Even a simple divorce can be a very complex legal transaction. Just to name a few of the steps in most divorces with children, a party must prepare and file a financial declaration, answer discovery, complete a parenting class, attend mediation, and construct a marital balance sheet, among other obligations. These items arise even in those divorces that settle and do not go to trial. That said, in cases where there is significant net worth from a few hundred thousand dollars to millions, the divorce may become exponentially more complex, and it is imperative you have a skilled legal advocate to help you through the process. This blog addresses the top three issues you need to be aware of if you have a high asset marital estate.
Preliminary Orders, Custody, and Spousal Maintenance.
In most cases, a divorce will take several months to complete. In the interim, either by agreement of the parties or after a hearing and order of the court, the parties will be bound by temporary orders. These temporary orders often determine who lives in the marital residence and who has custody of the children. While the Divorce Act dictates that these preliminary orders are without prejudice to the parties, and that those issues can be decided in a different way at a final hearing, experienced advocates understand that stability and permanency are paramount for children and that courts frequently incorporate the temporary order in the final order of the court. Thus, if you want custody, you must understand this and properly litigate your custody case in any preliminary agreement or hearing. Furthermore, despite your finances, and knowing it costs more to operate two households than one, a court may order the higher income earning spouse to pay temporary maintenance during the pendency. It is key to work with your counsel if you are facing this situation to make sure you can financially cover this extra expense(s). This would require you to take a hard look at finances with your counsel advocating your case to avoid a financial bind. You must also be aware that if your spouse has given up a career to raise the children, you could be ordered to pay rehabilitative maintenance for up the three (3) years to assist your spouse in obtaining skills to re-enter the work force. Finally, if your spouse is physically or mentally disabled you can be ordered on divorce to pay support to your former spouse maintenance for the duration of their disability, potentially for life. High-asset divorce cases tend to raise these issues because, unfortunately, it is often a money grab due to the hurt and acrimony surrounding the divorce. Know the law and work through these issues with your counsel to develop and present the best evidence to protect your interests. A skilled legal counsel has numerous tools at his or her disposal to advocate for or defend against maintenance, such as obtaining an independent medical exam and/or an expert to argue against disability maintenance.
Pre- and Post-Nuptials.
Although pre- and post-nuptials cannot address any child-related matters, they are binding contracts between the parties, and they determine how the court must divide the martial estate on divorce pursuant to this contract between the parties. That said, a skilled domestic attorney may be worth his or her weight in gold and may provide you with viable challenges to any pre-nuptial agreement or may vigorously advocate for its enforcement. There are a host of statutes and cases that give litigants many rights as it relates to pre-nuptial agreements. In situation in which there is a pre-nuptial, the key is to obtain a skilled domestic counsel who can navigate the legal waters surrounding pre-nuptials to best protect your interests.
While most high-asset divorces contain many assets, as their title might indicate, they are easy to value and there are established professionals to easily value such assets if the value is not as apparent as cash in a bank account. That said, where there is a closely held or family business, they are often difficult and expensive to value. It may be that the business is nothing more than a legal vehicle that provides a spouse with an income, such as a handyman service. In such a situation, the handyman is the spouse and there is no independent value to this business entity, except maybe a few tools. On the other hand, if the handyman has employees and the like, this may be a valuable business that is complex to value. Is the business just due to the personality and/or goodwill of the owner? Is the name uniquely associated with him or her? Is this a valuable martial asset subject to division? A skilled family law attorney will be able assess this in order to answer each of these questions with the potential use of a business valuator. Failure to properly analyze and value a business can leave tens of thousands of dollars or more on the table. Thus, skilled domestic counsel who understands high-assets cases and, correspondingly, businesses in divorce is key to obtaining the best possible outcome in your divorce.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who routinely handle high-asset divorce cases. Did you know all the issues related to a high-asset marital estate addressed in this blog? Probably not. And the list goes on beyond these three (3) issues. If this is your case, perhaps Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. is the firm you should partner with for your divorce. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor a solicitation.