Forbes Article: Legal Solutions to Complex Matrimonial Disputes

As Seen in Forbes Magazine, Chicago Women Business Leaders Edition, June 10, 2013 Legal Solutions to Complex Matrimonial Disputes

When an affluent couple was going through a divorce, the wife was in the dark regarding the value of the marital estate. Her husband, a savvy business executive, had always managed their finances. The woman turned to the Oak Brook, Illinois based Bennett Law Firm for help.

“The husband was deceptive about how much money he had,” says Margaret Bennett, founding partner. “Our investigation uncovered $225,000 in hidden assets. The wife had no knowledge of what properties she and her husband owned.”

Divorce is never easy, particularly when children, large sums of money, personal property or family-owned businesses are at stake. The right legal representation is critical to understanding complex financial circumstances and resolving difficult cases efficiently. One of the leading boutique matrimonial law firms in the Chicagoland area, the Bennett Law Firm leaves no stone unturned when helping clients put the past behind them and move on with their lives.

“We understand business valuation, tax law, complicated marital estates and other financial issues,” Bennett says.

While vigorously representing clients’ interests, the Bennett Law Firm is also sensitive to the needs of children who are affected by their parents’ divorce. Bennett is a frequent lecturer on the subject of child support, and serves on the state’s Child Support Advisory Committee and the Illinois State Bar Association Family Law Section Council. She is helping to draft child-focused legislation that attempts to reduce parental conflict for families in transition. Bennett’s passion is to help legislators improve Illinois laws pertaining to families and children in crisis.

Bennett has been named by Chicago Magazine as one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys and Top 100 Attorneys in Illinois. Experienced and respected, she is both a skilled negotiator and a tough-as-nails litigator, always seeking the best possible outcome in one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face. Specially trained in the collaborative law process in family law matters, Bennett helps clients avoid litigation when possible.

“One of the hardest things anyone can go through is when their spouse leaves them with an uncertain financial future,” she says. “I like being able to help clients walk out of court with a smile on their face, knowing they are going to have a secure financial future.”

Six Marital Assets You Cannot Afford to Overlook

Divorce may cause you to view your life and possessions through a fresh pair of eyes. Dividing marital assets becomes necessary in most divorce cases. This may cause you to feel depressed when faced with the possibility of selling the family home, dividing financial assets, or even parting with your prized espresso machine. While your feelings are valid, it is important to remember that emotions often cloud the mind, and acting on your emotions can have negative and long-term effects. Remaining focused enables you to review all of your marital and non-marital assets objectively. It is nearly impossible to compile a comprehensive list of assets in one sitting. For instance, have you considered calculating the value of your travel reward points, a small 401(k) plan from a previous employer, or even photographs or keepsakes? These items may seem to have little worth, but small assets add up. It is best that you are fully aware of all of your marital and non-marital property so you can retain the possessions you are entitled to at the conclusion of your divorce. Some of the most obvious assets like real estate, retirement plans, investments, and/or bank accounts are likely to get a lot of attention when discussing your separation. Not-so-obvious assets can be easily forgotten during divorce proceedings. Below is a list of six assets that are often overlooked.
  1. Retirement Plans from Previous Employment:

Many times pension plans and defined contribution plans from prior employment, such as 401(k) plans, or profit sharing plans, acquired during the marriage are overlooked in divorce proceedings. All retirement plans acquired during the marriage are subject to division by the court. A detailed employment history and benefits for you and your spouse should be provided to your attorney especially if the former employer offered a retirement plan to the employees.
  1. Memberships:

When you have a private club membership in an “equity” club, whether to a country club, golf club, or yacht/sailing club, you are entitled to part of the membership’s value. It does not matter whether or not you actively used the club membership during your marriage; it is a marital asset and should be considered. Given the exorbitant membership fees associated with private equity club memberships, this is something you don’t want to leave out of the list of marital assets.
  1. Collectors’ Items:

A collection of vintage stamps, baseball cards, rare coins, or other collectables acquired during the marriage are considered assets of the marriage and should be appraised. It is easy to forget collectors’ items especially if you did not take interest in your spouse’s hobby. Similarly, any collectors’ edition item your spouse acquired during the marriage is also part of common property. When reviewing your marital assets, take into consideration items such as comic books, first edition books and records, sports memorabilia, and related items that are valuable now or may have value in the future. There are appraisers who can value these special items for you during your divorce proceedings.
  1. Trademarks and Patents:

If your spouse has registered patents, trademarks, or received royalties, be sure to include them in your divorce settlement. Ideas and inventions are rarely successful overnight, so it is possible that this asset can be overlooked when creating your list of shared property. Additionally, there is a chance that the asset will become lucrative in the future. Be sure to include patents, trademarks, and royalties in your divorce settlement so that you can share in future benefits.
  1. Money Due From Others:

Remember, your spouse’s debtors are your debtors too. In the upheaval of divorce, you may have forgotten that your spouse loaned money to a third party or business. But when the loan is repaid, you ought to receive a portion of the monies repaid. Make sure you don’t miss out on the repayment.
  1. Non-Wage Employee Benefits:

Stock options, restricted stock units, defined benefits and other non-wage benefits provided to an employee from an employer are marital assets which should not be overlooked in a divorce proceeding. A thorough list of employee benefits should be provided to your attorney to be included in the property settlement agreement so that you receive a proportionate share of same when paid to your spouse. These six assets can easily be overlooked during the emotional upheaval of divorce.  Divorce is not easy. It is emotional, time consuming and, sometimes, a complex process. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you remain focused and level-headed when it comes to dividing your assets. Take care not to forget intangible assets and move forward in life without regrets. Contact Margaret Bennett at Bennett Law Firm, LLC, today about the not-so-obvious assets you should consider when pursuing a divorce.