High Value Asset Divorces & How an Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Make a Difference Regardless of whether you categorize yourself as a high income earner or not, you may nonetheless own a substantial amount of high-value assets that could become the focal point of a divorce case. For instance, perhaps you worked hard to build and maintain a successful business, or you inherited a highly valuable family estate. As such, if you feel that a divorce is on the horizon, it is crucial to understand that without competent legal counsel, your property may become vulnerable for the taking by your spouse. Specifically, Georgia is an "equitable property division" state, meaning that judges are afforded a significant amount of discretion in determining what a fair division of assets is in someone's divorce and marital separation case. Keep in mind that "fair" does not necessarily mean "equal". For the purposes of illustration, a judge may ultimately determine the fate of your highly valuable property in a way that you do not consider to be fair in light of the amount of time and effort you expended in obtaining it. Keep in mind that during this process, the judge's analysis of your property and resulting division may be contingent upon many factors, such as:
- The length of the marriage;
- The separate assets owned by each individual to the marriage;
- The earning potential of each spouse and their respective financial needs following divorce;
- The existence of a business; and
- The conduct of the parties during the divorce (i.e. a finding that one or both spouses hid assets or liquidated a marital bank account).
- The valuation of a business or one's professional license. When one party is claiming entitlement to the value of a spouse's business or professional degree (especially if one party supported the other in obtaining it), it is important to work with an attorney who can coordinate with valuation experts to determine a fair value of what they are worth. Oftentimes, one spouse will naturally claim they are valued at more than the other, making it important to have this information at one's disposal should their valuation numbers be challenged by their spouse.
- The valuation of a marital home. This is another area of high-asset divorces where things can become a bit complicated. Like with the valuation of a business or professional degree, the valuation of a marital home often becomes highly contested, especially when it may be placed on the market as a result of a divorce, or, if one chooses to keep the home and buy the other out.
- Verification of one's income. Oftentimes, high-asset divorces involve conflicts between divorcing spouses regarding one or both of their sources of income and how much they actually earn. This is crucial information to obtain, especially since one partner may claim that the other makes more than they actually do.
- Separate property versus marital property. It is crucial that the parties to a divorce case determine what is separate and what is considered to be marital property. Separate property is comprised of assets that were acquired prior to the marriage and/or assets that were acquired by gift or inheritance that were not later made part of the marital estate. Marital property is comprised of assets that were acquired during the marriage. The line between these two often becomes blurred and becomes a point of contention in divorce litigation.