At the very least, divorce can be an emotional rollercoaster. This holds true regardless of the couple’s net worth. But it’s also true that a higher net worth can add complexity to an already complicated process. This is particularly salient when it comes to property division.
Equitable distribution controls property division
At the outset of any divorce, the court will classify all of the couple’s assets as either marital property or separate property. Separate property is those assets owned wholly by one spouse and, typically, it will be retained by that spouse following the divorce. Marital property is the assets in which both spouses have an interest and it is subject to equitable distribution – the court will seek to divide the property between the two spouses in a fair manner, based upon many different factors.
For high-asset couples, unique challenges are presented. Both spouses may not be aware of all assets and debts properly attributed as marital property. They run the risk of property being misclassified or missed entirely. Because of this, bringing in a forensic accountant is often a smart move to make. An accountant can help to ensure that everything relevant to property distribution is identified and that the relative interest each spouse has in that property is calculated.
Another option high-asset couples may find of particular use is mediation. When a divorce is contested, the court will make its own rulings with respect to property distribution. And while the court’s goal is to be fair, this does not mean the result will be what the spouses wanted. But if the spouses are able to work together, they can choose what is important to them and what is not, allowing them to reach an agreement which carries no surprises.