Options and shares present unique and complicated challenges.
Principally speaking, shares and options accumulated in the course of the marriage by either spouse (other than by way of gift or inheritance) are included in the assets whose value is balanced between the parties at the time of the dissolution of the marriage in the case of couples who are subject to The Property Relations Between Spouses Law, and will be treated as joint assets in the case of couples whose property relations is subject to the property sharing rule. The unavoidable dispute on these issues derives from the special character of the assets, namely dealing with spouses’s right to vested and non-vested options, and coping with the fact that options are not transferable, so any division must be done by assessing their value which is a difficult task.
It should be noted in this context, that the future right to receive options maybe part of an incentive program and thus subject to the continued engagement of the employee with the company and sometimes also to a certain level of performance. As such the right in question is a future right which has still not yet been consolidated and may also come to nothing. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the right came into being during the marriage and sometimes may be a reward for work already preformed. At the same time, it should be recalled that waiting until such time as the options are exercised often adversely affects the shared will of the couple to terminate the disputes between them as soon as possible and leaves “unfinished business” between them in connection with the future options transaction.
As to the shares – the disputes focus on determining the value on the date relevant to such determination and on this issue as well, the gaps are likely to be highly significant in financial terms.