The concept of community property is simple enough, whether your marital estate is worth $20,000 or $20 million. But for most high net worth couples, several legal issues must be resolved before the parties can begin to negotiate a final distribution of their wealth.
Additional considerations – such as cash flow, third-party creditor issues, egos, and emotions – affect a couple’s ability to reach a fair, practical distribution of the various elements of the estate.
Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., is highly equipped to handle complex property division. Our San Francisco divorce lawyer litigates high-asset divorces throughout the Bay Area, serving clients with a wide range of financial issues, from those holding simple assets to those managing multimillion-dollar marital estates. We have the legal acumen to address the diverse portfolios of high earners, such as entrepreneurs, executives, professionals, venture capitalists, entertainers, and their partners.
Extensive Experience With High-Asset Divorces
Debra R. Schoenberg is a certified* family lawyer, and a respected author and lecturer on community property law and related California family law issues. Her firm obtains results in challenging and high-conflict cases. Ms. Schoenberg has a strong courtroom record and a sophisticated understanding of the comprehensive considerations of high-asset dissolutions, such as:
- High-end homes and other real estate
- Retirement accounts — pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs
- Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)
- Stocks, investments and cash accounts
- Artwork, jewelry, collectibles, vehicles
- Deferred compensation
- Valuation of businesses and professional practices
- Advanced degrees, professional licenses and careers
- Appreciation of separate property
- Transmuted personal assets — inheritance, settlements, investment accounts
- Credit cards, unpaid taxes and other marital debts
- Hidden assets and offshore accounts
- Illicit transfer of assets in anticipation of divorce
- Marital waste (gambling debts, extramarital activities)
- Applicability of prenuptial/postmarital agreements
We engage appraisers, valuation experts, forensic accountants, private investigators, and other professionals as necessary, to assure that every asset has been identified, characterized, and valued so that we can understand the total value of the marital estate. Once we have determined the exact nature of the community estate, we can then provide our clients with appropriate strategies to secure a favorable distribution whether through mediation, negotiation and/or litigation.
“My divorce was not simple. My ex-husband and I are both in the entertainment industry and had no desire for publicity. We did not want to go to court. There were no precedents at the time for the size or complexity of what needed to be sorted out in our divorce. Plus, we were working very diligently at changing the organizing principle in our relationship and wanted to avoid an acrimonious situation. We wanted to continue to own property together and figure out how to share it with one another and our children… Truly, I remain grateful now, two years after the resolution of my divorce, to have worked with SFLG and Debra Schoenberg.”
— A.V. (Read other client testimonials)
Community vs. Separate Property in California
California’s community property law means that all of your marital assets – and debts – will be divided evenly in a divorce or legal separation case, whether or not this is fair for either spouse. The courts do not take into consideration which spouse brought more property or income into the marriage; all assets acquired during the course of the marriage are considered part of the community and will be split down the middle if the case goes to trial.
Separate property, however, is not divisible under California’s community property law. Separate property in a divorce case refers to any property acquired by a party before the marriage or property received by a party during the marriage by gift, inheritance, bequest, devise or descent. Any rents or profits acquired from separate property are also classified as separate from the community.
With potentially 50 percent of all the high-value or complex assets that you have acquired throughout your marriage at stake, the need for a skilled attorney is clear. Hiring a lawyer improves your odds of reaching a settlement outside of California’s community property law and avoiding a costly – and public – court trial.
Complex Property Division Settlement vs. Litigation
In California, a couple looking to get divorced with complex assets will first have the opportunity to come to a settlement agreement before the case goes to court and a judge splits everything 50/50. A settlement is a binding agreement made between a divorcing couple where they collaborate together and come up with property division, child custody, child support and spousal support terms.
If a settlement is reached, the divorce case stays out of court. This keeps both parties in control of the outcome of complex property distribution rather than automatically dividing community property in half. It also keeps the divorce out of the public eye, which can be important for a high-profile couple. In addition, avoiding a trial can save a great deal of time, money and stress. You can increase your odds of achieving a collaborative or uncontested divorce case, even with complex assets, by hiring an experienced property division attorney.
How Can a Complex Property Division Lawyer Help?
Handling complex property division yourself can be difficult and make you vulnerable to mistakes that could have a significant impact on your financial future. Do not risk an adverse case outcome when you have high-value assets on the line. Trust an attorney with your case so that an experienced and knowledgeable professional can handle your property distribution case effectively. A complex property division lawyer in San Francisco can help you in many ways, such as:
- Give you a clear understanding of your situation, assets and legal options.
- Conduct accurate business valuations and real estate appraisals.
- Hire appraisers, forensic accountants and business valuation specialists.
- Look into all financial matters that may impact your future financial security.
- Leave no stone unturned in a detailed evaluation of your marital assets.
- Ensure fair and accurate asset division by organizing and negotiating a settlement.
- Creatively resolve property distribution disputes to avoid protracted litigation.
- Protect your interests at every stage of a divorce proceeding.
- Challenge the assertions of the opposing party using strong evidence.
- Represent you at trial, if necessary, to protect your assets as much as possible.
At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., our lawyers and certified specialists have the resources and knowledge to help you work toward your complex property division goals. We will work relentlessly to protect your assets at every stage of the divorce process. We are prepared to litigate a complicated property division case aggressively to achieve our client’s goals. An attorney can lay the groundwork for your next stage of life so that you can move forward with confidence.
Managing A Complex Divorce
Even when there is ample wealth to divide, property division can be bitterly contested. Ideally, parties should litigate only when legal ambiguities or valuation disputes exist that cannot be solved in mediation or negotiation. However, spouses in high-asset divorces sometimes argue for emotional reasons, and when there is great wealth, some couples feel little financial incentive to be settlement-minded.
We try to be the voice of reason, helping our clients to set realistic goals and choose when to fight and where to let go. While you can’t control what your spouse does, you can protect your interests and shape the outcome of your property settlement. Our goal is to preserve your dignity and humanity in an adversarial process, starting with honest and respectful legal counsel. To speak with our complex property distribution attorneys about the unique considerations in your divorce, please
contact us online or by telephone at 415.834.1120.
* Certified in Family Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.