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The ultimate guide to high net worth and ultra-high net worth divorces

By LLM Reporters on 23rd September 2020

Nobody goes into a marriage expecting to get divorced, and in most cases, both spouses mean every word of the vows they exchange at the altar – but sometimes, life can take some unexpected turns, which for some, can end the up in court.

Going through a divorce is a stressful and upsetting experience that has the power to emotionally drain just about anyone – but for high net individuals, it can often become even more of a distressing experience, especially where children and multiple assets are involved. Protecting your finances and wealth can feel like an additional burden at such a time of upheaval, so how exactly can you lighten the load?

High net worth divorces require a great deal of expertise in order to make them as smooth and seamless as possible, so it’s essential you choose a team of experienced divorce and family lawyers who will guide you through the process from start to finish. While it might not alleviate the stress entirely, it will certainly release you of some of the burden, whilst also ensuring you get a fair deal, and that your assets are not put under threat.

Issues such as child custody, maintenance, trusts and businesses will make the process more complicated, so it’s vital to enlist the right help to get you the best possible result.

High net worth divorces require a great deal of expertise in order to make them as smooth and seamless as possible

?Is your divorce high-net?

A high net divorce is a case where the assets of one or both parties exceed financial needs or expenses. This might include properties, trusts and both personal and business assets, as well as inheritances and pensions.

In some cases, a high net worth divorce can be easier where a pre-nuptial agreement was signed beforehand. This is usually requested where one party is significantly wealthier than the other, and wishes to protect their fortune should the marriage break down.

A pre-nuptial agreement details the ownership of all assets and how these should be divided in the event of a divorce – so if you’ve yet to say ‘I do’ then it’s something to consider before walking down the aisle. It’s particularly wise if you are considered ultra-high-net, and have a considerable amount of wealth at stake.

Children

Where children are involved, it’s likely that both parties will want to share custody, although in some cases, one may wish to have their children live with them full time. Generally, both will want to ensure that their offspring are able to continue with hobbies and interests and to maintain a similar lifestyle after the divorce, affecting them as little as possible to ensure they remain feeling happy and well cared for.

If custody arrangements are able to be arranged amicably, then the next step will be to reach an agreement on how the costs involved with maintaining the children’s lifestyles will be handled.

Where children are involved, it’s likely that both parties will want to share custody, although in some cases, one may wish to have their children live with them full time

Properties

In ultra-high-net divorce cases, there are often a number of properties involved, including the marital home plus any holiday homes or investment properties one or both of the parties may have acquired.

With this in mind, it will be necessary to consider what will happen to those once the divorce process has been finalised – will you sell and split the profits, or would one party like to keep one or all of these assets?

Where marital homes are concerned, it’s common practice for the title of the property to be transferred to one party through the renunciation of occupancy rights. This is an arrangement that the ‘Minute of Agreement’ will specify and will outline whether this will occur in exchange for a lump sum of money or any other means.

However, the property may also be sold if neither party can come to an agreement, with funds from the sale split in accordance with the agreement.

In ultra-high-net divorce cases, there are often a number of properties involved, including the marital home plus any holiday homes or investment properties one or both of the parties may have acquired

Personal and business assets

Before any agreements can be reached on the division and possession of personal and business assets, their values must be established.

Personal assets could include the likes of artworks, jewellery and cars to name but a few. Business assets, meanwhile, will be assessed through taking an overview of the balance sheet figures.
An experienced divorce lawyer will be able to outline what exactly you are entitled to and explain how your assets can be safeguarded.

In divorces where substantial assets are involved, it’s important to educate yourself on the potential tax implications, so be sure to discuss this with your lawyer, too.

Should one of the parties attempt to obstruct the fair division of assets, it may be necessary to have them frozen nationally, and sometimes internationally, too – so be prepared to act quickly and keep your lawyer in the loop about the conversations being had between you and your soon-to-be former spouse.

The bottom line

Going through a divorce is far from an enjoyable experience, but with the right approach, it can cause you as little stress as possible. In an amicable divorce, it’s possible to keep the process out of the courts entirely, so make use of mediation and try your best to come to an agreement between you before going straight for litigation. If this is not possible, it might be necessary to raise a court action, but your divorce lawyer will be on hand to guide you as to the right course of action throughout.