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Is Divorce for Wealthy More Expensive?

There is no real reason that a divorce involving a wealthy person should be more expensive than that of an average or poor person... but it usually is. Isn't the division of assets simple?  In general, all assets acquired during the marriage are presumed to be marital and are equally divided between the parties.  That said, there are a number of reasons that dissolution of high net worth clients is generally more expensive. 1. Complexity of Holdings.  Division of assets can be fairly straightforward the nature of he holdings may be complex.  For example, ERISA may guide division of qualified retirement plans.  Many pensions are only divisible in certain ways.  Offshore accounts, 403b plans, SEP accounts all differ in their divisibility and many require specialists to prepare QDROs. 2. Non-Marital Interests.  Many times there are family trusts, family corporations or LLCs, and other pre-marital or non-marital assets are involved.  If a trust or inheritance comes in during the marriage, or increases in value during the marriage, the non-marital interest may change and there may be a marital component. 3. Division of Assets and Offsetting.  Division of assets is seldom straightforward.  If you have equity in a home,  investments, retirement, pension, investment property, vacation homes, boats, cars and planes each of these have a fair market value.  It seldom makes sense to sell everything and divide, as many of the assets would not yield value and others would want to be retained.  A straight line offset may or may not make sense, especially depending on the liquidity and tax consequence of ownership/liquidation. 4. Spousal Support/Maintenance.  This is one of the most often litigated issues in a divorce with wealthy clientele.  Often one party has significantly more income earning ability and/or more non-marital assets.  Any time that the relative incomes vary widely, there is potential for maintenance.  Kentucky has no simply formula for determining either the amount or length of spousal support.  Income, length of marriage, reasonable living expenses are the most common questions to initially determine spousal support.  Many other factors, including fault, may play into a spousal support award. 5. Expectations.  Often times wealthy and busy clients demand and have expectations of their attorney: (a)  Prompt communication, often demanding personalized attention and faster than usual access/turn around; (b) Immediate access to counsel and answers to questions; (c) Specific times for meetings, conferences and mediation; and (d) Consideration of schedules and changes for primary earner.  This type of service generally comes with additional cost.  Attorneys bill for their time and the more time spent translates into greater legal fees.  It is important to establish realistic expectations when you first consult with counsel. When you meet with an attorney, explain any unique issues and discuss expectations of both the client and the lawyer.  Often high asset cases turn into high-conflict cases.  This is not always and need not be the case.  Often the collaborative law is an alternative to avoid high level of conflict.   An attorney experienced in handling high asset divorces can best advise those clients heading toward divorce/dissolution. It is important to speak early with an attorney to best protect your assets and your legal rights.  If you have questions in Northern Kentucky, contact Bouldin Law Firm and schedule to speak with Michael Bouldin by contacting [email protected] or call 859-581-6453.

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