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Complex property division, one step at a time

Over the life of a marriage, couples can accumulate a number of assets. It is no surprise then that when a couple gets divorced, it can take some time and effort to make an equitable division of the marital property.

This is particularly true where a complex property division is involved, such as when the couple has substantial assets or assets that involve complex valuation. Fortunately, a divorce case is structured to allow both sides the time and opportunity to obtain an equitable distribution of property, including making the necessary valuation of assets.

The first step in any divorce is the filing of the divorce complaint or petition. This document contains one spouse’s reason for divorcing and how that spouse desires to divide marital property, child custody and other issues.

The divorce complaint is not a mere formality. Indeed, one man was recently charged with forgery after he altered a divorce decree from his first wife to make it appear as though he was divorced from his second wife. The man mailed the altered divorce decree to his girlfriend to try to show her he was divorced from his second wife. Now, the man is facing up to three years in prison for the forgery. The proper process, of course, would have been for the man to actually file a divorce petition against his second wife and proceed through the divorce case.

After the divorce petition is filed, the opposing party then files an answer to the petition, which sets forth how the other spouse wants to handle the division of assets, etc.

The bulk of time thereafter is spent in obtaining necessary information for the divorce. Spouses may have their own experts conduct appraisals of certain assets, for example.

In discovery, spouses will exchange information about assets. This includes both the existence of certain assets, and what value a party places upon the asset. Ultimately, this information will be the basis for any settlement or trial between the spouses, and thus each side is entitled to discover the other party’s information that will be presented at trial.

Source: The Times and Democrat, “Summerville man accused of forging divorce papers,” April 6, 2013