Navigating the complexities of a divorce with foreign assets

New York couples who have been married for a long time may have accumulated substantial assets and might face more complex issues when they choose to divorce. The issues can be particularly complex when some of the assets are held in other countries. Property located in other countries might be titled differently or be subject to the foreign country’s civil laws, which can vary widely. How the assets are structured can also be an issue.

Titling problems

While the U.S. recognizes tenancies by the entirety for real property, some other countries do not. A tenancy by the entirety will be severed when a couple divorces so that each spouse will be a tenant in common and have an equal share in the property. However, other countries might not recognize a tenancy by the entirety and instead have property titled as a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. If the title to the property is not addressed and changed during the divorce, an ex-spouse will inherit the property after the other one dies. Civil law countries may also treat other types of marital property differently than it is treated in New York. This means that other types of assets held in foreign countries might be subject to those countries’ laws instead of U.S. laws.

Structuring issues

Many affluent families structure their wealth to minimize or avoid taxes they might have to pay so that their family’s wealth can be preserved. When some of these assets are held overseas, understanding which laws will apply to them is important. Depending on where the assets are held, it might be difficult to enforce the court’s orders in regards to dividing them in a high-asset divorce.

People who want to end their marriages and who have built substantial wealth may want to work with family law attorneys who are experienced with handling complex asset division issues. An experienced attorney might work with forensic accountants to track down assets that might have been hidden overseas and research the laws in the foreign country to address any problems before the decree is issued.