Regardless of how long a couple has been arguing and bickering or silently growing apart from each other, ending the marriage through a divorce unleashes a roller coaster of emotions ranging from grief and sadness to anger and hostility. Georgia couples with significant assets, which might include full or part ownership of a closely-held business, frequently must deal with property division issues adding to the stress and complexity of ending their marriage. Efforts to hide assets or conceal their true value only add to the trials and tribulations of a high-asset divorce, but the following tips can help guide you through them.
Get advice from an Atlanta divorce attorney
As soon as you believe your relationship with your spouse will end in divorce, you should consult with an Atlanta divorce attorney. An attorney with experience representing individuals in divorce proceedings involving significant wealth and income can provide valuable advice and guidance on issues that frequently arise in high-asset divorces, including: ? Identification of assets as marital or separate property, i.e., premarital property, gifts from third-parties, or inheritances for purposes of equitable distribution. ? Assistance in the valuation of personal property, retirement accounts, and closely-held businesses. ? Anticipation and resolution of taxation issues relative to the distribution of assets.
It takes planning and development of a strategy to achieve an outcome giving you the financial security you need to live comfortably and achieve your future goals in life. Retaining the services of an attorney early in the process gives you an advantage.
For instance, Georgia law provides for the equitable distribution of marital property, which is defined as those assets you and your spouse acquired during the marriage regardless of how title is held. This is in contrast to separate property , such as property inherited by one spouse during the marriage, that, depending upon the circumstances, might not be subject to equitable distribution.
Identification, preservation, and distribution of assets can be a challenge, but deeds, tax returns trust agreements, financial and retirement account statements and other documents can prove helpful to ensure all assets are accounted for in the divorce. An attorney can provide guidance about specific documents you should gather and preserve to prove what you and your spouse own, how and when assets were acquired, and other information to achieve a favorable settlement and distribution of assets.
Take taxes into account with asset distribution and alimony
Assets transferred as part of a divorce settlement might not be subject to taxation at the time of the transfer, but that does not mean there will not be a tax consequence in the future for the spouse receiving it. For example, if you accept a work of art in the divorce settlement valued at $50,000 at the time of the divorce as an offset to $50,000 in a deposit account that your spouse received, your spouse might have gotten the better of the bargain if the artwork had a basis of only $20,000 representing its acquisition cost.
Your spouse could withdraw the money from the $50,000 from the bank account without it being subject to taxes under federal tax law. However, a sale of the artwork could generate a tax obligation on the difference between what it sells for and its basis of $20,000, which reduces the value of the settlement unless future taxes were somehow taken into consideration.
Protect assets during the divorce
One of the risks in a high-asset divorce is that your spouse will attempt to hide assets. Georgia law prohibits the transfer of assets during a divorce if those transfers are not made in the ordinary course of business. The fact that the law prohibits a spouse from hiding assets does not mean that it will not happen if there is significant wealth at stake.
You must notify your attorney immediately if you suspect your spouse of transferring or hiding assets. The attorney can seek intervention of the court to prevent such activities from occurring and impose sanctions for violations of the law that might already have occurred, including compelling your spouse to pay your legal fees.
Protect your privacy during an Atlanta divorce
There are many legitimate reasons why you would want to keep details about your pending divorce private and not available to the public, including preventing disclosure of sensitive financial information. When one or both spouses have an interest in a business or professional practice in Atlanta, the allegations in a divorce petition could harm their business or professional standing.
Some states restrict access to court records in divorce cases to the parties and their attorneys, but Georgia is not one of them. Courts are reluctant to seal divorce records, so your attorney might suggest attempting to resolve financial and other issues through a negotiated settlement agreement before filing the divorce case and petition with the court.