Anything that is considered marital property must be divided equitably between the two spouses in a divorce. Under Colorado law, “equitable” means fair, not necessarily 50-50. At Hogan Omidi, PC, we know that a workable property division requires not just a calculator to achieve a mathematical balance but the ability to think strategically. In many instances, there may be advantages associated with particular assets that make them a better fit in an overall asset division than other items of a similar dollar value.
Figuring out what is “fair” in asset division can be one of divorce’s most complicated and contentious parts. Our lawyers will discuss your situation and the options that best reflect your goals and financial interests. We have represented many people in Denver and around the state with high-asset or complex property division issues, including doctors, business executives, professional athletes, and entertainers, or the spouses of those high earners.
From Kathleen’s interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com
What is a Complex Property Division Attorney, and What Do They Do?
Many times, a couple owns multiple properties and has significant assets, including businesses, investment accounts, and vacation homes. A complex property division attorney will help ensure that these assets are divided fairly between the two parties. In some cases, a couple may not be able to agree on how to divide their assets. In these situations, a judge will make the decision for them. A complex property division attorney can help you present your case to the judge and advocate for the division of assets that you feel is fair.
Well-Versed In Resolving Complex Property Division
Our Denver divorce attorneys lawyers have substantial experience in a complex and high-asset divorces. Therefore, we can capably counsel and represent you in all issues relating to property division at the divorce agreement:
- Division of retirement assets – 401(k) and IRA accounts, as well as pensions and other benefits, are divided fairly, no matter whose name they are in.
- Business valuation – If either spouse owns a business or you own a business together, you need to know its value to determine how to divide it or compensate for that equity.
- Real estate valuation and division – First and second homes, rental properties, and another real estate all figure into the divorce settlement.
- Artwork and Collectibles – When it comes to divorcing couples who own valuable artwork or collectibles, the situation can become even more complicated. Not only are there valuable items to consider, but also intangible factors such as the sentimental value of certain belongings. A complex property division attorney can help you navigate this process so that you can come to a fair and equitable agreement.
- Division of marital debt – You and your spouse share responsibility for debts incurred during the marriage, regardless of who incurred the debt.
- Divorce issues for executives – Executives receive many benefits that need to be considered in the property division, vested or unvested stock options or other stock based benefits, and deferred income arrangements.
- Spousal maintenance (alimony) often figures into the property settlement equation. A spouse who receives income producing assets may have less need to receive maintenance. A spouse whose compensation is highly variable or not received regularly may face challenges in arriving at a workable payment arrangement.
Property and assets located in other states or other countries, as well as secret accounts or asset transfers, are all subject to discovery and may be subject to consideration in the asset division.
Separate Vs. Marital Property (Asset Tracing)
Under certain conditions, property and assets that you owned prior to your marriage will be considered separate property and not subject to division during divorce. However, if that separate property increased in value during your marriage, the increased value would be classified as marital. The same may be true of property you inherited or received as gifts during your marriage. The specific rules and considerations can be quite technical. The process of tracing separate property to the assets that exist now is not the area for generalizations or a cookie-cutter approach.
Our attorneys will review your financial situation and discuss your options with you, including the steps and process necessary to trace premarital or inherited property or assets to the items that exist now. We not only prepare every case for trial, but we are also experienced negotiators. We always strive to reach a settlement before we resort to litigation. Our goal is to make sure you achieve a fair division of the marital property, with a minimum of stress and maximum overall benefit to you.
Another important aspect of complex property division divorces is debt division. Like marital assets, debt acquired during marriage is typically subject to being divided fairly between divorcing spouses. While debt incurred during the marriage will fall within the classification of a marital obligation, there may be circumstances where an automatic 50-50 division is unfair.
You didn’t know about the debt when you incurred it
The fact that you didn’t know about the debt when it was incurred does not keep it from being marital. Divorce can sometimes come with unwelcome surprises like the discovery of secret credit cards or loans that one spouse took out without the other’s knowledge. Details about when and why the debt was incurred may affect whether it is or is not fair to include it in the overall division of assets and liabilities.
Criminal penalties or debt was incurred for illegal purposes
Debts incurred for illegal purposes, such as gambling or drug addiction, or criminal fines or penalties often trigger strong feelings about the unfairness of burdening one spouse with the results of the other’s bad decisions. Such dissipation of what would have been marital resources may be grounds for holding only the involves spouse responsibe. However there is often no way to recover money that is already gone.
The debt was incurred after separation
Debts incurred after the case was filed will still be marital. However, debts incurred in violation of the automatic orders against extraordinary expenditures may fall soley on the spouse who incurs them. However, this exception doesn’t apply if the debt was incurred for necessary expenses like food or shelter.
Student loan debt
For many couples, student loan debt is the second largest financial burden after the mortgage. But unlike other debts, such as credit cards and car loans, student loan debt is not automatically divided between spouses in a Colorado divorce. If the student loan was incurred prior to the marriage is it the separate debt of the person who incurred it. If the loan relates to education obtained during the marriage, the reality is that only the spouse who received the education will continue to receive the full benefit of that education. However student loans often fund more than just tuition, and if part of the loan was used to pay family living expenses it is not necessarily unfair to include that in an asset division. There is not automatic rule for how student loans are treated.
Why You Might Need a Complex Property Division Attorney
There are several situations in which you might need the help of a complex property division attorney. Here are some of the most common:
When Both Parties Brought Assets Into the Marriage
If both you and your spouse brought assets into the marriage, those assets may be subject to property division in the event of a divorce. This is especially true if the assets in question have appreciated since the time of your marriage.
Family Businesses or Professional Practices
It can be complicated to figure out how to treat a business or professional practice. The fact that a business cannot be sold does not mean it is not an asset that gets valued in a divorce. As well the business or professional practice may represent not only an asset but the primary source of family income. In addition, you will need to consider how this will affect your taxes and obligations to employees or partners in the business.