In a high net worth divorce, there are a number of issues that can turn an otherwise simple divorce into a complex web of litigation. Aside from complex child related matters, there are a wide variety of high net worth financial aspects that need to be identified, examined and thoroughly addressed before a resolution can be accomplished.
- Pre-nuptial Agreements
- Real Estate
- Closely Held Business, Partnership and Professional Practice Valuations
- Stock Options
- Retirement Assets
If you signed a pre-nuptial agreement prior to your marriage, you will have questions about what happens in your divorce and how your prenup will affect asset division. After listening to your situation and your objectives, our divorce attorneys will review you prenup in detail and discuss with you the impact that this will have on the resolution of your divorce matter. When choosing legal representation, consider choosing an attorney whose practice is exclusively devoted to divorce and family law, with experience in high net worth divorce, rather than a general practice lawyer. Consider the implications, for example. of working with a lawyer who generally does not handle complex divorce matters may not completely understand ERISA rules as it relates to pre-nuptial agreements. Our divorce lawyers know that a pre-nuptial agreement may not override the distribution of an ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) plan. This means that even if you waived your rights to your spouse’s employer-sponsored retirement plan as part of the pre-nuptial agreement prior to marriage, you may still be entitled to a spousal percentage share interest of that very retirement plan. However, if you signed an ERISA form waiving your right to future retirement benefits once the marriage occurs, then this issue is a moot point. This example highlights the need to ensure that your divorce lawyer is extremely well-versed in the law, exclusively practices New Jersey family law and regularly handles complex divorce matters.
Real estate is often one of the largest assets in a marital estate. Whether your real estate holdings are comprised of a marital home, vacation home, commercial property and/or investment property, you will need to determine what portion of the property is subject to equitable distribution and what portion, if any, is exempt from the division of assets. Relevant factors involved in the distribution of these assets can include, but are not limited to the date of the marriage, date of purchase, down payment amount, and source of the payments. For instance, if you acquired the property (or money to pay for the property) by means of an inheritance, gift or bequest, then your percentage share interest in the real estate could be impacted.
Once your real estate assets are properly identified you will need to decide if you want to retain or sell the property. After you agree on what to do with the property, our NJ divorce lawyers will help you develop a creative solution to preserve your interest in the assets. Valuation of the property in the form of comparative market analyses and appraisals may be required before the settlement is completed. If a valuation or decision as to disposition of the property cannot be reached, then the courts will need to intervene.
As a general rule, unless your divorce is amicable, a New Jersey divorce case that involves the ownership of business assets will typically take longer to resolve than a divorce where no business assets are involved. For example, if one spouse owns and operates a business, then the business will probably require a formal valuation and report. In this case, forensic accountants and actuarial experts are either jointly or individually retained to determine the fair market value of the business. The valuation process will typically include a thorough inspection of the business site, records, books, general ledgers, payroll registers, receivables, machinery, inventory, real estate, client lists, partnership interests, enterprise and goodwill. Also, if you owned the business prior to the marriage, it will need to be determined if the business is a marital asset. If it is, then we will then need to calculate your spouse’s share interest in the business.
Depending upon whether you are looking to sell the business or continue to run the business post-divorce, our experienced New Jersey Divorce lawyers can help you develop the right arrangement with your spouse. This can be accomplished through a buy-out, sale, annuitized settlement or other distributive arrangement.
If you receive stock options as part of your employment compensation, then you can understand the complexities involved in distributing these assets in a divorce matter. Our attorneys will analyze your stock options to identify the grant date and vesting schedule to determine which assets are subject to equitable distribution. Your settlement agreement may include a constructive trust to address the tax effects of your stock option distribution. It can also safeguard all post-judgment options while still protecting your pre-distribution interests and rights.
If you have acquired retirement assets such as a 401k, 403B, IRA, etc., before or during your marriage then these accounts may be subject to equitable distribution in your divorce. A common misconception when going through a divorce is that if the account is maintained in your exclusive name then your spouse has no right to claim a share. In New Jersey, this is simply not true in most circumstances. Generally, the value of your retirement account accumulated from the date of the marriage to the date that the complaint for divorce is filed will be subject to equitable division. This also generally holds true for pensions, deferred compensation plans, SEPs and SERPs as well. While these assets may not be physically split at the time of the judgment of divorce, we work with highly qualified experts to prepare domestic relations orders. These domestic relations orders will help ensure that you receive the proper share and accurate benefit amount due you at an established future date.
Part of our job as your divorce lawyers is to help guide you through the distributions laws. In high net worth divorce situations, we explain to you any advantages in dividing the retirement asset or offsetting the assets with other assets of the marriage. We will make sure to discuss and explain in detail all tax ramifications, buy-out alternatives and the entire QDRO process. As a basic rule, if the asset is earned during the marriage, it becomes a marital asset subject to division, whether the retirement benefit is a pension, IRA, Keogh, 401K, 403B, or even part of an employee stock option plan (ESOP). The division of retirement assets and employee benefit plans is often complicated when pre-marital interests are commingled with marital contributions.
If you are facing a complex or high net worth divorce, you will need an a lawyer whose entire practice is exclusively focused on family and matrimonial law. Due to the complexities involved in these matters, you would be best served by retaining an attorney who is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer. It is imperative that your divorce lawyer know the intricate New Jersey laws that apply to high net worth divorce cases. If your matter is in the public eye or otherwise high profile, our attorneys will work with you to maintain your privacy and keep your personal matters contained. This is generally accomplished through mediation or extensive behind the scenes negotiations.
Successfully resolving a complex divorce matter requires skill, business acumen, investment knowledge and experience – which are cornerstones of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group. Whether your divorce matter involves complex issues regarding your children and/or your financial matters, you should take the time to meet with one of our highly experienced divorce lawyers. Secure your future. Call us today: (888) 888-0919.