One thing that years and years of practicing as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney has taught me is that everyone should be an expert about his or her own money. Let’s explore.
In many families, one spouse handles all of the finances while the other is “in the dark.” In the old days, the man usually controlled the family’s finances and “gave” his wife an “allowance.” Today, I see just as many women solely managing the marital funds as I do men. Now, this is a bad situation even for an intact family. If, god forbid, the spouse who has been handling the finances becomes incapacitated, or worse, the family could face an immediate financial emergency. This financial crisis is exasperated by the emotional calamity that the family faces as their loved one is in trouble. In other words, with everything else on the surviving spouse plate, they now have to figure out how to pay the bills, online passwords and the like.
Now, as a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, this type of scenario creates all sorts of problems when representing the spouse who has been left, “in the dark.” First, even at the very early stages of a NJ Divorce, my client and I begin at a huge disadvantage. If the supporting spouse suddenly cuts off my client, we can immediately file an application with the Superior Court of New Jersey for pendente lite relief. In other words, we may file a motion with the NJ Family Court for temporary support and payment of household bills pending the conclusion of the divorce. However, my client may not even know how much money it costs for her family to live. They do not know their monthly budget, which is essential information if we hope to obtain a fair ruling from the judge. At this point of the divorce litigation, all we can do is our best, as the motion must proceed in an immediate fashion.
With respect to a global settlement, we are still at a grave disadvantage. While I do my best to help my client “become an expert on their money,” if they have been significantly removed from the financial picture, this may become an impossibility.
In recent years, as more and more people pay their bills and receive bank statements online, the “in the dark” spouse is even less likely to have any information. At least in the old days, I could ask my client what financial institutions and banks have mail delivered to the house, and I would proceed with subpoenas and obtain a lot of financial information in this manner. As I can demand discovery and file motion for full financial disclosures, the reality is that my client and I face a great detriment
In turn, we are left up to the soon to be ex-spouse for an honest and financial disclosure of all of the parties assets. Needless to say but while some litigant’s are truthful, many how no interest in making a full disclosure, for obvious reasons. Please always be an expert on your money. Thank you.