South Carolina High Net Worth Divorce Lawyer
Divorces are stressful and emotional for everyone involved. Whenever you split up with someone you thought was a life partner, it is a major change in your life that creates a lot of future uncertainty. When one or both spouses has a significant amount of assets, however, the stress can be multiplied. High net worth couples often have more complicated assets, tax structures and other complexities that must be dealt with during the marriage dissolution process. If you are in this situation, it is important to work with a divorce attorney who has the knowledge, skills, and experience to effectively represent individuals who are going through a high asset divorce.
At the Cate Law Firm, P.A., we have several decades of experience representing clients for divorce and other family legal matters in South Carolina. Our lawyers have in-depth knowledge of the complex issues that often arise in high net worth divorces, and we work closely with our clients to effectively resolve these issues as amicably as possible while fully protecting their rights, interests, and financial future. We work hard to develop creative and practical solutions that are mutually beneficial for all parties involved. However, if your spouse is uncooperative, we are ready and able to advocate forcefully for your rights and interests inside the courtroom.
Common Issues with High Asset Divorces in South Carolina
High net worth divorces can have major financial implications for those involved. Here are some of the most important issues to consider during a divorce when one or both spouses have significant assets:
With high asset divorces, there are often very complicated marital assets that must be properly evaluated and divided. These may include:
- Businesses and Professional Practices: Some couples with a high amount of assets own businesses or professional practices. Family-owned or closely-held businesses can be difficult to accurately evaluate for the purpose of dividing. There are multiple methods of appraising a business (e.g., asset-based, cash flow/earnings, market value, etc.), and there could be major disagreements between the two parties as to what the business is worth.
- Business Arrangements: Various business arrangements could further complicate the division of assets. For example, if your spouse owns a business with a partnership agreement that has a buyout clause, or if your spouse has stock options that are worth little or nothing today but could be worth a significant amount in the future.
- Real Estate: High asset couples typically own multiple pieces of real estate. Aside from the marital home, they may have a second or third home that are used for vacations, and perhaps some investment property such as apartment buildings or commercial real estate.
- Complex Investments: There may be one or more investments with complex structures, such as stocks, bonds, annuities, trusts, and international investments. These assets must be evaluated by experts to determine both their present and future values.
- Retirement Accounts: Divorcing couples in almost all income brackets usually have retirement accounts that must be divided. This can get complicated, because only the portion of the account that was accumulated during the marriage is usually considered marital property. Further, some retirement accounts, such as pensions, may need a formal appraisal to ascertain their true value. Also, in order to divide retirement as a marital asset without incurring a tax penalty, often a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is required. QDROs are complex documents that must be drafted with precision and carefully worded to ensure that they stay within proper legal guidelines.
- Unique Assets: Married couples with high net worths often own assets that are more unique and difficult to appraise. Examples may include classic automobiles, art collections, baseball card collections, rare coin collections, and high-end jewelry.
When there is a significant amount of property at stake, one spouse may try to hide some of their assets or funds by opening a secret bank account, transferring ownership to a family member or business partner, hiding money in an offshore account, or using some other method to conceal their finances. When one spouse suspects that the other is hiding assets, a forensic accountant may need to be brought in to track down assets that have been concealed but that should be included in the marital estate.
If one spouse has significantly more income and assets than the other, provided the marriage is of sufficient duration and there aren’t other extenuating factors, there is a good chance that alimony will be awarded. However, other specific factors such as the length of the marriage, the age, education, and vocational training of each spouse, and the established standard of living during the marriage may be looked at to determine if alimony is appropriate and how much should be paid.
South Carolina child support guidelines only apply to cases in which the combined gross annual income of both parents is $360,000 per year or less. When the couple’s combined income exceeds that amount, the amount of child support paid is determined on a case-by-case basis. This means it will be up to the parties and their attorneys to present to the court what they believe is the proper level of support based on the specific circumstances of the case.
Over the course of several years, the cumulative value of alimony and child support payments can easily exceed seven figures. If you are the recipient spouse, you may want to be sure that you do not lose what you are entitled to if something should happen to your ex-spouse. In South Carolina, a court can require the payor spouse to carry enough life insurance coverage to cover the total amount of alimony and child support that would be owed in the event of a worst-case scenario. However, there are also probate issues implicated in this type of arrangement, so it would be wise to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through this cross-section of laws.
In marriages wherein either or both spouses have a high net worth, it is not uncommon to have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place to specify how assets are to be divided in the event of a divorce, whether alimony should be paid, and address other financial questions. The only financial issue that cannot be addressed in a marital agreement is child support and other child-related issues, which are always based on the needs of the child and are set based on the discretion of the court at that time. As long as the agreement is legally enforceable and deemed reasonable by the court, it will likely be the primary guideline by which these matters are settled.
As mentioned previously, high asset couples typically have complex tax structures. And when their assets are divided, there will almost certainly be tax implications. Be sure to sit down with your tax professional to thoroughly examine the tax consequences of the divorce and develop the most effective strategy to minimize your tax liability exposure.
Contact an Experienced High Asset Divorce Attorney in Spartanburg, SC
If you have a high net worth and you are facing a divorce in South Carolina, you need a lawyer who has an in-depth understanding of the important financial issues at play, and who is committed to protecting your financial future. Call the Cate Law Firm today at (864) 585-4226 for a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Spartanburg office in person at your convenience.