If my soon-to-be-ex is lying, should I?

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Q. I am in the reverse scenario of your recent article. My wife four times what I make and she moved $250,000 out of a joint checking account two days after telling me she wanted to leave me for someone else. My lawyer drafted a letter to have her move the money back, but she won’t. Her lawyer agreed with us, so she got another lawyer. Her spending is out of control — Botox, facials, Victoria’s Secret. In the “Case Information Statement,” I know she is aiming high. Do I round up on my monthly estimates too?
— Divorcing

A. We don’t think lying is the right solution, no matter what your soon-to-be ex is doing.

Let’s cover some basics.

A Case Information Statement is a sworn statement about your finances.

You want to complete the form with true and accurate information to the best of your ability, said Kenneth White, a divorce attorney for Shane and White in Edison.

“It is understandable that you will not know the actual costs of every monthly expense or the exact value of every asset/liability, accordingly, it is acceptable to estimate when completing the form,” he said.

White said it is typically in the dependent spouse’s — the spouse who earns less — best interest to estimate high rather than low when establishing the marital lifestyle.

Specifically, White said, whether an award of alimony is appropriate depends on many factors, including what financial support the dependent spouse needs from the breadwinner in order to maintain the marital lifestyle.

The primary way the court estimates the costs associated with the marital lifestyle is to review the Case Information Statement, which includes all of your expenses, such as shelter, transportation and more.

Generally, the higher the costs of the marital lifestyle the greater potential there is that a dependent spouse will need higher spousal support, White said.

“When accounting for your personal expenses, be sure to account for savings, which include any money invested in retirement benefits like a 401(k), investments in securities throughout the year as well as basic savings,” he said, such as the $250,000 in your joint checking account.

Many individuals fail to account for savings within their Case Information Statements, White said, even though savings can dramatically inflate your monthly budget, hence raising the costs to maintain the marital lifestyle.

If you believe money has been wrongfully removed from a joint account or other inappropriate action has taken place, you want more than letters exchanged between attorneys addressing the issue, White said.

“You want an order entered by or filed with the court,” White said. “If both parties are in agreement regarding the remedy, the agreement can be memorialized in a consent order, which will be filed with the court without any litigation at  a minimum cost.”

But if your wife has committed a wrongful act and will not voluntarily enter into an agreement to resolve the issue, you should file a notice of motion and ask the judge assigned to your case to issue an order.

Unfortunately, White said, motion practice can be consuming in both time and costs, but ultimately, to be protected, you need an order.

“An order, as opposed to a letter, represents the law,” he said. “Just as the law sets the speed limit to be followed on the roadway, an order entered as part of divorce litigation represents the law/rules that must be followed while the divorce is pending or as part of the final resolution.”

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This post was first published in June 2017.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.