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In Wisconsin, assets are valued on date of divorce

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I had this question recently posed to me by a client. The question was whether assets are valued at the time of the divorce, or can some earlier date be used, such as the date of filing of the divorce?

Under Wisconsin Statute sec. 767.61 and previous case law in the state of Wisconsin, the marital estate is usually valued as of the date of divorce. However, where special circumstances arise and when conditions arise over which a party has no control, the court does have discretion to deviate from the rule. One of the leading cases in Wisconsin on that issue is Long v. Long, 196 Wis. 2d 691, 539 N.W.2d 134 (Ct. App. 1995).

One can generally expect under Wisconsin law, that assets will be valued as of the date of the divorce, or as a practical matter, as close to the final divorce date as one can get. In dealing with stocks, as an example, the value of the stock can change daily. You wouldn’t be using a stock valuation date 6 months prior to the final court hearing, but at the same time, you wouldn’t necessarily have to run on the morning of a final divorce hearing to get a new stock quote, prior to the parties’ being divorced. It would be acceptable to the parties and to the court to use a valuation date from the day before, as an example, or even several days before the hearing, assuming there weren’t large fluctuations in the value of the stock over the preceding several days leading up to the final court hearing.

The more complicated issue arises as an example, if the parties had gone through a refinancing of their homestead prior to the divorce being filed, and now that they are going through a divorce, one of the parties wants the court to consider the prior appraisal for purposes of valuation of the homestead. Since assets are to be valued on the date of the divorce, if the appraisal is any older than several months old preceding the final court hearing, the court would not consider the prior appraisal, but rather, order a new independent appraisal of the home so that the value of the property is contemporaneous to when the parties are to be divorced. The court will require current values, not values of assets that are six months or a year old. Absent extraordinary circumstances and in only in cases where special circumstances arise, will the court consider a deviation that assets are valued as of the date of the final divorce hearing.

Are you going through a divorce? Do you have questions on property division? Contact the experienced family lawyers at Karp & Iancu, S.C., for a free and confidential consultation.

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