Division of Assets and Debts
During family law litigation proceedings, most cases involve community assets and debts that must be divided by the courts. “Community” refers to the assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage and fall under the responsibility of both parties.
Various factors can affect what is to be considered community property as opposed to separate property of either spouse. These factors can include the existence of a prenuptial agreement and the extent to which either party has contributed their separate property toward the acquisition of a community asset. Additionally, there are also some limited rules that permit either party to be reimbursed for using their separate property to pay community debts after the parties have separated under certain circumstances.
Generally speaking, the division of community assets and debts is a mathematical function, and it is not difficult or time consuming, except in cases where the parties cannot agree upon the value of assets. It is our experience that the parties can most often agree upon the value of most of the household furniture and furnishings. Generally, it is the value of real estate, businesses, and unique personal property such as artwork and memorabilia where the parties disagree and either negotiate an agreed upon value or litigate the value.
In cases where real property is at issue, Mr. Dickerson will utilize a certified real estate appraiser to provide an opinion as to the fair market value of the property. In cases where the value of a business is at issue, we will utilize a forensic expert who has the credentials of both a certified public accountant as well as a certified business appraiser. In cases where unique personal property such as artwork or memorabilia are at issue, we have a network of experts in both fields who will render their opinions as to the fair market value of said items.
In all cases, Mr. Dickerson will attempt to settle all property issues without unnecessary litigation. We take the time to explain any areas in which forensic experts may disagree with regard to the value of assets to provide our clients with a full understanding of the issues being discussed. Often compromises can be made on various factors to be considered in valuing businesses and/or real estate, even if the ultimate value cannot be agreed upon. This reduces the amount of attorneys’ fees and trial time necessary to litigate these issues.