The first thing that you have to evaluate is identify the property. Sometimes in high asset cases, there are a lot of different assets that you have to define. You have to look at the categories of property that you have and you have to be able to establish a value for that property. For example, if you have pieces of real estate, you have to consider whether or not you need to hire an appraiser to establish a value for that property.
You also have to think about whether or not you or the other party owned that property at the time of the marriage. Under Colorado law, property that you owned at the time of the marriage, unless there are certain unique situations that occur, for example, you converted to jointly titled property, is your separate property. Any increase in value in that property during the marriage does become marital. Perhaps you had a home that you owned at the time of the marriage and you continued to reside in that home with your spouse. You’re going to want to get an appraisal of that home as of the date of the marriage and a current appraisal because only the increase in value during the marriage is going to be subject to division.
Other aspects that you need to consider are whether or not one party has, for example, stock options, whether there are retirement benefits that need to be valued. Also, whether or not there are pensions or other defined benefit plans that need to be valued. For example, if you’re spouse is a participate in PERA, then you’re going to need to get evaluation of that benefit because there’s going to be a component that’s marital in nature. If you did have a 401K at the time of the marriage, then you’re going to want to get copies of the account statements for that 401K at the time of the marriage and then you’re going to need to get current copies. Any increase in value during the marriage is marital, but what you brought into the marriage is separate property.
You have to go through and define the assets that you have and you have to come up with expert values for those assets or perhaps you were able to agree on a value with your spouse. You’re going to have to identify and arrive at values. Also, you’re going to have to quantify the debts that you have, credit card debt, other unsecured debt. You’re going to want to be able to identify those accounts and then ask yourself in a practical manner if someone has a visa credit card debt in a pretty high amount, how is that going to be paid for? How is that going to be dealt with? Perhaps you have a joint credit card debt that’s pretty substantial. You’re going to have to figure out how you’re going to handle that, and ultimately, how you’re going to essentially arrive at an equitable division of the assets and debts.
Here at Lewis & Matthews, we know quite a few experts, CPAs, appraisers, and other individuals that can help you in valuing your marital estate and coming up with a plan moving forward. You’ll be asked to do mediation in most counties, and so it’s important to go into mediation with an understanding of what the marital estate consists of and a plan regarding how it’s going to be divided up. For example, it’s not going to do you much good if you have a joint credit card debt and one person’s going to take responsibility for that and doesn’t make the payments. You’re still going to be affected. You have to think about that from a practical standpoint and we can help guide you through that process.