Divorce is not just a legal dissolution of marriage. It involves many complex components, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and the equitable division of debts and assets. Although no divorce is ever easy, couples going through a high-asset divorce can face certain challenges that are not often seen in regular divorces.
In many cases, third parties must step in to assist with the fair distribution of physical and intangible assets which can be a stressful and time-consuming process.
How a high asset divorce is handled is a major influential factor that directly affects the outcome of the case. The following tips can help divorcing couples plan for the process.
Protect The Family’s Privacy
Divorce proceedings are often public information. This means that all divorce proceedings become a matter of public record. However, it is often best to keep high asset divorces private to protect family members, business information and to keep sensitive information like bank account numbers and social security numbers private.
In some cases, such as a high asset divorce, the court may agree to file the divorce records under seal which prevents the documents from being open to the public. Courts can order entire records or portions of records to be filed under seal. It is ultimately up to the judge handling the case whether to grant a motion to seal.
Identify All Assets
During a divorce, assets are generally divided into two main categories: marital property and separate property. How these assets are divided will depend on their categorization and value.
- Marital Property – Marital property refers to any property that a couple acquires during their marriage. However, how this property is divided will depend on the laws that govern the distribution of marital property in the state in which the couple resides. In Maryland, the court does not always divide marital property with a 50/50 split. Maryland is an equitable distribution state, meaning the judge will divide the property fairly but not necessarily equally.
- Separate Property – Separate property refers to any property that a spouse acquired prior to marriage or after separation. In some cases, this may include gifts or inheritances that were acquired by one spouse during marriage. It may also include property that both spouses agreed in writing is separate, such as property included in a pre-nuptial agreement.
Speak With A Divorce Lawyer
Hiring a qualified divorce lawyer is essential during a high asset divorce. A divorce lawyer can help uncover any assets that a spouse may be attempting to hide and will help ensure that assets are distributed fairly. Divorce lawyers can also advise clients on their rights and provide guidance throughout the divorce process.
Each state has its own set of laws on divorce and asset distribution and these laws can be highly complex and difficult to understand. Hiring a divorce lawyer who is familiar with state divorce laws can give clients their best chance of a successful outcome. Divorce attorneys can also help in other areas, such as child custody and spousal support.
Advice given by a divorce lawyer is objective and based on years of experience handling divorce cases. Ideally, a couple going through a high asset divorce should choose a lawyer that has experience dealing with high asset cases. This will help make the experience as stress-free as possible.
Consult With An Accountant
High asset divorces often include complicated assets like stock options, deferred compensation, stock voting rights, real estate partnerships, assets held in a trust, tax benefits and closely-held business interests. Divorcing couples may also have high-priced tangible assets, such as vehicles, inventory, buildings and equipment.
When going through a high asset divorce, most people want to acquire as many assets as possible. However, it is important to consider the tax consequences of being rewarded certain assets. Working with an accountant, in combination with a divorce lawyer, can provide deeper insight into how ownership of certain assets could impact clients financially.
Have Realistic Expectations
If one spouse makes all or most of the money, that spouse may feel entitled to keep most of these assets generated from employment. Unfortunately, this is often not the case in a divorce. In most scenarios, both spouses own any property acquired during the marriage equally, even if one spouse has a considerably higher income.
It is important for clients to have realistic expectations on how much they can walk away with from a divorce. In some cases, an economically-dependent spouse will choose not to assume any risk in connection with assets from a marriage.
Contact A Maryland Family Law Attorney
Going through a high asset divorce can be tough but having an experienced family law attorney available to provide advice and guidance can be invaluable. To learn more about navigating a high asset divorce or to schedule a consultation with a Maryland family law attorney, contact SIEGELLAW today.