Dividing Uncommon Assets: Unique Things You Might Have to Split in Divorce
Laws surrounding divorce and family law may be written in well-defined terms, but the situations to which they apply will always be different. That is most certainly the case in matters of property division.
Under Texas law, community or martial property is subject to being split when spouses part ways. This generally includes:
- Property acquired during the course of the marriage;
- Property acquired by on spouse before marriage (separate property) that’s later deeded to both spouses (like a home or rental property);
- Separate property which becomes comingled with marital assets.
While characterizing community and separate assets is a challenging task all unto its own, and something that may require forensic tracing, it’s done for the purpose of property division – whether it’s understanding ownership, value, percentages, and other nuanced details for negotiations at the settlement table, a mediation, or trial.
At Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C., our divorce attorneys have worked with all types of clients and families across the state of Texas, and have handled many cases involving unique assets and complex property division. While many clients have the standard types of assets they understand will be subject to division – such as a family home, a shared bank account, and a retirement or pension fund – some have assets which are less common.
Unique Assets Divisible in Divorce
Because spouses with unique assets have many questions as to how those unique holdings will be divided in divorce, it’s common for us to explain how the process of property division generally works, our experience with unique assets and complex property division, and our access to various resources and experts who can assist in valuing less-than-common pieces of property, and any particular laws, issues, or implications which may arise.
To help you get a better grasp on what types of unique assets may be divided in divorce, and how they can potentially complicate a case, here are a few examples:
Plenty of people have collectible items, and if they’re characterized as community property, they can be divided in divorce. Whether that will happen and how it works depends a lot on the nature of the items, and the parties involved.
Do the collectibles carry more emotional or sentimental value than financial value? Collections of items which have little if any actual monetary value, like old t-shirts from all the Hard Rock restaurants you’ve been to in your travels, aren’t always important to both spouses, and don’t have to be divided. Other collectibles, including rare and valuable collections of artwork, old cars, comic books, coins, and memorabilia, can be a large part of the marital estate, and may require expert valuation. If there’s emotional attachment to things, negotiations or trade-offs may be required in order to keep a full collection in tact.
2. Family Pets
Today, dogs and cats have become more than just pets; they’re part of the family. In Texas, however, they’re considered assets and are subject to laws of community / separate property for the purposes of division. While some states are re-evaluating the way pets are handled in divorce cases, and passing pet custody laws, most do not. Still, that doesn’t mean divorcing spouses in states that don’t have such laws can’t arrive at their own agreements regarding their beloved pets.
Jewelry can obviously be quite valuable from a financial perspective. It can also be an emotional keepsake. Not only will jewelry need to be characterized as community or separate property (such as whether it was obtained during the marriage or given to a spouse as part of an inheritance), it will also need to be properly valued and appraised. As far as wedding rings go, it’s usually the recipient’s to keep. However, courts have made exceptions in some cases, such as those involving broken engagements, domestic violence, or adultery.
Photos, physical items, and other real keepsakes typically have more emotional value than monetary worth. Usually, these types of things aren’t divided in the same way larger pieces of property are, but that doesn’t mean spouses will always agree about who keeps what. Compromise and the willingness to communicate can go a long way when it comes to avoiding disputes over the small stuff, and more time to focus on finances and the future.
6. Intangible Property
Some forms of property can’t be seen or held, but may still have value attached them that needs to be accounted for when dividing assets in divorce. That includes obvious intangible assets like trademarks, patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property. It may also include things that, while not tangible, can be used to purchase tangible items, such as rewards points or frequent flyer miles.
7. Farms & Ranches / Oil, Gas & Mineral Rights
Texas is home to many unique properties, including valuable land and real property which provide incomes to one or both spouses. This is particular true when land is used for hunting, farming or ranching, and when landowners have rights to oil, gas, and mineral interests.
8. Other Uncommon Property
Texas is home to all types of people, professions, and property. When unique assets are involved in property division proceedings, it’s important to call in the right attorneys who have the experience and resources to accurately value and appraise less-than-common divisible assets, and address any legal implications that may be involved – such as taxation, business laws and regulations, and medical practice ownership.
Our firm is capable of helping divorce clients with many different types of unusual assets, including:
- Businesses, ownership interests, and intellectual property
- Medical and professional practices
- Stock options and investments
- Retirement / pension plans for certain professions
- Private jets / transportation
- Digital or virtual assets, including Bitcoin
From prenups and high net worth to prized possessions and hidden assets, our legal team has seen a lot when it comes to property division in Texas. If you have questions about the division of a particular asset in your divorce, and how our team can help, call (713) 909-7323 or contact us online to speak with a lawyer.