Frequently, people going through a divorce describe themselves as surprised or even shocked by their partner’s decision to end the marriage. Even those who suspected their spouse was considering a divorce are often stunned to learn their spouse has been planning the financial aspects of the divorce for months or even years before the Complaint for Divorce was filed. A spouse’s pre-planning of the financial aspects of their divorce is so common a phenomenon it has been given the phrase “divorce-planning.”
In reality, those who claim to be surprised by their spouse’s actions typically missed or ignored one or more signs that their spouse was divorce-planning. While every spouse’s situation is unique, there are at least five signs people should be aware of as indicators their spouse may be divorce planning.
- Increased hostility towards, or avoidance of, questions regarding finances. One of the primary reasons people divorce plan is to prevent their income or assets from being awarded to their spouse. As the divorce-planning spouse sets their designs in motion, there may be a noticeable reluctance to go over the family budget and how their income or assets are being used. If there is nothing to hide, there should be nothing to fear in discussing finances.
- No longer receiving paper account statements via mail. The emergence of on-line banking has given a divorce-planning spouse the ability to receive bank account statements via email or through an “app.” Unless both spouses receive statements electronically, it is up to the spouse who receives the electronic statements to forward it to the other spouse. A trusting spouse may not ask why, or even notice that, paper statements are no longer being received in the mail. Worse, on-line banking allows a divorce-planning spouse to hide the existence of new bank or credit line accounts from their spouse entirely.
- Changing email passwords or “pin” numbers. While the prevalence of “hacking” in modern times necessitates routine changes to passwords and “pin” numbers, there should be no reluctance to share new passwords and/or “pin” numbers between spouses, especially as this provides critical access to online information if one spouse becomes disabled or incapacitated. Discovering changes in passwords and/or “pin” numbers of which you were not informed may indicate a desire to hide activity.
- Requests to change names on business documents or deeds, titles, etc. New Jersey law recognizes a spouse’s equitable interest in businesses and real estate, regardless of the name listed on the ownership documents. However, if one spouse’s name is removed from business documents, deeds, and/or title documents, it may be significantly more difficult for the removed spouse to be informed of transfers in ownership or the creation of liens against the business or asset, potentially diminishing the value of the asset in the divorce. Being asked to voluntarily remove your name from an asset may indicate divorce-planning.
- Threats of reprisal if divorce is initiated. Many spouses joke about what they would do if their spouse divorced them. This is usually just a way of relieving stress in the marriage or enticing the other spouse to reinforce their commitment to the marriage. However, when one spouse makes thinly veiled threats about leaving their spouse penniless or taking their child(ren) away from them, these comments should be taken seriously. A spouse attempting to intimidate or control the other spouse may be buying time to complete their divorce planning. Moreover, such comments may be intended to place their spouse in fear of preparing themselves financially for divorce.
If you believe your spouse may be divorce-planning, contact the attorneys at Donahue, Hagan, Klein & Weisberg, LLC for a consultation. Our experienced attorneys will help you decide what steps you should take to protect yourself from a divorce-planning spouse.