How Is a High Net Worth Divorce Different from Other Divorces?

Although many of clients might wish for a high net worth divorce—after all, wouldn’t having more money make it easier to split things up in a divorce? Possibly, but when there are more assets to divide, there is often a corresponding increase in legal complexities and overall difficulty related to the divorce. A high net worth divorce requires an experienced lawyer who can help sort out the details, ensuring a fair division of assets. 

What are the Two Most Likely Scenarios in a High Net Worth Divorce?

While every situation is unique, there are generally two scenarios regarding high net worth situations. The first is that one of the parties enters the marriage with an individual high net worth (less common is that both parties enter the marriage with individual high net worth). The second most common scenario is when the couple (usually together, but sometimes individually), accumulates a significant net worth after the marriage. So, the accumulation could have occurred before the marriage or during the marriage.  

Why is a High Net Worth Divorce Different from a Regular Divorce?

Although the basic proceedings for a high net worth divorce are similar to those in a regular divorce, the difficulties multiply exponentially the more assets that are involved. High net worth divorces usually require more time and cost more than a regular divorce, and there may be additional legal procedures involved. The ownership of family businesses, multiple properties, and offshore assets, as well as the more likely presence of a prenuptial agreement or marriage contract, means there will almost certainly be an increased level of investigation and due diligence required to ensure both parties (and their children) are treated fairly. 

Is a High Net Worth Divorce More Likely to Bring Dissension Between the Parties?

In some ways, having more assets and money brings more dissension. After all, when there is little to split up, there is little to argue about. In many cases, it can be difficult to accurately value all the assets in a high net worth divorce. Further, except in cases where wealth was inherited, it often takes a significant amount of time to accumulate wealth. This means divorces for most high net worth couples take place later in life, which in turn may also bring a high degree of emotional stress for one or both partners. 

Do Both Partners Usually Know Exactly What Is at Stake in a High Net Worth Divorce?

Unfortunately, in many cases, it is usually only one partner that acts as the household’s chief financial officer. In a high net worth divorce where one party has either come into the marriage with wealth or made the wealth individually after the marriage, that person is also the likeliest to control the financial purse strings. This can leave the other party at a distinct disadvantage, as he or she may have little real knowledge regarding the actual level of assets. Because of this lack of knowledge, it may be easier for the party who handles the finances to hide assets. 

Does It Matter Where the Wealth Came From?

Where a couple’s wealth comes from will have an impact on the complexity of the divorce process. If the wealth is accumulated by the couple, it can be a bit easier than if one or both of the individuals are trust fund adults. In this case, the individuals didn’t personally earn the money, and it could be structured through trusts or agreements. If there is no marriage contract clearly spelling out who is entitled to the assets, the process becomes more difficult. Another difficult situation occurs when one party is involved in the ownership of a family business; the spouse who has never worked in the business may nonetheless end up with some level of ownership, which raises even more questions. 

How Can M&Co Law Help with Your High Net Worth Divorce?

At M&Co Law, we offer exceptional client services to every single client. We understand that navigating through Ontario family law can be confusing—particularly for those dealing with a high net worth divorce. We want our clients to be able to make informed decisions about their future, which is why we seek to empower them. Contact M&Co Law today for a comprehensive evaluation of your high net worth divorce. 

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