For most of human history, marriage was as much a business contract as anything else -- and even modern-day laws reflect that idea. The marriage contract embodies a couple's financial and legal responsibilities toward each other in much the same way that any business partnership would.
Like all business partnerships, the more money that's involved, the more complicated it becomes to dissolve the partnership. That's what makes high-asset divorces different from divorces where a couple has very little to split. If you and your spouse have accumulated a great deal of wealth during your marriage, you need to be pragmatic about your plans for divorce:
1. Locate all the assets
The more you have, the easier it is to lose track of something. You need to find records or information on all the marital assets you can identify. This includes the basics (like houses, undeveloped property, cars, boats and businesses), but it also includes:
- Antiques and artwork
- Educational accounts
- Retirement funds and pensions
- Oil and gas leases
- Stocks and bonds
- Intellectual property
Once all the assets have been identified, you can start to sort out what may be considered separate property and what's marital property (and subject to division).
2. Hire an attorney early
Once you've made the decision to seek a divorce, don't wait: Hire an experienced attorney right away. Too many people listen to well-meaning but misguided advice from their friends and relatives, only to have reality come crashing down on them once they talk to an actual lawyer about their case.
Since every situation is different, an attorney is always in the best position to tell you what you can expect to happen as your divorce proceeds -- particularly where finances are concerned.
3. Consider alternatives to litigation
Would you prefer to keep your divorce private? Many high-asset couples feel the same. They don't want their personal lives to be the subject of social gossip. Mediation and collaborative divorces are often possible when a couple is willing to work together to dissolve their marriage as amicably and fairly as possible. Litigation is always best left as a "last resort" when other methods fail.
If you're ready to make your move toward a happier future, contact our office to see how we might be able to help you.