High-net-worth divorce cases should be the same as any other divorce case. All divorce cases require a determination of financial issues, including equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, entitlement to alimony /spousal support, and calculation of child support (if there are minor children of the marriage). Florida’s dissolution of marriage laws apply to every divorce regardless of the amount of the parties’ incomes or the value of their marital estate.
Divorcing couples with high-net-worth marital estates and substantial income often present unique issues that require specialized legal experience and distinct strategic planning. An assembly of skilled and experienced experts are required for the successful presentation and resolution of the case.
The majority of high-net-worth dissolution of marriage cases include claims for alimony . Generally, there is one spouse who is the earner and the other who earns a lower income or no income at all. Alimony can be in the form of bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational or permanent. A party who has a need for financial support may also seek temporary alimony to be awarded during the pending case. Alimony can be ordered to be paid over time for a set period of years depending upon the length of the marriage; short-term - a duration of less than 7 years, moderate-term - a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term-a duration of 17 years or greater. When determining a request for alimony , the court must analyze the need for alimony based upon the requesting spouse’s income or their ability to earn income if they are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. If alimony is sought against you by your spouse and he or she is unemployed or underemployed, income will be imputed to them. You may need to have your spouse undergo a vocational evaluation, either with their agreement or by court order, to determine the amount of income your spouse could be earning. Alternatively, if you are the spouse seeking alimony and are required to submit to a vocational evaluation, you may need to retain your own expert vocational evaluator to rebut the findings, opinions, or testimony of your spouse’s vocational evaluation expert.
Another significant issue in high-net-worth divorces is equitable distribution. Equitable distribution is the fair, not necessarily equal, division of marital assets and liabilities between spouses. The Court must consider the factors in Florida Statutes §61.075 in determining equitable distribution. Marital assets and liabilities are those acquired or accumulated by either spouse individually or by the spouses jointly from the date of marriage through the date of filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage. The court may also determine that the assets or liabilities must be valued on the date of trial or another date.
The equitable division of a marital business often arises in high net worth divorces. A marital business may be owned and operated by one spouse or both spouses together; under both circumstances the business must be valued for equitable distribution. There are different methods for valuing a business based upon various factors, including the nature of the business and its historical operations. Valuation experts may need to be retained to testify at trial. Each party may retain their own expert or a neutral expert may be retained depending upon the dynamics of and issues in your divorce case. There may be tax issues and implications that must considered when determining equitable distribution and other financial issues in your divorce, whether through a marital settlement agreement or by the court in a final judgment. The appropriate experts, including forensic accountants, may be necessary in your case to resolve these issues.
The attorneys at Hertz • Sager understand and have the experience to handle the unique complexities that accompany high-net-worth divorces. They also have the knowledge and professional relationships to staff your case with the necessary and appropriate experts for the particular issues in your high-net-worth divorce. If you have a significant marital estate and have been served with a petition for dissolution of marriage or are contemplating filing for divorce, the skilled and experienced attorneys at Hertz • Sager are available to successfully navigate you through the divorce process and help protect your share of the assets you have amassed.