That’s one of the main things that an attorney can do to help parties resolve this subject, because some clients think, Oh, we’re just going to divide everything 50-50, so they think every bank account, every retirement account is going to be split in half. That’s not realistic and it’s not a smart way to do things. An asset and liability spreadsheet is created based on valuing every asset of the marriage and every debt.
For instance, if it’s a house, we want to have some sort of appraisal or market analysis proving what it’s worth, and we want the mortgage statement, so how much is owed against it. If it’s a business, if someone owns a business, we need to have a business appraisal valuing the business. If it’s a retirement asset, we need to have a statement that shows the balance of that account, or if it’s a pension-type account, we want to know what the stream of income would be at retirement or we want to have an actuary prepare a present value calculation. Every asset is different in the tax implications, so we try to make assets all become the same by applying different taxes to the various assets depending on whether they’re taxed assets or not. But at the end of the day, an attorney can really utilize an asset and liability spreadsheet to make sure that everything is accounted for and that each person knows what they’re going to get. If you’re going for a 50-50 division, that’s the most common way to go. Sometimes you’re not, but if you are, the parties may owe the person what’s called an “equalizing judgment” to make it even, and then you can figure out how they are going to pay that equalizing judgment.
There are a lot of creative things you can do with an asset and liability spreadsheet to help the parties figure out how to divide all of their assets and debts.
Laura Schantz is a family law attorney and mediator practicing in Beaverton, Oregon. To learn more about Laura Schantz and her firm, Schantz Law P.C., visit www.oregondivorceattorney.com.