Divorce and the High-Net Asset Couple
When filing for a divorce in Maryland, decisions are made regarding the fundamentals: marital property, alimony, and—if there is at least one minor child—custody and child support. Resolution of these issues is required no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you make. But your personal wealth could become a major factor in the dissolution of your marriage if you have accumulated substantial assets or your net worth increased considerably during the marriage. Suddenly, the complexities of the common divorce intensify, with high-net asset distribution creating a unique and complicated situation.
Distribution of Assets
Generally, assets acquired during marriage by either spouse are considered marital property under Maryland law, but any gifts and any property bequeathed to one or the other spouse would not be considered marital property. State law provides for an “equitable” distribution of the marital property among the divorcing couple. But “equitable” is not “equal,” so one spouse ultimately could walk away with a larger portion of the couple’s estate. For example, a court could award the family home to one spouse while awarding the vacation home to the other with one home having a much higher market value than the other. If a divorcing couple cannot agree on how to divide the marital property without a court order, the court may consider a number of factors in reaching its decision:
- What, if anything, each spouse contributed to the estate
- Whether each spouse deserves to maintain his or her current lifestyle
- How and whether each spouse contributed to the breakup
- Whether there are any debts associated with any part of the marital property
- Whether there are any special tax implications
- Whether there are any retirement assets
The Role of the Financial Expert for the High-Net Asset Couple
Couples with an extensive financial portfolio may need to hire independent professionals to aid in the valuation of:
- Businesses and professional practices
- Pensions and retirement plans
- Stock portfolios and other similar investment accounts
- Real estate investments
- Vacation homes and timeshares
- Investments in foreign countries
- Art and antiques
The valuation and distribution of these assets could impact decisions regarding alimony and child support. With alimony awards, courts consider the value of the marital assets and the couple’s income. An alimony award based on an incorrect valuation of marital assets could result in an inequitable distribution of the couple’s property. Experts in forensic accounting, investment management, and even real estate appraisal—along with an experienced family law attorney—can help clients reach a settlement that is both fair and equitable.
In Maryland, child support is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines; but parents with a high net worth can find themselves paying well above the Guidelines limit. If the parents’ combined adjusted gross income (AGI) is more than $15,000 per month, the court has the discretion to depart from the guidelines. Having skilled professionals involved in the valuation of marital property could result in a lower AGI, thereby decreasing the amount of child support awarded.
With your assets and personal finances at stake, it is critical that you choose the right attorney to help guide you through the complexities of a high-net asset divorce. For a consultation, contact Howard County MD divorce attorney Fred L. Coover, Esq., of Coover Law Firm, LLC, at 410-995-1100.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general educational & informational purposes only. It is not intended to convey legal advice or serve as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.