No divorce is easy. However, if you and your spouse have accumulated a significant amount of assets, the process of ending your marriage may be that much more complicated. High net worth divorces are much more than just the end of a legal relationship; they are the termination of a significant financial contract.
If you have retirement accounts and own a home in the Marin County area, you and your spouse most likely need the expertise of qualified high net worth divorce attorneys. Here’s what you need to know about these divorces and what to expect as you go through the process.
What Is a High Net Worth Divorce?
“High net worth divorce” is considered a term of art, which means it has no specific legal definition. Instead, it typically refers to splits between couples with assets worth $1 million or more. These spouses are most likely to need specialized legal counsel to handle their high-value assets and accounts. However, any couple with complicated finances and significant assets may benefit from working with a high value divorce attorney in California.
What Makes High Value Divorces Unique?
In California, married couples are bound by community property laws. Under these regulations, all assets a couple acquires after marriage are considered their joint property, regardless of who earned them. More importantly, when California spouses split, they must divide their common property equally, leaving each spouse with 50% of those assets.
This may be easy to accomplish if a couple does not have a large amount of property. Spouses with less than $47,000 in assets may qualify for summary dissolution, a streamlined divorce process with less paperwork and time in court.
However, finding an equal division or a settlement that both spouses agree upon may be complicated if you have significant property. People with substantial net worth frequently have complex assets that must be addressed appropriately, such as:
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Restricted stock units (RSUs)
- Real estate
- Intellectual property
These assets cannot be divided as easily as liquid funds. They require careful thought, attention to detail, and experience to split equally, or they may pose significant legal and financial complications.
In addition, high-asset couples have more complicated tax considerations. As spouses separate, it is in their best interest to receive knowledgeable legal counsel to minimize the impact of their divorce on their annual tax obligations.
Finally, people with significant net worth are more likely to be bound by contracts such as prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. These marital agreements may declare certain assets as one spouse’s sole property and therefore exempt from division. They may also specify that particular assets are automatically considered joint property, requiring it to be split. These contracts can also set terms regarding spousal support (alimony). Following or disputing marital agreements can significantly affect the final divorce settlement if there are large sums in play.
What to Expect During a High Net Worth Divorce
If you meet the criteria for a high value divorce, you will benefit from knowing what to expect from the process. Below are some of the most critical ways that high-value divorces are different from other splits:
If you have a marital agreement in place, your attorney will go over it with a fine-toothed comb to determine if all clauses are legally binding. Depending on what they find, they will either help you enforce the contract during your settlement or dispute it to ensure you receive a fair settlement without being bound to an illegitimate agreement.
If there is no marital agreement in place, or if it does not cover all assets a couple shares, you will need to divide your joint property with your spouse. You do not need to split each asset and account in half, though. Instead, your attorney will help you negotiate with your spouse to find a division that satisfies both of you while complying with California’s community property laws.
Spousal support is often a significant consideration during high value splits. Unless a legitimate and binding marital agreement states otherwise, it is likely that the lower-income spouse has the right to request support payments from the higher earner. Your attorney will help you negotiate a fair spousal support order as a part of your overall settlement.
Many high-income couples prefer to keep their finances private. However, if you go to public court to litigate your divorce, all proceedings will become matters of public record. If you want to maintain your privacy, you can consult with your attorney about pursuing cooperative divorce or working with a private judge. This can help you resolve disputes and reach a settlement without exposing yourself to as much public scrutiny.
If you and your spouse share children, you will need to determine custody and support. This cannot be settled through a prenuptial or postnuptial contract and must be decided at the time of the divorce. Your attorney will assist you with determining a fair custody split and ensure that the support order accounts for your new financial positions.
Proven High Net Worth Divorce Attorneys in Marin County
Managing significant assets during a divorce is a complicated legal matter that requires considerable experience. If you’re approaching divorce in Marin County, it is in your best interest to consult with skilled high value divorce attorneys like the experts at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP. We have decades of experience assisting clients like you with financially complex divorces, so we understand how to help you achieve the best outcome possible. Learn more by scheduling your free consultation today.