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Navigating financially-complex divorces

For Florida couples going through divorce, the process can be overwhelming, both financially and emotionally. Simple property division typically involves tangible objects and decisions regarding who gets what. While simple property division may seem straightforward, it can be decidedly more challenging to divide abstract financial assets. Two of the most difficult things to divide are stock options and restricted stock.

Stock options are usually seen in startup companies, which are companies with high potential and low current wealth. With stock options, a company typically gives its employees the option to purchase stock in the future at a deep discount. Some employees may choose to hold onto the stock, but they may also sell the stock and make a considerable profit. Restricted stock is a similar option in which employees are given company stock. It costs nothing, but restrictions are placed on it. Usually, an employee has to stay on for a number of years before the stock can be transferred.

In some divorce cases, a spouse is completely unaware of the other spouse's stock. Stock options and restricted stock do not show up on W-2 forms or other statements, and spouses who have them may not disclose them. In some cases, a lawyer or investigator can attempt to find out if a spouse is concealing these stocks. While they won't grant astronomical wealth, stock options and restricted stock have led to some famous payoffs in the past, and they can be quite lucrative.

For those undergoing divorce, it's important to ensure that all spousal assets are discovered and documented. In order to make sure that a fair and equitable asset division occurs, it may be helpful to talk to a lawyer with family law and divorce experience.

Source: Forbes, "Dividing Stock Options And Restricted Stock In Divorce", Jeff Landers, March 19, 2014

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