For the vast majority of couples going through a divorce, dividing the community estate is a straightforward exercise.
The property inventory of a typical couple will include a home with some equity, two cars, perhaps a 401K, cash in a financial institution, several credit cards, and the parties’ personal belongings.
Dividing the community estate of a high net worth couple, however, poses unique challenges that demand a competent Austin high net worth divorce attorney. These cases will often require the assistance of financial appraisers, forensic accountants, and other professionals–in addition to your attorney–to properly value and “trace” the parties’ assets. If one of the parties owns stock options or a professional practice–a law or medical practice, for example–those assets will need to be valued by a qualified expert.
As with any divorce, the first step in approaching property division is to identify all of the parties’ separate and community property. Under Texas law, all property possessed by either spouse during or upon dissolution of the marriage is presumed to be community property and thus subject to a “just and right” division by the court. In an ordinary divorce, the parties will know the identity of their various assets–it is difficult to hide a house or a car, after all.
By contrast, in a high net worth divorce case, identifying the community estate can be trickier. For one thing, the extent of the parties’ community estate is more vast and complex, making transparency more difficult.
Frequently, one spouse will have control over the parties’ finances and will exercise that control through a web of accountants and lawyers. When the marriage turns sour, mischief can ensue. It is not uncommon for spouses to attempt to hide assets (in offshore or secret accounts, for example), convey community assets to a third party (perhaps to a business partner, mistress, or child from a previous marriage), or simply stonewall when asked for information. These factors can make the task of identifying the community estate in a high asset divorce case significantly more challenging and costly.