When it comes to divorce in New Jersey, the laws are supposed to apply to everyone equally. The individual who rents a small apartment and works in a factory has to equitably divide his or her assets with the divorcing spouse, just as the Chief Executive Officer who lives in a million-dollar house does. This does not mean, however, that all divorces are the same, as a practical matter. It is simply a fact that people who have more assets, and a more complicated relationship with wealth, will have different problems to face when dividing marital property.
One problem that someone in a high-asset divorce may encounter is the use of off-shore entities or accounts to hide assets from a New Jersey court. As recent news events, like the revelation of the “Panama Papers” earlier this year show, unscrupulous individuals can create entities such as trusts, shell corporations and foundations to which they can transfer, or with which to gather, assets that may not be obvious or easy to identify as marital property. Unlike other divorces, where one is only dealing with the car, the domestic home and maybe a checking account, high-asset divorces can involve securities, annuities and other intangible assets, as well as works of art and multiple pieces of real estate located around the world.
Of course, in the United States it is illegal to hide assets, both because the government wishes to tax them and so that courts of competent jurisdiction, such as a New Jersey family court, can do their jobs in creating an equitable distribution of wealth during a legal proceeding such as a divorce. This doesn’t mean that some people don’t try. Sometimes, very financially successful individuals feel they are entitled to their own rules.
Luckily, those who are experienced in dealing with high asset divorces have ways of investigating and discovering hidden assets, even those that are parked in offshore accounts and entities. However, this is a very complicated and time-consuming process, so how much it is worth to any individual will vary depending on how anxious he or she is to get the divorce completed.