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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 lawyerBecause Texas is a community property state, divorcing couples are usually required to divide all assets acquired during the marriage itself in an equitable manner. In most cases, both spouses retain access to these funds and assets while the divorce is pending, so that they can pay reasonable expenses, such as mortgage payments, utility bills, and childcare costs. Spouses who step outside of these limits could be found to have wasted marital assets, an act that is not taken lightly by divorce courts. If you are preparing for or have already filed for divorce and believe that your own spouse is wasting marital assets, you should contact an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can ensure that your assets are protected.

What Qualifies as Wasting Marital Assets?

Known as dissipation, the wasting of marital assets during a divorce is prohibited under Texas law, which makes it unlawful to dissipate marital property by:

  • Taking out a loan that has not been authorized by the other spouse
  • Spending marital funds on vacations
  • Making expensive purchases without the other spouse’s approval
  • Withdrawing large sums of money from joint accounts
  • Giving extravagant gifts to friends and family members
  • Gambling large sums

Spouses who discover that their significant other has engaged in this type of waste in order to deprive the other party of an equal share of those assets upon divorce may have legal recourse, so it is important for individuals who find themselves in this position, to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

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TX divorce attorneyHaving individual legal representation during divorce proceedings is one of the best ways that divorcing couples can ensure that their marriages are dissolved as quickly and smoothly as possible. There are, however, other professionals who can also play a crucial role in helping couples divide their most valuable assets, come up with alimony agreements, and negotiate child custody arrangements. Determining who to contact for help with your own divorce can be difficult, so if you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce, you should consult with an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can assist you in building a dedicated divorce team.

Business Valuators

Hiring a team of professionals can play an important part in helping a divorcing couple resolve their differences, especially when it comes to valuable, unique, or complex assets. For instance, many of those who are involved in high asset divorces own one or more business interests. In these cases, divorcing parties are usually encouraged to retain an experienced business valuator who can provide an accurate assessment of a company’s value. Taking this step is critical to ensuring that any property division agreements are equitable and fair to both parties.

Forensic Accountants

Couples with significant, unique, or especially valuable assets are much more at risk of having one spouse attempt to hide those assets from the other during a divorce. Hiring a forensic accountant is one of the best ways to prevent this type of behavior, as these individuals are uniquely equipped to identify and appraise assets through the in-depth analysis of financial records. It’s actually a good idea for any couples who are going through a high asset divorce to consult with a forensic accountant. This is true even for those who are not concerned about hidden assets, as it is not uncommon for couples with complicated investment portfolios to forget to account for certain valuable marital property.

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TX divorce lawyerCouples who own especially valuable or unique assets face a number of difficulties when it comes to divorce. Fortunately, individuals who find themselves in this situation do have certain tools at their disposal that can help them prepare for the property division process. Creating a property division checklist, for instance, has helped countless divorcing couples account for, categorize, value, and fairly divide their marital property. Creating a property division checklist, however, can be a difficult endeavor in its own right, so if you are considering divorce and have questions about how your marital assets will be divided, please contact an experienced high asset divorce lawyer who can walk you through the property division process.

Marital Property Categories

One of the biggest challenges faced by divorcing couples is deciding who will retain which assets. To help simplify this process, many divorcing couples are encouraged to create a property division checklist, in which they account for and categorize all of their assets. Although each couple’s property division checklist will look different, there are some basic categories under which most assets fall, including:

  • Personal property, which can include everything from home furnishings and electronics to jewelry and collectibles
  • Financial assets, including bank accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, cash, and pensions
  • Real property, which includes not only the marital home, but also any vacation homes, rental properties, undeveloped land, or commercial properties
  • Business assets, including any ownership interests in a business or company equipment

Once a couple has each of these categories in place, they can go through their assets one at a time and place them in the proper category.

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TX high asset divorce lawyerAlthough divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster for the parties involved, proceedings can become especially contentious when there are disputes about ownership of significant, unique, or valuable assets. While prenuptial agreements can help clear up these disagreements, many couples fail to enter into these types of contracts, as they deem it unlucky to contemplate the end of a marriage before it actually begins. For help protecting your property during your divorce, please contact our experienced Texas high asset divorce legal team today.

Accounting for All Assets

One of the biggest mistakes that a divorcing couple can make is to fail to account for all of their assets, including:

  • Current bank accounts
  • Non-cash assets
  • Future interests, such as pensions, start-up stock options, and business interests
  • Inherited funds or goods
  • Income earned prior to the divorce filing, but received later, including bonuses and recent paycheck retirement contributions

Identifying all of these types of assets can be difficult, especially for those who do not play an active role in managing their household finances, so it is particularly important for those who find themselves in this position, to speak with an experienced forensic accountant before proceeding with the property division process.

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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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TX divorce lawyerMarriage is not just an emotional partnership, but has a financial component as well. This can add an extra layer of complexity during the divorce process, as it requires the parties to identify, appraise, and divide their assets fairly before a judge will officially dissolve a marriage. For help reaching a property settlement agreement during your own divorce, please contact our high asset divorce legal team today.

Identifying and Characterizing Marital Assets

Generally, the property accumulated by a couple during their marriage belongs to both spouses and so must be divided equitably upon divorce. It is impossible, however, for a couple to come up with a fair property settlement if the parties do not have a thorough understanding of what types of property each is bringing to the table.

While identifying and characterizing marital assets may seem like a straightforward process, it can actually be quite difficult, especially because some assets, even when acquired during the marriage, are actually considered to be separate property. For instance, inheritances and gifts given to one spouse during a marriage will usually stay in that person’s sole possession even after divorce. Failing to account for these assets as separate property could result in a couple unfairly sharing the asset, while improperly characterizing an asset as separate in nature, could leave one spouse without his or her fair share of marital property.

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TX divorce lawyerAlthough some couples quickly follow up the decision to end their marriage with a divorce filing, it is also not uncommon for couples to carefully consider this option over a period of weeks or months before officially filing for divorce. Those who take the latter route have the benefit of extra time in which to plan for the termination of their marriage, which can make all the difference in how smoothly the later divorce actually proceeds. This is especially true for couples who have unique or particularly valuable assets, as accounting for, appraising, and ultimately dividing these assets can take a significant amount of time. To learn more about how an experienced high asset divorce attorney can help you plan for your own pending divorce, please contact our legal team today.

Planning for Alimony

As a result of changes made to the tax code last year, divorced spouses who pay alimony are no longer permitted to deduct those payments come tax season, while spouses who receive these payments can no longer count those payments as income. Knowing how, and planning for, these changes will affect a couple’s own financial situation after divorce is important to the success of the negotiation process. For instance, divorcing couples who properly plan before litigating a divorce could redistribute their assets in such a way that they are able to regain some of what they will lose as a result of the new alimony legislation. The spouse, for example, who is the higher earner could retain the couple’s taxable assets, such as cash, stocks, and bonds, while the lesser earning spouse could retain the tax-deferred accounts like 401(ks) and IRAs.

Accounting for and Appraising Assets

Couples who own extensive, unique or especially valuable assets usually have a more difficult time accounting for, characterizing, and appraising all of those assets. Beginning this process ahead of time can help couples avoid some of the stress that goes along with dividing up a marital estate. Hiring a forensic accountant and other financial specialists can also play a crucial role in ensuring that no assets are improperly appraised or are unaccounted for during the property division process. Compiling documentation related to ownership and value can also be accomplished in the planning stage, which can save time later on in the proceedings.

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