Due to the amount and diversity of assets owned by the parties, high-net-worth divorces in the DMV area are more time-intensive and challenging than most divorces.
Five things you should keep in mind:
1. The Importance of Financial Documentation
- Acquire original documents: retirement, bank, and other financial account statements; deeds to real property; mortgage statements; tax returns (business and personal), etc.
- Designate all assets as marital or nonmarital – if retirement or bank accounts were acquired before marriage, you must have as many account statements as possible to trace existing accounts to nonmarital sources.
- If either party has a defined benefit pension (one that pays a monthly amount at the time of retirement), obtain a copy of the plan documents, as there could be provisions that affect the payment of survivor annuities or other benefits.
2. You May Need to Hire a Financial Expert or Real Estate Appraiser
- Businesses, stock, stock options, and other financial assets may need to be valued by an accountant or other financial expert.
- Real property (houses, land, buildings) may require current valuations.
- Valuations performed even a few years ago can quickly become outdated
- Current values of all marital and nonmarital property are required for the court to distribute marital property equitably.
3. Investigate Concealed or “Dissipated” Asset Issues with an Expert (Forensic Accountant)
- Dissipation of marital property occurs when one spouse spends marital property at the time that the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown for a purpose unrelated to the marriage (e.g., gambling, boyfriend or girlfriend)
- Crucial if one party is attempting to conceal or spend assets to avoid including them in the pool of the marital property.
- An expert may be necessary to uncover hidden assets, especially when one spouse does not have access to all financial records.
4. Expect a Challenging Case
- High-asset divorces can be complicated, usually requiring more experts than ordinary cases.
- High-asset divorces can take time to work through to ensure that all marital property is identified and valued.
5. Always Choose an Experienced Divorce Attorney
- Friends and relatives always have recommendations.
- Hiring an attorney with experience in these types of cases is critical.
- High-asset divorces are unique and have asset concerns not typical in most other divorce cases.