Articles Posted in Discovery

Ascertaining whether a supported spouse is cohabiting with a romantic partner in such a way that it 3e728f0b3d0e026b62a8cb4b38918e95-300x200constitutes a changed circumstance warranting a modification of alimony is often an issue that family courts have address.  In 2014, the New Jersey Legislature modified the alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n), to codify factors to determine whether a former spouse is cohabiting with a romantic partner such that an alimony award may be modified.  Those factors are:

(1) Intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities;

(2) Sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses;

Divorce is a life-altering event. For many it is an emotionally charged situation. The person you had loved and intended to share a life with is now someone who you consider your “enemy” – 6821f1126a34f02c8e256da1560d1e52-300x200viewing them from indifference to hatred. Any sense of trust has gone out the window. For some, notwithstanding the breakdown of the marriage, they sincerely want to resolve their marital issues amicably and in a fair and reasonable manner. However, for a significant number the raw emotions at the outset of the marital breakup seem to engender a need to “screw” the other person as much as possible. Depending upon your position in the relationship, you either want to “milk” the other spouse for all you can get, or want to pay the other as little as possible. One spouse may feel the need to “protect” one’s assets or income in some fashion from the claims of the other. One spouse may suspect that the other is hiding assets or diminishing income. In many cases, these feelings are borne out of the mistrust which exists and are not occurring in reality. However, in others these feelings or suspicions have some basis in fact. Claims of concealed or diminished income aside, this blog post will focus instead on concerns over the possibility of concealed or hidden assets in divorce, and provides a brief overview of what to look for and how to address them when such issues arise.

In divorce matters, New Jersey law provides for the equitable distribution of assets and property legally or beneficially acquired during the course of the parties’ marriage. In order to do so, marital assets first need to be identified, then they need to be valued, and after which they are to be distributed “equitably”. Unless the property was acquired by gift or inheritance from a third-party, it generally does not matter how or in whose name the assets or property was acquired if it was acquired during the marriage. Hence, if a divorce client suggests that because an asset or property is in his or her name alone the other spouse has no right to it or even to know about it, that person needs to be cleansed of that view right off the bat. Furthermore, if a divorce client tells his or her attorney about “secret assets”, the attorney/client privilege may not shield them from disclosure since the attorney code of ethics prohibits an attorney from facilitating a client engaging in fraudulent conduct or offering knowingly false testimony or statements under oath.

What if a divorce client suspects that his or her spouse has been secreting or hiding assets? Besides inquiring as to the basis for these suspicions, an attorney should obtain from the client their perception of the commencement date of any serious marital difficulties or their sense of when certain suspicious financial activity began, such as changes in the manner finances were being handled, records were maintained, or information shared. In most divorce cases, you usually ask for five years worth of financial records in discovery. However, if the suspicious financial activity has been ongoing for longer than five years, one should extend the time for which discovery is sought.

There is a saying among realtors that the first offer is usually the best offer. Why is that?  Because the first offer is made when the property is freshly on the market. When real estate sits buyers6a3146dbdf81597192112ac03d77c7e4-300x200 become suspicious. There is also the cost of holding the property to factor in.  The first offer likely saves the seller from incurring more tax, mortgage, utility and upkeep costs. There is a lot to be said about the psychological benefits of a fast deal as well. No worry, no uncertainty, no sleepless nights. Continue reading ›

I recently attended a seminar where the topic concerned the obtaining, analysis and use of medical records. While the main focus was how medical records were dealt with in civil litigation matters such as medical malpractice and personal injury cases, it was clear that a number of the issues discussed could apply to Family Court matters as well. A spouse may allege that they are unable to work, or may be limited in what type of work they can do, as a result of some sort of medical or psychological condition or disability, thereby impacting a claim for spousal and/or child support. A spouse may allege that they suffered physical and/or emotional injury as a result of an act or course of abuse by the other spouse leading to a claim for damages in an action for domestic tort. Continue reading ›

It is well cited the significant extent that domestic violence is in this State and in this country.  It has alsoOfficer Holding Cell Phone been in the news over the course of the last year or more the danger that police officers and the need for them to protect themselves on the job.  How do we balance the need for officer protection, and the public interest in domestic violence victims, with citizens’ Constitutional rights? Continue reading ›

When you mention Private Investigators in the context of a matrimonial dispute, most people think of what is portrayed in movies or in television of a gumshoe Detective tailing a car or hiding in the bushes, trying to get the goods on a suspected cheating spouse. While hiring a private investigator to determine whether a spouse may be engaged in an adulterous relationship remains a common reason to do so, there are a multitude of other reasons why the use of a private investigator can be an important tool for the client as well as the attorney in the preparation of a matrimonial case. This blog post will discuPrivate Investigatorss some of these circumstances, as well as some practical and legal considerations affecting the use of private investigators. Continue reading ›

The news agency CNN Money recently published an article entitled “Panama Papers: How the rich try to hide assets from their exes.”  (http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/07/news/panama-papers-divorce/) T9-08-1he “Panama Papers” refer to hacked files from an international law firm based in Panama called Mossack Fonseca.  Those hacked files were analyzed by the press and later published in a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The report’s findings have already lead to the resignation of the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, after it was revealed that he owned an offshore company with his wife but he had not declared it when he entered Parliament.   Continue reading ›

For those of you that have attended Mr. Yudes’ annual ICLE seminar: Family Law Update and/or those of you that have paid close attention to newly published trial court decisions over the past three (3) years will not be surprised to find that the Honorable Lawrence R. Jones, J.S.C., a Superior Court Judge in Ocean County, has issued many trial court level decisions that have become published.  Beginning with Benjamin v. Benjamin, which was decided in October 2012 and was approved for publication in February 2013, Judge Jones has issued a total of nine (9) decisions published decisions. Continue reading ›

During a custody dispute over children, if the parties cannot reach an agreement between themselves as to the custody and parenting time arrangement that serves the best interest of the child(ren) at issue, the Court will then be called upon to make that determination for them. The Court is required to make findings as to , and will apply the 15 statutory factors of N.J.S.A. 2A:9:2-4, among which are factors that include the “fitness of the parents”, the “parents’ ability to agree, community and cooperate in matters relating to the child”, the “needs of the child”, and the “stability of the home environment offered”.   Continue reading ›

Approximately one year ago, my colleague wrote a blog post raising awareness and spreading concern about how the communications and content found on one’s social media could potentially be used against them in a variety of ways in Court.  It is no big surprise that with the explosion of social media and the countless ways individuals can communicate in an ever evolving world of technology that those communications are being monitored for potential use in litigation. Continue reading ›