High-asset divorces see many assets (or assets with a high combined total value) owned by one or both spouses. In California, the division of property in divorce must be equal, and as a result, high-asset divorces can become incredibly complex.
While hiring lawyers experienced with California divorce laws like the Hann Law Firm can take some of the difficulty out of the process, you should still prepare yourself to avoid serious pitfalls.
Analyzing assets and their ownership is already complicated and becomes even more so when those assets include business ownership, investments, bank accounts, and inventory, among other things.
Educating yourself before the proceedings will not only temper your expectations but could even save you money in legal costs as well. Read on to learn the most critical aspects of high-asset divorces.
California and Community Property
Division of property is often hard-fought in high-asset divorces. When spouses have a higher net-value than their partner, they often think they are entitled to keep most of it. California, however, treats most property acquired during a marriage as community property. This extends beyond physical property into stocks, bonds, and other intangible assets. Since community property is considered co-owned, a judge will split its value evenly between both parties.
The easiest way to prove ownership of property is by maintaining records or your purchases. Of course, you probably didn’t get married thinking you’d eventually get divorced and didn’t plan so far ahead as to keep receipts. Still, securing records of whatever you can will go a long way in proving your claim.
Otherwise, it will be up to your legal counsel to analyze any commingling property. Commingling means that assets were shared or their ownership is otherwise difficult to determine. This process can be expensive as well as time-consuming.
Determining Spousal Support
When determining alimony, the court’s goal is to allow both parties to maintain the standard of living they experienced while married, at least for a short time. Naturally, the more significant the difference in income and net worth between you and your spouse, the higher you can expect support payments to be.
That said, how property gets valued has an impact on determining alimony payments. Much like determining ownership of property, it can fall on legal counsel to value property. However, you can take a preemptive measure by getting valuations before your divorce heads to court. Your lawyers should have business connections with third parties who can give fair, accurate evaluations of your physical property.
Be Calm and Respectful
The divorce process is an emotionally draining time, and it can often feel like it drags on and on. It’s not unreasonable to feel this way, but you must keep your calm no matter how difficult it becomes. Anything that you say or do, even before the legal process begins, can impact the outcome.
Your lawyer will stress the importance of civility, but this is true well before you even file divorce paperwork. People are usually aware that their physical actions can influence determinations during a divorce, but things that are said can unexpectedly come back to haunt you even in passing. For example, if you had agreed to divide a particular asset in a specific way but then end up in court, that conversation may come up.
The critical thing to remember is that every divorce happens between two people. It may seem obvious, but frequently people see it as a one-sided affair and focus solely on how it will affect them and not their spouse. It can be challenging to keep in mind, especially if your separation is happening under difficult circumstances. Still, it would be best to keep in mind that this is happening to two people.
A Settlement Can Avoid Trouble
If your case goes to trial and before a judge, they have to follow California’s laws about divorce and property, including how it’s divided as well as alimony. No matter the confidence you have in your case’s strength, things may not go the way you want or expect. Moreover, the judge will establish the trial’s pace, which can change as more details emerge. They’re under no obligation to resolve things within a specific timetable. The longer the trial becomes, the more expensive it becomes.
Suppose you’re able to work collaboratively with your spouse. In that case, choosing mediation or a settlement is the best way to avoid the financial cost while ensuring assets get divided in a way that everyone finds agreeable. Your lawyers will work with financial professionals to analyze your assets and work with you and your spouse to reach an agreement on how to divide them. Once agreed on, settlements are binding, but they don’t require an even division of assets. They allow for flexible terms so long as you and your spouse agree to them.
Of course, if both sides can’t reach an agreement, things may end up in court anyway. That’s why it’s best to remain reasonable and work together.
Custody and Child Support
There’s a mistaken notion that in a high-asset divorce, the parent with a higher net worth is the most likely to receive custody. In reality, a judge must rule based on what is best for the child, which looks at more factors than money. A judge will take each parent’s employment, housing, criminal history, and more into account. It’s only in the determination of child support payments that finances have the most significant impact. If you can, it’s advisable to work out a custody agreement as part of mediation.
Trust the Experts At Hann Law Firm
We understand just how complex the divorce process can be. Thankfully, our team of legal experts know what to expect and can guide you through the process, whether that means mediation or trial. More importantly, we understand the importance of listening.