Although the legal system does not change the divorce process for couples with a high net worth (usually in excess of $1 million in liquid assets), there are unique, moderating circumstances that arise in these divorces that, by their nature alone, do not present themselves in the alternative group of divorces. Absent a prenuptial agreement, an instrument being increasingly utilized as time goes on, battles over extremely valuable assets create a whole new realm of distribution, as there are a plethora of new variables to consider.
For instance, you may have separate property going into the marriage, but it appreciates in value during the marriage. In this scenario, the spouse who benefited from the asset, but was not the listed owner can potentially receive a percentage of the increase as part of the settlement. Assets are valuated, and either distributed in their entirety, with entire ownership assigned to one spouse, or the asset is divided and proportioned out to each spouse. What makes this unique is that most assets of married couples are not divisible the way an investment portfolio or ownership in a company is, as well as the high value attached.
Not only is the division of assets a stage of the divorce process that differs, but the awarding of alimony does as well. The spouse seeking support will often make a claim that they are “accustomed to a certain lifestyle”, which inherently implies a certain financial requirement needs to be met. This lifestyle is one that the majority of the population does not have the financial income to support, and so figuring out the exact circumstances of this lifestyle take time and a lot of accounting of both the financial/spending history of the spouses, but the living environment and day-to-day life as well. A lawyer may help explain these issues to the client.
The complexity and uniqueness of such a divorce only make it that much more crucial that your legal representation understands all that is at stake in your divorce, and an effective lawyer will be able to identify the assets and interests you may be entitled to – even if you don’t know it yourself.