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Considerations in a High-Net-Worth Divorce

William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law Sept. 19, 2023

Women taking out wedding ringAny divorce can be complex, but a high-net-worth divorce presents a whole new set of challenges and considerations. As a rule of thumb, a high-net-worth divorce is one with at least $1 million worth of assets subject to division.  

Divorces that involve significant assets require careful planning and attention to detail. For this reason, you might want to get legal help from an experienced family law attorney to ensure that you receive a fair and equitable settlement and that everything is in order.  

William E. Morgan, Attorney at Law, understands the unique challenges that often come up in high-net-worth divorces. He provides effective and reliable legal guidance to divorcing individuals and couples in Grays Harbor County, Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Montesano, and Pacific County, Washington.  

Dividing Assets in Washington

When married couples file for divorce in Washington, their community property is subject to equitable and just division under state law. Under this concept, the couple’s community property is divided in a manner that is considered fair, which means the court must consider a number of factors, including: 

  • The length of the marriage 

  • The nature and extent of the community and separate property 

  • Each spouse’s income, employability, and economic circumstances 

  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage and raising children 

Over the years, Washington courts have established that marriages lasting 25 years or longer typically warrant a roughly equal division of community property, though the judge may deviate from equal division based on the couple’s unique circumstances.  

High-Net-Worth Divorces & Considerations

If you and your spouse have accumulated significant wealth and assets during the marriage, getting a divorce requires careful consideration and planning because your financial future depends on it. Typically, high-net-worth divorces involve the following unique challenges:  

  • Prenuptial agreement. Prenups are a common occurrence in marriages where one or both spouses have accumulated considerable wealth before the marriage. For this reason, it is vital to check the terms of the prenup because it is likely that the agreement may dictate how your assets should be divided in the event of divorce.  

  • Complex assets. High-net-worth divorces often involve what is known as “complex” assets, which may include difficult-to-value assets, businesses and investments, illiquid assets, international assets, and inherited assets.  

  • Spousal support, child custody, and child support. Washington courts consider an array of factors when making decisions regarding child custody, spousal support (alimony), and child support. With the latter two, the income and economic circumstances of both spouses play a crucial role. However, when a divorce involves wealthy spouses, determining what support amount would be appropriate can become complicated.  

  • Tax issues and forensic accounting. Many individuals overlook the potential tax implications of a divorce, which can lead to devastating consequences when a divorce involves considerable assets. For example, selling the family home to divide its proceeds can result in substantial capital gains taxes.  

  • Hidden assets. While individuals may attempt to hide assets in any divorce, it is more likely to occur when a divorce involves significant and high-value assets. Spouses are often tempted to hide assets to prevent them from being subject to division in divorce proceedings. A skilled attorney can help find hidden assets to ensure that you receive a fair and reasonable portion of the assets in your divorce.  

  • Publicity. Most individuals with considerable wealth wish to keep their divorce proceedings out of the public eye. However, this can be challenging if your case goes to trial. For this reason, if you want to avoid publicity in a high-net-worth divorce, you may need to settle your divorce through negotiations rather than going to trial or, at the very least, have your attorney request to have the court records sealed.   

You might want to get assistance from an attorney when navigating the complexities of a high-net-worth divorce to ensure that your best interests are protected.  

How Legal Counsel Can Help

The stakes are high when there are significant assets subject to division in a divorce. William E. Morgan can provide you with practical advice and guidance on how to achieve a fair division of property in a high-net-worth divorce. The attorney provides compassionate legal support and services tailored to the specific needs of clients in divorces that involve more than a million dollars in liquid assets. Reach out today for a free case review.