Austin High Asset Divorce Attorney
A divorce can be challenging no matter the circumstances, but high-asset divorces can present unique challenges. High net-worth couples often have significant assets to consider and complicated questions to answer regarding inheritance, trusts, and more.
At Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C., our dedicated divorce attorneys have nearly six decades of experience guiding parties through complicated divorces involving high-value assets. We will aggressively protect your rights and interests during negotiations regarding property division, child support, spousal support, and other terms.
We understand how hard our clients work for their money and property, and we can help them pursue the settlement they deserve. Contact our office to speak with a high-asset divorce attorney in Austin, Texas, during a free consultation.
What Is a High-Asset Divorce?
A high-asset divorce occurs when at least one spouse owns assets of significant value or has a high net worth. Valuable assets and liabilities can impact the process of dissolving a marriage.
Child support is often one of the most contentious negotiations in a typical divorce. The stakes are even higher when these negotiations happen during a high-asset divorce. Texas courts use a child support formula to determine the amount and frequency of child support payments.
However, if the noncustodial parent has a high net worth, the court might require them to pay more child support than the formula dictates. Conversely, if the parent with primary custody has a high net worth, the court could decide to reduce the amount of child support payments they are owed.
Property division is another complicated aspect of a high-asset divorce. Assets such as businesses, valuable investment accounts, and multiple pieces of real estate must be divided between the divorcing parties. Texas follows community property laws regarding divorce, which means there must be a 50-50 division of marital property when a couple divorces. Unfortunately, this does not always imply that property division will be fair.
Why a Qualified Lawyer Is So Crucial in a High-Asset Divorce
The average married couple in the United States owns a home with some equity, two motor vehicles, and various personal items. They might also share bank accounts, a few credit cards, and a 401(k) plan. Often, splitting these assets during a divorce is not difficult.
On the other hand, when both spouses in a marriage are high-net-worth individuals, they might individually and jointly own multiple homes, investment properties, several vehicles, businesses, stocks, and other high-value assets. Determining how to distribute these assets during divorce negotiations can be a challenge that requires the help of a skilled and knowledgeable high-asset divorce lawyer.
An attorney can hire a group of experts, including forensic accountants, financial appraisers, and other professionals, to determine how to divide assets in a high-asset divorce. These experts must locate and assign a value to every asset the spouses own individually and jointly. If one spouse tries to hide cash or another high-value asset, these experts will be able to find it. This is why hiring a qualified Austin high-net-worth divorce attorney is crucial to helping you pursue a fair outcome in your divorce settlement.
Understanding Separate and Marital Property
Under Texas community property laws, any property acquired by either spouse during the marriage belongs to both spouses. During a divorce, couples must equally divide any marital property, which includes assets and liabilities the spouses own jointly or contributed to during the marriage. This can include:
- Life insurance plans
- Motor vehicles
- Real estate
- Checking and savings accounts
- Contributions to a pension, 401(k), and other retirement accounts
Separate property is any property one spouse acquired before the marriage or while married as a gift or inheritance. Keep in mind that separate property can become community property depending on the circumstances. Examples of separate property include:
- Contributions made to a retirement plan before the marriage
- Inheritance from a deceased relative
- Motor vehicle gifted by a parent
- Personal injury settlement, except compensation for lost wages from a car crash or another type of accident
According to Texas Family Code § 7.001, the courts must divide a divorcing couple’s property in a manner that the court deems “just and right.” In cases where separate property transforms into community property, the court will likely try to divide the property fairly.
Although community property laws suggest a 50/50 split of assets, one spouse can receive a higher share than the other depending on certain factors, such as each spouse’s income and ability to support themselves financially.
What Should I Look Out for in a High-Asset Divorce?
If you’re dealing with a high-asset divorce, knowing what you need to do before and during the process is vital to prevent unnecessary delays and obstacles. During a high-asset divorce, you should:
- Inventory all assets and liabilities– Each spouse must provide a list of their assets and liabilities to determine what is community property and what is separate property. Carefully create your list and include everything. You could face legal penalties even if you accidentally omit an asset.
- Consider the tax implications of dividing assets– Property division can lead to various tax consequences once the divorce is final. You might want to fight to keep the marital home or another asset, but consider whether it will affect your financial future. You could end up with taxes you can’t afford to pay.
- Think about liabilities– Many couples overlook shared debt during a divorce. Unfortunately, liabilities can significantly impact a person’s finances. You should determine all the debt you and your spouse have and discuss how you want to divide it.
- Prepare for intense spousal and child support negotiations– Settling matters like spousal and child support while negotiating divorce terms can turn ugly quickly. Many divorcing couples fight hard over who should get custody of the kids and whether one spouse should support the other financially. The courts try to ensure each party leaves the marriage with the same or similar lifestyle they had while married.
- Hire a forensic account– Forensic accountants have the skills and resources to uncover every asset a person owns and determine its value. Adding another expense to the divorce process might seem unnecessary, but ensuring the proper valuation of marital property can be worth it.
Valuing and Dividing High-Value Assets
Identifying, valuing, and dividing assets fairly often requires the help of an experienced professional. An attorney could help you value and divide your high-value assets, and will help with:
- Division of real estate– A formal valuation of each spouse’s real property is essential. Many high-asset couples own multiple properties, including the marital home and a vacation or seasonal home. Splitting property between spouses can be straightforward if the value is equal or similar. Significant differences in value might require selling one of the properties and splitting the proceeds.
- Division of stocks– Dividing stocks can be a straightforward process. A high-asset couple can divide shares equally without decreasing the value. Under certain circumstances, it might make sense for one spouse to give up a higher percentage in exchange for real estate or another asset.
- Division of retirement accounts– A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), individual retirement account (IRA), pension, and 401(k) could lose value if mishandled. Splitting retirement accounts requires careful planning to preserve as much value as possible and prevent undue tax consequences.
- Division of business assets– A business might be considered separate property if one spouse started it before getting married and the other had no involvement. However, it is community property if either spouse started it during the marriage and the other worked there or put money into it. That means determining its value and evaluating existing contracts is crucial. Selling a jointly owned business might be necessary. However, continuing to run the business together is possible if a divorcing couple is on good enough terms.
- Division of vehicles, aircraft, and boats– Typically, one spouse will receive an ATV, car, RV, boat, or another similar asset after determining the value. Considering debts on these assets is also necessary.
- Division of jewelry, artwork, and high-end furniture– Some divorcing couples argue about who gets to keep the furniture. However, fighting over furniture in a high-asset divorce might not be worth the effort unless it’s a family heirloom passed down through each generation.
- Division of cash– The funds in a checking or savings account are subject to community property laws. The court will likely divide cash assets fairly among a divorcing couple. However, you could leverage your bank accounts in negotiations by giving up a larger share to obtain another asset.
How Our High-Asset Divorce Attorney Can Help
The high-asset divorce attorneys at Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C., have represented clients in Austin and Central Texas for over 50 years. We have extensive experience helping high-net-worth individuals through the often-challenging divorce process and will be ready to put our skills and resources to work for you.
Contact our office for a free consultation with a high-asset divorce lawyer in Austin.