Since just under half of the American population has gone through divorce at least once, most of you reading this understand how stressful, complicated, expensive, and time-consuming divorce is, but when you have a high net worth of assets to divide, it gets more difficult.
High asset divorces are reserved for couples who typically have several millions of dollars (and more) in assets to divide, and these divorces almost always take longer to resolve because the more assets there are, the more time it takes to fairly divide them.
If you’re in the midst of a high asset divorce or are considering divorcing your spouse and you’ve got a lot of assets, be prepared for a lengthy battle if and only if you cannot agree with your spouse who gets what. The more arguing over who gets what in the divorce, the longer it takes and the more it costs each spouse in legal fees.
The best thing you can do to minimize your stress if you’re preparing for a high net asset divorce is to hire a divorce lawyer with experience handling these types of divorces. Just because a divorce lawyer has a lot of divorces under his belt does not mean he has handled these very specific types of marriage dissolutions. If you live in a wealthy area, there’s a good chance that any lawyer you hire will understand the complexity of the divorce. However, if you live in an area where your wealth is not the norm, you may need to do a bit more research to find the right divorce attorney for you.
Mine, Yours, Ours
Many high net asset divorces require the assistance of a forensic accountant, someone hired to analyze, interpret, summarize, and present complex financial and business-related issues in a way that is both understandable and accurate. The reason many high asset divorces require a forensic accountant is that all assets have to be analyzed very carefully as both spouses probably brought assets to the marriage, assets were acquired while married, there are assets considered “community property,” and assets may have been inherited by one of the spouses during the marriage (or before the nuptials even occurred). A forensic accountant will usually be able to uncover any hidden assets, and a really good forensic accountant will discover funds you didn’t even know your spouse acquired during the marriage.
Extended litigation can be avoided even in high asset divorces if both parties are honest, fair, and are able to come to an equitable distribution of money and other assets without arguing over every dollar. In reality, most people do not have amicable divorces; most divorces are contentious, and spouses will fight tooth and nail—through their divorce attorneys—to get what they believe is theirs.
When in Doubt, Get the Prenup!
Pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements will usually make high asset divorces go more smoothly and will allow divorces to be finalized more quickly, but many people who fall in love, decide to marry, create a life together with children, and then divorce neither need nor want a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. These agreements are most common when one spouse brings a lot more “stuff” to the marriage than the other, or if one spouse’s earning potential is markedly greater than the other.
High asset divorces can be a nightmare for everyone involved, even the lawyers! Working together with your soon-to-be-ex will make the whole process of divorcing so much easier. Do you really want to fight over a china gravy ladle you got as a wedding present 25 years ago?