As a divorce attorney practicing in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island, I’ve seen first-hand that when substantial assets are at stake in divorce, there is increased stress, tension, and risk involved. In these cases, it is especially important that spouses choose their battles carefully. When there are more assets to argue over, spouses tend to engage in more disputes as to ownership upon divorce. This can be time consuming, costly, and may not result in the desired outcomes.
Is It Worth the Fight?
In order to protect their assets, many individuals involved in high net-worth divorces make the mistake of choosing to battle out every aspect of their divorce. Expert fees, attorney fees, appraisals, and court appearances can quickly add up. Underestimating the costs of a lengthy divorce proceeding can be extremely taxing, both emotionally and financially. It is important to consider the potential cost of a divorce proceeding, and decide what those expenses are worth to you.
Consider the Children First
Under the law in New York, which governs divorces in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island, a high net-worth divorce is treated no differently than a divorce involving fewer assets. First and foremost, spouses should seek to provide for the best interests of the children, and assert their rights to parenting time including custody and visitation. Regardless of the extent of assets, children should always be the number one priority.
Marital Property Versus Separate Property
However, high net-worth divorces tend to present more complex issues in terms of ownership. For example, in a marriage, there is some property that is considered “marital property” and some that is considered “separate property.” Separate property usually includes property that was acquired before the marriage, inheritances, gifts, and awards in personal injury cases. Marital property includes almost any other property acquired during the marriage. Sometimes the distinction is difficult to make, such as in cases where there is separate property that appreciates significantly over the course of the marriage, and when the other spouse may have contributed to the increase in value. Determining whether property is separate or marital property is important, as only marital property will be equitably distributed in divorce. In high net-worth divorces, there are often more disputes as to which property is marital and which is separate.
Valuation of Property
Your Long Island divorce attorney should be able to thoroughly review your financial documents and assist you in the valuation of your property. Specialized valuation methods are used to determine the value of different types of property. Some of the financial issues that should be addressed in high net-worth divorces include the valuation and distribution of:
• Professional practices
• Family businesses, closely held businesses, and other ownership interests in businesses
• Complex business transactions
• Retirement assets such as stock options, IRAs, 401(k) accounts, and pensions
• Real estate and real property
In divorces on Long Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County courts will require that a Sworn Statement of Net Worth be submitted. This document will require your most recent tax returns and a statement of all assets and income. It will provide a basis for the court to determine what your family’s financial needs are, and how much each party can afford to pay in spousal support and/or child support. The Sworn Statement of Net Worth must be completely truthfully, and sworn to by both the party and the attorney. Keep in mind that judges are required to report any suspicions about tax matters to the IRS. If for some reason a sworn statement cannot be completed by either party, it is best to find a way to settle immediately.
Calling in Experts
In high net-worth divorces, courts may appoint a neutral evaluator in order to determine whether either spouse is attempting to hide resources or undervalue his property. Attorneys sometimes involve investigators or forensic experts if this is the case. It is not uncommon for forensic psychologists and forensic accountants to be used as experts in these cases.
Contact an Experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney for a Free Consultation
You should feel a sense of confidence and clarity as you go through your divorce, and choosing the right attorney can help you achieve this. The experienced Long Island divorce attorneys at the Law Office of Robert E. Hornberger, P.C. routinely handle high net-worth divorce cases in Nassau County and Suffolk County, and can provide you with expert counsel and representation in your divorce. Contact our divorce lawyers today at 631-923-1910for a free consultation.
Our 41-page “Guide to New York Divorce: What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in New York” written by an experienced family law lawyer Long Island’s Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., provides you with real information on the divorce process and the laws it rests upon in the state of New York. This book will help give you a solid foundation upon which you can begin the process of making your family’s, life better. Download your Free Guide to New York Divorce here.