Working as a Cape Girardeau high-asset divorce lawyer requires a unique and varied set of skills. While divorce rates in the United States have been dipping in recent years, marital breakdown remains common, and it’s often a highly stressful process for those involved.
Things get even more complex when there is a lot of wealth involved. A high-asset divorce lawyer needs to know how to navigate the personal difficulties a divorcing couple is facing while also fighting hard to ensure their client gets a fair cut of shared assets.
At Birk Law Firm, our lawyers deal with complex and contentious high-asset divorces every day. We know exactly what it takes to emerge from these difficult cases with positive results.
What Is a High-Asset Divorce?
The term “high-asset divorce” is not a technical legal term that applies to couples with a certain wealth. It’s a general name given to divorces that involve the division of a particularly large amount of assets, particularly where there are business interests, properties, or high-value investments involved.
Situations like this, where one or both parties have a high net worth, have higher stakes; and reaching a settlement that works for everyone is typically a much less straightforward process.
How We Can Help
The attorneys at Birk Law Firm are equipped to help you through every stage of a high-asset divorce. We’ll make our recommendations after your initial consultation and negotiate on your behalf if necessary.
If it’s not possible to reach a satisfactory settlement outside the courtroom, we’ll provide you with dogged representation in front of a judge and jury.
Our principal attorney Kelvin Birk has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and has worked in a diverse range of areas within the legal profession. He’s also a certified public accountant with a wealth of experience in tax and business consulting, which has given him an in-depth working knowledge of the crucial principles of asset separation in divorce law.
Not only are we equipped with the necessary technical knowledge of the law in this area, but we’re also committed to providing every client with the attention they need. Kelvin Birk kept our firm small to ensure that everyone who needs our help gets the level of care they deserve.
What Are the Rules Around the Division of Assets in a Missouri Divorce?
In Missouri, as in most other states, the division of assets in a divorce is governed by equitable distribution. This means the court attempts to divide marital property in a fair and reasonable manner, taking into account the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income and earning capacity, the contributions of each spouse to the marriage, and any other relevant factors.
It’s important to note that equitable distribution does not mean equal distribution. A court may decide that it’s equitable to give one party a larger share of the assets than the other, based on the circumstances of the case.
Separate v. Marital Property
The first step in the division of assets in a Missouri divorce situation is defining what marital property is and what separate property is. Assets that fall into the former category are deemed to be owned jointly by both divorcing spouses and will so be considered for division, while separate property assets return to their owners and do not form part of the asset-division discussion.
Any personal or real property you acquired jointly with your spouse during your marriage will generally be regarded as marital property. Conversely, any assets you possess before getting married will usually be treated as separate property.
If you took possession of an asset via a gift or inheritance during your marriage, this might be treated as separate property. Also, if you use funds or income you had prior to marriage to buy an asset after you got married, this asset might be separate property.
Separate property can become marital property during the course of a marriage in some cases. For example, if you lodge funds you had before marriage into a joint account after you married, a judge will be likely to view these as part of your marital property.
The lines between separate and marital property often need to be clarified, particularly in cases involving longer marriages or large overall asset values. A court may be more inclined to regard a particular asset as marital property if there is no clear documentary evidence that it was intended to remain separate throughout the marriage.
The Valuation of Assets
Valuing assets during a divorce dispute is only sometimes a straightforward process. Depending on the nature of a given asset, courts use one of a number of valuation methods. These include:
- Market value: Determining the current market value of an asset by considering recent sales of similar assets. In the case of a residential home, for instance, a court might look at recent prices paid for properties in your area that have features similar to your home.
- Appraisal: Appointing an expert to determine the value of an asset. A court might go down this route in cases involving non-liquid assets, such as high-value works of art.
- Forensic accounting: Directing a forensic accountant to provide asset valuations. This is common in the case of complex assets, such as businesses.
- Negotiated agreement: The parties may agree upon a value for an asset through bilateral negotiation.
The Tax Implications of Your High-Asset Divorce
The primary tax consideration following a divorce is that you will no longer be able to file your return as a married couple.
You should note that the tax authorities use your marital status on December 31 of a given year to determine how you will pay taxes in that year. Some couples choose to delay planned divorces until a new year for tax purposes, if their tax payment will be less costly as a married couple.
As noted above, our principal attorney Kelvin Birk has a wealth of experience as a tax consultant. He knows how to navigate the highly complex territory of divorce-related tax implications to emerge with the best possible outcomes for his clients.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are just a few of the most frequently asked questions for a high-asset divorce attorney.
How Do I Prevent My Spouse From Hiding Assets?
There are a number of steps you can take, with the guidance of your lawyer, to prevent your spouse from understating their wealth during divorce proceedings. Gather and analyze all your shared financial documents and keep your eye out for any potential red flags, such as changed spending habits or new bank accounts. If you’re still concerned that this may pose a problem, you can discuss hiring a forensic accountant with your attorney.
Can I Legally Hide Assets During My Divorce?
Hiding assets during divorce proceedings is illegal in Missouri, as in most other states. When a divorce is filed, both parties are required to disclose all their financial information to each other. Failing to do so can result in serious legal consequences, including jail time in some cases.
What Effect Will a Prenuptial Agreement Have?If a valid prenuptial agreement is in place, its terms will generally dictate the division of property, spousal support, and other financial matters in the event of a divorce. The court will typically enforce a valid prenuptial agreement unless it finds that the agreement was entered into under duress or fraud, or the agreement’s terms are deemed unconscionable.
An important caveat to be aware of here is that, under Missouri law, prenuptial agreements cannot set out arrangements for child custody or support; these must be decided at the time of the divorce.
How Are Joint Retirement Accounts Handled in a High-Asset Divorce?
Retirement accounts are considered marital property and are subject to division during a divorce. Courts will divide these accounts per the principle of equitable distribution, as is the case with other types of assets.
However, there may be certain tax implications or penalties associated with the division of retirement accounts; to understand how these will apply, you’ll have to discuss the specifics with your lawyer.
What Happens to Marital Debts?
The principle of equitable distribution applies to the division of marital debts in a similar way as it does to assets. A court will divide up your marital debts in accordance with your assets, your earnings, the length of your marriage, and the nature of the debts in question.
It’s important to note, however, that your creditors may not automatically recognize the division of debts following a divorce and may hold you and your ex responsible for repayment. To avoid this, you should consult with your lawyer about having your name removed from any debt obligations that are no longer yours.
If you have any additional questions, please contact a high-asset divorce lawyer at Birk Law Firm today at 573-332-8585
Moving on With the Help of a Cape Girardeau High-Asset Divorce Lawyer
Regardless of the amount of wealth division involved, marital breakdown is almost always a highly stressful and sensitive process. Hiring a top-class high-asset divorce attorney in your corner during the process provides peace of mind that your interests are being capably looked after, allowing you to focus on moving forward with your life.
If you need a high-asset divorce lawyer in Cape Girardeau, MO, contact Birk Law Firm today. You can reach us on the web form on our contact page or via the phone at 573-332-8585.
ALL YOUR LEGAL NEEDS
Why Choose Birk Law?
Birk Law Firm is a small firm by choice that is big on client services. Attorney Kelvin Birk and his team are responsive to their clients’ needs. When we sign on as your law firm, you can count on us for strong legal counsel, from negotiations to settlement to trial.
Our clients benefit from the intertwining of Kelvin Birk’s legal and CPA background and experience. We provide well-rounded advice to solve both legal and financial issues and to come up with creative solutions. We use modern technology to deliver legal services in a more efficient and client-focused manner than was previously possible.
We provide personalized and compassionate service. We believe that each client’s matter is the most important matter in the world to them, and we strive to treat it that way.