Does your High Net Worth Divorce have to be Costly?

No matter what your net worth may be, the same legal issues apply to every divorce. The difference is that legal fees seem to somehow increase in direct correlation to how much your estate is worth. This isn’t necessarily because your issues are more difficult, but because more is at stake for all involved, including your attorneys. But, it really doesn’t have to be costly.

For all Arizona divorces, you need to decide the following:

  • How to equitably divide community assets
  • How to equitably divide community debts
  • If there will be spousal maintenance; and, if so, how much and for how long

Additionally, if minor children are involved:

  • A parenting time plan
  • Division of the kids’ expenses
  • If there will be child support; and, if so, how much (at least initially)
  • Other practical considerations in your parenting plan (e.g., travel, child care, transportation, illness)

These same items must be discussed and decided whether your net worth is a few thousand or several million.

One difference is that the more complex a financial estate may be, the more nuances and related issues may need to be addressed. These could include: Splitting up trusts, foreign holdings and properties, complexity around businesses and charitable organizations, complicated compensation structures, and difficult to value personal property, such as art and antiques. However, you can use neutral experts when necessary to provide timely guidance and options that can work for both of you, instead of two separate competing experts hired by your attorneys.

Another commonly overlooked difference is the process you choose for divorce. By its very nature, a litigated divorce involves two separate attorneys billing hourly, and, typically: expert witnesses, investigators, court appointed commissioners and/or parenting specialists, to name a few. The more your estate is worth, not only will there be more legal issues to sort through, but typically the attorneys who litigate high net worth cases charge more. In Arizona, these attorneys often charge upwards of $800 per hour. Legal fees will likely start at $100,000 and can end up several times that when all is said and done. And here’s the kicker, you lose control of the outcome, the process can take years and the emotional cost can rival the financial cost in many cases.

Despite the common conception that you MUST hire an attorney for a high net worth divorce, I’ve found that most high net worth couples and families fare much better by choosing a more collaborative process such as mediation. Just a few quick points will quickly illuminate the benefits:

  • Maintain Control – No Judge will order what is to happen with your kids and your financials – you make 100% of the decisions about all aspects of your present and future
  • Retain Your Wealth – The hundreds of thousands of dollars you spend in years of the litigation process rarely result in satisfying outcomes. You know this from your friends and family, or even you, who have been through a court battle. Why not cut through all the unnecessary noise, legal maneuvering and significant waste, and, instead, focus directly on the real issues in a more cost-effective process where you can efficiently work out:
    • How to structure an arrangement that maximizes your financial situation, providing for both of you and the kids to maintain a comfortable, financially secure present and future;
    • How to co-parent effectively as partners in parenthood and maybe even as friends;
    • How to ensure your estate is left to your loved ones and not your lawyers;
    • How to move forward through the divorce process quickly and efficiently (months vs. years) and get back to your business and life and pleasant pursuits;
    • How to move past the grief, frustration, and hurt and start working on a more fulfilling and healthier future sooner than later
  • Avoid Wasting Time in Litigation – Due to the nature of our litigation system and the backlog in the courts, a divorce with lawyers typically takes 1-3 years or more. A mediated divorce, even with very high net worth couples, at least in my experience, can resolve with mutually satisfying agreements in a matter of months
  • Minimize the Stress of emotionally exiting your marriage. A supportive, faster, healthier process can make a huge difference in the emotional toll a divorce can take.

If you’ve worked hard to get to where you are in life, why go backwards with an unsatisfying, emotionally and financially draining divorce with lawyers when better options exist? I’d love to tell you more about our Collaborative Team Mediation© process designed exclusively for high net worth couples moving forward through divorce. Feel free to reach out to me at 602-780-3798.

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Keeping the House in your Divorce

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