Kathy D. Sheive Attorney at Law

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Dividing unusual assets in divorce

Most assets subject to division in divorce can be fairly easily identified and valued. These include bank accounts, real estate, investment accounts and pensions, though in certain cases these can present complex issues. However, there are some assets and debts that require special attention.

These are some types of marital assets and debts that can be problematic when it comes to marital property division:

  • Art, antiques and collectibles
  • Intellectual property assets such as patents and copyrights (whether they currently generate revenue or not)
  • Business tax-loss carryforwards and tax debts
  • Income-producing websites
  • Timeshares
  • Thoroughbred horses and dogs that generate stud fee income
  • Digital assets, such as Bitcoins and frequent flyer miles

A typical and not-so-simple example

Let's look at just one example to illustrate some of the problems that can arise when attempting to divide unusual marital assets.

After they were married, John and Mary discovered a love for collecting antiques. Over the years of their marriage, they spent many weekends driving around Florida, finding treasures in shops, estate auctions and garage sales.

To buy these items John and Mary combined money from several sources: money John had earned before the marriage, money Mary had earned before marriage, and money they had earned during the course of their marriage. And oh yes, some of the money came through inheritance. A few of the items they purchased for trifling sums are now worth thousands of dollars. But there's a lot of stuff that may not be worth much. In this second category though, there are some items that could be very valuable, if only a buyer could be found.

As you can see, this case presents some challenging issues. The marital component of these items must be identified. Each item must be valued, and the total divided on some yet-to-be determined basis.

In handling cases involving the division of unusual assets, an experienced divorce attorney will call upon experts, such as appraisers, tax accountants and other professions who can provide insights regarding valuation and other issues. The attorney, supported by these experts will then be prepared to defend the findings in court, should a dispute arise over property division matters.

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