Unfortunately, some spouses try to hide assets before or during a divorce to avoid having to share them with their soon-to-be ex spouse. However, divorcing spouses in New Jersey can use the power of “discovery,” to help them find hidden income and other assets.
The first step in dividing assets during a divorce is to create a complete financial picture of all the assets owned by each spouse. Usually, these assets will be categorized as marital (property acquired during the marriage), separate (property acquired before the marriage, after the separation or by gift or inheritance), or commingled (where you’ve mixed the marital and separate property together).
Even though you may not have ownership rights in your spouse’s separate property, it’s important to account for all of it because a court may consider the value of both spouses’ separate property when deciding how to divide marital property and debts.
How do you find assets when you’re the “Out-Spouse”?
If you didn’t handle the bookkeeping during your marriage, and you payed little or no part in tracking finances, you are what some attorneys refer to as the “out-spouse.” This just means that you don’t have immediate access to, or knowledge of, the financial information like your spouse does.
If you’re the “out-spouse,” your first course of action should be to simply ask your spouse for copies of all financial records. If your spouse can and will produce all the records, the information gathering may go a little smoother. However, this is rarely the case. Sometimes, your spouse simply can’t find all of the records. If this is the case, the two of you may be able to work together to gather the information. Today’s online access to just about everything makes it easier to get account records.
Unfortunately, many spouses refuse to produce information because they’re hiding assets. Finding hidden assets in a divorce can be challenging, especially if you don’t have an attorney. If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets contact a lawyer to make sure your rights are preserved.
The Discovery Process
If you have reason to believe your spouse won’t voluntarily disclose all financial information in your divorce an attorney will need to use a formal, legal process to get the information and documents. Attorneys and judges refer to this as the “discovery process.” The discovery process provides several methods of getting information, which includes the following:
Document demands. Your attorney can ask your spouse to produce specific documents, such as tax returns, financial statements, loan applications and account records.
Written questions called “interrogatories” or “requests for admission.” Using this process, your spouse must answer questions in writing, or admit specific statements that you believe are true.
Inspection demands. You can ask to inspect property like a safe deposit box or a collection.
Testimony is given under oath. In an oral deposition, you, your spouse and lawyers appear before a court reporter. Your spouse is sworn to tell the truth and must answer questions asked by your attorney.
The discovery process is an excellent way to collect financial information from an uncooperative spouse because the court has the power to compel compliance. For example, if your spouse fails to produce documents, you can ask a judge to order them to do so. If your spouse disobeys the order, a court may punish them by imposing a “sanction,” which can include monetary fines or even a judgment against them on a particular issue.
A deposition is an especially good process to obtain information from a dishonest spouse. Anyone who lies under oath during a deposition can be charged with perjury. This may be just the kind of pressure to get a soon-to-be ex to tell the truth about hidden assets. Typically, you should hold off on the deposition until you’ve obtained some of your financial records so you know which questions to ask about the records you’ve already examined.
A professional family law attorney can help you with the difficult process of finding hidden assets during your divorce. They will protect your rights and make sure you receive a fair and beneficial settlement.
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