Your assets are an important component of your divorce. You must be aware of the value of your assets and how best to protect them during the proceedings. You and your lawyer will evaluate this value and determine how to proceed before providing information to your spouse’s legal team. There are also ways to protect your assets should your divorce case be decided in a courtroom.
Begin by making a list of personal items. Divide the list into categories that include items that were yours prior to the marriage (separate property), items given to you as a couple (such as wedding gifts), and items acquired during marriage but considered only yours. If you have receipts or any other documentation that further exhibits your categorization an item, keep this paperwork with your list.
Make sure you include all of your assets on your list. Assets include inheritance, gifts from third parties, retirement accounts including IRAs, 401Ks, and stocks, memberships to clubs, life insurance policies, tax refunds, and material items, such as vehicles, antiques, and electronics.
Your evaluation of your assets should also include an evaluation of the assets of your spouse. Your lawyer will need to ask for documentation from your spouse to get an accurate account of his or her assets. Knowing the worth of your spouse (net worth statement) helps you and your lawyer determine an appropriate course of action regarding alimony and child support.
Community Property vs. Equitable Distribution
One of the most important factors in asset protection is whether or not you reside in a CommunityPropertyState or EquitableDistributionState. The nine Community Property States (AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, and WI) consider spouses equal owners of all marital property. This means everything is split 50/50. Courts in Equitable Distribution States take into account a spouse’s earning power and the length of the marriage when splitting assets, so division of property is not equal, but fair. New York utilizes equitable distribution in dividing assets.
Protecting Business Assets
In addition to protecting personal property during your divorce, you might also need to consider how to protect business assets. If you own a business, your spouse might be entitled to earnings from that business or a percentage of its value.
The best way to protect your business requires some forethought. Ideally, business owners will have established a legally binding prenuptial agreement outlining what your spouse receives should a divorce occur.
If you have questions about evaluating your assets or you need legal guidance through your divorce, contact the Law Office of Anthony J. LoPresti at 516 739-2020 for more information.