BETTER THINK TWICE BEFORE HIDING THE JEWELRY
H. Michael Stern, Esq., a New York matrimonial and family law lawyer and mediator with over 30 years of experience suggests that one must be careful not to conceal or hide property of any kind, including jewelry, collectibles, antiques or other movable valuables from the opposing party or the Court in a divorce case.
In a recent case determined by the Appellate Division, 1st Department in New York, the wife had been found to have engaged in what the Court found was egregious economic fault, for, among other things, allegedly secreting her valuable jewelry before trial. But, that is not the most fascinating aspect of the case. The Appellate Court approved of the lower court’s acceptance of a jewelry appraisal based on a hypothetical fair market valuation. It is not clear from the decision whether the lower court relied on insurance appraisals, purchase documents or photographs in the trial level determination. What is clear however, is that the appraisal was accepted without a visual inspection of the actual jewelry. Now, that is really a remarkable development!
I had a case many years ago involving a divorcing couple from a south Asian country. In their country of origin, it was a tradition for the bride to adorn herself in copious amounts of 22 carat gold jewelry. The wedding photos showed the wife wearing many tens of thousands of dollars of stunning jewelry. The husband claimed the jewelry were wedding gifts and marital property. The wife claimed the jewelry was valueless costume jewelry for the most part and produced only a few pieces for appraisal. The jewelry shop in the village where the gold jewelry was acquired was half a world away. The prospect of being able to use a hypothetical fair market valuation in that old case would have been extremely beneficial. The law was different then and has evolved to address these kinds of situations. It is now easier for a Court to economically punish a divorcing spouse who decides to hide jewelry, collectibles, antiques or other movable valuables by granting a disproportionately lower equitable distribution award. The Court may also deny maintenance to the offending spouse.
Focusing on the needs of the client, the complexity of the case and the results sought have always been a hallmark of my Long Island practice over the past 30 years.
Feel free to contact me, H. Michael Stern, Esq., a Long Island divorce and family law attorney, if you are interested in discussing your matrimonial, divorce or family law matter at email@example.com or by phone at 516-747-2290.
My office is conveniently located adjacent to the Roosevelt Field Mall ring road at 666 Old Country Road in Garden City, Nassau County, New York.
written by: H. Michael Stern, Attorney At Law