Some readers scanning the above post headline for this family law blog might conclude that there is often not much difference at all between a so-called “high-net-worth” divorce and a more modest marital split.
And they could reasonably support that view with this reasoning: The same type of factors customarily feature in divorce negotiations between soon-to-be former partners, regardless of variances in assets.
Impending exes who are parents, for example, must address and resolve issues relevant to custody/visitation and child support. Spousal maintenance (alimony) is often a spotlighted matter during the decoupling process. So too are determinations surrounding the future status of a family home, outcomes regarding personal property, the division of assets held in one or more savings accounts and more. Many of those concerns exist for splitting couples notwithstanding the magnitude of marital wealth they might possess.
Despite some divorce commonalities, though, high-asset marital dissolutions routinely present some heightened complications for affluent partners seeking to end their marriage.
High-asset divorce: why it is often comparatively complex
Complications mount when dollars add up, which spells a reality that is especially pronounced in most high-net-worth divorces. Whereas a single family residence might reasonably comprise all the realty featuring in one given divorce, multiple holdings might be spotlighted in a high-asset split. Other property holdings can be – indeed, often are – similarly compounded and diffuse. They include these assets:
- Estate planning protective tools like trusts
- Savings accounts in multiple banks
- Offshore holdings
- Family business
- Collectibles/memorabilia (e.g., cars, jewelry, art, coins and more)
- Intellectual property entitlements (for example, copyrights and royalties
- Myriad company benefits ranging from 401(k) savings and bonuses to stock options, deferred compensation and more
Those entries are broad and varied, as well as materially supplemented in many instances. Their existence adds an extra and immediate level of complexity to any divorce.
Dealing effectively with assets in a high-net-worth divorce
Here’s an initial point concerning property featuring in a high-asset marital split: It must be located. Comprehensive discovery and adequate identification of all divisible wealth in a complex divorce is often an arduous task. Sometimes it involves in-depth sleuthing and input from a forensic accountant and other experts that can augment a proven family law legal team.
Accurate valuation is invariably a chore, as well. How much is a given painting worth? What might a prospective buyer reasonably pay for a profitable family business? Is an identified asset even marital property at all, or can it be firmly denoted as separate property that is not divisible in a divorce?
Finally, of course, and following a reasoned calculation of the total value of marital assets, property in play must be divided. That distribution in Virginia dictates an equitable (that is, essentially fair if not precisely equal) result.
At bottom, a high-asset divorce generally differs in many material respects from a marital dissolution featuring comparatively fewer holdings. An experienced family law attorney with a proven record of advocacy on behalf of high-net-worth clients can provide guidance and diligent divorce representation.