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Are Stock Options Marital Property in Miami?

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When you said your “I do’s,” the last place you expected to end up was here—trying to navigate the ins and outs of divorce. But we’re here to tell you you’re not alone.

Divorce can seem like a thief in the night, stealing your happiness and life as you knew it right from under your nose.

And as an individual with a high net worth, it’s understandable that you may have more than a few concerns about what that means for your financial security.

So, what exactly happens to your stock options when you get divorced? Are they considered marital property? Split 50/50? Is it possible to have them not considered at all?

These are all questions that many people in Florida ask when going through a divorce. And at Vasquez de Lara Law Group, our high-net-worth divorce lawyers have answers.

Here’s everything you need to know about stock options and divorce and how you can get help protecting what’s yours.

To Be or Not to Be: When Are Stock Options Considered Marital Property?

Since employee stock options are granted as an award for past services or an incentive for future services, a big deciding factor on whether they’re marital or separate property is whether that work occurred before or during the marriage.

Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning: anything during the marriage = marital property; anything before = separate property. And all marital property will split according to what’s most “equitable” or fair for both parties.

When determining how these assets will be divided, you’ll need to consider whether the stock option is vested or unvested.

Vested Stock Options

A vested stock option is awarded after a certain amount of time has passed, during which the employee’s performance has been satisfactory. Vesting can occur over time or be immediate upon completion of a specific goal, like getting a professional certification. If your options are vested, that means you one hundred percent own the asset.

Unvested Stock Options

On the other hand, unvested stock options are options that you don’t own yet. They don’t become part of your earned income until they vest; that means they aren’t part of your earnings yet, but they could be if you remain employed long enough.

In Florida, both types—vested and unvested stock options—can be considered marital assets and, therefore, subject to equitable distribution. Still, there’s the question of how much your spouse may be entitled to.

Dividing Stock Options Is Anything But Straightforward

As you’ve probably guessed by now, valuing stock options is no walk in the park. There are many methods available, and most couples opt to hire valuation experts to jumpstart the property division process.

With this figure in hand, divorcing couples generally have three options for dividing stock options:

  1. Split the difference using other liquid assets
  2. Defer distribution until after the shares are vested
  3. Transfer ownership of all or some options

Each choice has its own benefits, drawbacks, and potential tax implications.

Protect What’s Yours — Contact Vasquez de Lara Law Group Today

Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe what it’s like when your stock options are subject to division in your divorce.

Many factors contribute to the market value of stock options, and there are no clear legal definitions for how these assets should be valued.

When this is your reality, it can feel like everything’s up in the air.

Let us help you bring your divorce back down to earth with a free consultation with our Florida high-net-worth divorce attorneys. Call now.

Author Bio

Vanessa Vasquez de Lara is the founder and owner of Vasquez de Lara Law Group, a Miami family law firm. With over 20 years of experience in family law, she has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including divorces, child support, child custody, alimony, and other family law cases.

Vanessa received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2002 and is a member of the Florida Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named to the 2015 Super Lawyers Rising Stars and the 2016-2023 Super Lawyers list.

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