouses are supposed to disclose all of their assets to each other in a divorce, some spouses try to actively conceal assets. It can be hard for a spouse to get information from the other spouse about such things as bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and others. Once a divorce is filed, a spouse might change the login credentials to access an account.
The following are some common ways someone might attempt to hide assets or undervalue them:
- Claiming artwork, antiques, collections, tools, and others are worth less than they are
- Hiding collectibles, paintings, and antiques in a spouse's business or office
- Not reporting all income on financial statements and tax returns
- Keeping cash in traveler's checks
- Opening a custodial account in a child's name using the child's Social Security number
- Investing in Series EE Savings Bonds or bearer municipal bonds that are not registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Asking an employer to delay raises, stock options, or bonuses until after the divorce is finalized
- Giving money to a friend or family member while claiming it's for a phony debt
- Paying a paramour's expenses, including college tuition, rent, travel, or gifts
- Contributing to a retirement or investment account that the spouse is unaware of
- A business owner skimming cash from their business
- A business owner making wage payments to nonexistent employees and then voiding the checks following the divorce
- Paying money from the business to a close family member or friend for services that were not rendered
- Waiting to sign large business contracts until after the divorce to reduce the business's value
- Failing to disclose cryptocurrency holdings
- Squirreling money away in overseas accounts
Finding Hidden Assets
It can be difficult for many people to find hidden assets and obtain evidence to prove their existence. However, an NJ divorce attorney at the Ziegler Law Group can work with a forensic accountant, valuation experts, and others to find and identify hidden assets. A divorce attorney in Essex County NJ at our firm can also use the formal discovery process to obtain information about assets. For example, your lawyer might depose the payroll supervisor at your spouse's company or their boss and ask questions about bonuses, raises, and income. Forensic accountants and private investigators are trained to uncover hidden assets and gather evidence to present in court.
If you think that your spouse might be hiding assets, start by searching the browser history on the family computer. The browsing history might reveal different financial institutions and online accounts in which a spouse might be holding assets. You might also talk to the financial institution where your joint accounts are held to find out what to do to protect them.
Watch the postal mail to see if there are any letters or envelopes addressed to your spouse with return addresses from financial institutions or finance firms. You can also search your spouse's current and former employers online to look at the job benefits they offer. This might help you learn about potential retirement accounts or pensions your spouse might have. If your spouse owns a business, you might need to find the business records to ensure the reported business expenses and income are accurate. If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, your attorney can work with forensic accountants, valuation experts, appraisers, and investigators to track down and identify them.
How is Marital Property Divided in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, marital assets are divided equitably between spouses. This doesn't mean that the assets will necessarily be divided equally. Instead, they will be divided in a fair way. The equitable distribution of your marital assets will depend on the court's consideration of multiple factors, including the length of your marriage, the incomes of both you and your spouse, and the future needs your family members might have. In addition to dividing assets, awards of child support and alimony might also be calculated out of the proceeds of the marital estate.
If you can prove that your spouse dissipated marital assets, the court might make an exception to equitably dividing the marital property. Similarly, the court might also make an exception if your spouse engaged in criminal activities.
What to Do
If you think that your spouse might try to conceal assets after you file for divorce, wait to file until you can investigate your finances. Gather important documents and photocopy them, including income tax returns over the past few years, retirement account statements, bank account statements, investment account statements, titles, deeds, and any other document that reflects your marital debts and assets. Keep these copies somewhere safe other than your home such as in a safety deposit box at your bank.
Talk to the Ziegler Law Group
If you believe your spouse is concealing assets, you should reach out to a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group. We can help to track down hidden assets and ensure that known assets are correctly valued. Schedule a consultation today by calling us at 973-878-4373.
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