Do you need help navigating the financial aspects of a relationship breakdown?

We untangle and assess financial assets to get the best result for you

Separation and divorce is a time of enormous stress. We know that you may not be in the right frame of mind to face practicalities such as property and taxes. But we also know that you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have experts in your corner to secure the best possible outcome for you.

Most people will engage legal advisors to assist them with family law matters. Engaging an experienced tax accountant is also advisable – especially where the assets involved are complex or substantial.

Together with your legal team, we work for you to safeguard your interests.

Here are some examples of how we worked with a client to get the best outcome for her financial future.

Sometimes when couples with multiple business interests get divorced, there is an active member in the business and a non-active member. Pamela was is this situation when she was referred to us by her lawyer. As the non-active member, she had little understanding of the different business structures they were involved in, who owned what or what that meant for her financially.

Generally for family law, all of a couple’s assets are considered to be “one pot”. What many people don’t realise is that there are tax implications when pulling that pot apart. In Pamela’s case, she didn’t want all the super which couldn’t be accessed, or all of the assets which would leave her with no liquidity.

We worked with Pamela and her lawyers to develop a solid understanding of all structures that the family held interests in. This included mapping out all the relevant parties and roles of the directors, shareholders, trustees and beneficiaries. Once we had the full picture, we could then advise Pamela of what the tax implications were of taking over parts of the family pot.

Understanding the business interests in separation and divorce

Once we have a better understanding of the business structures involved, we can then determine the asset pool.

When business structures such as companies and trusts have been used, determining an asset pool is not as simple working out “mine, yours and joint” assets. There is often a challenge in finding and valuing the assets as well as working out a strategy to transfer them in an effective manner.

In Pamela’s case we had to determine:

  • How the family home was held – joint tenants or tenants in common?
  • What were the various businesses and what were they worth?
  • Was everything properly recorded in the accounts of the businesses?
  • What loan accounts were in the different entities?

When we had a clear picture of all the assets we were then able to come up with a value.

Determining the asset pool in separation and divorce

Before any orders are made to divide the asset pool, it’s important to consider what the tax implications are. These transfers could result in income tax, capital gains tax, GST, or stamp duty.

While there are some exemptions and rollovers available, these don’t apply in every case. Unlike a simple case of transferring a property from one spouse to another as part of a court order (where relief from capital gains or stamp duty could apply), transferring assets to or from a company or trust is not a straightforward matter. We also need to consider the tax on any dividends required to pay out company loans.

For Pamela, we had to consider if she took over some of the entities what the future would look like.  Would she be taking on a tax bill in the future if she wanted to get money out of the entities? If we sold the assets within the entities, what were the implications going to be?

Tax implications of an asset split in separation and divorce

As part of the settlement process, it was important for Pamela that we find an outcome that was not only optimal, but one that produced the least risk going forward. For us that meant delving deeper into the following:

  • Does the asset split optimise the tax benefits?
  • What are the tax implications for controlling certain assets, companies, or trusts?
  • What are the “other costs” that could occur during or after settlement?
  • What are the consequences of taking over the trust or company?
  • Could she effectively distribute the proceeds held by those trusts and companies to either herself or her children?
  • Would any small changes now have a great impact to her future?
Optimising the end position in separation and divorce
Note: This is a real case study of a client we’ve worked with, though we have changed the client’s name to protect their privacy.

How can we help?

Get in touch with our separation and divorce experts to ensure your financial interests are being taken care of.
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What happens to business assets when couples divorce?

Terry Brauer discusses some of the ways we provide assistance when a business is involved:

Separation and divorce services

Fact Finding

We develop a thorough understanding of all asset structures that the family holds interests in. This includes mapping out all the relevant parties and roles in companies, trusts and SMSFs.

Asset Mapping

Determining the asset pool isn’t easy when the business structures are complex or substantial. We develop a clear picture of who owns what and where.

Asset Splits

Before dividing the asset pool, we can advise on what that means for your tax and financial position. We also consider what it may mean for your future plans.

Business Splits

If you and your partner have built a business together, what are the implications of separation or divorce?  Separating the finances of a business can be very tricky but it’s an area our experts have many years of experience in.

SMSFs and Divorce

As a member of an SMSF, you are also a trustee. This means you have ongoing obligations as a trustee and you’ll need to decide if you want to remain in that fund, open a new SMSF, or move to a different option. Our SMSF specialists can help guide you.

Estate Planning

Estate Planning is more than simply having an up to date will, particularly after you’ve divorced or re-married. Our estate planning advisors ensure you have peace of mind that your assets pass to the right people, in the most tax effective way possible.

Tax Planning

Our business accountants engage in tax planning sessions with clients each year to maximise the flexibility their business structures afford and minimise their tax position.

Support for Lawyers

We work with family law firms as expert advisors in complex and challenging situations. If you think you may need a tax or structuring perspective for your client, we are happy to assist.

“I came to Marsh & Partners for a Family Law Matter when I needed advice. They have been there for me every step of the way. Marsh & Partners have not only provided me with expert assistance on the accounting front, but their understanding and support of me in all aspects of my challenging situation has been invaluable.”

Cecilia Camilleri
Looking for separation and divorce information?
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