How to Handle a High Net Worth Divorce

How High Asset Divorces Differ

Divorce is not easy for anyone. No matter what your financial or property holdings are, it is a painful process. Everyone will have to go through the same basic process, which includes matters such as spousal maintenance, child support and custody, and property division. However, high net worth divorce cases are often more complicated and can take longer to resolve. With high asset divorces, the financial holdings of the couple tend to be more complex, featuring many different types of property, and coming to terms that are fair and equitable can be an uphill battle.

Typically, a divorce case is classified as high asset when the couple has assets with a combined value worth $1 million or more.

Common features of a high net worth divorce include:

  • Art, jewelry, and antiques
  • Business assets
  • Inheritance
  • International assets
  • Investment accounts
  • Real estate holdings
  • Retirement accounts
  • Trust funds

High Net Worth Asset Litigation

Most high asset divorces end up being contested because the spouses cannot agree on the divorce terms on their own. Consequently, court assistance is required, and property division litigation is often necessary. New York is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the courts will focus on dividing marital assets in a way that is fair. This does not mean that all marital property will be divided 50/50 between the spouses.

Property division is made more difficult in high net worth cases because of the types of assets involved. Often these cases involve business ownership, extensive investment portfolios, international accounts, and extensive real estate holdings. These are not always easily divisible, and negotiations can become contentious.

The property division process for high asset divorces involves:

  • Identifying what is marital property and what is separate property
  • Taking an inventory of all assets and debts
  • Determining the value of assets
  • Looking at any child custody, support, and visitation agreements
  • Looking at any spousal maintenance agreements
  • Uncovering any hidden assets

Handing over control to the courts can be hard. Property litigation is often emotionally difficult for people to come to terms with, especially when they have worked so hard to build the life they have, and when they are still dealing with the grief and anger associated with a divorce.

How to Prepare for a High Asset Divorce

If you are considering a divorce, it is a good idea to do all you can to be prepared. The first thing you should do is secure legal representation from a lawyer experienced in handling high net worth divorces. With a skilled lawyer by your side, you can rest easy knowing that your best interests are being protected. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to guide you throughout the process, and help you fight for your rights.

You also want to be sure you are selecting an attorney with the resources to handle a high net worth case, like ours at Letterio & Haug, LLP. We are experienced in high asset divorce cases, and we are prepared to use our knowledge and skill to help you. Contact our office to discuss your case.

Review Any Existing Marital Agreements

When preparing for a high asset divorce, it is also a good idea to review any existing pre- or postnuptial agreements you and your spouse have. Prenuptial agreements are common in high net worth cases, and they often include provisions for how property is to be divided during a divorce. Additionally, many of these documents also outline what separate property each individual brought into the marriage.

Help Your Attorney Uncover Hidden Assets

During the discovery process of your divorce, your attorney will work hard to investigate and uncover all assets associated with your marriage. It is not uncommon for one person to attempt to hide assets in the hopes that they will not be included in the divorce case. You should collect all bank records, credit-card bills, tax documents, receipts, paystubs, and other financial records you have access to and provide these to your lawyer.

If you suspect your spouse is trying to hide assets, let your attorney know right away, and provide them with any evidence you have. This will aid them in uncovering the assets and ensure they are accounted for during the divorce process. You may also find it beneficial to work with an accountant during your divorce.

To learn more about hidden assets, read our blog, How to Tell if Your Spouse is Hiding Assets During a Divorce.

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