So, you find yourself in a divorce, but it is not just any divorce—it involves the substantial assets that you and your spouse have accumulated during your marriage. Your emotions are already high, and the complexities seem overwhelming. As you navigate this challenging terrain, there are crucial steps and considerations to keep in mind.
1. Collaborative Divorce: Your Best Bet
Divorces with substantial assets require a thoughtful approach when it comes to choosing which process you will use. Mediation may not be the most suitable path when dealing with intricate financial situations because you are expected to be able to advocate for yourself and know what questions to ask and requests to make. Litigation can lead to fighting and the judge can end up applying a one-size-fits-all solution to your situation if you can’t find common ground with your soon-to-be-ex. Collaborative divorce works extremely well in financially complicated situations because you will have the assistance of a team of divorce professionals, each dedicated to addressing a specific aspect of your divorce.
In the collaborative process, emotions, finances, and legal issues are all given their due attention. This is especially vital when it comes to untangling the intricacies of substantial assets, be it retirement accounts, stock options, businesses, or real estate. In collaborative divorce, one of the team members is a neutral finance professional, whose role is dedicated to working through those issues.
2. The Role of the Collaborative Team
Your collaborative team is there to guide you through the complexities of divorce. The financial professional assists in crunching the numbers, the divorce coach, (also known as the family specialist), facilitates conversations about priorities and goals, and at the heart of this collaborative effort is your collaborative attorney. Serving as your legal advocate, your attorney brings a deep understanding of family law to the process, ensuring that your decisions are not only fair but legally sound, while also advocating for your needs in a non-adversarial manner. Together, the collaborative team helps you and your spouse gather the necessary information, explore options, and ultimately arrive at a settlement that meets everyone’s needs.
3. Understanding Ownership and Trade-offs
One issue that often arises in these situations is calculating what portion of an asset was acquired during the marriage and what portion was not, particularly when it comes to retirement accounts, stock options, and businesses.
Consider the example of a retirement account—you may have started your 401(k) before the marriage and continued contributing throughout your marriage. Your collaborative financial professional will help calculate the value of the pre-marital portion, plus the gains or losses on that portion. As the titled account holder, you get to keep that portion, and it’s only the rest that was acquired during the marriage that will be divided with your spouse. However, you may feel strongly that you want to hold onto the entire account even though it is partially a marital asset. In that case, you’ll likely need to negotiate and trade it for some other asset. The same principle applies to businesses. Even if you built it from the ground up, be prepared to share its value. Your spouse may not be entitled to a 50/50 split, but a fair buyout or percentage is inevitable.
4. Making Decisions: What to Keep and What to Give Up
As you embark on the journey of dividing assets, the question becomes, what are you willing to give up to keep something else? This is a deeply personal decision that requires open communication and a thorough understanding of your priorities.
Questions about financial security, needs, wants, and long-term goals will ultimately arise. This is where the collaborative divorce process truly shines. With the assistance of the collaborative team, you can explore the financial, emotional, and legal issues that are coming up around these questions and consider options tailored to your unique goals and circumstances.
5. Setting Goals: The Importance of Early Conversations
In the collaborative divorce process, early discussions about goals are crucial. Understanding the ‘whys’ behind your requests and those of your spouse lays the foundation for creative solutions. Whether it is child custody arrangements, financial considerations, or property division, knowing the motivations behind your goals allows the team to help tailor solutions that work for everyone.
Navigating a divorce involving substantial assets is undeniably challenging. However, with the right collaborative team and a commitment to open communication, you can move through this process with clarity and confidence, ensuring a more amicable and equitable resolution for all parties involved.
Contact Vacca Family Law Group
At Vacca Family Law Group, we understand the unique challenges associated with a divorce where there are substantial assets to be divided. Our collaborative attorneys can offer tailored advice to help you make informed decisions. Call us at 212-768-1115 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
Vacca Family Law Group is located at One Grand Central Place, 60 E. 42nd St. #764, New York, NY 10165.