For the vast majority of couples going through a divorce, dividing the community estate is a straightforward exercise.
The property inventory of a typical couple will include a home with some equity, two cars, perhaps a 401K, cash in a financial institution, several credit cards, and the parties’ personal belongings.
Dividing the community estate of a high net worth couple, however, poses unique challenges that demand a competent high net worth divorce lawyer.
These cases will often require the assistance of financial appraisers, forensic accountants, and other professionals–in addition to your attorney–to properly value and “trace” the parties’ assets. If one of the parties owns stock options or a professional practice–a law or medical practice, for example–those assets will need to be valued by a qualified expert.
Dividing Property in a High Net Worth Divorce
As with any divorce, the first step in approaching property division is to identify all of the parties’ separate and community property.
Under Texas law, all property possessed by either spouse during or upon dissolution of the marriage is presumed to be community property and thus subject to a “just and right” division by the court. In an ordinary divorce, the parties will know the identity of their various assets–it is difficult to hide a house or a car, after all.
By contrast, in a high net worth divorce case, identifying the community estate can be trickier. For one thing, the extent of the parties’ community estate is more vast and complex, making transparency more difficult.
Frequently, one spouse will have control over the parties’ finances and will exercise that control through a web of accountants and lawyers. If the marriage turns sour, mischief can ensue.
It is not uncommon for spouses to attempt to hide assets (in offshore or secret accounts, for example), convey community assets to a third party (perhaps to a business partner, mistress, or child from a previous marriage), or simply stonewall when asked for information. These factors can make the task of identifying the community estate in a high asset divorce case significantly more challenging and costly. An attorney with experience handling high net worth divorce cases understands these challenges and knows how to overcome them.
Disputed Topics in High Asset Divorce Cases
While you can identify tangible property such as a home or car, it is more difficult to discover other types of property. When another party decides to hide their assets, it is essential to uncover and identify those assets for property division.
If both parties contributed to the growth of a family business or if revenues from the business grew during the marriage, Texas law considers the business a community asset.
Business division depends on a variety of factors, including the business’s valuation and ownership. If both spouses operate the business, they each need their interests evaluated.
Usually, the valuation depends on whether the individual contributions each spouse made to the business were before or after marriage.
Alimony is a significant issue in high net worth cases. In Texas, alimony amounts depend, in part, on the income of the paying spouse. However, many high net worth individuals have various sources of income. This makes income streams difficult to track.
A high net worth divorce lawyer can help gather complex income evidence and use it to determine alimony.
Child Custody & Support
This aspect of divorce is often the most difficult to determine. When parents are able to arrange a mutual parenting plan, it can go smoothly. Otherwise, custody decisions may fall to a court judge.
In Texas, there are special statutes for high-earning individuals regarding child support. If the paying parent makes more than $9,200 per month, the court can order them to pay higher than the statutory amount.
This only happens if the other parent proves that the child’s needs are greater than the statutory amount. An experienced high net worth divorce attorney can help you avoid paying higher child support than necessary based on your income.
Under Texas Law, retirement benefits earned by either party during the marriage are considered community assets. This includes pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement accounts.
However, Texas considers contributions made to these accounts before the marriage or after the divorce separate property.
A skilled high net worth divorce attorney could review your retirement assets and document your contributions to make sure you get your fair share.
Speak with an Experienced High Net Worth Divorce Attorney
Ben Carrasco began his legal education at Stanford Law School, where he received his Juris Doctor (JD) in 2007. With over a decade of experience, Ben Carrasco takes a humanistic approach to family law. He understands that divorce can be a difficult process and seeks to make a positive impact on clients’ lives.
As a high net worth divorce lawyer, Ben Carrasco has received several awards. He received a 2016 Clients’ Choice award on Avvo and a Top 40 Under 40 Award from The National Advocates.
If you are facing a divorce and have significant assets, contact high net worth divorce lawyer Ben Carrasco today. He works hard to reach a fair division of assets for his clients.