We never want to believe that someone about whom we once cared could be so low as to work actively to deceive us.
Of course, that's why so many marriages crumble in the first place, so it should come as no surprise when ex-spouses don't play fair when it comes to divorce.
Our Brooklyn divorce attorneys know that while many soon-to-be-exes might be inclined to simply let go of any shared assets and liabilities just to be done with the whole thing, it's important that you fully understand what that's going to mean for your financial future and that of your kids. Making an informed decision is going to mean having a clear picture of everything that is on the table.
Unfortunately, hidden assets can be a major problem between spouses, even those whose separations are relatively amicable. Assets that were acquired during marriage are, per New York law, subject to consideration and possibly division between the two spouses. Still, that doesn't stop some individuals from attempting to hoard certain valuables or conceal certain accounts.
In most cases, an experienced divorce lawyer can help review the most common (and some of the not-so-common) ways exes try to conceal assets.
Understand first that both you and your spouse will be required to submit a financial affidavit. This is a sworn legal document in which you attest to all of your assets and liabilities to the best of your knowledge. It's basically your word and your soon-to-be-ex's. As you may have learned in the breakdown of your marriage, that may not be solid enough evidence upon which to rely.
Again, your attorney can help initiate a number of formal requests to determine whether there is anything that has been omitted or overlooked.
The places where he or she will probably tell you to start will include:
Your tax returns and 1099s. This will give you an idea of whether bank account interest and reported dividends in brokerage accounts have been disclosed.
Look through public records to see whether there are any properties your spouse owns that he or she failed to reveal.
Comb through pay stubs and compare them to bank statement deposits. This will give you an idea of whether there is money generated that is unaccounted for. Just as an example, if your spouse earns $15,000 a month, but yet only $8,000 of that is deposited into the bank account that was disclosed in the financial affidavit, there may well be bank accounts that are not disclosed.
Compare payment receipts for all the major bills, including car loans, utilities, mortgages, credit cards, etc. If any of those bills are being paid through bank accounts that haven't been disclosed, that's a red flag that there are assets about which you haven't been told.
Ask your attorney about issuing a subpoena to your spouse's employer in order to request any and all documentation relating to benefits, stock options, deferred compensation plans or retirements. Get the information directly from the source.
Use common sense. if your monthly expenses appear to exceed your spouse's monthly income, at least based on the papers you've received, there may well be another source of income or other hidden assets.
Look closely at all financial statements on all bank accounts. If there are transfers that don't appear to make sense, press for more information about what those accounts are and where that money is going.
Also take a close look at all credit card statements. You want to see if there have been any significant purchases of things like artwork or jewelry or other valuables that your spouse failed to disclose.
Ask your lawyer about conducting a deposition with your spouse. Having him or her questioned under oath - where lying can carry a potential felony charge - can be an effective way to elicit information they may not have otherwise been eager to provide. All you're looking for are honest answers. Sometimes, you need a little more help than others in getting them.
If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.
Discovering Hidden Assets: What Your Spouse Hasn't Disclosed During Your Divorce, Oct. 30, 2013, By Bonnie Sockel-Stone, Huffington Post
More Blog Entries:
Informal, Long-Term Marital Separations Can be Risky, Oct. 23, 2013, Brooklyn No-Fault Divorce Lawyer Blog