Anyone who plans to file for divorce should hire a qualified divorce lawyer, but it's especially important to do so if your spouse has a high net worth. Someone with a high net worth typically has at least $1 million in liquid assets, or assets that are easy to convert to cash without losing any of their value. If you plan to divorce someone with a high net worth, there is a lot more money at stake in terms of alimony payments, child support, and division of marital assets. Protect your financial interests by following these tips.
1. Hire a forensic accountant.
If your spouse is the one who pays the bills and handles the investments, hire a forensic accountant to find out how much money is available. A forensic accountant will review your bank statements as well as your spouse's previous tax returns and employment history to determine if there is any discrepancy between your household income and expenses. Your accountant may even be able to locate hidden assets to ensure they are included in your divorce settlement.
2. Review your prenuptial agreement with an attorney.
If you signed a prenuptial agreement before you got married, have an attorney review it before you file for divorce. There are some cases when a prenuptial agreement may be deemed invalid. If your spouse did not disclose all of his or her assets before you signed the document, for example, a judge may consider the agreement fraudulent. A prenuptial agreement signed under duress may also be invalidated, so let your attorney know if your spouse coerced you into signing it.
3. Hire an appraiser to determine the value of your assets.
Some assets gain value over time, so it is important to hire an appraiser to determine the value of your assets just before you file for divorce. Your diamond bracelet or your spouse's investment account may be worth a lot more now than they were when you got married. Determining the value of each item will help you figure out if you want to fight for a particular item or let your spouse have it. It's probably not worth fighting over an item valued at $100, but an asset valued at $10,000 is a different story.
4. Consult with a tax attorney or certified public accountant.
Divorcing someone with a high net worth may have tax implications for you when the divorce is finalized. Don't make any decisions until you consult with an attorney or accountant to find out what those implications might be. If you have children, for example, you may need to negotiate with your spouse to determine who will claim each child as a dependent on your next federal tax return.
5. Document all of your liabilities.
Many people focus on asset distribution when they file for divorce, but you may also be responsible for paying joint debts or handling other liabilities. Do not file for divorce until you meet with your financial advisor and develop a complete listing of all liability accounts. Be sure to include personal loans, mortgages, car loans, home equity lines of credit, credit card debt, and back taxes.
6. Review business-related financial records.
If you and your spouse operate a family business, you don't necessarily have to sell the business when you get divorced. You may be able to continue operating the business together even if you are not married. If you have no interest in working with your spouse once the divorce is finalized, you may be able to buy out his or her shares in the business. Don't make a decision either way until you review your company's profit and loss statements, balance sheet, and general ledger to determine how much the company is worth.
If you think filing for divorce is the best way to resolve your marital problems, don't let your spouse guilt you into giving up assets or signing documents without seeking the advice of an attorney. Your lawyer will help you get the fairest settlement possible and ensure your children receive the support they need to live happy, productive lives.