Warning: Is Your New Jersey Divorce Decree A Fraud?
In northern New Jersey over the weekend, an untold number of former spouses learned some unsettling news: the marriage they thought was over may not be, thanks to fraudulent divorce papers allegedly provided by an Elmwood Park woman.
As numerous media outlets have reported, Anastasya Varvaryuk, 29, was charged on Friday with practicing law without a license and committing acts of forgery from her Clifton storefront, Empire Multi Services. The charges followed an investigation led by the Passaic County Prosecutor’s office, which alleges that Varvaryuk, who is not an attorney, sold fraudulent judgments of divorce to unsuspecting clients and claimed the judgments were valid. Prosecutors also allege she forged the signature of a New Jersey Superior Court judge on the documents.
Varvaryuk faces the possibility of three to five years in prison for each charge. What’s more, her actions put the couples she allegedly tricked in a very difficult position. It is not clear how many couples obtained fraudulent divorce decrees from Varvaryuk, but the Passaic County Prosectors office has made it clear, regardless of what Varvaryuk’s future holds, the divorces she granted are fake, and the individuals named in the papers, still married.
The consequences for these couples may be dire. If either party has since remarried after their “divorce” was granted, they may be unknowingly committing bigamy (being married to more than one person), an action considered a crime in New Jersey and other states. This would also invalidate the newer marriage.
There may also issues with asset division should couples with fake divorce documents now go back to court to obtain legitimate decrees. For certain assets, such as retirement plans and alimony, where the length of the marriage is a factor with regards to how the asset is divided (or the amount of spousal support awarded), the settlement may need to be calculated from scratch.
It is unclear from the charges if Varvaryuk provided legal counsel on how to arrive at child custody plans or child support, and other child-related aspects of divorce. If she did, these arrangements or support amounts may be far off the mark, or in the case of child custody, have led to agreements that do not put the child’s best interests first.
Should you be one the couples affected by this scandal, please seek legal counsel immediately. As with other divorce horror stories we’ve had to unfortunately report on in the past, taking swift action to correct divorce mistakes is often the best course for keeping children safe, and for saving time, money and stress in the long run.
We will provide updates to this story as they develop.
Are you in need of legal help to fix mistakes or errors — big or small — in your divorce settlement? We are here to help. Please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation.