Nearly every divorce comes with pain, stress, worries about how the children will handle it, and the turmoil that comes from ending one part of your life and wondering what comes next. For divorcing men and fathers in New Jersey where the couple has a high income or have accumulated significant assets during the marriage, there is the added concern about dealing with an equitable division of marital property.
As family law attorneys who focus our practice on men and fathers in New Jersey who are thinking of or getting divorced, we work with a number of clients where one or both people in the marriage earn a significant salary or where they have built up serious assets: An expensive home plus a vacation house somewhere along with investment property, valuable art or antiques, investment and retirement accounts, and other personal property.
Many of the men and fathers in this category ask many of the same questions early in our work with them. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some general advice that I give when the questions arise. Here are seven general legal tips if you are involved in a high asset-high income divorce.
1 – Collect documents and evidence early. Facts are powerful in any divorce proceeding, especially one where there are substantial assets and income. Having key documents available early on will make the divorce process more efficient – which almost always translates into a lower cost. The documents also help us understand the nature of the marital estate and claims relating to child support and custody. It also saves you a lot of time later on.
2 – If you own a business, know how to protect your assets. Obtain a valuation of the business form a competent appraiser. Bad valuations will jeopardize your interest in the company. This is why it is imperative to hire competent forensic experts to get the valuation process underway. These authorities should have experience in court proceedings. We can refer you to highly-qualified experts in this.
3 – Create a mutual restraining order. It is fairly common in a divorce to obtain injunctions and we use them to prevent a spouse from engaging in reckless spending or wasting assets, from hiding the children, and to create expectations during the divorce process.
4 – Listen to your lawyer: We’re on your side. We get it: Anyone going through a divorce is under stress and may find it hard to communicate. We tell a new client to begin with the end result that they want in mind. By doing this, we can explain whether the goal is reasonable, the chances of you being successful in achieving it, the amount of work and fees it will take to achieve the goal, and the possible results if your case goes to trial.
5 – Don’t fight dumb battles. Not every battle is worth fighting, especially if the law and the facts are against you. Business owners and executives use a cost-benefit approach in their work. This same idea will help in your divorce. While we always try to settle a divorce amicably, sometimes taking on a bare-knuckles courtroom brawl is the best way to solve this problem.
6 – Know how your divorce will affect your taxes. Especially for people with high incomes and serious assets, the divorce can have an impact on your taxes. There can be numerous tax considerations that need to be accounted for early on. The reason for this is that the Internal Revenue Code is incredibly complicated – all 7,000 pages of it. This makes it extremely crucial to understand the current and future ramifications of decisions you need to be making today.
7 – Create your own roadmap to success. A “successful divorce” might seem like an oxymoron but executives and business owners know the value of a solid strategic plan. A divorce has so many elements and moving parts that managing may seem like managing a company. Your roadmap will set goals such as who will live in the marital home, preserving separate property, custody of the kids and their support.
If you or someone you know is a man or father in New Jersey with a high income or substantial assets and are contemplating divorcing your wife, we are happy to answer any questions you might have on everything from creating a divorce strategy, protecting your assets, child custody, property settlements and the tax consequences of the divorce. Feel free to call me or any of the family lawyers for men and fathers in our firm at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.