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TX divorce lawyerOne of the most common points of contention in any divorce is how a couple’s assets will be divided upon dissolution of their marriage. Although most couples understand that this will involve dividing relatively common assets, such as bank accounts, the family home, and vehicles, it’s important to remember that more unusual property, like retirement accounts, will also need to be divided. In most cases, at least some of the contents of a retirement account are considered marital property, which means that they must be divided equitably between the spouses. While this could mean that each spouse receives an equal share of the benefits, this is not always true, as courts are generally guided by what would qualify as equitable distribution when making their decisions.

Whether your retirement account pays out on a regular basis or you can withdraw as you see fit depends in large part on the type of account in question and the contents of your Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). To learn more about dividing your own retirement account upon divorce, please contact a member of our high asset divorce legal team today.

What Is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order?

QDROs, or Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, are court orders that lay out the ground rules for how a retirement account will be used following a divorce, including how its contents will be divided. These documents are necessary for most types of retirement accounts, including 401(k)s and IRAs and are used to verify a person’s right to receive a portion of the benefits paid out of a retirement account. Basically, this means that QDROs are used to name a former spouse as an alternate payee upon divorce, even if he or she didn’t actually participate in the plan.

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TX divorce lawyerWhen considering divorce, many couples go into the property settlement process with the expectation that they will be required to parcel out certain personal possessions, decide who will retain the family home, and divide up the contents of any bank accounts. However, this task becomes much more difficult for couples with unique or costly assets, such as fine artwork, which can be difficult to appraise. Fortunately, the advent of digital valuation tools has made this process simpler, although divorcing couples are still encouraged to obtain an in-person appraisal from an expert before going forward with the property division process. To learn more about the different methods of asset appraisal available to you, please contact an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can advise you.

Appraisal Factors

Appraising fine art tends to be difficult, as it can actually have a number of monetary values. These values are determined primarily by assessing the market in which the work was sold or is to be offered for sale, which includes galleries, auctions, and art fairs. Appraisers then evaluate the data derived from sales of comparable items in similar galleries to determine a rough approximation of a piece’s value.

When selecting artwork with which to compare a piece, appraisers consider a variety of factors, including:

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TX divorce lawyerMany couples, especially those who have been married for a number of years, acquire unique valuables in addition to their income, including jewelry, artwork, and antiques. In the event that a couple decides to divorce, these objects could end up accounting for a large portion of their marital assets and so will need to be divided equitably in a property settlement. Critical to this process is obtaining a proper appraisal of all valuable collectibles and antiques, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce and you are unsure how to move forward with your case in regards to your valuable or unique assets, it is important to speak with an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can advise you on your next steps.

Antique Status

Many people assume that because an object is old, it automatically qualifies as a true antique. This is, however, not true, as, in the world of collectibles, there are actually three categories under which old objects can fall, including:

  • Antiques, which are objects that were manufactured at least 100 years prior;
  • Collectibles, or vintage items, which are objects that were produced more than 20, but less than 100 years ago, and are widely recognizable as being from a certain time period; and
  • Retro, which is a term used to describe objects that are purposely derivative of a certain trend or fashion, usually from the 1980s or 1990s, although they don’t actually need to have been manufactured during that time period.

While vintage products are often valuable, most expensive pieces purchased at galleries and auctions fall under the definition of antique.

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TX divorce lawyerDissolving a marriage is complicated and often has the potential of becoming an emotional and difficult process. Those risks tend to be especially high for those who are involved in a high asset divorce and own unique assets, such as a business, as they could be required to sell the company, or buy out their soon to be ex-spouse’s interest, both of which could cause significant financial strain. Obtaining an accurate business valuation is critical to ensuring that any property settlement entered into by a couple is fair, so if you or your spouse own a business and are considering divorce, it is critical to speak with an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can ensure that your assets are properly appraised.

Determining a Company’s Value

Hiring an expert in business appraisals is critical when it comes to placing a value on a company. This type of appraisal is complicated, as it requires a prediction of the potential future value of the company, as well as its past and current value. During this analysis, business appraisers will take a number of factors into account, including the company’s:

  • Expenses;
  • Earning history;
  • Earning capacity;
  • Dividend-paying capacity; and
  • Stock prices.

Depending on the method of valuation used, an appraiser may also be required to evaluate the price of company equipment and other tangible assets, such as:

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TX divorce lawyerDuring a divorce, spouses are required to disclose detailed information about their income, assets, and debts. This ensures that both parties are able to make informed decisions during the property division process and that any settlement or court order incorporates accurate information about all known financial factors. While many divorcing spouses are careful to provide accurate and detailed financial records to each other, it is also not uncommon for one spouse to attempt to lie about assets or debts in an effort to retain the entire interest in an asset or to force a spouse to pay more than his or her fair share of a debt. This type of conduct is strictly prohibited under state law, so if you believe that your spouse is attempting to hide assets or liabilities, it is important to contact an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can ensure that your interests are protected.

Improper Disclosures

Disclosing all of one’s assets, interests, and liabilities is a complicated process, so there are actually a number of ways that a spouse can avoid telling the truth about his or her financial situation. In many cases, this involves failing to list certain assets on necessary disclosure forms or assigning improper values to property or debts. Alternatively, a party could fail to come clean about when and how he or she acquired an asset or could hide documentation that would reveal the truth about property values or ownership. In other cases, one spouse misrepresents how much the other contributes to the household, lies about how joint funds are used, or even unfairly accuses the other of stealing funds. In either case, this kind of behavior is unlawful in Texas, so spouses that are discovered violating disclosure rules could be held in contempt of court, or lose their interest in certain property.

Document Review

One of the best ways to find out whether a spouse is hiding or lying about his or her assets or debts is to compare the information that he or she provides with financial records, such as:

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TX divorce lawyerAlthough prenuptial agreements are not something that business owners typically think about when they become romantically involved with another person, the reality is that making these types of considerations is extremely important for those who are considering marriage. Entering into this type of contract before a marriage takes place can give both parties peace of mind, while also ensuring that a company’s assets are protected in the event of divorce. For help drafting or enforcing your own prenuptial agreement, please contact an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can assist you.

Owning a Business Prior to Marriage

If a person owns a business going into a marriage, then those assets will most likely fall under the category of separate property in the event of divorce. However, any growth in value and earnings stemming from the business can and probably will be considered community property, which means that if a couple decides to divorce, the original business owner would need to split those earnings down the middle. Furthermore, if the spouse who didn’t originally own the business ended up substantially contributing to it during the marriage, then that business interest could be considered commingled with the couple’s community property and so converted into marital property for the purpose of division upon divorce.

A couple can forestall all of these complications by entering into a prenuptial agreement before getting married. For instance, the agreement could include provisions explaining that any increase in value or earnings from the business during the course of the marriage will still remain the original owner’s separate property in the event of divorce.

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TX divorce lawyerDuring Texas divorces, a couple’s marital property is subject to division. In most cases, this means that divorcing spouses must grapple with who will retain a variety of assets ranging from houses and vehicles to financial assets, such as bank accounts and pensions. Of these types of assets, financial property is often the most difficult to divide. This is especially true for pensions, the status of which depends on when the pension was acquired and whether a pre-existing agreement is in place. For help determining whether your own pension qualifies as marital property and whether you can expect a portion of those payments upon divorce, please contact a member of our high asset divorce legal team today.

Community Property States

Texas is one of only nine community property jurisdictions, which means that almost all assets acquired by a couple during their marriage are considered to belong equally to both parties if they later decide to divorce. The assumption in most cases is that these assets will be divided 50/50 between the parties. This rule applies to physical property, such as real estate and personal possessions, as well as financial assets like retirement accounts and pensions.

Marital vs. Separate Property

In general, retirement assets earned during a marriage are treated as marital property, including:

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TX divorce lawyerDivorcing couples with unique, diverse, or especially valuable assets face a host of unique issues. For instance, many high asset divorces require couples to decide the fate of multiple properties, including not only the family home but also vacation homes and investment properties. This can be a complicated process, so if you are going through a divorce and have been unable to come to an agreement about who will retain ownership of one or more vacation properties, it is important to contact an experienced high asset divorce attorney who will aggressively represent your interests, whether during negotiations or in the courtroom.

How Are Assets Categorized During Divorce in Texas?

Texas is a community property state, which means that only assets that were acquired during a marriage must be divided in the event of divorce. When it comes to real estate, this is true regardless of whose name is on a title or deed. Unlike community assets, separate property is any property that was owned by either spouse before the marriage took place. The only exceptions to these rule apply in cases of inheritance, in which case, a person’s assets can be considered separate property even if they were acquired during the marriage.

Vacation Homes as Community Property

Under these rules, whether a couple’s vacation home needs to be divided upon divorce would depend on when it was purchased. If it was acquired during the marriage, both parties would have rights to a share in the property. This could take the form of one spouse retaining sole ownership of the family home, while the other took up residence in the vacation home. Alternatively, the couple could decide to sell the property and divide the proceeds.

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8911 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Building 2, Suite 2105, Austin, TX 78759