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Counting The Money In A Silicon Valley Divorce

In the big-money world of tech, divorces can cost what others might consider a fortune. For some entrepreneurs, a pile of newly-found wealth can embolden the urge to fight hard to keep it. For spouses married to tech entrepreneurs, a generous settlement may be their best shot at financial security for the rest of their lives. They're going to fight hard, too. At issue is the alleged king's ransom they're fighting over. Dividing the significant wealth that accumulates in the tech world isn't as easy as dividing piles of hundred-dollar bills, though. In Silicon Valley, wealth often comes in other forms that can be more difficult to divide.

  • Stocks. Much of the wealth of tech entrepreneurs may be tied up in stocks. That means that their net worth depends greatly on market factors. Sometimes spouses of those in the tech industry assume that they married someone who is worth much more than they actually are.
  • Restricted stocks. These stocks are subject to certain conditions. For example, an employee or entrepreneur may have to stay at a company for a certain length of time or hit certain benchmarks before becoming eligible for the stock.
  • Other assets. Multiple homes, boats, cars and other assets will be taken into consideration in a high-asset divorce.

In California, the assets that each spouse bring to a marriage remain theirs after the divorce. But there can be a great deal of grey area surrounding the assets accumulated during the marriage itself. For example, one person may have bought the house before the marriage, but what if the couple jointly renovated and decorated it during the marriage? And one spouse may have owned stock in a tech company before marriage, but the interest accumulated during the marriage would be subject to division.

It's wise for those with a great deal of assets to consider these issues before marriage, and execute a solid prenuptial agreement. Either way, however, it's best to consult with a lawyer who has experience in the complexities of high asset divorce.

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