Navigating divorce is never easy, but high net worth divorces can be quite a bit more complex and difficult to see your way through. The critical issue will be the division of the marital assets. This blog examines navigating high net worth divorce in Indiana and some ways to make the process less stressful and still get what you are entitled to under the law.
The place to start when discussing high net worth divorce is exactly what you may be entitled to. There are two statutes governing disposition of property: I.C. 31-15-7-4 and I.C. 31-15-7-5. The first of these statutes describes the property that is subject to division by the court. This property is known as marital property and in Indiana includes all the property of either party, whether acquired before or during the marriage. The statute further describes how the court may divide the property, stating: “(b) The court shall divide the property in a just and reasonable manner by: (1) division of the property in kind; (2) setting the property or parts of the property over to one (1) of the spouses and requiring either spouse to pay an amount, either in gross or in installments, that is just and proper; (3) ordering the sale of the property under such conditions as the court prescribes and dividing the proceeds of the sale; or (4) ordering the distribution of benefits described in IC 31-9-2-98(b)(2) or IC 31-9-2-98(b)(3) that are payable after the dissolution of marriage, by setting aside to either of the parties a percentage of those payments either by assignment or in kind at the time of receipt.”
The second of the statutes defines a just and reasonable manner of property division as an equal division of the property and provides several factors that the court will consider if a party wishes to rebut the presumption of an equal division. These factors include: “(1) The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the property, regardless of whether the contribution was income producing. (2) The extent to which the property was acquired by each spouse: (A) before the marriage; or (B) through inheritance or gift. (3) The economic circumstances of each spouse at the time the disposition of the property is to become effective, including the desirability of awarding the family residence or the right to dwell in the family residence for such periods as the court considers just to the spouse having custody of any children. (4) The conduct of the parties during the marriage as related to the disposition or dissipation of their property. (5) The earnings or earning ability of the parties as related to: (A) a final division of property; and (B) a final determination of the property rights of the parties.”
In order to successfully rebut the presumption that an equal division of property is just and reasonable, a party must present relevant evidence concerning one or more of the above factors. Because factor one specifically states that a parties contribution towards acquiring the property need not be income producing, it may be difficult to prove that a spouse’s contribution was less than the other’s if he or she acted as primary care-giver for the children, prepared a majority of the meals, or preformed a large amount of household chores. Conversely, evidence supporting an unequal division of property based on factor two, that that the property was acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gift, may be fairly easy to produce in the form of receipts, photographs, and witness testimony. The remaining factors can become clouded when company ownership or equity interests, investments, and retirement accounts are involved, particularly if one spouse took care of the finances and the other knows very little about the marital assets and liabilities.
This is where a forensic accountant can be of considerable value. Locating and valuating assets, reviewing books and business records for discrepancies, assisting in resolving disputes, gathering evidence, creating a plan for the best way to divide the marital estate, and testifying in court as an expert witness are just a few of the tasks forensic accountants are experts at performing (J.S. Held).
As with all divorces, the best thing you can do to hasten the process and alleviate unnecessary stress is to reach an agreement with your spouse on at least some of the issues. This will save time spent in court presenting evidence on and arguing about issues upon which there is no disagreement, as well as give you and your spouse control over some aspects of asset division, instead of leaving the matter entirely up to the court. Keep in mind that when arguing a contested issue at trial, it is not what really happened or what you know that is important, it is what you can prove in court, while following all evidentiary and trial rules and procedures.
Parties to a high net worth divorce should consult an attorney experienced in the unique issues these cases can present. The attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help you navigate your Indiana divorce and protect your rights when it comes to property valuation and division.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.