The process of divorce is very seldom simple, but certain elements carry a high risk of causing complications during the proceedings. The division of assets is a prime example, especially if one or both spouses have a high net worth. During a divorce, all communal property must be divided fairly between the former couple. However, the more property there is, the more time consuming and difficult this step will be. In addition, it is common for those going through a high net worth divorce to have strong opinions about who should be awarded the bulk of the assets.
Because of the complications involved in high net worth divorce cases, it is critical that you work with an experienced Joliet high net worth divorce attorney familiar with family law. At Vahey Law & Mediation, we are committed to ensuring that your case proceeds as smoothly as possible.
In the state of Illinois, communal property is the term used to describe any assets that were acquired during the marriage. As such, communal property does not include property you owned prior to getting married, unless you have taken steps to assign ownership to your spouse, or property acquired after the divorce. Communal property most often consists of a combination of material goods, real estate, and financial holdings, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and stocks.
The one exception regarding assets obtained during marriage involves assets received as a gift or as a part of an inheritance. For example, if a spouse were bequeathed a piece of expensive jewelry by a relative after their death, that piece of jewelry would be considered separate property and not subject to division. However, under Illinois family law, certain actions can cause separate property to become communal property, so the mere fact that an asset was received via inheritance does not necessarily guarantee its exclusion from division during the divorce proceedings. For that reason, if such property has come into your possession, it is important to discuss the matter with your attorney.
Before the division of assets can begin, both spouses must supply a detailed report listing all assets. This list of assets and comprehensive financial records must be reported to the court. The process can be particularly difficult if you have been married for a long period of time, have misplaced documentation regarding your assets, or if you and your spouse have multiple diverse property holdings. Working with an experienced attorney is the key to navigating this aspect of the divorce proceedings. A skilled attorney will have ample information on the various types of assets you will need to disclose and can help you locate the information you need to provide to the courts. If necessary, a Joliet high net worth divorce attorney can arrange for an expert witness to uncover information regarding your or your spouse’s assets.
If you believe your divorce is likely to become contentious and complicated, you might be anxious regarding the potential impact on your assets. Under such pressure, some people attempt to keep records regarding the existence of marital property hidden to protect them from division. This is both unethical and illegal. Your spouse is likely to have an attorney of their own who will be doing their own due diligence to uncover all communal property, and if they discover you have purposefully hidden assets, the legal consequences will be severe. You will likely receive extensive fines and might even face a perjury charge. You can face similar consequences for unintentional failures as well.
After one spouse initiates a divorce, the courts issue a stay order, which declares that communal property cannot be sold or given away during the divorce proceedings. This ensures that neither you nor your spouse can waste, excessively spend, or hide any communal assets while the court determines how best to divide the property. While this does not guarantee that your spouse will not attempt to engage in unlawful behavior, it does mean that they will face penalties if caught.
Working with an attorney to ensure that all assets are properly documented is the best way to prevent your spouse from acting unethically and protect your assets during divorce. In addition, your attorney may advise you regarding ways to adjust ownership to prevent your spouse from accessing assets before court. This ensures that they cannot interfere with said accounts while the courts decide how best to proceed without violating any aspects of family law.
The longer and more complex the divorce proceedings, the higher the costs. In addition to attorney fees, you will also incur expenses regarding the hiring of forensic accountants, business evaluators, and other expert witnesses necessary to further support your case. One of the best ways to mitigate these expenses is by agreeing to take part in mediation instead of beginning with divorce litigation.
Mediation is a process facilitated by a skilled mediator who works with a couple and their legal representatives to achieve an agreeable result without court intervention. Not only is this process often much shorter and more cost effective than extended litigation, but mediation can also proceed privately, allowing a couple to develop a more personalized division of assets than division in open court. Custody arrangements and asset division achieved through mediation often have much higher success rates than those resulting from litigation. If mediation does not result in a mutually agreeable division of assets, you still have the option to pursue litigation with the assistance of your attorney.
Each state develops its own statutes that dictate how communal property is divided during a divorce. In general, there are two primary methods of property division: equal property division and equitable property division. In an equal distribution, the courts split the property so that each party receives precisely 50% of the communal assets. States that use this method are referred to as community property states. Conversely, an equitable distribution involves dividing the property based on the contributions and labor invested into the marriage by each party. Equitable division is more complicated because it requires the courts to not only assess the couples’ income, but also the value of intangible circumstances, such as when one parent stays at home to raise the children while the other furthers their career.
Illinois is an equitable distribution state, meaning that family courts in Illinois divide property based on the contributions of each spouse. When determining equitable distribution, Illinois courts will take several factors into account, such as the length of the marriage, the income earned by each spouse, the spouses’ potential future earning capacities, and other contributions made during the marriage. A Joliet high net worth divorce lawyer will provide the courts with the relevant documentation to support any claims regarding your personal contributions to the marriage, allowing the courts to make an equitable division of your marital assets.
While the division of property is one of the most challenging aspects of any divorce, it can be especially complicated when substantial amounts of assets are involved. Working with a Joliet high net worth divorce attorney allows you to protect your assets and ensure fair and equitable distribution.
The team at Vahey Law & Mediation has extensive experience handling all sorts of divorces, including high net worth divorces. No matter your financial status, we can ensure that all marital property is documented and fully represented in court so you retain the assets you deserve. Contact Vahey Law & Mediation, LLC to schedule an initial consultation today.