Divorces involving celebrities, multi-millionaires, and other public figures can be difficult to navigate. A high-asset divorce may involve a wide range of holdings and property, while unwanted public attention can lead to loss of business or reputation. In these high-stakes situations, divorce can severely impact the financial security of either spouse.
Common Factors in High-Asset Divorce
High-asset divorces are more likely to involve:
- Business interests. Significant wealth usually involves whole or partial business ownership, such as a tech company or professional practice. If both spouses have an ownership interest in a business, they will have to decide if the business will be dissolved, one partner will be issued a buyout, or if they will both continue their business roles after divorce. A valuation expert can determine how much the business is worth today, but also how much it will provide the owner in the future.
- Marital property disputes. Washington state divorces are governed by community property laws, meaning spouses have shared ownership in any property accumulated during the marriage. However, money and property acquired before marriage that is kept separate from community funds may be the sole property of one spouse. In a high-asset divorce, determining whether an asset is marital property or not can affect a spouse’s settlement by millions of dollars. An attorney can help trace accounts, property, jewelry, safe deposit boxes, and other assets back to their origin to determine the character of the property.
- Hidden assets. Spouses may “forget” to list important assets or retitle property in a relative’s name, in an attempt to deprive their partners of their fair share. If you suspect your partner is hiding assets (or if your partner controls the finances), you may need a forensic accountant to determine the extent of shared property, examine previous transactions, and accurately determine each party’s financial holdings.
- Tax problems. Wealthy spouses are more likely to suffer large tax consequences when going through a divorce. When dividing assets, it's important to look beyond the future values and consider the tax benefits and consequences of each one. While you can transfer assets to a spouse tax-free during divorce, the future tax burden will be yours alone once you accept ownership.
- Overseas investments. High-asset divorces may involve assets or investments located in another state or even another country. The division of offshore accounts or foreign investments requires knowledge of international laws, debt distribution, and tax implications on alternative property.
- High spousal support. Some high-income marriages involve one working spouse and one stay-at-home spouse who raises the children. If one spouse hasn’t worked outside the home for several years, a vocational expert may be necessary to determine the spouse’s earning capacity after the separation. This is vital for securing adequate spousal support to keep their lifestyle similar to what it was during the marriage.
- Child support considerations. To make sure children of high earners are not left destitute by their parents’ divorce, wealthy spouses may be ordered to provide a higher amount of child support than usual. Parents could potentially be ordered to cover significant costs of their child(ren)’s future, such as school fees, private tutoring, or college tuition.
- Expert witnesses. The court may rely on experts to determine the best way to divide complicated properties. Witnesses may be called to appraise valuable art or antiques, forecast future real estate values, and estimate the fair market value of tangible and intangible property at the time of the separation.
- Privacy concerns. High-profile divorces are more likely to be publicized or speculated on in the press. An attorney can help spouses minimize public exposure and keep the divorce as private as possible.
Working with Experienced Divorce Attorneys Can Help
Divorce is an intense and stressful procedure, especially when couples of high net worth split. You’ll need an attorney with the strength and experience to get you what you need to move on to the next phase of your life. Call the high asset divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today to arrange a private consultation, or use our online contact form to have us get back to you directly.