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What Can I Do if I Think My Spouse Is Hiding Assets During a Divorce?

What Can I Do if I Think My Spouse Is Hiding Assets During a Divorce?

When it comes to dividing assets during a divorce, New Jersey is an ‘equitable distribution’ state, not a community property state. The basic principle is still a fair distribution of marital assets, but the equitable distribution system allows for more flexibility in distributing assets than the 50/50-based community property system does. 

Under the New Jersey equitable distribution system, it matters very much whether your spouse is hiding assets. It matters even more whether you are able to respond effectively. It is especially important during a high-asset divorce.

Signs Your Spouse Might Be Hiding Assets

Following are only a few of many signs that your spouse might be hiding marital assets:

  • Claiming financial bad luck while continuing to spend money freely.
  • Refusing to provide you with copies of financial information, even when your lawyer requests it.
  • Changing the passwords on your financial accounts without your permission or without advance notice. This is especially auspicious if it occurs immediately before or after either of you files for divorce.
  • Changing the home address on your financial accounts. You can discover this if you no longer receive financial statements mailed to your house. Your spouse’s rental of a private PO box is a dead giveaway.
  • Changing the email address attached to your financial accounts, in response to which you stop receiving email updates.
  • Withdrawing a lot of money from your joint bank account.
  • Giving expensive gifts to friends (cash or property). There might be a secret deal in which the friend is expected to reciprocate with gifts of equal value after your divorce.
  • Seeking your signature on densely-worded legal documents that you don’t understand. Make sure you understand everything you sign before you sign it.

There are many other possible signs that your spouse might be hiding assets.

Steps To Take

Take the following steps before and during divorce proceedings:

  1. Educate yourself on family finances. Don’t let your spouse keep up with everything. Keep yourself informed about what you have and what’s going on. Keep copies of relevant documents, and have updates emailed to your private email address.
  2. Monitor any unusual activity, such as suspicious withdrawals. You don’t necessarily want to challenge your spouse about this, as that might encourage a dishonest spouse to take things “deeper underground.” Find someone knowledgeable to share your concerns with and ask for advice from.
  3. Once divorce proceedings have started, conduct thorough pretrial discovery. Pretrial discovery is a court-supervised evidence-gathering mechanism, and it is very powerful. Take full advantage of the opportunities it offers. Some of the documents you might demand access to include:
    1. Tax returns from all recent years.
    2. Wire transfer documentation.
    3. Recent (and not-so-recent) financial statements.
    4. Loan applications.
    5. Withdrawal and deposit histories for accounts that your spouse holds in their own name only.
    6. Copies of canceled checks.

The assistance of an experienced New Jersey family lawyer can be particularly useful during the pretrial discovery process.

  1. Talk to a divorce lawyer who represents only you, not your spouse. Do not share your concerns with a lawyer who represents both of you in an “amicable” divorce. 

The sooner you can speak with an attorney if you suspect your spouse is trying to hide assets, the better.

Penalties Against Divorcing Spouses Who Try To Hide Marital Assets

If you catch your spouse hiding assets, and you prove it to the court, the consequences for your spouse could be serious. These consequences might include:

  • Assessing court costs against your spouse.
  • Assessing investigation expenses against your spouse, if you had to hire an investigator to catch your spouse.
  • Voiding any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. This could cost your spouse a lot of money.
  • Holding your spouse in contempt of court if they refused to comply with a court order to provide an honest accounting of marital assets. Contempt of court can be prosecuted as a criminal offense.
  • Charging your spouse with perjury if they lied under oath. Perjury can be a very serious criminal offense.  

New Jersey courts are not shy about using the foregoing sanctions against a divorcing spouse who tries to hide marital assets. Hiding assets can be hard to prove, however, and court sanctions are discretionary.

Hire an Experienced Divorce Lawyer

Are you in divorce proceedings, or are you or your spouse planning to initiate divorce? Do you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets to cheat you in divorce? If so, and if you don’t have a lawyer, it’s time to get one. 

A lawyer will have the knowledge and the resources to conduct an investigation and ensure your fair treatment.

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm in Red Bank. NJ at (732) 747-1882 or contact us online today.
You can also visit our law firm at 157 Broad St #111, Red Bank, NJ 07701.

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