High Net Worth Divorces Put a Lot at Stake

Leah Upton, CFP®, CRC®, CDFA® BY: Leah Upton, CFP®, CRC®, CDFA® 10.22.18

How to Choose the Best Way to Approach Your Divorce

Ending a marriage can be a difficult decision–in part because of the emotions involved coupled with the decisions and potential concessions that may now need to be made. Depending on the nature of your separation, these decisions can be quite contentious– and perhaps even more elevated when high levels of wealth are involved.

The Importance of Approaching Your Divorce with a Clear Head

For a multitude of reasons, divorcing couples often want to rush the divorce through by immediately hiring divorce litigation attorneys. However, it’s most important to first ensure you’re approaching the situation with a level head. Evaluating and processing the situation will help you make sound decisions around the divorce proceedings, ultimately helping to keep your assets, interests and legacy properly protected.

Approaching the situation with a clear head will also better enable you to choose the best option through which to execute your divorce. For high net worth couples, there can be a lot at stake, and handling the proceedings in the way that is best for you and your family can mean the difference between a satisfactory conclusion that all parties agree with, or one steeped in resentment that can affect a wealthy spouse far past the time of divorce.

Litigation

If you and your spouse choose to hire litigation attorneys, you would each obtain separate counsel to represent you in court. This option may make the most sense for a high wealth couple since each individual has so much at stake, and these big matters–such as child custody, spousal support, division of wealth and assets, retirement accounts or business ownership–simply cannot be settled without outside counsel.

However, there are some drawbacks to litigating a divorce. In addition to being expensive, this process is time consuming, impersonal, and will become public record as it plays out in court with document submissions and expert and witness testimonies. Ultimately, the judge will decide the outcome of child custody, child support, division of marital property and spousal support.

While it is helpful to have these big decisions handed down from a judge, you should keep in mind that this process is lengthy and expensive. Depending on how long it takes to litigate your divorce, it can be a significant drain on even the wealthiest couples’ assets.

Mediation

Not all divorces are contentious. Many couples are able to separate on good terms and choose to discuss large matters like child custody and the division of their wealth without hashing it out in court. In this type of situation, mediation is a good option to consider.

Mediation allows you to meet with a neutral third party throughout a handful of sessions to focus on a resolution and agree on a settlement together. Mediation is the shortest and most cost-effective method of dissolving a marriage, and could be a consideration if you and your partner are dissolving the marriage on agreeable terms.

Collaborative Divorce

To preserve your marital estate and maximize assets for you and potentially the next generation after your divorce, a good option to consider is a collaborative divorce. This option lies between litigation and mediation as it allows you and your spouse to diplomatically negotiate the terms of your divorce, even if you have a highly-complex marital estate.

In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse hire your own attorneys and work together throughout a series of meetings with the goal of negotiating the terms of the divorce in a diplomatic and discrete way.  Your attorneys will likely still solicit the help of a neutral third-party mediator, in addition to party-neutral professionals such as child custody specialists, financial professionals, business valuators, and mental health experts.

Once you and your spouse have agreed on a settlement, it is simply filed with the court.

There is some risk with a collaborative divorce–if the settlement cannot be agreed upon, the parties must both hire different attorneys to represent them in court and the outcome will be in the hands of the judge.

Ultimately, you need to choose the approach to your divorce proceedings that works best for your situation. However, regardless of what you choose, make sure you have trusted professionals and advisors on your side to help you avoid missteps or long-term financial pitfalls. While it may be tempting to rush through divorce proceedings whatever the cost, your advisor can help you think about your future financial situation versus the immediate settlement terms, so you can make the best decisions that will have positive lasting effects.

let's talk
The path to your financial security starts with a simple, friendly conversation...
Tell us a little bit about yourself so that we can set up a meeting with one of our specialists and get you started.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.