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High Asset Divorce: Some Considerations

What is at Stake?

Divorce is an expensive and emotionally taxing endeavor. Not only are you separating from a spouse but you are potentially splitting your assets, deciding who gets the kids, dissolving partnerships, dealing with family fallout, and resolving a whole slew of other issues. Add complex and valuable financial holdings to the mix and a couple has set the stage for a volatile and explosive divorce. The Notorious B.I.G. summed it finely, proclaiming, “mo money, mo problems.” Now, not everyone can afford (financially, emotionally, or career-wise) a protracted fight in court over who-gets-what. Some would much rather take deliberate steps to mitigate their risk exposure in court and resolve their issues without live tweeting the whole ordeal. For those interested in cutting the drama, here are some considerations:


Honesty is the best policy…when money is in it.
- Mark Twain -

1 | Asset Valuation

One of the trickiest parts of the divorce process is determining the value of a couple’s marital estate. Even if both spouses have an adequate understanding of their financial situation, it is often in the best interest of the couple to enlist the help of a forensic accountant. Forensic accounts provide an objective, third-party valuation for the couple’s financial holdings and help identify potential fraud or hidden assets.

When you do not know what something is worth, it becomes difficult to know how to split it. Intellectual properties, business partnerships, and other assets that defy conventional valuation need to be weighed by a reliable source. Establishing a baseline for a couple’s financial standing is key in reducing potential conflict in either mediation or in the court room. The baseline identifies what can be fought over. Without it, opposing parties lack a clear picture of what they are fighting over and can circle endlessly over the same problem. Some individuals might find a third-party audit intrusive and unnecessary; however, the time and emotional stress saved can easily outweighs the minor intrusion of a trained professional.

2 | Exposure in Court

Particularly for business executives and individuals in the public sphere, courtroom exposure is something that must be mitigated. The last thing a public figure needs in their professional career is to have their private life paraded about. In this case, mediation may be the best alternative. Mediation gives a couple the opportunity to use a mediator or trained attorney to resolve the major issues of their divorce behind closed doors.

Generally, in Tulsa County family law judges require an attempt at mediation from couples. We at the Brown Law Firm highly suggest that couples take advantage of the opportunity to resolve their issues away from the peering eyes of the public.

3 | Financial Planning

The family law courts are what is called courts of equity. Divisions, child custody, visitation, debt allocation, etc. are all based upon what the court sees as fair and equitable, not just what is strictly equal. In Oklahoma, any property acquired by either spouse after entering into marriage is considered marital property and is eligible for division. It is here that the proper valuation of a couple’s assets is essential. Homes, securities, investments, retirement accounts, partnership and virtually everything else obtained during the marriage is eligible. As the Hamm divorce (2012) shows, spouses have the right to pursue and acquire up to half of all the property held in the marriage, even if half means $10 billion. With this in mind, it is important to consider how the division of marital property will affect the individual’s strategic plans for investments, partnerships, and other business opportunities.

The division of property is not the only recourse of the family law court to order what it sees as fair and equitable. If one spouse has been removed from the job market for an extended time or is unable to work, the court may award that spouse alimony. Essentially, courts award alimony to ensure that at least part of the non-working spouse’s standard of living is maintained. There is no hard fast rule about how or when alimony will be awarded; however, it is an important consideration when attempting to plan financially through the divorce process.

Conclusion

Identifying the potential sticky financial areas in a divorce and developing a strategy to overcome those issues are the key ingredients to executing a divorce without unnecessary loss and hardship. By evaluating assets properly, exercising effective mediation, and understanding the financial complications of divorce, a couple can reduce the fighting inherent to a high-stakes, high-asset divorce. Certainly, each situation is different and each offers its own complications. We at the Brown Law Firm PC are professionals and business owners who understand what is at stake in the divorce process. We can help you foresee potential challenges, develop strong strategic action plans, and execute them effectively for you in all stages of the divorce process. We understand that good people deserve good representation and we strive to offer the best.