Why Experience Matters When Dividing/Allocating Property
Every divorce involves property. All spouses who file in Colorado must abide by the same equitable distribution laws when dividing their property. This might make you ask the question, “Does having a highly experienced lawyer really matter?” Put another way, “Do I really need to pay for experience?”
At Daniel Barron Attorney And Mediation Services, Inc., we know that the answer is a resounding yes. Experience matters, particularly in cases involving complex property or high net worth estates, but why?
Six Reasons You Need An Experienced Lawyer
Modifying a property settlement is difficult if not impossible in Colorado, which is why you need to ensure that you get it right the first time. Below are six of the many reasons experience is necessary to accomplish this goal:
- Equitable division is not a simple 50/50 split. Equitable division of assets is about fairness, not equality. While it could result in each spouse walking away with 50 percent of the value, it is not a guarantee nor is it appropriate in many situations. You must balance how the division of property is formulated while also considering all factors; i.e. maintenance/spousal support.
- Every case is unique. The type of property you own and determining who is entitled to which assets, who is responsible for what debt and in what amounts make your case unique. You can’t just fill in the blanks or insert boiler plate terms. An attorney who has handled hundreds of divorces can anticipate challenges, proactively prepare and most importantly, negotiate, litigate and draft an agreement that protects your interests.
- A house isn’t the only property you own. A house is often the most expensive asset couples own, but property division includes everything. You have to consider your cars, business ownership, investments, retirement accounts, stock options, life insurance benefits, season tickets, furniture, inheritances, employer benefits, vacation property, deferred compensation plans, annuities and many other types of assets — each with their own unique valuations and considerations.
- Property division is a contract for your future. You must consider factors such as whether you will have enough liquid assets to sustain your desired standard of living after the divorce. You need to plan for retirement or decide whether you want a family business to stay in the family. Considering how these decisions affect you now and in the future is critical and requires competent professional advice.
- It is difficult to trace separate interests in commingled property. In general, property acquired during the marriage is subject to division. Property acquired prior to the marriage is considered separate property. But what if you opened your 401(k) prior to the marriage and contributed to it during the marriage? What if you made improvements to real property with an inheritance? Not only must you characterize assets and debt appropriately as separate or marital property, but you also must determine which portion of the value is separate and how an individual’s contribution from separate assets to marital assets is figured into an equitable division.
Qualified domestic relations orders (QDROs) are complicated documents. Retirement assets are important, but there are strict rules and severe penalties regarding transfers of these assets. A QDRO helps protect the interests and direct benefits to alternative payees. A QDRO is a highly technical document, and it is essential that yours is free of any errors.
I have significant experience handling complex estates in divorce, but I do not always work alone. A successful property settlement may require consulting with other professionals such as financial planners, real estate experts and appraisers. I know whom I should consult and when and how to allocate your funds strategically.
Let’s Talk About Your Marital Estate
Call my office at (970) 926-6636 or email me to schedule your first consultation. I represent spouses who live in the Western Slope including Eagle, Summit, Garfield, Lake, Pitkin and Chaffee Counties, and I also represent individuals in the Front Range.