California is one of nine US states that follow community property laws. That means in a divorce action, any property acquired during the marriage belongs to each of the spouses equally. It is common for couples to have a residence, automobiles, retirement accounts, and savings to divide. However, in a high-asset divorce, it can become much more complicated.
When a couple owns a business, an expensive art collection, and multiple pieces of real estate, it is not just a matter of selling the house and splitting the proceeds.
In a high-asset divorce, it would not likely make sense to divide each asset into two equal shares, though each partner is technically entitled to half the value of anything acquired during the marriage. Attorneys and accountants must determine the overall value of the couple’s marital assets, divide that by two, and begin the process of separating the property in such a way as to represent each person’s share. With bank accounts, the amount is easily calculated. With property or business investments, they must first determine each asset’s value.
Determining the value of a business, for example, must take many factors into account. These include the company’s current market value, the value of tangible assets, and its earning potential. Coming up with a value for certain assets will require research, calculations, and negotiation between the parties, their lawyers and the accountants.
If a couple has a prenuptial agreement, it may likely identify the assets brought into the marriage. This can simplify property division, but it will still be necessary to establish a current valuation.