Monday, February 23, 2009

So You Think Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets?

If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, make sure to gather all of the facts that are available to you. If your allegations cannot be proven, you may lose credibility with the court. That said, think about the following:

1. Obtain copies of your tax returns or, at least, a transcript of your tax accounts from the IRS. You can retrieve the form at www.irs.gov, using Form 4506 or 4506-T. Tax returns are a great place to start to see if your understanding of the income matches what was reported to the government. Additionally, you can confirm whether or not tax returns were filed and whether or not there is any tax owed.

2. Follow the cash. Take a look at your bank statements to determine if your spouse has withdrawn an unusual amount of money from ATM machines. You can also discover habits such as withdrawals near a casino or some other venue that you did not realize your spouse may be frequenting.

3. Peruse your credit card statements carefully. If the credit is joint, you should be able to get a copy of the statements directly from the creditor. If it is an individual account, you may have to wait for discovery proceedings in order to obtain that information. However, you can sometimes discover the existence of a credit card by looking through your bank statements to see payments to creditors that are not familiar to you.

4. Divorcing spouses should always obtain a copy of their credit report. This can be a road map to possible debts as well as businesses or even assets associated with your name or your spouse’s name or address.

5. Take a look at your spouse’s year end pay stub. If possible, compare it to previous years. Are the payments for commissions, bonuses and vacation time consistent? If not, your spouse may be attempting to delay the receipt of income.

6. Examine all of your bank and brokerage accounts. Do you see withdraws or transfers to unknown account numbers? Your spouse could be transferring assets to a family member or friend, or even to an account in your child’s name.

If you suspect anything along these lines, do as much homework on your own so that if you do have to involve your attorney, a forensic accountant or a private investigator, you have started some of the legwork and can possibly keep expenses for this type of an investigation contained.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen

Recently, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, decided a matter in the case of Wilfredo Cordero. Cordero, born in 1971, is now 37 years old. He is a former multi-million dollar earning major league baseball player who played for various teams, most notably the Montreal Expos. Originally from Puerto Rico, he was selected as an All Star one year but was ultimately released from the majors in 2005. He was then signed to a minor league contract but later dismissed from the minor league.

The subject of the New Jersey Appellate court matter is a child support obligation to the child of his first marriage. According to the Opinion, during some seasons, he earned as much as $6 Million per year. Since his release from major league baseball, he has gone back to court several times, requesting reductions to his child support order. Apparently, over the years, his support has ranged anywhere from $500 per week to $1,300 per week. In 2007, when his ex-wife filed a Motion to Enforce the support order, Cordero filed a Cross Motion for a reduction. Cordero claimed that after leaving baseball, his earnings vanished, and he was reduced to teaching at baseball camps and even working at a deli at the rate of $8.25 per hour which is obviously a far cry from $6 Million per year.

By the time the present child support order had returned to court, plaintiff had ended his third marriage. As part of that divorce he had recently sold the marital home and received $345,000 when he split the proceeds. By the time he went back to court, however, he had spent that money.

The Appellate Court recited the law with regard to obtaining a modification of support, recognizing that a reduction in salary has long been recognized as a change in circumstances. In this case, Cordero obviously will not return to his high earning years as a professional athlete. However, Cordero’s history of high earnings followed by what appears to be unfettered spending caused the court to be skeptical. Accordingly, the Appellate Court found that Cordero had established a prima facia case of a change in circumstances and therefore should have an evidentiary hearing. The Appellate Court noted that Cordero must disclose his financial condition and produce other discovery so as to fully document his current financial situation, his assets and liabilities and the whereabouts of the millions of dollars that he earned over the years.

If you would like to read this Opinion in its entirety, you can retrieve it from the New Jersey Judiciary website.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy President's Day!

Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.

-Ronald Reagan

Saturday, February 14, 2009

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY

Love is love. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.


— Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Choosing Your Divorce Lawyer

Family law litigation involves the issues closest to a person's heart and soul: children and finances.

The choice of a lawyer for this type of work requires inquiry into the professional's competence but also whether the fit is personal. Therefore, consider the lawyer's personality and whether this is someone with whom you can develop a productive professional relationship.

To read an excellent article on this subject, click here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Frequent Flyers

Decisions involving children are generally modifiable based on a change in circumstances and the children’s best interests. Unfortunately, there are litigants who take advantage of the somewhat flexible grounds for filing petitions in matters regarding children, and return to court so many times that court staff often dub them "frequent flyers." As someone who started her legal career as a law clerk to a Superior Court judge in Atlantic County, New Jersey, I quickly learned that a small percentage of a county’s citizens use a large percentage of that county’s judicial resources.

In New Jersey, the Appellate Court of the Superior division recently addressed a case wherein a father had applied for a downward modification of both his child support and alimony obligation. Generally, these applications result in the scheduling of a hearing wherein the judge hears testimony, called a plenary hearing.

At the trial level in this case, the judge refused to grant a plenary hearing, instead, he denied the defendant’s motion after oral argument. The father appealed, arguing that he should have been granted a plenary hearing so that he could present evidence. The Appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision, specifically noting that the judge had relied on his comprehensive findings after a multi-day trial that took place the previous year. Thus, the court limited the ability to be a "frequent flyer."

Petitions for modification can be time consuming and expensive and should be undertaken after an evaluation by litigants of both the best and worse case scenarios. Often, a change in income, even though it may seem significant to the litigant, may not change a child support or alimony order by enough to make litigation worthwhile. Therefore, the thoughtful litigant will have an experienced attorney evaluate their situation and explain the positive and negatives of potential litigation, as well as the cost, so that the party can decide as to whether pursuing the matter through the court would be worthwhile.

The name of this particular New Jersey case is Elizabeth Donnelly v. Gregory R. Donnelly, docket number A-2389-07T3. The case can be found on the New Jersey Judiciary website which you can find by clicking here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Frauded by Bernie Madoff - Looking to Change Divorce Settlement

Recently, the New York newspapers reported a story wherein a prominent Manhattan lawyer is looking to overturn his July 2006 divorce settlement because he had negotiated away a significant amount of his assets in return for the couples’ Madoff account, which is now worthless. Apparently, the couple separated in 2002, after a marriage lasting almost 30 years. At the time of the divorce, the couple believed that their Madoff account was worth $5.4 Million. Based on that belief, when dividing the assets, the husband paid his wife $6.6 Million. However, now that it is 2 years later, he realizes that his Madoff account is worthless. He is now looking to the court to overturn his divorce settlement, arguing that his former wife had been unjustly enriched in that she now has assets while he has a worthless account.

It will be interesting to follow this case as it is often difficult, if not impossible, to overturn a divorce settlement, absent fraud or some other serious transgression by one of the parties. Simply learning years later that an investment is not worth what you had anticipated, is not generally grounds for overturning an agreement. The Madoff case presents different facts, however, because, undoubtedly, this plaintiff will attempt to prove that even at the time of divorce, their account was not worth what they each believed so they each negotiated based on a mistake of fact.

This divorce will probably be followed in the newspapers. The plaintiff’s name is Steven Simkin and his former wife’s name is Laura Blank.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Involuntary Commitment of Minors

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed a case from the Common Pleas of Allegheny County wherein a minor appealed the Order committing him to involuntary drug and alcohol treatment.

Apparently, the minor’s grandmother had petitioned to have him involuntarily committed. The Opinion outlines the statutory provisions as well as the case law in this area. To read the entire Opinion, please click here.

(The link will expire in approximately 10 days).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Quote of the Day

To become a father is not hard. To be a father is, however.

- Wilhelm Busch

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pennsylvania Legislation

If you are interested in our Commonwealth’s general assembly, you can visit the website at http://www.legis.state.pa.us./ You can learn about pending legislation and, if something especially interests you, you can contact your representative.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Know Someone Going Through a Divorce?

A company called Life's Lemons makes greeting cards just for the occasion.

Click here for their line of DIVORCE CARDS.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Anti - Valentine's Day?

Check out these tongue-in-cheek "Bittersweets" with anti-love sayings. Rather than the usual "I Love You" or "Be Mine" you can buy candy hearts stamped with:

PEAKED AT 17
TABLE FOR
ANNULMENT
AWFUL INLAWS
HE FIT U FAT
DOG IS CUTER
TRADIN YOU IN

Check out the despair website for more information.