High-Asset Divorces in Utah: Unique Challenges and Strategies

Are you contemplating divorce or currently going through one? Navigating a divorce is never easy, but in a high-asset divorce, the challenges can be even more complex. 

A high-asset divorce involves a couple who has significant assets and wealth. From determining the value of business assets to splitting investment accounts, unique challenges must be addressed.

Challenges Involved in the High-Asset Divorce Process

In Utah, high-asset divorces come with their own set of obstacles and considerations that require careful planning and strategic decision-making. 

Understanding the following issues can help you protect your assets and achieve the best possible outcome.

Complex asset valuation

The marital estate refers to all the assets and debts acquired by both spouses during their marriage. Utah follows an equitable distribution principle for divorce. In long-term marriages, assets are likely to be split 50/50. For short-term marriages, spouses may be returned to the economic position they were in before marriage.

Regardless of the length of marriage, the court’s goal is to ensure assets are divided in a fair and equitable manner. These factors include each party’s contributions to the acquisition of the assets and his or her earning capacity.

One major challenge of property division is the intricacies of complex asset valuation. When a couple has significant wealth and assets, determining the value of marital assets can be quite difficult.

This is because high-net-worth couples often have:

  • Diverse investment portfolios
  • Business interests
  • Real estate holdings
  • Retirement accounts
  • Intellectual property

Determining the value of these assets may require the help of:

  • Appraisers and valuation experts
  • Forensic accountants
  • Divorce attorneys
  • Mediators
  • Other knowledgeable professionals who can shed light on the value of assets

Determining marital assets vs. separate assets

Often, major challenges in high-asset divorces arise when parties are trying to decide which assets should be considered separate property or marital property.

Separate property refers to assets that were acquired by either spouse before marriage. It may also be property gained by inheritance or gifted during the marriage. 

Separate property may be:

  • Properties owned prior to marriage
  • Inheritances received solely by one spouse
  • Assets gifted during the marriage
  • Personal property includes items such as
  • Vehicles
  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Other tangible possessions

These items are generally considered separate unless they were purchased using marital funds.

In general, marital assets are subject to division during divorce proceedings. Separate assets typically remain with their respective owners. However, there may be exceptions depending on specific circumstances. These include the co-mingling of funds or contributions made by one spouse towards increasing the value of a separate asset.

Determining which assets fall into each category involves analyzing financial records. The goal is to trace the origin and ownership of:

  • Properties
  • Investments
  • Bank accounts
  • Other valuable items
  • Dividing real estate holdings and multiple properties

The physical and financial division of property also poses another hurdle in high-asset divorces. Why? High-asset divorces in Utah often involve complex issues surrounding real estate holdings. Sometimes, a couple may own multiple properties.

Marital estates can include:

  • Vacation homes
  • Rental properties
  • Income earned by both spouses during their union

The value of real estate can greatly impact the financial outcome for both parties involved.

The value of each property may be determined by:

  • Sentimental attachments
  • The current market value of each property
  • Location and condition of the home
  • Potential rental income

These evaluations will serve as a basis for determining how to divide the real estate assets.

Deciding who gets the family home

As we have discussed, determining what constitutes marital property can be challenging. Many assume that the family home falls under this category automatically. However, this isn’t always the case.

The classification and division of the family home may depend on:

  • Prenuptial agreements
  • The spouse who owned the home prior to getting married
  • The spouse who received the home as a gift or inheritance
  • The person who holds the title to the house
  • Mortgage payments made during the marriage with joint funds
  • Contributions made by each spouse towards improvements and maintenance

In some cases, both spouses have contributed significantly to mortgage payments. One spouse may have even paid for major improvements on a premarital home.

When this is the case, the courts may decide to classify a portion of its value as marital property. This means that only that portion would be subject to division.

Assigning debt and financial obligations

Marital debt and financial obligations can add a layer of complexity to high-asset divorces in Utah. It is important to determine which debts are marital and which are separate.

Marital debts typically include those incurred during the marriage for the benefit of both spouses, such as:

  • Mortgages
  • Car loans
  • Credit card debt used for joint expenses

On the other hand, separate debts may include those acquired before the marriage or after legal separation. For example, student loans taken out before getting married usually remain with the individual who borrowed them. But what if both spouses benefited from higher education during the marriage? In that case, there might be some room for negotiation. 

Allocating debt fairly requires careful consideration of each party’s income and ability to repay. In some cases, one spouse may take on more debt in exchange for receiving a larger share of assets. Alternatively, couples may opt to sell jointly owned assets and use proceeds to pay off debts.

Classifying gifts and dividing inheritances

Inheritances can complicate matters due to their unique nature and the emotional value attached to them. In Utah, assets acquired before marriage or received as an inheritance are generally viewed as separate property. 

What if the inheritance has been commingled with marital funds or used for joint purposes? In that case, it may be subject to division.

Determining the value of business interests

Determining the value of business interests in a divorce can be a complex and challenging process. One way to determine the value is through financial statements and records provided by the business owner. 

These documents show the company’s earnings, expenses, and overall financial health. However, it’s not always as simple as reviewing financial statements. In some cases, a forensic accountant may need to uncover any hidden assets or financial discrepancies.

Dividing retirement benefits and pension plans

Retirement benefits and pension plans represent years of hard work and dedication. They serve as a source of financial security during retirement, providing income stability for the future.

Retirement and pension assets can hold substantial value and are often considered part of the marital estate. Due to this, they are normally subject to division during divorce proceedings.

One key aspect to consider is whether retirement benefits or pension plans are separate property or marital property. In Utah, any contributions made during the marriage are generally considered to be marital property. Suppose one spouse already had these accounts before getting married. In that case, these may be classified as separate property.

Splitting investment portfolios

Investment portfolios are also subject to division during divorce proceedings. These may include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate investments, and more. Consider the current value of these investments and any potential future growth or income they may generate.

Some investments may be considered separate property if they were acquired before marriage. Alternatively, they may be gained through inheritance. However, this distinction can become blurred if marital funds are used for maintenance or growth during the marriage. 

For example, one option is for each spouse to receive an equal portion of all investments. One spouse may keep certain investments while compensating the other spouse with other marital assets.

Understanding the tax implications of a high-asset divorce

Tax implications and liquidity are important considerations among high-asset divorces in Utah. When dividing assets, you need to understand the potential tax consequences of property transfers. For example, transferring real estate or investment accounts may trigger capital gains taxes. 

You should work with a financial advisor or tax professional during the dividing process. He or she can help you minimize these tax liabilities. 

Liquidity is another key factor to consider during asset division. Some assets may not be easily converted into cash without significant time and effort. In contrast, money market accounts can be more readily accessed for immediate financial needs.

Determining spousal support when one spouse has been the main provider

Spousal support, including separate maintenance and alimony, is a critical aspect of high-asset divorces and separations in Utah. It involves one spouse providing financial assistance to the other during and after the divorce process. Spousal support maintains the financial stability of the lower-earning or non-working spouse. This is so neither spouse experiences undue financial hardship. 

In high-asset divorces, it is not uncommon for one spouse to earn significantly more than the other. He or she may even be the sole provider financially. Financial disparities between spouses can lead to contentious arguments and resentment. 

The higher-earning spouse may feel burdened by potential alimony payments. In contrast, the lower-earning spouse may worry about his or her financial stability post-divorce.

When determining spousal support in these cases, courts consider factors such as each party’s:

  • Earning capacity
  • Standard of living during marriage
  • Age and health
  • Contributions to the household

Agreeing on child custody and child support arrangements

Child custody and support can be one of the most complex aspects of high-asset divorce in Utah. When children are involved, their well-being must always be the top priority.

Since high-asset couples may have varying levels of income and assets, the court considers these factors:

  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs
  • Their relationship with the child
  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse, among other things
  • The number of children involved
  • Healthcare costs
  • Daycare expenses and any special needs or expenses

Strategies for Protecting Your Interests in a High-Asset Divorce

The following are reliable strategies to consider when safeguarding your assets during a high-asset divorce.

Gather all relevant financial documents and records

Documentation includes bank statements, investment portfolios, and business valuations. It also includes tax returns and any documentation that proves the existence and value of your assets.

Consult a financial advisor or forensic accountant

These experts can analyze your assets and provide insights on how to protect them during the divorce process. They can help you understand complex financial matters and ensure that you receive a fair division of assets.

Do you own patents, copyrights, trademarks, or other forms of intellectual property? Then, be sure to safeguard your intellectual property rights. Speak with experts who can assess property value accurately for division purposes.

Also, consider a postnuptial agreement, which defines how property should be split.

Ask your family law attorney about Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)

A QDRO is a legal order outlining how retirement accounts and pension plans will be distributed between both spouses. It can help spouses divide assets while complying with federal laws governing employee benefit programs, such as 401(k) or pensions.

Don’t hide assets

Even if it seems like a good idea, do not attempt to hide assets from your ex-spouse. Rather, your lawyer will advise you to open and disclose all of your:

  • Bank accounts
  • Investments portfolios
  • Money market accounts
  • Business interests
  • Any other valuable assets you own

Attempting to conceal assets or manipulate financial information can have serious legal consequences.

Take a future-focused approach when negotiating your divorce settlement

Approach the divorce process with a clear financial plan for life after the divorce. You need to consider how your lifestyle may change post-divorce. Then, make appropriate adjustments to your budget. Inquire about spousal support, child custody arrangements, and potential tax implications.

Do not make decisions based on emotions during this challenging time. Being respectful and civil towards your ex-spouse can go a long way toward achieving an amicable resolution.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods for High-Asset Divorces in Utah

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provides divorcing couples with an alternative to traditional litigation. This allows the spouses to resolve their divorce in a more amicable and efficient manner.

These resolution options include the following.

Collaborative divorce

In a collaborative divorce, both parties work together, each with their respective attorney, to reach a fair settlement. This approach encourages open communication and problem-solving while minimizing conflict. It can also be a cost-effective option for couples willing and able to communicate effectively.


A neutral mediator can facilitate discussions between the divorcing spouses. The mediator assists in finding common ground and reaching agreements on various issues. These issues may involve property division, spousal support, child custody, and support arrangements.


An arbitrator or judge makes binding decisions on contested issues when negotiations fail. This method is similar to litigation but offers greater privacy than going to court.

Finding the Best Path Forward for Your High-Asset Divorce

When it comes to high-asset divorces, having the right legal counsel is crucial. At Brown Family Law, our legal team has a proven track record of success in handling complex divorce cases. 

Our attorneys follow a collaborative approach to building a comprehensive strategy for your high-asset divorce. We aim to work closely with you, expert witnesses, financial professionals, and your spouse’s legal team to develop personalized strategies that work for you. Our attorneys will tirelessly advocate for you every step of the way to ensure your best interests are protected.

With careful planning and the right legal team, you can successfully navigate the challenges of a high-asset divorce in Utah. Brown Family Law’s attorneys can provide you with the guidance you need throughout this complex process.

Don’t leave your future up to chance — trust the attorneys of Brown Family Law for reliable guidance during this challenging time. Schedule a consultation today by calling 801-685-9999 or filling out our online form. Let us help you find the best path forward for your high-asset divorce in Utah.

Published On: January 11th, 2024Categories: For AttorneysComments Off on High-Asset Divorces in Utah: Unique Challenges and Strategies
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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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