Every divorce comes with its own challenges. For couples with considerable assets and a higher net worth, the path to divorce is even more complex. In this case, it is important for business owners and other high-net-worth earners to work with a Burlington County high-asset divorce lawyer.
A lawyer can develop a legal strategy to protect their client’s interests, reduce conflict, and ultimately achieve a good resolution when their marriage ends. Learn more about the unique issues that impact high-asset divorce and how the right lawyer can make a difference in your case.
What Is High-Asset Divorce?
A high-asset divorce involves spouses with high-earning careers or couples who have accumulated significant assets through investments, inheritances, and other means. While there is no set amount that defines a high-asset couple, these spouses typically have at least $1 million or more in liquid assets.
Divorce among high-net-worth couples is less straightforward than the average divorce because they have more significant assets to evaluate and divide. These assets include:
- On-shore and off-shore trusts .
- Stocks, bonds, and other investments .
- Intellectual property, including trademarks and copyrights.
- Real estate, including the primary home, rental properties, and vacation homes.
- Retirement accounts, including pensions, 401(k)s, and IRAs.
- Valuable art, jewelry, vehicles, furniture, and other property.
Top Considerations When High-Net-Worth Couples Divorce
Here is an overview of some common issues involved in high-asset divorces.
Alimony, or spousal support, is not usually a factor when both spouses earn high incomes on their own. It is more common when one spouse has been dependent on the other’s income during the marriage. In that case, the lower-earning spouse may ask for alimony.
When you divorce in New Jersey, the courts consider several variables to make alimony determinations. In part, they look at the age and health of both parties and how long they were married. They consider each spouse’s income, earning potential, and how they both contributed financially and in other ways to determine if alimony is necessary, and if so, how much is appropriate.
Hidden assets are also an issue in many high-asset divorces. Couples with complex financial portfolios may simply find it easier to hide accounts, investments, and debts. They may take out a loan or credit card without telling their spouse or transfer assets to a third party.
However, it is never acceptable to hide property from a spouse. Hiding assets during divorce is not only unethical, but it is also illegal in New Jersey. Regardless of how you feel about your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you must provide a full and accurate disclosure of your assets and debts when you divorce.
Fraud will have a negative impact on your case, potentially costing you the value of those hidden assets. Concealing assets will lose you credibility with your lawyer and the judge and/or courts overseeing your divorce proceedings.
How Do I Know if My Spouse Is Hiding Assets?
Now that you know that hiding income is a mistake during divorce. What if your spouse is the one concealing assets? Most high-asset divorce lawyers have a forensic accountant on staff or enlist financial experts as needed to discover hidden or undervalued assets and provide a comprehensive accounting of a spouse’s finances.
A forensic accountant collaborates with you and your lawyer to do the following:
- Gather past income tax returns.
- Request bank statements for all accounts.
- Obtain information about loans and credit cards.
- Discover accounts you may not know about.
- Hire a tech expert to find hidden files on shared computers and other devices.
- Contact your spouse’s employer to obtain income, bonus, stock, and 401(k) information.
Separate Vs. Marital Property
Property is one of the most significant matters involved in high-asset divorces. It also tends to be the most contentious just because there is more at stake. During divorce, all assets and property are recorded, assessed for value, and put into two categories.
Marital property is earned or acquired by either party during the marriage. It does not matter if one spouse purchased property with income they earned, that property is considered joint or shared property regardless. Gifts from one spouse to the other are considered marital property too.
Separate property includes assets or property that are exempt from equitable distribution. Examples of separate or non-marital property include:
- Property purchased by one spouse before the marriage.
- Property gifted to one spouse specifically before or during the marriage.
- Property inherited by one spouse before or during the marriage.
- Property purchased or received by one spouse as a direct result of their efforts or income prior to the marriage.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. Equitable distribution is not an equal 50/50 split of a high-asset couple’s assets. Instead, it refers to the property division of marital assets in a way that is fair but not necessarily equal.
Similar to how the courts determine spousal support for high-net-worth couples, the courts consider a range of factors to split assets equitably when a couple divorces. The age, health, living standard, employment, and earning potential of each spouse all impact how property is divided in divorce.
Prenuptial Agreements and Postnuptial Agreements in High-Asset Divorce
Couples who earn a high income or own high-value assets should take steps to protect themselves in case they divorce one day. They can do this with a prenuptial agreement (prenup).
A prenup is a written agreement signed by both spouses before they get married. It determines how financial matters like alimony and property division will be handled if they divorce. Some prenuptial agreements also include instructions for the creation of trusts, wills, and other agreements and how they should be carried out.
It is common for couples of modest means to acquire wealth later on in life, after they have been married for several years. If they do not have a prenup, it is not too late to protect their interests. A postnuptial agreement is like a prenup, but it is signed after the couple is married.
Couples experiencing sudden wealth should consider creating a postnuptial agreement to limit how much one pays the other in spousal support, to separate real estate holdings, clarify matters of inheritance, and prevent debts burdens from one spouse to another. Like a prenup, both spouses must be on board and sign a postnuptial agreement for it to be valid and binding if they divorce.
Hire a Lawyer Who Focuses Their Practice on High-Asset Divorce
It is essential to work with a lawyer who has extensive experience navigating high-asset divorces and achieving positive outcomes for clients. High-asset divorces take more time to resolve and often require the services of financial experts. The right lawyer will ensure your financial disclosures are accurate and on time. They have a network of trusted financial professionals at the ready.
Your high-asset divorce lawyer will advocate on your behalf to ensure you are treated fairly and do not accept unreasonable demands. Your high-asset divorce lawyer is committed to preserving your interests and helping you find the best possible outcome.
Resources for High-Asset Divorce
- Why Should High-Asset Divorces Be Treated Differently?
- What Are Complex Assets in High-Asset Divorce?
- How Are Multiple Properties Divided in a High-Asset Divorce?
South Jersey High-Asset Divorce Lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A. Will Protect Your Interests in a High-Asset Divorce
In a high-asset divorce, so much is at stake. Our South Jersey high-asset divorce lawyers at Goldstein & Mignogna, P.A. understand the unique challenges that arise when high-net-worth couples separate. Call us at 856-890-9400 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Marlton, New Jersey, we proudly assist clients in South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, and Gloucester County.