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Discovering concealed assets during property division

For New Jersey parents going through a divorce, child custody and child support are often the biggest concern. Parents want to ensure the well-being of their children even after the marriage has ended. The next biggest divorce issue or concern is likely property division. Married couples first must determine which assets are each individual spouse's property and which are marital property. Then there must be an agreement on how to divide the martial property in the most equitable way given each family's circumstances.

Unfortunately, when it comes time to inventory the assets of a married couple, parties may not always be completely honest and may try to hide assets to their advantage. But there are ways for the other spouse to protect him or herself against this type of behavior and discover hidden assets.

Tax returns can be extremely helpful. A spouse can find out information about contributions to retirement plans or unknown real estate property. If a spouse owns a business, a tax return may provide insight into the true profits of the business or the amount of cash flow if business interests were sold. Tax returns also list investment income or compensation from things like partnerships or other business entities.

Checking and savings account statements are likely tedious to peruse but to do so may reveal important clues to big purchases or investments. Major cash transfers can be a red flag if one spouse is trying to deplete the account so as to avoid having to split the funds equally. It is a good idea to also know how many accounts are actually opened during the marriage. If the other party does not want to be forthcoming with this information, a court can issue a subpoena.

Financial statements and loan applications often require very detailed data about a person's assets. These documents list all details as well as assets and this can be extremely helpful to a spouse who is trying to get a real picture of the other person's financial situations.

Finally, assets or property purchased before the marriage are usually considered separate property. But some parties will not be honest about the actual purchase date. If a spouse questions the time of the purchase, seek supporting evidence to confirm the date of purchase.

Source: NJBIZ, "Discovering hidden assets in divorce," April 21, 2014

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