When you are a high profile athlete, entertainer, or entrepreneur about to have a high net worth or an ultra high net worth divorce, there are a number of essentials that you need to consider. These include:
- protecting your ‘brand’,
- protecting your privacy,
- protecting your rights and assets.
Our divorce experts can help you with this.
Protecting Your Privacy in Ultra High Net Worth Divorce
Many ultra high net worth individuals gained their wealth through participation in high profile careers. If you are a top ranked athlete, a popular entertainer, a high-flying entrepreneur, a politician, or simply an extremely successful professional, you probably share certain common concerns in divorce. In addition to protecting your assets and your income-stream, you will also need to protect your privacy. Unless you plan ahead and exercise caution, there is a risk that a divorce might destroy your reputation and subject your whole family to unwelcome public scrutiny. Your ‘brand’ is fragile and we have ways of helping you keep your divorce details out of the public eye. We have significant experience in handling high net worth divorce cases for high profile celebrities and public figures, and can help you with your situation.
Keeping Your High Net Worth Divorce Out of Court
There are ways to keep a high asset or high net worth divorce out of court. By agreeing everything beforehand, the public will not get details of your assets or financial arrangements, or the details of your divorce. When we work with our celebrity clients or high profile individuals, we strive to secure your privacy. There are divorce methods that may help us achieve this:
If you are able to resolve all of your issues either through attorney-assisted negotiation or participation in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, you and your spouse can enter into a “Marital Settlement Agreement” (MSA). The MSA would include all of the agreements that you and your spouse make to resolve your case. MSA’s are formal legal documents that both spouses sign and file with the court. They are sometimes called “Property Settlement Agreements,” but for couples with children, an MSA will include terms regarding child custody and support, as well as terms addressing property distribution and other financial matters. Usually one party’s attorney drafts the MSA and the other reviews it before both parties sign it and file it in court.
If you and your spouse are able to enter into an MSA, you can complete your divorce as an uncontested divorce. You may still need to appear in court, but only for a brief appearance to finalize your paperwork.
Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to Stay Out of Court
If you and your spouse have significant disputes and are not able to reach agreement even after attorney-assisted negotiations, you may still be able to achieve an out-of-court divorce by participating in an ADR process. ADR processes permit parties to choose someone other than a judge to help them reach decisions on some or all aspects of their case. They are streamlined to bypass congested court calendars, often conserving both time and funds. Parties willing to collaborate can often achieve settlement through an ADR process in even the most financially complicated divorces. When necessary, your attorneys can help you choose joint or separate experts to help with your complex issues. These may include financial advisors, forensic accountants, business valuators, real estate or personal property appraisers, pension appraisers or actuaries, vocational experts, or child specialists.
The following are the most commonly used ADR processes in New Jersey Divorce:
When direct negotiations fail, divorcing spouses often choose to go to mediation with a mutually selected “mediator” who acts as a neutral third party to help them resolve their issues. Consulting attorneys generally advise clients separately before and after the mediation sessions. Mediation is confidential, which has particular appeal to high profile individuals who wish to protect financial and personal information. Other benefits of mediation are its propensity for reducing both conflict and costs. Parties who fail to reach agreement in mediation retain the option of proceeding to litigation with the same attorneys.
For couples who are invested in pursuing mutually agreeable solutions but feel more comfortable with increased attorney support, collaborative law is another good alternative. The parties sign a “Collaborative Law Participation Agreement,” promising in writing to pursue only an out of court settlement. This written participation agreement includes promises to communicate honestly and completely and to negotiate in good faith toward a full resolution of all issues. Any necessary experts are retained jointly, as members of the “collaborative team.” Attorneys and clients then have a series of four way meetings to negotiate solutions, bringing in other members of the team as necessary to address specific issues. If parties fail to reach agreement through the collaborative process, they must retain new attorneys before proceeding to court.
If you and your spouse are too far apart in your positions to contemplate reaching mutually acceptable solutions, or if your relationship is too adversarial for you to consider a collaborative process, you can still stay out of court by agreeing to submit some or all of your issues to an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators. Going to arbitration is like going to a private court. Most arbitrators are either retired judges or attorneys with expertise in particular matters, such as complex business distributions in divorce. Like a judge, an arbitrator will consider all evidence, but you may agree to follow somewhat less formal procedures than those required in a courtroom. You will receive a binding decision on any issues you submit, just like a court order. The decision of the arbitrator will be incorporated into your divorce judgement.
Other Options to Preserve Privacy in High Net Worth Divorce
Even if your spouse will not consider lower conflict methods, other strategies can also be deployed to help safeguard your privacy in divorce.
A post-nuptial agreement can address confidentiality during divorce proceedings. Your spouse ‘blowing up’ social media can be avoided and a post-nup could be one way of achieving this.
Post-nuptial agreements are entered into during marriage and spell out certain expectations between the parties. They can include monetary sanctions for violations. An agreement to restrict postings on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms can protect your privacy during a divorce case.
For a post-nuptial agreement to be valid in New Jersey, there must be, at a minimum:
- Full disclosure by both parties,
- Independent representation for both parties,
- No coercion or duress, and
- Fair and equitable terms.
Sealing Court Records
If, despite your best efforts, you still end up in court, you can ask the judge to seal your financial documents. This will not be an easy argument to make, however. Court records are generally open to the public unless a party can prove that a privacy need outweighs the public’s interest in open records. A request for sealing certain documents in a divorce file must therefore be narrowly tailored to specifically address the privacy concerns.
Whatever life experiences may have put you in the spotlight, our experienced New Jersey Divorce lawyers can help you keep your divorce proceedings out of the public eye. If you have questions about the best way to accomplish this in light of your own unique circumstances, contact us today to schedule your consultation. Call (888) 888-0919 or click the button to schedule a strategy session with a divorce expert.