Divorce is a harrowing experience. When you have accumulated high-ticket assets during your marriage, the stakes go up exponentially. The good news is that if high-net worth divorce is on the horizon, there are steps you can take to minimize an unpleasant outcome and get the result the law entitles you to.
Often women in high-net worth divorces are the less affluent partner. This article will focus on the issues that come up in that scenario.
In order to successfully navigate a high-net worth divorce, you will have to:
- Account for and value your assets;
- Determine whether your husband hid assets;
- Calculate the amount of maintenance (alimony) you may be entitled to;
- Calculate the amount of child support (if any) you may be entitled to;
- Analyze the impact of any pre-nuptial agreement you may have signed.
Accounting for and valuing marital assets
During a divorce, normally you and your husband will have to declare your marital assets. In New York, and many other states, marital assets are divided under the doctrine of “equitable distribution,” which means they will be distributed to you and your husband in a fair way (ideally), taking into account all of the circumstances of your marriage.
A pre-condition to dividing marital assets is that they be accounted for and valued. If you are not sure what marital property you own, your attorney may need to hire financial experts to investigate. For example, a forensic accountant may be retained to find assets by tracing banking records, even if multiple accounts were used to buy marital assets.
Your assets will also have to be valued. In high-net worth divorces, business valuation experts may be needed, as well as appraisers who specialize in valuing everything from real estate to exotic cars. Marital assets may even include airplanes, artwork and collectibles like coins and dollhouses!
It is not unusual in a divorce for one spouse to conceal assets from the other. If your divorce is finalized and your husband has concealed his assets, you will forfeit your right to them unless you can prove he did so, i.e., that the divorce was obtained under fraudulent circumstances.
Some signs your husband may have concealed assets are that he never told you how much money he earned; made large purchases without saying where the money came from; supported you and your family in a high lifestyle without having the outward means to do so; or asked you to sign papers without explaining what they were for.
Maintenance is designed to provide the less-affluent spouse with the means to support herself after the marriage in a way that does not seriously compromise the standard of living she had during the marriage, at least until she can do so without the support her former husband provided.
It is not uncommon in high-net worth marriages for the husband and wife to have signed a pre-nuptial agreement. In most cases, the terms of the pre-nup will determine the outcome of the divorce as to financial matters. So, if you are facing a divorce and have a pre-nup, it is essential that you have it examined by a matrimonial attorney so she can analyze and explain to you what you will be entitled to in your divorce.
Preparing for a high-net worth divorce is key. The earlier you can get a handle on these factors, the more likely it is that you will obtain a fair result for yourself and your children.