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Assets and divorce: considerations

According to authorities on the subject, affluent individuals in New York and elsewhere need to consider special factors in the event of divorce, but couples don't have to be famous to find themselves embroiled in a high-stakes conflict over the division of assets or other such issues.

Prenuptial agreements often become an issue in divorce if they are old. Experts recommend that if they've never been amended by any postnuptial agreements, it is wise to have a forensic accountant attempt to challenge the document. If one spouse is making significantly more than what he or she made at the beginning of the marriage, it is fair to ask if all the assets were disclosed and whether the partner making less money was properly represented. It is important to be aware that New York generally upholds the terms of prenuptial agreements, so the unhappy party may end up living with the original terms.

Asset division is almost never as simple as an even split. In general, there is a distinction between passive and active assets. Passive assets could be a house, a stock portfolio or a hedge fund; they are often hard to divide because it could be years before the money is available. Active funds are things like businesses.

Minor children need to be the primary focus in any divorce. In New York, the cost of standard care for one child is 17 percent of combined income; two children are 25 percent; and three are 29 percent with a cap at $136,000.

Divorce can be a challenging process, but a family law attorney may be able to offer some assistance with preparing for the division of assets and negotiating the custody of any minor children. The attorney may also be able to facilitate an equitable division of assets that reflects the change in income over the years of the marriage.

Source: The New York Times, "From a Prominent Divorce in the Affluent Class, Lessons for All", Paul Sullivan, August 09, 2013

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