What makes a high-asset divorce so complicated?

Not surprisingly, the same California family laws apply to high-net-worth couples and to those of more limited means. In other words, to some extent, a divorce is a divorce.

Like other couples, high-net-worth couples who are divorcing will have to divide their property and debts according to California’s community property laws. They also will have to decide spousal support.

If they have minor children together, the couple will also have to decide custody, child support and parenting time questions.

These issues impact anyone in Oakland or the surrounding Bay Area communities who are going through divorce.

High-net-worth divorces often involve lots of property that is hard to value

One practical difference between high-net-worth couples and others is that the former will usually have their wealth tied up in many different assets.

In short, the divorce of a high-net-worth couple is likely to involve much more than a home, a couple of cars and perhaps some retirement plans and other accounts. Often, their assets are difficult to put a value on and even more difficult to divide.

To give one example, it may take an expert to estimate the value of a spouse’s small business or professional practice. It also may require some negotiation or other steps to figure out exactly how the couple will divide the business interest, particularly if only one spouse has been involved in the business’s operations.

Income, expenses and taxes

The fact that many wealthier couples earn a high annual income may affect the court’s decisions both about child support and spousal support.

On a related point, what to others might seem like extraordinary expenses may for a wealthier couple be necessary to maintain their family’s standard of living. The cost of private school for the children, for example, may be an issue in a high-net-worth divorce.

Finally, high-net-worth couples may have to think about how their decisions in the divorce will affect their capital gains and other taxes.

High net worth and high-conflict

Finally, couples who have the means to litigate their divorces aggressively may be more prone to doing so. The cost of going to court could seem worth it, especially if there are some hard feelings surrounding the divorce or there is a lot of money at stake.

On the other hand, many high-net-worth couples also maintain a high profile in their communities. Having the details of their finances and personal lives aired in a public court proceeding may might not be appealing.

More privacy is one reason why many high-net-worth couples consider resolving their divorces through mediation or collaborative law.