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Common Mistakes in a High-Asset Divorce


Some people may look at wealthy couples and think, “They must be happy because they have so much money. They can buy anything they want.” In reality, money can only buy so much happiness. If money alone led to happiness, then high-net worth couples would stay married and they wouldn’t divorce. But they do divorce and history has proven that being a millionaire or a billionaire does not guarantee marital bliss.

It’s common knowledge that a large percentage of couples divorce because of adultery and money problems. While wealthy couples may not divorce over arguments about money, they have plenty of reasons to divorce just like any other couple.

Common reasons why high-net-worth couples divorce:

  • Alcoholism
  • Substance abuse
  • Infidelity
  • Domestic violence
  • Mental illness
  • Illness or disability on behalf of a spouse
  • Strong differences in parenting styles
  • One spouse is narcissistic
  • The couple simply grew apart
  • One spouse treats the other poorly
  • One spouse is no longer attracted to the other spouse
  • The couple is no longer intimate and this wreaks havoc on the marriage
  • The parents have a disabled child and the challenges strain the marriage
  • A spouse feels their in-laws are too heavily involved in their lives
  • The breadwinner spouse is always away from home working

Wealthy couples divorce for many of the same reasons as other couples, but the problem is that if they let their emotions get the best of them, it can have a greater impact on their divorce proceedings. Why? Because high-net-worth couples have a lot more assets at stake.

Marital Misconduct & Equitable Distribution

New York is an equitable distribution state, which means that a couple’s estate is not necessarily divided down the middle. If the couple cannot agree on a settlement and it becomes the judge’s decision, the marital estate will be divided in an equitable or fair fashion based on the facts of the case. If marital misconduct is a factor, it can certainly impact the judge’s decisions about the estate.

For instance, if a bitter spouse hides marital assets or squanders them at the gambling tables or on a paramour, their marital misconduct can come back to haunt them in court.

That said, if you are a high-net-worth individual, it’s important to avoid making these common mistakes made by the wealthy:

  • Giving away too much to your spouse because you have a guilty conscience.
  • Waiving your right to spousal support because of a guilty conscience.
  • Giving it all away to your spouse because you want the divorce over with.
  • Rushing the divorce because you just want it over.
  • Failing to hire a forensic accountant to carefully examine your assets or search for hidden assets.
  • Making emotional decisions about your divorce instead of treating it like a business transaction.
  • Wasting marital assets; for example, wasting money on a lavish vacation, a fancy new sports car, plastic surgery, or on a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Hiding marital assets.
  • Not being honest with your divorce attorney.
  • Failing to consider a collaborative divorce.
  • Rushing into a new relationship while you’re still married and being out in the open about it, in effect sending your spouse into a jealous rage.

Next: High-Asset, High-Conflict Divorce

If you are a wealthy individual in Putnam, Dutchess, or Orange County and are facing divorce, we urge you to contact our firm to schedule a consultation. We specialize in high-asset divorce cases, and can provide you with the guidance you need during this time.