The media is buzzing about the recently announced divorce of power couple Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. Because Ben and Jennifer filed for divorce after their tenth wedding anniversary, under California law, Garner could be entitled to more money from Affleck. This extra money could come in the form of more spousal support or perhaps even more money from his upcoming Batman movie. On the other hand, because both Garner and Affleck have such a high net worth, there may be little haggling over money at all. One figure which keeps showing up is $115 million combined net worth for the couple, with about $40 million of that being Garner’s. Deciding to divorce is not easy for any couple, however once that decision is made, it is important that the financial interests of both parties be safeguarded. High net worth couples have special issues which must be dealt with during a divorce.
EQUITABLY SETTLING FINANCIAL DIVORCE ISSUES
The state of Colorado is a no-fault divorce state which means either spouse can obtain a divorce without accusing the other of wrongdoing. The burning issues which must be resolved in most divorces are equitably separating marital property and debts, deciding on what form of child custody will be in place and determining whether one spouse will be awarded spousal support. High net worth divorces can be some of the most vigorously litigated divorces in Colorado. It seems that the more assets and money are involved in a divorce, the more time it can take to settle.
SEPARATE VS. MARITAL PROPERTY
While determining which property is separate and which is marital can be important in any divorce, in a high net worth divorce it can be an even more pressing issue. Separate property is any property, money or other assets which was owned by one spouse prior to the marriage or was acquired by a gift or inheritance during the marriage. Marital property is that which was acquired during the marriage—regardless of how that property is titled. It is important to note that if one spouse received an inheritance of $200,000 during the marriage, and that money was used to purchase stocks which increased in value, then any money over the original $200,000 is considered marital property. If one spouse spent an inheritance to remodel the marital home, or pay for their spouse to receive higher education, then special consideration will be made for those expenditures.
SPECIAL ISSUES RELATED TO THE HIGH NET WORTH DIVORCE
Once all marital property has been identified, each asset must have a value attached to it in order to distribute the assets fairly. Many high net worth couples will be dealing not only with the marital home, vehicles and a single bank account but may also have stocks, bonds, mutual funds, multiple bank accounts, expensive art or jewelry collections, retirement funds and insurance policies. In some cases a family-owned business can make asset division even more complex.
WHEN ONE SPOUSE HIDES MARITAL ASSETS
Many times hidden assets must also be considered. If one spouse was aware of the impending divorce before the other, assets may have been given to family members or friends in order to avoid splitting those assets with the other spouse. Long-term financial benefits must also be considered in order to equally compensate each spouse. As an example, real estate and investment portfolios may have vastly different values from the short term to the long term. In fact, high net worth divorces may be more similar to commercial litigation than to a “typical” divorce.
If you are a Colorado resident preparing to go through a high net worth divorce, it is crucial you speak to a knowledgeable Colorado divorce attorney who has experience in this area. High net worth divorces are much more complex than other divorces, and require an attorney who is not only knowledgeable of Colorado divorce laws, but skilled in the art of negotiation while remaining a fierce litigator for his or her client. Contact the Boulder divorce attorneys at Goff & Goff today for a free initial consultation.