Divorce is a painful process in many ways. It’s not a topic many want to discuss or think about, but it happens. One of the major areas of focus throughout the process is the division of finances. While marriage is ideally a matter of the heart, if it ends in divorce, it quickly becomes also a matter of assets and debts.
From the date of a legal marriage through divorce, any property, income, assets, money, possessions and debts accrued are considered part of the marital property. In Iowa, that means everything may considered 50/50 equal ownership by the married couple.
How, then, is the equal division of assets and liabilities determined? It certainly would be easy if we could just take the current value of each item amassed during a marriage and divide it equally in half. For obvious reasons, that’s not always possible. Most couples have shared many years together, collecting mutually meaningful memories in the form of items as well as valuable accounts. Even when both parties want to keep the process simple, emotions run deep and can cause angst amidst the details.
Here are some of the financial complexities we often deal with in divorces:
Values that may change over time
The longer divorce proceedings are drawn out, the more it is possible that the value of certain items or accounts may change.For values that may change quickly, find an agreeable date on which you start the conversation about property’s value. This provides a mutually agreed upon starting point for both parties to gather value statements.It can be tempting to withhold or make it difficult for the other party to receive information, but in the end, that just results in more attorney fees and it definitely prolongs the divorce process. Remember, the slower everyone gets needed value information, the more time and opportunity for the value to change.
No current value
When there are assets subject to a variety of variables, such as vesting schedules, contingencies on continued employment, and future retirement income streams, there are methods for calculating the potential value using a complex list of assumptions.While some investments or accounts may be worth more in the future, valuations will only be based on today’s value. It’s important not to focus on the largest cash value available now, but instead to consider the future when child support or alimony payments cease or retirement living becomes a reality.
Division of finances in divorce is incredibly complicated. As difficult as it is to see the next hour or day, it brings to light the importance of having a trusted advisor to help guide you through the fog while keeping an eye on your future.
In the next article, I will discuss tax implications in the division of property among divorcing couples.
Until next month, be wealthy and wise!