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TX divorce lawyerHigh asset divorces in Austin, TX are complicated for numerous reasons, from matters of property division to alimony. One of the more complex and contentious issues that can arise in a high net worth divorce is the matter of hidden assets. Particularly in high asset divorces where one of the spouses was the primary earner during the marriage, the other spouse may have concerns about hidden or concealed assets. When the non-primary earner does not control the finances of the marriage and does not regularly manage business issues or jointly owned accounts, it can be difficult to know exactly what the assets from the marriage look like in sum. Yet discovering hidden assets can be extremely important given that Texas is a community property state.

Under Texas law, couples who get divorced in Texas should know that community property is owned equally by the spouses. Accordingly, courts divide the property recognizing that both spouses have an equal interest in it while also taking into account what kind of division would be fair to both parties. If there are substantial hidden assets, one of the spouses could end up losing out on property to which she or he is entitled. While assets can be hidden in any divorce—regardless of the extent of the property owned by the married couple—hidden assets in a high net worth divorce can total tens of thousands of dollars. As such, it is essential to ensure that neither spouse is hiding assets in the divorce.

Know Where to Look for Hidden Assets

Even if you do not immediately suspect your spouse of hiding assets, it is important to know where to look for “red flags.” For example, itemized deductions in Schedule A in past tax returns could reveal property that you did not know existed. Or, for instance, details about assets that have generated interest and dividends (located in Schedule B) could reveal that your spouse has more money than she or he has listed. Tax returns can also provide information about business profits and losses (Schedule C), as well as capital gains and losses (Schedule D). Information about capital gains and losses can provide information about certain securities in which your spouse has invested, as well as stocks or real estate.

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TX high asset divorceIn high asset divorce cases, the disposition of real property is often a major sticking point between the estranged spouses. When dealing with large parcels of commercial or agricultural land in particular, it may be necessary to actually subdivide the property. And even after the divorce becomes final, there may still be outstanding issues related to the property that lead to additional litigation.

Ex-Husband Held in Breach of Contract Over Post-Divorce Land Sale

The Texas Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth recently addressed one long-running dispute between two parties who divorced five years ago. The former husband and former wife in this case held 300 acres of land in Parker County as community property. Under the terms of their divorce decree, the former wife received 123 acres from that parcel.

Two years later, the former wife signed a contract with the former husband to sell back 32 acres. The contract included a written description of the land, together with an aerial photograph obtained via Google Earth. Under the contract, the former husband agreed to pay a $35,000 earnest-money deposit, which he would forfeit to the former wife in the event of a breach.

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TX high asset lawyerPrenuptial agreements are a common legal tool used to avoid protracted litigation, particularly in the event of a high-asset divorce. Of course, when a divorce proceeding actually begins, it is not unusual for one spouse to challenge the validity of the prenuptial agreement. This is why it is essential to follow certain procedures when drafting the agreement initially.

Houston Court Rejects Wife's Challenge to Prenuptial Agreement

A recent decision from a Texas appeals court illustrates how to successfully defend a prenuptial agreement from such a challenge.

This case involves a couple that initially met through a dating website. The future husband lived in Houston, while the future wife lived in Vietnam. Even before the two met in person, the husband said he "wanted his future wife to sign a prenuptial agreement to protect his assets," according to court records.

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TX divorce lawyerIn the absence of a pre or postmarital agreement, a couple who has decided to divorce and who owns businesses will need to decide how those assets will be divided, which will also require an accurate business appraisal. These appraisals are conducted by experts, but it’s still important to carefully review them for accuracy. However, the technical language of these documents can make their review a difficult process, so if you are considering divorce and own one or more businesses, it is important to retain an experienced Austin, TX high asset divorce lawyer who can go over the appraisals with you and ensure that the terms of any property settlement agreements are fair.

Professional Standards

Before requesting a business valuation, it is important for divorcing couples to ensure that the appraiser is qualified to perform the analysis and has the proper credentials. There are three main professional associations that issue valuation standards for appraisers: the American Society of Appraisers, the American Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the National Society of Certified Valuation Analysts. Ensuring that your own appraiser has been credentialed by one of these groups is one of the first steps that a divorcing couple should take when seeking an appraisal.

Clarity and Thoroughness

Once a business valuation has been completed, the appraiser will create and submit a valuation report. Upon review, this report should be clear as to the purpose of the appraisal and include information about:

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