Last month I wrote a blog titled, “What can I do if I discover that my ex was hiding assets during our New Jersey divorce?” More recently while conducting research on this topic, I remembered a case I handled years ago as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney that is right on point.
I nice woman came to see me a few weeks following her divorce. She was quite emotional as she tried to explain how she was “screwed over” in her divorce (my office did not represent her in the divorce action). My first impression was that she was simply suffering from “buyer’s remorse” and was unhappy with her global divorce settlement. Also, when I heard that her ex-husband was already remarried, I inevitably wondered if she was bitter that he would remarry so quickly. However, as I pressed further for facts, the clouds suddenly began to clear.
I asked to see a copy of the husband’s Case Information Statement (“CIS”). I noted a few problems. First, I saw that the husband’s CIS was certified and dated well over one year prior to the date of the entry of the Final Judgment of Divorce. This women’s NJ divorce lawyer should have demanded an updated prior to allowing his client to sign the settlement.
Second, the CIS states that the husband owns a business. However, the value of this enterprise was stated to be “unknown.” Why did a forensic accountant not valuate this business? Upon my review of the Matrimonial Settlement Agreement, the wife simply “waived her interest.” However, she had no idea how much money she was actually walking away from. Now my radar detector is going crazy.
My soon to be new client only knew a few facts but they were crucial to the case. She found out that new her husband had a new Mail Order Wife from Russia and that he had bought a new home in Monmouth County, NJ, worth $1 million dollars, CASH! Now it was time for Big Eddie to get to work, as this poor woman was clearly the victim of fraud and poor lawyering.
I explained that under the Court Rules, she had one year to prove fraud or newly discovered evidence. I was hired on the spot and we filed our motion. The motion was initially denied (NJ Family Courts do not like vacating settlements) and was remanded upon appeal. Turns out that the husband’s business was extremely lucrative and his partners had bought him out for a substantial amount of money. This occurred before the parties were divorced. Moreover, the husband never disclosed his financial windfall to his wife during the divorce proceedings. Ultimately, the case settled, and my client received her fair share.
Please be sure that your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer is an expert in the field. In this case, my client’s previous lawyer was a general practitioner. I often rhetorically ask folks, “if you had a heart condition, would you consult with your general doctor or a cardiologist?” An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure.