As the attorneys at my New Jersey based divorce law firm would most certainly agree, often folks who are “funny with their money” during their marriage find that this will create complex problems if their relationship ends in a divorce. This is another reason that, if the demise of your marriage is imminent, it is essential to hire a lawyer who only handles divorce cases. This is because only an expert in New Jersey divorce law has the know how to discover evidence that will find and prove “hidden” income and assets that occurred during the marriage in order to protect their client. Following is a true story of a case handled by one of my firm’s associate attorneys, Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, Esq., who in 2016 was recognized as a “Rising Star” and “Top Rated” divorce and family law attorney here in New Jersey by “Super Lawyers.”
The parties were middle aged and married for approximately fifteen years at the time they were divorcing. I represented the Wife. For purposes of this story I will call the parties Bob and Jane Smith. The Smith’s lived an interesting life financially to say the least. This interesting life, while favorable to them during their marriage, was the biggest source of contention during their divorce. What do I mean by interesting? Well let’s just say that the Smith’s were not so forthcoming with the government regarding what they owned or how much they made. Looking at their taxes one would question how they had money to buy food each month, however the reality of the situation was much different.
The Smith’s lived in a government subsidized apartment. However, the inside of the apartment looked like a palace that was completely renovated with no expense spared. The Smith’s owned two businesses in New York, which were of course not in their names. One was a gas station and was a drug rehabilitation center. The Smith’s owned a luxury vacation home in Florida, which was in the name of Mr. Smith’s elderly sick father. Mr. Smith wore a $50,000 watch and drove a $100,000 car. While Mrs. Smith came to the office with a new handbag every time I saw her. Mind you each handbag was at least $5,000. The Smith’s seemed to have the life. Everything was paid and there were no worries. That is until Mr. Smith impregnated his mistress, who went on to give birth to twin girls.
Given Mr. Smith’s indiscretions, Mrs. Smith filed for divorce. When it came to the divorce Mrs. Smith wanted a share of the businesses, a share of the Florida property and of course a handsome alimony award. Easy, right? Not as easy as you would think. While Mrs. Smith was probably very happy not having anything in her or Mr. Smith’s name at the time they were married, she was less than satisfied once we filed for divorce. How could we prove Mr. Smith owned anything if nothing was in his name? When I say nothing, I mean nothing. Other than his car we had no proof that Mr. Smith was earning hundreds of thousands of dollars and no proof that he was able to pay Mrs. Smith support, as he claimed that a friend from overseas paid for his car, despite the same being in his name. He was even able to provide falsified “proof” of the friend making the car payment.
So what to do in a situation like this? Dig. Dig. Dig. The most important thing to keep in mind when there are hidden assets is that you need a crafty attorney and a client willing to invest in some sleuthing. Of course, Mrs. Smith was willing and able to invest some investigative work.
Luckily in a divorce an attorney is given an opportunity to conduct discovery. While a normal W-2 employee may not have anything interesting in their bank or credit card records there was much to be found in the records of Mr. Smith. While the Smith’s did not deposit much money into bank accounts in their names, they did have credit cards. After subpoenaing the same we were able to show that Mr. Smith had a warm place in his heart for $400 haircuts at the Bergdorf Goodman Salon in New York City. He also favored $2,000 Brioni suits and had frequent purchases from other high end retailers. When tallying up his monthly credit cards statements we were able to present the Judge with evidence of his expenditures, so as to contradict what he claimed he was actually earning.
We also subpoenaed the loan application for his $100,000 Mercedes lease as one is obligated to disclose his/her income when applying for the loan. Luckily for Mrs. Smith, her husband was honest on his car loan application and we used the same as evidence of his actual income.
We were even able to prove that the Smith’s owned the apartment in Florida by obtaining records of money being deposited in Mr. Smith’s parent’s accounts and that money being used to pay for expenses in Florida.
However, the real challenge remained in proving that Mr. Smith had an ownership in the businesses that were located in New York. Mr. Smith continued to claim that he had no knowledge of these businesses and that he was not even an employee of the same. That is when I found a little pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, otherwise known as EZ Pass records. Who would have thought that your own EZ Pass is essentially a tracking device that can get you in plenty of trouble during your divorce. I am sure Mr. Smith never thought the same would be used against him, but lucky for me Mr. Smith’s EZ Pass showed him getting on the same exits and off the same exits in New York, right next to the business he knew nothing about, 4-5 days per week.
I am happy to say that Mrs. Smith was very pleased with her final settlement and Mr. Smith’s claim of poverty did not hold up in Court. If your spouse is claiming to have nothing and you know that the same is not true and need help, contact our office for a consultation to better learn how we can uncover hidden assets and income so that your future can be secured.