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Divorce may be hailed as a blessing by some, and a curse by others, but all will agree that divorces are costly. For couples that accumulated significant assets, and/or were high wage earners, divorces can be even costlier. Frequently, however, if one or both of the soon-to-be former spouses had significant assets going into a marriage, there will be a prenuptial agreement that explains who gets what in the event of a divorce.
For couples that built up fortunes together, dividing the assets can often be contentious and confusing. Below you'll find three legal tips to help individuals going through high asset divorces.
1. Get a Lawyer
If there are significant assets, you will want to retain your own experienced divorce attorney. When there are multiple significant assets and properties, business or stock holdings, significant retirement accounts, and other benefits, having an attorney will help ensure you are aware of all the assets, and what you are entitled to from the marriage. Additionally, because divorce laws vary by state, a local attorney will be able to advise you specifically on how your divorce will proceed.
Even if your spouse is in control of the finances, and has closed all the joint accounts, you likely will have the right to have your attorney paid for by the community assets or from marital property. Additionally, some states provide that in single income situations, an income earning spouse may have to pay for the non-income earning spouse's attorney, or one spouse could be put on the hook for paying fees for other reasons.
2. Find All the Assets
Anything with value can generally be considered an asset. While this includes obvious items like homes, cars, boats, businesses, and properties, it also includes things such as jewelry, collectibles, guns, computers, artwork, furniture, or any other personal property that has value. Making a list of all known assets is important, but you will also want to do a deeper search for assets you may have forgotten about, or maybe never knew about.
After you've found all the assets, you will need to distinguish if any assets are separate property, marital property or community property. Generally, if the property was owned by only one spouse before marriage, or was inherited by only one spouse during the marriage, it will continue to be owned by the one spouse after marriage. However, if property or assets appreciate in value, or earn income, the appreciation or income may be considered community or marital property.
3. Keep Court Filings Private
Many high wage earners, and individuals with significant assets, may not want their sensitive information being publicly exposed through a divorce proceeding. Some courts will allow certain types of documents to be sealed, meaning that only the court and the parties involved will legally be allowed to the view the documents.