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What Are High-Value Assets in a Divorce?

Posted by Lee Zavatsky | Mar 10, 2023

If you are going through the California divorce process and have high-value assets, you will most likely have concerns about the standard equitable distribution process.

California is a community property state, meaning many divorcing couples, especially those in a high-asset or high-net-worth category, have much to lose.

All property acquired by either spouse during the marriage is usually presumed to be equally owned by both spouses. Therefore, they can either reach a fair property settlement agreement, or the court will decide how to divide the property.

What Are High-Value Assets in a Divorce?

Further, the more assets a couple has, often means their divorce can become more complicated. You need a family law lawyer who knows how to deal with divorcing couples who own a wide range of high-value and luxury assets. This could include multiple homes, expensive cars, jewelry, antiques, and sports memorabilia.

You need to understand that unless you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement laying out what will happen to certain assets in a divorce, they could be considered marital property, mainly if acquired during the marriage.

Often in high-value assets, before distributing them equitably, it is necessary to retain a third-party assessor who can determine the market value of the assets. Then, after the value has been set, a judge can decide what they consider the fair and equitable division of those assets.

Sometimes, selling high-value assets before a divorce is final is the best option for both spouses. For example, suppose you mutually agree to sell certain high-value assets and split the money. In that case, you will save time and money and not have the aggravation of dealing with it in court, but sentimental assets are typically harder to resolve.

Suppose you have accumulated substantial marital debt. In that case, selling high-value assets could be the best option to pay them off. On the other hand, suppose you can no longer afford some high-value assets as a single person. In that case, selling them and dividing the money with your spouse would be wise. Let's review this subject in more detail below.

Does High-Assets Make a Divorce Complicated?

The answer to this question depends on the divorcing couple and their willingness to compromise, which is essential in all California divorces.

Does High-Assets Make a Divorce Complicated?

High-value assets and high-net-worth divorces are typically more complex than a standard divorce.

In addition to the potential legal complications in a traditional divorce involving child custody, child support, and property division, there is a significant financial issue when dealing with high-value assets.

When a high-dollar amount is at stake, there is a much higher chance of debate and family court litigation. It's not uncommon for a divorce involving valuable assets to end up hotly debated and in court as a contested divorce.

As noted, if you are going through a high-asset or high-net-worth divorce case, you must have legal representation with experience handling financially complex divorce cases.

What Are Some High-Value Assets?

In a high-asset or high-net-worth divorce case, some examples of valuable community property can include the following:

  • Marital home or a second home;
  • Vacation home;
  • Commercial properties or land;
  • Business or professional practice;
  • Rental properties;
  • Expensive luxury vehicles;
  • Yacht or boats;
  • Multiple bank accounts;
  • Stock or brokerage accounts;
  • Pension and retirement accounts;
  • Fine art and collectibles;
  • Sports memorabilia;
  • Intellectual property, trademarks, patents, copyrights;
  • Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies;
  • Country club memberships.

As noted, to fairly divide assets, you will typically need to know their monetary value, which a third-party assessor can determine.

Suppose you own a business. In that case, you must hire an expert appraiser for a business valuation who can determine the fair market value.

How Can Income Be Established?

The income of both spouses will need to be determined to make decisions on the crucial matters of support. High-net-worth people usually have more complex calculations than somebody who makes the same income every week.

High-net-worth individuals typically make income from multiple sources, including the following:

  • Base work income;
  • Work bonuses and commissions;
  • Allowance for work expenses;
  • Business income;
  • Professional practice income;
  • Profit distributions;
  • Stock options;
  • Capital gains income;
  • Deferred income.

What About Child Support and Alimony?

In California, child support is calculated using a standard formula based on income and other factors, but it does not always apply to high-net-worth individuals.

Child Support in California

For example, it might be possible to obtain support that could exceed the needs of a child, such as the “extraordinarily high income” exception. This will also work in reverse if the guideline amount is inappropriate for the receiving spouse.

Spousal support (alimony) could also be ordered in high-value asset and divorce cases in California when the lesser-earing spouse needs financial support to maintain the marital standard of living. Often, this occurs when one spouse gives up a career to raise their children. It's also based on the other spouse's ability to pay it.

Our law firm handles complex high-asset divorces in California. We know how to protect your legal rights and assets. A difficult divorce requires experienced legal representation to have the best chance at a favorable outcome.

We need to review your case's details to determine an appropriate strategy. You can contact us for a free case consultation by phone or using the contact form. Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law lawyers providing legal representation across Southern California.

About the Author

Lee Zavatsky

Lee Zavatsky is a partner at Furman & Zavatsky, a law firm dedicated to the practice of Family Law. Mr. Zavatsky has been selected as one of the Top 40 Under 40 by The National Trial Lawyers, a professional organization composed of the top trial lawyers from each state or region who are under the...

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