13 Assets You Shouldn’t Forget in Your Divorce
By Noreen Bratton, NJCP
If you are walking down the path of divorce from your spouse, you know it is a highly emotional and difficult time for you, your spouse, and your children. Early in the divorce process, your attorney will request that you provide a comprehensive list of all of your assets. While this may be a daunting task, all assets need to be considered when divorcing. It is easy to remember to tell your attorney about the most obvious assets such as the marital home, bank accounts, automobiles, investment accounts, retirement accounts and businesses. There are many assets that hold value, whether monetary or sentimental, which are often forgotten in discussions with your divorce attorney.
These are some of those assets to remember to discuss with your attorney:
- Timeshares: While you may only spend one week per year at a timeshare that you invested in several years ago with your spouse, this is a real estate holding which will require valuation and re-titling in the determination of equitable distribution.
- Collections: Do you or your spouse collect antiques, art work, coins, stamps, fine china, etc.? Such collections hold value which may require an appraisal to determine their worth. Don’t be surprised if your spouse who never paid any attention to your hobby and passion of collecting a particular item throughout your marriage all of a sudden requests to keep your collection in the divorce or at least be paid for one-half of its value.
- Memberships: Do you and your spouse belong to an exclusive Country Club, Tennis Club or Swimming Club? Some organizations require that you apply for and purchase a bond in order to become a member. Those bond and club memberships hold value and often times, some exclusive memberships have long waiting lines for approval. Who gets to keep the club membership?
- Frequent Flyer Miles/Loyalty Rewards: Do you and/or your spouse have credit cards that accumulate frequent flyer miles or reward points? In some cases, these can really be of significant value. Some credit card companies allow you to divide and transfer miles and rewards. If they cannot be divided or transferred when divorcing, the value will need to be determined.
- Lawsuit proceeds: Are you or your spouse involved in a lawsuit that may result in settlement proceeds being awarded in the future? Post-separation or post-divorce? Sometimes, lawsuits can drag on for several years resulting in a settlement long after the divorce.
- Lottery ticket/Drawing: Have you or your spouse purchased a lottery ticket? Have you or your spouse purchased a raffle ticket at your local church for an entry to win an automobile, vacation getaway or big screen television and the drawing is not for several months away? What happens to the “prize” if you win while divorcing?
- Pets: Who gets to keep the family dog? This has become a hot topic in family law in the past few years. While the dog may not be a pedigree with significant monetary value, the family dog is often considered a member of the family and holds immense emotional value.
- Intellectual Property: Do you or your spouse own any patents, copyrights or trademarks? This may be considered under the valuation of a business, but can often be treated separately. For example, if either party owns a patent for an invention, a copyright on a book or royalties that continue to be paid over time. Intellectual property holds value which will need to be determined.
- Digital Assets: Some married couples share digital accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Many of us use these digital accounts to store memories, photos, and contact information for friends and family. Do either of you run a website or blog? What happens to ownership rights of these accounts?
- Digital downloads: Some married couples also share accounts to download music, movies and e-books. What happens to these downloads? We no longer hold DVD’s or CD’s in our hands to divvy up, however, these downloads can hold both monetary and emotional value.
- Cemetery plots: Did you purchase cemetery plots with your spouse to spend the after-life together? Your attorney will assume that you changed your mind in the divorce. Cemetery plots can be quite costly and are treated similar to real estate with a Deed issued to those who hold title.
- Photographs: While it is becoming less popular, some people still print photographs or even take their children to professional photography studios for portraits. Both parents will want to retain photographs and videos of their children.
- Tax Refunds: Do you anticipate that you or your spouse will receive a Federal and/or State Income Tax refund for tax returns filed during the marriage? Whether you filed jointly or individually, this issue should be discussed with your attorney.
As a sign of the times, these are just a few examples of forgotten assets in a divorce that need to be considered and discussed with your attorney. As the world continues to evolve and modern technology continues to progress, “thinking outside the obvious box” will need to occur to remember forgotten assets in a divorce.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.
Noreen Bratton is a New Jersey Certified Paralegal (NJCP) in Obermayer’s South Jersey office. If you would like to speak to one of our NJ family law attorneys, please call (856) 795-3300.