High Net Worth & Complex Divorce Litigation

While there are basic elements common to every Florida divorce, high net worth divorce grows significantly more complex when more assets are at stake. Regardless of a couple’s net worth, no two divorce cases are ever the same—high asset divorce cases demand careful forensic review of all marital assets in both contested and uncontested Florida divorces.

The length of a marriage is a principal consideration in how assets will be divided. While Florida law dictates that—all other things being equal—marital assets should be divided equitably, the duration of your marriage is a determining factor in this decision.

High asset divorce often includes using experts to value marital assets. For both spouses to agree to a fair settlement all property needs to receive a fair market valuation. When necessary, a forensic accountant is used to uncover all admissible assets for appraisement. Such an appraiser will assign values for personal property such as real estate, art, jewelry, etc.

A high asset divorce will result in new tax liabilities or implications. Due to the nature of the financial transactions that occur during the settlement period, major financial tax consequences may be incurred. New tax liability is common whenever asset liquidation, alimony, property transfers and compensation are involved in a divorce settlement.

Special Considerations for Florida High Net Divorce include:

  • Child Custody and Time Sharing
  • Property Sharing
  • Separate Property
  • Assets and Investments
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Spousal Support (Alimony)
  • Business Evaluation
  • Prenuptial Agreement
  • All documentation relating to the assets, liabilities, and income of your estate will require careful review, as your spouse may attempt to hide certain assets or understate the value of items, such as artwork or furniture. High net worth couples tend to share ownership of a business or firm together, as well as real estate, and a diversified investment portfolio. Preparing for a high net worth divorce requires scrupulous financial investigation and accounting, including a detailed inventory of everything owned between you and your spouse.

    HOW ARE PROPERTY AND ASSETS DIVIDED IN FLORIDA DIVORCE?

    In general, division of assets and property in high net worth Florida divorce is held to the same rule of “equitable distribution” as all other Florida divorce cases. During divorce proceedings, the court identifies what property or assets are considered “marital” or “nonmarital,” meaning which of these is legally bound by rules of equitable division.

    According to Florida Statute 61.075, any “assets acquired during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them,” as well as “the enhancement in value and appreciation of nonmarital assets resulting either from the efforts of either party during the marriage” qualify as marital. This includes, “All vested and unvested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs.”

    In essence, this means anything of value that occurs within the timeframe of your Florida sanctioned marriage may be considered a “Marital Asset” unless otherwise defined in a prenuptial agreement.

    If instead you own or acquire assets prior to marriage, such as property, gifts or an inheritance, these may be deemed “Non-marital Assets.” Similarly, any income or equity obtained through appreciation of said assets will remain non-marital.

    Separate property, or that owned prior to marriage, may not be subject to division during divorce. Assets owned, inherited, or received as a gift before marriage typically are not divided during a divorce. Providing a history of all separate property paperwork will help to keep it from being categorized as shared.

    HOW IS A HIGH NET WORTH FLORIDA DIVORCE DIFFERENT THAN A TYPICAL DIVORCE?

    High net worth Florida couples tend to own more property and assets than average couples, making this stage of divorce lengthier and more complex. One of the most difficult issues in a divorce involving individuals of high net worth is that the couple often shares business assets, professional practices, investment accounts, multiple properties and other highly valued assets.

    A capable legal team will also apply strategy to ensure your spouse is not withholding anything from you either. At the outset of divorce proceedings, each spouse must give careful consideration to determine what assets are marital and subject to equitable distribution. It is extremely important to provide diligent accounting and not withhold anything from your spouse.

    In order to identify the stated value of any existing property and assets, a certified forensic accounting expert (CPA) or appraiser may be employed to perform the required assessments.

    Brodie Friedman’s Boca Raton divorce attorney team works with forensic experts, business accountants and other experts that handle matters which frequently arise in high net worth divorce case, including:

    • Deciding what to do with a family business
    • Obtaining a comprehensive business valuation and appraisal
    • Defining asset characterization
    • Identifying if a qualified domestic relations order is necessary for the division of retirement assets
    • Investigating suspicions of hidden assets and offshore accounts
    • Addressing tax considerations in determining alimony and child support

    Following a qualified business investigation, our accounting team can provide financial data in support of a fair market valuation of all assets and property. This appraisal will be the basis of settlement in equitable distribution. Either party may choose to compensate the other with a cash value “buyout” or the couple may liquidate the shared asset and divide the sale amount.

    WHAT ALIMONY IS LEGAL IN FLORIDA?

    Alimony is generally considered in a divorce situation where one spouse earns significantly less money than their partner and is meant to minimize the economic burden of their new individual status. Depending on the determination of the court as to whether either spouse “can pay” alimony and whether the either spouse “needs alimony,” the following types of alimony may be mandated by court ruling:

    • Bridge-the-Gap Alimony
    • Temporary Alimony (Pendente Lite)
    • Permanent Alimony
    • Durational Alimony
    • Rehabilitative Alimony

    Florida alimony payments may be ordered for payment in a lump sum amount or periodic payments for a set amount of time.

    HOW IS HIGH NET WORTH ALIMONY DETERMINED IN FLORIDA?

    In Florida, a high net worth divorce case is more likely to receive court ordered alimony payment(s) than an average Florida divorce. To determine the type and duration of alimony, the court will evaluate many aspects of the marriage so it is essential to hire a scrupulous legal team to build your in full consideration of the facts. Alimony amounts for high net worth florida divorce are in consideration of the following:

    • The length and duration of the marriage
    • Any evidence of infidelity taking place during the marriage
    • The couple’s established standard of living
    • Each individual’s age
    • The physical and emotional character of both spouses
    • Each individual’s education, career skills and general employability
    • Each individual’s previous or potential earning capacity
    • Each individual’s contribution to marriage: homemaking and childcare, education and career-building support
    • Any responsibility either spouse holds to minor children within the marriage
    • The compiled marital and nonmarital assets or property of each spouse
    • Each individual’s tax status in consideration of potential alimony payments

    WHAT IS TYPICAL CHILD SUPPORT IN FLORIDA?

    To determine an appropriate child support payment in Florida, courts will evaluate the existing standard of living and needs of children to use as a guideline. The goal is to cause as minimal lifestyle interruption as possible amidst divorce proceedings and limit any child distress caused by the new parenting arrangement.

    When courts evaluate child support payments for a high net worth divorce, they take into account all of the same factors, but make special consideration for the opportunities afforded families of greater means.

    Factors that influence the court’s decision in this regard may include:

    • Expensive hobbies
    • Private tutoring or instruction
    • Immersive summer camp
    • Employment of a nanny or au pair
    • Private school tuition
    • College tuition planning

    Simply put, wealthier parents are far more likely to consider enrolling their children in private education and to seek specialized tutoring or individual instruction in the fine arts and the court will evaluate these factors on a case by case basis.

    Our Family Law Practice proudly serves the communities of Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County and Martin County.

    Contact Brodie & Friedman, P.A. today to discuss consultation—even though we may never need to take your case to court, our ability to do so from a position of strength brings immeasurable influence to negotiations across a range of disputed marital issues.