Divorce is stressful for most people regardless of their net worth, but when you have a high-asset divorce case, you have a lot more to lose than the average person going through a divorce. If you have accumulated a lot of assets during your marriage and you don’t have a prenuptial agreement, you must tread very carefully.
New York is an equitable distribution state. This means that unlike community property states like California, marital assets are not necessarily split down the middle or 50/50. If you and your spouse can agree to a fair divorce settlement, then great.
Beware of Going to Court
If you don’t agree on a settlement, your case will land before a judge and he or she will decide how to divide your marital estate in a fair and equitable manner. In other words, you have no control over how your assets are divided if your case goes to court. If you’ve built your fortune with your spouse, dividing your assets during a divorce can become a point of contention. In light of that, here are some legal tips for a high-asset divorce:
1. Hire a Good Divorce Lawyer
When you’re a high-wage earner or when you have significant assets, you need to hire a good divorce attorney to represent you. In fact, you should contact a lawyer as soon as you realize divorce is on the horizon because it’s always better to be proactive instead of reactive. If you have a wide array of assets, such as real estate, investments, retirement accounts, etc., an attorney can explain which assets are separate, which ones are subject to division, and what you’re entitled to under New York divorce law.
If you’re the “out spouse” and your spouse is the one who earns all the money and controls the finances, your attorney fees may be paid for by marital assets – this is something to look into.
2. Locate All of the Assets
One of your first tasks will be to locate all of the marital assets, which include homes, real estate, cash in bank accounts, investments, retirement funds, automobiles, artwork, boats, guns, collectibles, jewelry, antiques, and anything else of value acquired during the marriage. If you have separate property, any increase in value (appreciation) may be counted as the marital estate as well.
If you have a complex financial portfolio or if you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets to cheat you out of your fair share, it may be wise to add a forensic accountant to your divorce team.
3. You May Want to Seal Your Records
When a couple has a high-asset divorce case, they may not want their divorce records to be open for public view, especially when they have a high-profile divorce case. If you don’t want your sensitive information exposed to the public, we may be able to petition the court to have certain records sealed, which means sensitive documents would not be accessible to the public.
If you have a high-asset divorce case, you will need to be represented by a law firm that deals with high-asset divorces on a regular basis. At the Law Office of Dennis R. Vetrano, Jr., LLC, we can help. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.