When couples have wealth, there is a high likelihood that they own a range of different assets. This may include business interests, offshore investments, trusts, real estate, stocks, retirement accounts, educational savings accounts, luxury vehicles, and artwork. Couples with wealth are also more likely to utilize people to help them manage their wealth, like business managers, accountants, portfolio managers, agents, and bankers. Ultimately, there is a lot to sort out when a wealthy couple divorces.
North Carolina Divides Marital Property by Equitable Distribution
When a marriage ends, North Carolina divides property via equitable distribution. In deciding how property is divided, courts take the fair market value of all property acquired between the couple’s date of marriage and date of separation, then consider a variety of factors in deciding whether to split the property equally between the spouses or in some other manner.
Classification of Separate and Marital Property
One of the first things that attorneys must do is to properly identify and classify the property as separate or marital property. Separate property is the property that each spouse brought into the marriage. This distinction is important because separate property is not subject to division and stays with its original owner upon divorce. Accurate classification is therefore critical to protecting a person’s property rights.
To further complicate things, a great amount of attention and detail must go into separate property that has become “comingled” with marital property. In other words, property that would normally be classified as separate has been combined with marital property for the benefit of the marriage and has thereby been converted into marital property. An example is a spouse’s separate business interest in which marital property has been heavily invested throughout the marriage to keep it afloat or increase its value.
With a high net worth divorce, the volume, and complexity of property means that attorneys must team with experts to doggedly and methodically track down all property and evidence of when it was acquired. It takes a great deal of time and experience to accomplish this mission and then to properly classify the property.
Hidden Assets and Financial Impropriety
In addition to the complexity of high net worth divorces, there is also a greater possibility for financial impropriety by one or both spouses. This includes transferring property, hiding property, wasting property, or intentionally devaluing property to lessen what the other spouse leaves the marriage with. This misconduct can have serious consequences for the wrongdoer but can be hard to discover and prove with high asset divorces. A family lawyer who handles high asset divorces knows what clues to look for and how to find them.
Appraising Divisible Property
While identifying and classifying property in a high net worth divorce, an effective family law attorney will also utilize the skills of experts to assess the fair market value of each property per accepted practices. To present credible valuations, attorneys will ask reputable experts with experience in the type of property they are appraising. Accurate appraisals ensure that you are not leaving money on the table, which is significant in high asset divorces.
What Does an Equitable Distribution Look Like?
Finally, after all the property has been properly classified and appraised, attorneys will battle over how the property will be divided. As previously mentioned, courts can look at a variety of factors, like the duration of the marriage, the health of each spouse, the property and debt of each spouse, the contributions of each spouse into the acquisition of marital property, the nature and complexity of appraising and dividing property, and the acts of either spouse to waste or devalue property. Because these factors are broad, the courts have a lot of discretion in deciding how to divide marital property.
Contact New Direction Family Law
The attorneys at New Direction Family Law have experience in guiding clients through high net worth divorces. We are motivated, thorough professionals who work tirelessly to achieve our clients’ best outcomes. We understand the gravity of this moment for our client’s financial futures. If you need legal representation, contact us today. Call New Direction Family Law at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an appointment or visit us online through our website.