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TX divorce lawyerEven individuals who take great care when identifying, categorizing, and appraising assets during the divorce process, can overlook things that could impact their financial well-being down the road. This is especially common in cases where couples own particularly unique or valuable assets, such as a business interest, so if you fall under this category, it is important to consult with an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can ensure that your interests are protected.

Protecting Your Business

Under Texas law, property and assets obtained by a couple before marriage are not considered marital property and so are not subject to division upon divorce. While this legal practice can be used as a form of protecting one’s assets, it should not be the only source of protection for those who own a business interest. This is largely due to the fact that even if a business was created before a person’s marriage, it could still be impacted by divorce, especially if the company is successful and growing and the other spouse had a hand in the business’s increased value. In these cases, the non-owner spouse could be awarded a portion of the increase, or appreciation, in value, which could be a considerable amount if the business owner was just starting out at the time of the marriage, and the business has since become successful.

Active Appreciation

The term active appreciation is used to describe any increase in value resulting from the actual effort of an individual, usually the business owner, to improve a company. When the parties involved in the business are married, but later decide to get divorced, the court could require the individuals to divide the increase in value, but only if the non-owner spouse helped improve the business through:

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TX divorce lawyerTexas residents who file for divorce and who are unable to come to an agreement regarding how their assets will be divided are often concerned about how their inherited assets will be handled by the court during the process of property division. While it is true that for the most part, inheritances that are left to only one spouse during a marriage are considered the separate property of that spouse, this is not always the case. For help determining whether your own inheritance could be divided between you and your soon-to-be former spouse upon divorce, please contact our dedicated high asset divorce legal team today.

What Is Separate Property?

Texas is a community property state, which means that during divorce, all of a couple’s marital property must be divided equally. For this reason, determining which assets qualify as marital and which are considered separate is extremely important to the results of the property division process. Marital property is made up of assets accumulated by the couple during the marriage, regardless of which spouse purchased or acquired them. The term separate property, on the other hand, refers to assets that the parties brought into the marriage.

Important Exceptions

While determining which type of property an asset qualifies as depends largely on when the asset was acquired, there are a few exceptions to this general rule. For instance, inheritances that are left to one party exclusively are usually considered to be separate property, even when the bequest is made during the course of the beneficiary’s marriage. Similarly, assets that would initially qualify as separate property can become marital property if they were commingled with the couple’s marital property during the marriage. This same rule applies to inheritances, so just because a person received an inheritance during his or her marriage, does not automatically mean that it will be considered separate property. Instead, courts will also look at what the inheritor used the bequest for when determining whether it should be divided equally.

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TX divorce lawyerAll divorce proceedings are complex and potentially emotional for the parties involved. High asset divorces, however, tend to come with their own set of unique issues. For instance, hiding assets is much more common in divorces where one or both spouses have significant, unique, diverse, or particularly valuable assets. Fortunately, there are steps that divorcing parties can take to ensure that their spouses are not attempting to hide assets, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce and you are concerned that he or she may be attempting to hide or waste assets, it is critical to speak with an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can explain these steps to you and ensure that your property is protected.

Most Common Methods of Hiding Assets During Divorce

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one spouse to try and hide assets from the other during divorce by utilizing one or more of the following methods:

  • Transferring marital assets out of a joint account into a newly created or already existing account that is only in one spouse’s name;
  • Transferring cash or investments to a friend or relative’s account until the divorce is finalized;
  • Purposely overpaying the IRS and instructing the agency to use the current year’s refund for next year’s taxes;
  • Taking cash withdrawals on debit cards;
  • Delaying any promotions, raises, or bonuses until after the divorce is finalized;
  • Delaying receipt of commission payments; and
  • Purposely failing to report employer retirement accounts or stock options to the financial analyst.

Couples who own an interest in a business have even more options when it comes to hiding assets, including:

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TX divorce lawyerThere are a number of issues that couples must address before a court will finalize their divorce, one of which is how their marital property, or the assets that were acquired during the marriage, should be divided. Under Texas law, divorcing couples must divide their marital assets in a fair and equitable way, an endeavor that is only possible if the parties have a thorough understanding of the current monetary value of the assets in question, which can vary significantly depending on the date that is chosen for valuation.

Determining an asset’s valuation date can be a difficult and often contentious process, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce and own unique or valuable marital assets, it is important to contact an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can ensure that those assets are properly appraised and divided fairly upon the finalization of your divorce.

Establishing Value

The valuation of marital assets can be established in a number of different ways, including by:

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TX divorce lawyerFor couples who are going through a high asset divorce and who also own unique or particularly valuable assets, property division negotiations can be one of the most complex parts of the entire divorce process. Whether an asset falls under the category of a personal possession, a business asset, real property, or another type of asset, its purchase date will have an extremely important impact on how it is divided upon divorce. For this reason, most couples who are going through a high asset divorce are strongly encouraged to carefully evaluate and separate marital property from assets that were accrued prior to marriage.

To ensure that this task is manageable for both parties, couples in this position may want to consider creating a marital property checklist, a tool that often proves invaluable to divorcing parties who are concerned about coming up with a fair and equitable property division settlement. Unfortunately, creating this type of list can be difficult, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce, it is important to contact an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can help protect your interests.

What to Include on a Marital Property Checklist

In an effort to keep the property division process as organized as possible, many divorcing couples choose to create a list of all the marital property that must be divided. Most marital property checklists contain at least four categories of assets, including:

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TX divorce lawyerMany couples who decide to file for divorce are willing to communicate openly and honestly about their assets in an effort to ensure that their divorce is resolved as smoothly and as amicably as possible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially in high asset divorces when valuable property is at stake. In these cases, it is not uncommon for one spouse to try and hide assets from the other in an effort to avoid reaching a fair property settlement. If you believe that your spouse is hiding assets in order to avoid dividing them equitably upon divorce, you should speak with an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can help you determine your next steps.

Why Hiding Assets Is Problematic

Texas is a community property state, which means that most family law courts divide marital assets owned by a divorcing couple fairly and equally upon dissolution of the marriage. Hiding assets makes this endeavor nearly impossible and could leave one spouse struggling financially after the divorce is finalized. Unfortunately, this type of conduct is particularly common in high asset divorce cases, where one spouse wants to keep a unique or valuable asset to him or herself.

What Are the Penalties for Hiding Assets in Texas?

Because hiding assets is so detrimental to the process of creating a fair property settlement, Texas courts impose severe penalties on those who attempt to defraud their spouses in this way. For instance, a divorce judge who is confronted with evidence of concealed assets could order the at-fault party to give up the asset to the other spouse or could award a greater share of the community assets to the innocent party. Parties who choose to hide assets during divorce could even face charges from the IRS if those actions had tax implications.

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TX divorce lawyerGoing through a divorce tends to be a tumultuous and stressful time in a family’s life, so it is not uncommon for couples who are going through this life change to focus primarily on the emotional aspects of the dissolution. This instinct is to be expected, and in many ways, is even encouraged as a means of helping children and relatives transition to post-divorce life. However, it is also important for the parties involved to focus on the significant legal implications of dissolving a marriage. For instance, whether or not a divorcing couple has children, they will need to divide their marital property equitably and may also need to grapple with whether one spouse will be required to pay alimony. Ensuring that these determinations are fair to all parties requires effort from both spouses, which includes the compiling and organizing of important financial documentation. This can be an arduous process, especially for couples with significant or unique assets, so if you and your spouse are planning on filing for divorce, you should contact an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can help you get your documentation in order.

Gathering Financial Information

Being prepared with necessary financial documentation and paperwork can go a long way towards ensuring that any property settlement agreement proposed in negotiations or by a court is fair and equitable. The exact documentation that divorcing parties will be asked to produce depends in large part on their specific circumstances. For instance, couples with children may need to provide different paperwork than would a couple who has significant assets and no children. However, there are certain documents that almost every divorcing couple will be asked to produce, including:

  • Income tax returns, often going back as far as five years;
  • Employment information, such as pay stubs and W-2s;
  • Bank statements;
  • Loan documentation;
  • Pension plan documents;
  • Investment and retirement account statements; and
  • Credit card statements.

Divorcing couples may also be asked to produce documentation related to any wills or trusts that they previously created. Documents detailing all of a couple’s assets will be necessary, including appraisals and financial affidavits, as will documentation related to expenses. If, for instance, a couple uses a daycare service, they would need to provide evidence of receipts or invoices that demonstrate the cost of those services.

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TX divorce lawyerWhile many divorcing couples go into the divorce process with the expectation that they may disagree on certain issues, such as who will retain the family home, many fail to remember that they will also need to determine how any retirement assets like 401(k) accounts will be divided. However, it’s important to take these types of unique assets into account when distributing assets, as they can play a crucial role in helping individuals become financially secure after their marriages are dissolved. For help understanding the complexities of dividing retirement accounts during your own divorce, please contact one of our dedicated Round Rock high asset divorce attorneys today.

Does the Account Qualify as Community Property?

How a 401(k) account is divided upon a couple’s divorce depends in large part on whether the funds in the account are characterized as community property or separate property. In most cases, 401(k) plans do not simply fall into one category or the other, as it is common for 401(k) plans to contain both types of property. This is because even if a 401(k) plan was started by one of the parties before a marriage took place, which would technically make it separate property, the interest in the plan that accrued during the course of the marriage will still qualify as community property, making it equitably divisible under Texas law.

Dividing the Account

Spouses who believe that they have a claim to the interest on a retirement plan will need to determine the amount of their share, which will be equal to the value of the plan at the time of the marriage (when it was considered separate property) minus the value of the plan at the time of divorce.

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