A major part of a divorce involves dividing assets and liabilities between the divorcing spouses. For business owners who maintain a mix of regular and highly-complex assets and obligations, a determination of who owns what and how much can be a challenge.
If you are contemplating a divorce and own substantial assets that include business interests and other intangible properties, having an experienced divorce attorney on your side can help you understand all your legal options in property division and other economic considerations in a divorce.
Listing Your Assets and Liabilities
Knowing what you own and what you owe is an important starting point for property division in a divorce. Florida legal procedures require parties to submit a financial affidavit containing a detailed list of:
- Marital and non-marital assets
- Marital and non-marital liabilities
- The corresponding values of each asset and obligation, whether marital or non-marital
Examples of assets:
- Cash (whether on hand or in banks)
- Stocks and bonds
- Real estate (home and others)
- Business interests
- Furniture and home furnishings
- Life insurance
- Sporting and entertainment equipment
- Collectible items
- Money that other people or entities owe you
- Funds in retirement plans, pension plans, profit sharing plans, IRA
Liabilities can include:
- Real estate mortgages, first and second mortgages on your home
- Credit card accounts
- Car loans
- Bank and credit union loans
- Other debts
Identifying Marital and Non-Marital Assets and Liabilities
If an out-of-court settlement is possible, then you will still need to create a list of everything that you own. Identify and separate items that are marital and non-marital assets. As a rule, anything acquired or improved during the marriage are marital assets. Properties that each spouse acquired from third persons as a gift or inheritance are non-marital, even if acquired during the marriage.
When loan obligation during marriage is not marital
Liabilities that are incurred during the marriage are generally considered marital unless the obligation is obtained only by one spouse who either forged the signature of the other spouse or affixed the unauthorized signature of the other spouse.
In the recent case of Mills vs. Mills, the Court of Appeals ruled that the principal loan of $100,00 which the husband incurred without the wife’s consent and through forgery or by affixing her unauthorized signature, should be classified as the husband’s non-marital obligation.
Assigning Values to Assets
Another crucial step in asset and liability division involves assigning the proper values of each listed item, using their current fair market values. This step can become a challenge for business owners who are also required to disclose all contingent asset and liabilities such as:
- Amounts arising from possible lawsuits
- Future unpaid taxes
- Debts assumed by another
- Contingent tax liabilities
The other spouse may also question certain values such as those assigned to:
- Retirement plans
- Profit sharing plans
- Pension plans
Role of Divorce Attorney
If both spouses can agree on the listing of assets and liabilities and their assigned values, your divorce attorney can work with the other party to come up with a marital settlement agreement without the family court’s intervention.
In many cases, however, involving the valuation of complex business interests, the parties can become deadlocked in the classification and valuation of assets and obligations. If you are in a high-asset divorce, you may have to go to trial for a judgment on equitable distribution.
An equitable distribution may not necessarily result in an equal division of the marital assets. Florida law recognizes several factors that can affect the outcome of a divorce asset distribution which include:
- Each spouses’ contribution to the marriage
- Duration of the marriage
- Economic circumstances of the parties
- Each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition or enhancement of the marital and non-marital assets
- Desirability of retaining any asset or business interest free from any interference by the other party.
Considering the unique needs of a business owner, it’s important to engage an experienced divorce attorney who can represent you and look out for your interests in litigation.
In Florida, the Anton Family Law Group has over 30 years of proven experience in family law cases. We work very hard to protect the interests of our clients by ensuring a fair division of the divorce assets and liabilities. Our Firm has a firm grasp of the collaborative process and alternative modes of dispute resolution that can result in reduce emotional and financial consequences out of court.
If necessary, we are also prepared to fight for your property rights in litigation involving contested assets and liabilities. Call us today at (813) 443-5249 to speak to one of our friendly attorneys and learn how we can help you.