New Jersey High Net Worth Divorce Attorneys
Legal Guidance for Divorce with Large Assets in Passaic County, NJ
When a couple decides a divorce is inevitable, they have many details to figure out before they can finalize their divorce. If there are children under 18, the couple must work out a custody arrangement and financial support for the children. Likewise, they must hammer out what to do with their belongings, including all assets, debts, furniture, furnishings, investments, insurance policies, healthcare coverage, residences, essentially all that the couple owned and owed. This can be a horrendous task for any couple, whether they are minimum wage earners living in the city or business owners living a middle-class suburban life. However, when wealthy couples divorce, the financial stakes are even higher since both have more to lose and there are many large assets to value and disseminate. Alimony can also be a source of debate and potential conflict. For this reason, high-net-worth divorces are complex and most often require skilled divorce and family law attorneys to help the couple sort out their lives and what happens in the course of reaching a divorce resolution.
The experienced team of attorneys at The Montanari Law Group, LLC has served many high asset divorce clients in Wanaque, Wayne, Hawthorne, Ringwood, Clifton, and surrounding places throughout Passaic County, Essex County, and Bergen County. Contact us online today or call our offices located in Little Falls, New Jersey at 973-233-4396 to schedule a free confidential initial consultation with one of our New Jersey divorce attorneys.
Identifying a High Net Worth Divorce in New Jersey
What distinguishes a high-net-worth divorce is the number of assets and their worth. For example, a couple that owns over a million dollars’ worth of liquid assets, meaning cash or those assets that can easily be turned into cash, are considered high net worth. It also includes those with various investments, like stocks, equity compensation through their business or employer, and stock options. They may have retirement accounts, like IRAs, pensions, and profit-sharing too. Affluent couples typically have business or professional practices and own boats, cars, vacation homes, collectibles, jewelry, and other valuable holdings.
No matter what the couple owns, however, the law in New Jersey is that they must divide all assets and debts accumulated during the marriage equitably. With so many assets held in various forms of liquidity and non-liquidity, that may not be easy. To complicate matters, assets that each of the couple owned prior to marriage is separate property unless they commingled the separate property with marital property. So, for instance, a wife who owned a house prior to marriage may change the property from her separate property to marital property by adding her husband’s name on the title to the property. And even if she kept the property in her name, her husband may still have an interest in the property if she used funds earned by either party during the marriage to improve the property and increase its value. In fact, the increase of separate property value during the marriage may give the non-owner spouse a financial interest in the separate property. Likewise, inheritances that are separate property by law may be commingled in a joint bank account for it to lose its separate property character.
New Jersey Attorneys Handling Marital Property in High Asset Divorces
Couples often acquire property in their separate names, even though the property is acquired during the marriage and is, therefore, marital property. Unless the couple signed a postnuptial agreement for the property to be the separate property of one of the parties, the assets might still belong to both parties equally. Similarly, prenuptial agreements may determine which property remains separate property during a divorce. Couples entering into an agreement before marriage may designate which assets are to remain the separate property of one party once they are married. As long as the agreement is legally prepared and signed, a court may respect the agreement, though a judge is not bound to do so. In general, prenuptial agreements are more likely respected than postnuptial agreements.
The more complex issue after determining separate and marital property is valuing the property. While some assets are easily valued, like cash and bank accounts, others are quite complicated. Businesses, for example, require the expertise of a professional business valuation expert to arrive at the fair value of the business. Fair value encompasses many aspects of the business, not just the fair market value. For example, it matters what type of business entity one or both of the parties own, such as a corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC. The interest each of the parties holds in the business and the marketability of the asset also comes into the equation, among other factors. Additional complications occur when one party owns a business that is cash-based and does not keep good records, so the value is hard to determine. And though it is never recommended, divorcing parties may hide assets. The law requires that both parties fully disclose all their assets and debts. Thus, when a marriage with complex finances and holdings is dissolved, a host of professionals are necessary to confirm and evaluate assets, such as business evaluators, forensic accountants, and real property appraisers.
Complications of Dividing Large and Complex Assets in NJ Divorce
Overall, dividing marital property in high-asset marriages is complicated, and if the parties must let a trial judge decide how their property is split, the judge will address the legal considerations used to make an equitable division. Some of those factors include the age, health, and income of the parties; lifestyle lived during the marriage; the separate property of each party; pre or postnuptial agreements; tax consequences; and contributions each made to appreciate the property, grow a business, or maintain the couple’s home and family life. Other considerations for trades and offsets, rather than a straight percentage split, is the liquidity of assets and the additional costs of splitting an asset. For example, a retirement or pension account may cost several thousand dollars to divide through a court-approved qualified domestic relations order. Rather than incur more costs, the parties can agree that the party who earned the retirement keeps it in exchange for a greater interest in an investment property or the family residence.
Divorce Decree and Awarding Alimony in a High Net Worth Divorce
And finally, the final divorce decree must state what the parties decide about alimony. Typically, spousal support is based on one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay. In the case of a high-asset marriage, the spousal support based on the paying party’s income and assets can be high. So, situations warranting support are commonly found when one party maintained the household while the other worked. At divorce, the non-working party’s lifestyle would change drastically compared to the living standard during the marriage without spousal support. For long-term marriages, typically longer than ten years, alimony may last for a long time or indefinitely. Sometimes one spouse needs alimony for as long as it takes to rehabilitate the party vocationally so that they may return to the working world and become self-supporting. And the couple’s property division may also affect the amount and length of support. Considering the householder who gave up a career, the judge may award more income-producing property to that spouse over the one who owns a professional practice or business.
Due to the sheer number of assets and the difficulty of assessing the value of some of the assets, high-net-worth divorces may linger in the court system for years. However, you can alleviate your fears about getting a fair divorce with a highly skilled divorce attorney who can connect you with the professionals you need to expedite the necessary evaluations and prepare your case for trial. A professional divorce lawyer can work tirelessly to settle your divorce, whether it be through negotiation with the other spouse’s attorney, mediation, or another collaborative alternative. If possible, it may be more beneficial in terms of time, money, and confidentiality to avoid letting a judge decide what is equitable in court. But for those items in a high asset divorce that cannot be resolved by agreement, your attorney can advocate for your interests at trial and fight for the assets and share of your marital life that you deserve.
Preserve Your Assets with Help from our Ringwood NJ High-Net-Worth Divorce Lawyers
Call our office in Passaic County to speak with a New Jersey divorce and asset division attorney experienced in high-net-worth divorces at The Montanari Law Group, LLC. We have extensive experience in this area and are prepared to assist you through all of the complexities of the process that lies ahead.
With local offices at one Lower Notch Road, Little Falls, New Jersey 07424 where we serve clients in all surrounding communities in towns such as Bloomingdale, Pompton Lakes, West Milford, Woodland Park, and Wayne.
Contact us today at 973-233-4396 to discuss your case with a high-net-worth divorce lawyer. Consultations are free of charge.