How Does a Divorce Among the Wealthy Differ From Others?

In News by YKF Law

Hollywood has us believe that a wealthy divorce results in one of the spouses being left with nothing while the other is rolling in money. Of course, movies and shows portray fantasies and elaborate scenarios. However, just like divorces with those who live more modestly differ, no two divorces are the same among the wealthy.

The divorce process at a glance among the more modest and wealthy will be similar. However,  there may be other things to consider, and more complications may arise. Keep reading as we discuss how a divorce among the wealthy differs from others.

There Will be More Assets

Assets and divorce can be complicated for a more modest couple but even more complicated for one with a high net worth. The wealthy often have more assets and assets that are more expensive. Assets that were acquired during the marriage will be considered marital assets regardless of who signed or purchased the property. 

In a wealthy divorce, there may be assets that are valued at a high price, more assets to divide, or assets that are more complex in nature (such as businesses, farms, or assets within a trust). Marital assets in a wealthy divorce can range from everyday things like money to vehicles, houses, pensions, and debts just like many divorces, but may also consider unique assets, vacation homes, offshore accounts, boats, equipment and machinery, or valuable collections.. It’s presumed that any property purchased during the marriage will be viewed as marital assets regardless of who swiped the credit card or wrote the check.

Those with a high net worth will have marital assets to divide just like those with a more modest income. However, most often, the wealthy have more, including luxurious items like additional homes, luxury vehicles, designer jewelry, fine art, etc. It’s presumed that luxurious assets will be separated in the same way as a modest divorce. However, there will just be more items at a higher value. In Missouri and Kansas, the court will divide these marital assets in a way that is fair and equitable so both spouses possess an even amount of marital equity following the divorce.

Appraisals May be Needed

Because divorces among the wealthy involve dividing more assets and luxurious items, appraisals may be needed on some objects and properties. Some couples with a high net worth will obtain an appraiser to professionally and accurately appraise marital items so the courts can ensure the property is divided fairly and equitably.

Appraisers can determine the value of assets those with a high net worth often possess, like fine art, custom furniture, multiple homes, designer jewelry, and vehicles, to name a few. Appraisers compile the value of all shared assets in an appraisal report that can be used by each spouse’s divorce attorneys or the court when requesting or dividing assets to determine a fair and equitable distribution.

Spousal Maintenance May Differ

Spousal maintenance is something that’s considered in many divorce cases regardless of wealth. However, the amount of spousal maintenance may differ compared to a lower-income couple. Unlike what Hollywood portrays, the one receiving spousal maintenance will not receive everything, leaving the other spouse with nothing.

The courts determine the amount of spousal maintenance by considering a few factors: the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning ability based on employment history, education, and health, the needs of both spouses, and more. The courts also consider the lifestyle the lesser-earning spouse was used to during the marriage, so the amount will most likely differ compared to a more modest family.

If both spouses earned a similar income, the courts may not consider spousal maintenance. However, if one of the spouses was a homemaker or took care of any children, or earned less money, they may grant spousal maintenance to that spouse. 

There May Be a Prenup

Prenuptial agreements are a great idea regardless of each spouse’s income. However, those with a high net worth are more likely to have a prenup in place compared to a more modest couple. According to research done by Harvard Law School, only 5-10% of Americans have a prenup in place, with wealthier couples more likely to have one. 

Getting a prenup is never a bad idea, especially if one spouse owned a lot of assets before the marriage. Not only can a prenuptial agreement protect the higher-earning spouse, but it can also protect the spouse with a lower income by establishing the rights of each spouse in the event of divorce, making it an easier process if it should ever occur.

Just like a senior divorce differs from others, so does a divorce among the wealthy. No two divorces are the same regardless of net worth. Our team of family law attorneys at The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC has over fifty-five years of combined legal experience with both modest and wealthy divorces.

If you are going through the divorce process and are looking for a family law attorney in Kansas (in and around the Leawood area) or a family law attorney in Kansas City and the surrounding area, we can help. We’re dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through any family law matter, keeping your best interests in mind. Our team is skilled in negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.

We have offices in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas (consultations by appointment only). In addition to our two physical locations, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, Platte County, Missouri, and Johnson County, Kansas. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we can meet in person or face-to-face via Zoom.