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What Happens When Spouses Overlook Assets During Their Divorce?

September 17, 2020 | Posted In Family Law

When getting divorced, a key aspect of the process is the division of your marital estate. By law, divorcing spouses are required to distribute their marital assets equitably (unless they have an enforceable prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that says otherwise). When a judge signs off on the terms of their divorce, assets that were once jointly owned can become the sole property of a single former spouse.

So, what happens if you overlook something?

Let’s say you have completed the divorce process, and your former spouse kept your previously-shared residence. As you are beginning to build your new life, you realize that there are assets in your old home that should have been (but were not) addressed during your divorce. Or, maybe an old retirement or investment account got overlooked, and you only recently remembered that only your spouse has the account login information.

This can be a challenging situation. While your former spouse is not entitled to a windfall due to your mutual oversight, securing additional marital assets post-divorce could prove complicated. This is because the New Jersey courts expect divorcing spouses to address the issues they need to address comprehensively. A formal divorce decree is generally considered the final word on the terms of a couple’s divorce.

What Should You Do if You Overlooked Marital Assets in Your Divorce?

Given these considerations, what should you do if you discover that one or more assets went overlooked during your divorce? The answer to this question depends on the specific circumstances at hand.

First, it is important to distinguish between “overlooked” and “hidden.” In the examples above, we hypothesized assets that were truly overlooked during the divorce process. But, in some cases, one spouse will attempt to hide accounts or other assets that qualify as marital property. In this scenario, your best option will likely be to hire an attorney to file a complaint and seek to have the hidden assets distributed after your divorce. The penalty to the spouse hiding an asset can include awarding the asset to the other spouse or a large percentage of the asset, paying the other spouse’s costs including legal fees, expert/investigator fees, and possibly court monetary sanctions.

With regard to assets that both spouses overlooked, there are a couple of options. If you and your former spouse are on good terms, it may be possible to negotiate the equitable distribution of the overlooked assets. To ensure that this goes smoothly and that no additional issues arise out of your efforts, it will be in your best interests to seek assistance from an attorney. Alternatively, you may be able to seek relief in court if necessary, as the Family Part of the New Jersey Superior Court is a Court of Equity and Law. However, the extent to which this is both feasible and economically worth the action will heavily depend upon the asset (or assets) at issue.  

Preventing Issues with a Comprehensive Approach During the Divorce Process

Of course, the best way to avoid post-divorce complications is to comprehensively address the distribution of your marital assets during the divorce process. If you are contemplating a divorce and want to make sure that all of your marital property is on the table, we encourage you to speak with one of our New Jersey Divorce attorneys.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a New Jersey Divorce Attorney

Do you have questions about the property aspects of your divorce? To speak with one of our experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys in confidence, call us at 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can help online today.

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Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

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