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The issues that stock options present in a divorce

Massachusetts residents who are contemplating a divorce may be interested in one issue that often accompanies the process. When a couple spits up, certain types of stock owned by one of the parties may present problems that others do not.

Restricted stock is a type of stock that is usually given to an employee for no cost, but only becomes transferable after certain conditions are met. This could include working at the company for a certain amount of time, among other possible terms. On the other hand, stock options are a type of compensation that allows the holder to purchase a certain amount of stock at a set price, but at a later date. This often results in acquiring the stock at a lower price.

When one spouse owns, or claims to own, one of these types of compensation, these can present complex property division issues. The first step to take when dealing with these assets is to make sure that they actually exist. This may require an attorney inquiring about options and restricted stock with the company's human resources department. The worth of the stock should then be determined, which may be difficult if the shares are not publicly traded. After the value is determined, the non-owning spouse should be sure to get an equitable distribution of the shares. If the shares are not given as part of the divorce, assets equivalent to the value of the stock should be their replacement.

A contentious high net-worth divorce often brings with it numerous issues not found in an uncontested proceeding. From complex property division to support and custody issues, an attorney who has experience in family law matters can be of assistance.

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

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