Assets are usually valued at the date of the divorce. In times like these, when the value of everything seems to be changing more rapidly than in the past, it often makes sense to divide assets by percentage. For example, you might agree that you and your spouse will each get 50% of the combined amount in your 401(k) plans. Another approach is to agree in principle to how you are going to divide things, set a date for your final divorce hearing, and then, in the days or week before the hearing, you can fill in the blanks and do the final math. This approach works very well if you have online access to account information. If you only get quarterly statements from your accounts, however, that approach is not really appropriate.
Another approach couples often take is to arbitrarily set a valuation date. For example, you might choose to value all of your assets as of September 1, even though you know your divorce won’t be final until October 1. Unless assets are really going up and down like a roller coaster, valuing assets within a reasonable time prior to the divorce often works perfectly well. On the other hand, if you go through a whole trial, rather than settle your case, the judge will more likely than not value your assets as of the date of the trial.
Karen A. Covy, J.D is an attorney and family-law mediator in Chicago. She owns and operates Midwest Mediation as well as a successful family-law firm.