As a Divorce lawyer on Long Island, I see many clients enter my office and express the belief that their spouse is hiding or otherwise failing to disclose all of their assets. This feeling may be the result of something their spouse did or said or the simple fact that my client was aware of their spouse’s financial situation during the marriage and realize that what he or she is claiming now does not coincide. While this is an unsettling feeling for most individuals, the court system offers numerous remedies to help combat your spouse’s attempts to hide or otherwise fail to disclose assets.
Statement of Net Worth. In all Contested Divorces in Nassau County and Suffolk County, each party is required to fill out and submit to the court a Statement of Net Worth. If you are involved in an uncontested divorce, this form is not required, but it is certainly suggested. From a professional standpoint, I require every single divorce client o complete a Statement of Net Worth, whether or not their divorce is contested. The Statement of Net Worth will detail your finances, including your monthly expenses and monthly income, as well as your assets and liabilities. I am sure you are wondering what stops your spouse from lying on this form and therefore continuing to hide his or her assets. Well, the Statement of Net Worth is a sworn legal document, executed under oath before a notary public. Therefore, any individual who lies on their Statement of Net Worth is committing perjury, which is a crime in the State of New York. Misstatements of fact (lies) can be uncovered with the other tools in our arsenal, Discovery and Subpoena Duces Tecum.
Discovery. At times, a party’s Statement of Net Worth does not provide a clear enough picture of his or her finances. In these instances, the discovery tools permissible under New York’s Civil Practice Law and Rules are extremely useful. A Notice for Discovery and Inspection is the most valuable and tends to provide the most information. This request seeks copies of the opposing party’s banking records, credit card statements, mortgage documents, loan documents and any other financial information of which you may think. Most Notices for Discovery and Inspection request documentation dating back at least five (5) years from the date of commencement of the proceeding. If your matter is complicated financially, your attorney has the ability to request documents from a date of your choosing.
Subpoena Duces Tecum. Perhaps the most useful tool for determining the full extent of your spouse’s financial assets is the subpoena duces tecum. As an officer of the court, your Nassau County or Suffolk County divorce attorney has the authority to issue a subpoena to any banking or financial institution where your spouse may maintain a checking account, savings account, IRA, 401k or any other asset. Additionally, your Long Island divorce lawyer can subpoena your spouse’s current or previous employer to determine if he or she is entitled to receive any benefits as a result of said employment. Upon receipt of the subpoenaed records, your divorce attorney will have a complete picture of your spouse’s financial situation. Furthermore, your Long Island divorce attorney can compare the records received pursuant to any subpoena he or she may have served in your matter to your spouse’s Statement of Net Worth to ensure each and every bank account has been disclosed by your spouse.
A Divorce on Long Island is stressful enough without having to worry about whether or not your spouse is being truthful about his or her asset disclosure. Many couples that have been married for twenty (20) years or more have joint finances, so these issues may not seem prevalent if you fall into that category. If you maintain joint banking accounts, you both have access to the same, and naturally, are aware of the extent of your assets. However, the trend among newlyweds is to keep finances separate, and each agree to be responsible for certain marital bills and expenses. In these instances, you may not be fully aware of the extent of your spouse’s wealth and he or she may not be fully aware of yours. If your spouse’s lifestyle is inconsistent with his or her financial disclosure on the Statement of Net Worth, it is time to ask your Long Island divorce attorney to take the next step for you.
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