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TX high asset divorce lawyerThe first step you should take when you know divorce is imminent is to hire an experienced Austin high asset divorce lawyer. Once you have a dedicated high net worth divorce attorney on your side, it will be important to talk with your lawyer about working with financial experts on various aspects of your case. From forensic accountants to art appraisers, there are a variety of financial experts who may be able to provide necessary knowledge in your divorce case. The following are the top reasons you should consider working with financial experts in your Texas high asset divorce case.

1. Locate Hidden Assets

Locating hidden assets is one of the most important reasons to work with a financial expert in your high net worth divorce. While Texas law requires parties to provide full and complete lists of all property to be classified as community or separate property, one of the parties may attempt to hide assets by unlawfully transferring them through a gift (or otherwise) to another party or moving money between community property and separate property accounts.

Unlike some other accountants, forensic accountants have experience providing evidence for the courtroom and conducting investigations. Forensic accountants are specially trained to identify fraud and hidden assets, and to provide expert testimony about those matters.

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TX divorce lawyerWhile very few of us ever get married with the intention of later filing for divorce, Texas residents file for divorce more often than you might expect. Making plans in the event of divorce are important for Austin residents of all income levels, but planning is particularly important for wealthy Texans and high earners. We want to discuss some tips for preparing for a high net worth divorce in Austin at multiple points in time—from the time of your marriage to the moments shortly after filing for divorce. If you need assistance with your divorce, an experienced Austin high asset divorce lawyer can help.

1. Sign a Prenuptial Agreement

Under the Texas Family Code, two people who are planning to get married can enter into a prenuptial (or premarital) agreement. While prenuptial agreements are helpful for people at all income levels, they are particularly necessary for individuals who are high earners or would anticipate a high asset divorce in the event the marriage does not last. In a prenuptial agreement, the parties can reach an agreement about how certain assets will be divided or distributed in the event of divorce.

2. Avoid Commingling Separate and Community Property

Avoid commingling separate property and community property wherever possible. In other words, any property you acquired before the marriage, or any property acquired through gift or inheritance during the marriage, should be kept separate. Do not use those assets to contribute to community property, such as investing separate property into a community property account or by using separate assets to improve the marital home.

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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 divorceWhen it comes to a high asset divorce in Texas, both parties need to take care when selling or disposing of anything that might be considered marital property. In other words, do not sell all of your jewelry or expensive electronics and keep the money hidden from your estranged spouse. If you do this, a court may consider such actions “fraudulent” and penalize you when making a final division of the marital estate.

Judge Orders Ex-Wife to Repay Ex-Husband for “Constructive Fraud”

Now, selling assets that partially belong to you may not be fraudulent in the traditional sense of that word. But Texas law does consider it a “fraud on the community.” This is another way of saying one spouse breached their fiduciary duty to the other spouse.

Here is a real-world illustration of what we are talking about. In a recent Texas divorce case, a husband filed for divorce against his wife after eight years of marriage. The couple had no children. In his divorce petition, the husband alleged his wife had sold more than $50,000 worth of “household goods, furniture, and electronics” acquired during the marriage without his consent. Basically, the husband said he returned home one day to find his house “empty.” The house itself was the husband's separate property – he acquired it before the marriage – but everything else was considered community property.

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TX high asset divorce attorneyOne of the factors that sets high asset divorces apart from many other divorces is the practice of hiding assets. Fortunately, there are steps that divorcing parties can take to discover and report attempts by their spouses to hide assets. However, taking these steps usually requires the assistance of professionals, including a forensic accountant and a high asset divorce attorney, both of whom can help track down assets and thereby ensure that any settlement agreements entered into by the parties account for all of the couple’s property.

Utilizing the Discovery Process

Couples who litigate their divorces are required to provide each other with copies of important documentation and to submit to questioning. By requesting the production of documents and issuing interrogatories, a high asset divorce lawyer can help get to the bottom of a couple’s financial situation, as parties who refuse to produce documentation as ordered, or who lie while under oath, face strict penalties.

Following Paper Trails

Divorcing spouses attempt to hide assets in a number of different ways, including:

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TX divorce lawyerCryptocurrency, or virtual currency, has existed in one form or another since 2009, but has become a much more mainstream investment over the last few years. While it is true that investing in cryptocurrency can be a lucrative endeavor, it can also make for a difficult and lengthy property division process for couples who later decide to divorce. For instance, it is becoming increasingly common for one spouse to use cryptocurrency as a means of hiding assets from the other during the divorce process.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this type of behavior, which is unlawful under Texas law, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce and you have questions or concerns about how your marital assets will be divided, you should strongly consider contacting an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can ensure that you reach a fair and equitable settlement.

Tracing Cryptocurrency

As stated earlier, cryptocurrency is virtual currency that exists only online and is traced on an encrypted ledger that details all transactions. Unfortunately, it is the very nature of cryptocurrency that makes it an ideal means of hiding assets, as it tends to be difficult to trace and hard to value. Divorcing spouses are required to disclose all of their assets and liabilities at the outset of proceedings and while many are forthright in these disclosures, some are not so scrupulous. Cryptocurrency is the perfect vehicle for many of those who fall under the latter category.

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TX divorce lawyerFinance-related issues are often the biggest source of conflict amongst divorcing couples, something that is especially true for couples with a high net worth who own unique, significant, rare, or particularly valuable assets. In these cases, conflicts can quickly escalate, derailing negotiations and resulting in months or even years of litigation. Fortunately, high asset divorces don’t have to be accompanied by conflict and disagreement, as there are a number of important steps that couples can take to help their divorce move towards amicable relations and a secure financial future for both parties. For help ensuring that your own divorce goes as smoothly as possible, it is critical to speak with an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can advise and assist you.

Obtaining a Clear Picture of Your Asset Portfolio

While many married couples have an equal say in financial decision making, it is also not uncommon for one spouse to be more involved in overseeing the family’s financial holdings than the other. Unfortunately, this can leave the non-involved spouse at a disadvantage if a couple later decides to obtain a divorce. For this reason, spouses who are considering filing for divorce are strongly encouraged to begin taking steps now to document their financial situation by collecting copies of bank statements, loan documents, tax returns, invoices, and receipts.

Hiring a financial expert can be crucial to the success of this endeavor, as can retaining an experienced family law attorney who can ensure that the parties receive equitable treatment during the property division process.

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TX divorce lawyerAll divorce proceedings are complex and potentially emotional for the parties involved. High asset divorces, however, tend to come with their own set of unique issues. For instance, hiding assets is much more common in divorces where one or both spouses have significant, unique, diverse, or particularly valuable assets. Fortunately, there are steps that divorcing parties can take to ensure that their spouses are not attempting to hide assets, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce and you are concerned that he or she may be attempting to hide or waste assets, it is critical to speak with an experienced high asset divorce attorney who can explain these steps to you and ensure that your property is protected.

Most Common Methods of Hiding Assets During Divorce

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one spouse to try and hide assets from the other during divorce by utilizing one or more of the following methods:

  • Transferring marital assets out of a joint account into a newly created or already existing account that is only in one spouse’s name;
  • Transferring cash or investments to a friend or relative’s account until the divorce is finalized;
  • Purposely overpaying the IRS and instructing the agency to use the current year’s refund for next year’s taxes;
  • Taking cash withdrawals on debit cards;
  • Delaying any promotions, raises, or bonuses until after the divorce is finalized;
  • Delaying receipt of commission payments; and
  • Purposely failing to report employer retirement accounts or stock options to the financial analyst.

Couples who own an interest in a business have even more options when it comes to hiding assets, including:

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