Finding the Right Family Law Attorney for Your High-Asset Divorce

Finding the Right Family Law Attorney for Your High-Asset Divorce

If you or your spouse have built substantial assets and wealth, and you are thinking about getting divorced, finding the right divorce lawyer in New Jersey is critical. Divorces involving high-net-worth people often involve complex issues that don't often arise in standard divorce cases. Finding a New Jersey high-asset divorce lawyer can help to ensure your rights and financial interests are protected during and after your case. If a high-asset divorce is handled improperly, you might face severe consequences in the future.

The high-net-worth divorce attorneys at Ziegler Law Group, LLC represent people with substantial assets or the spouses of individuals who earn extremely high incomes. These cases can be both complex and lengthy, and you must find a lawyer who has extensive experience handling complex property division matters.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Complexity of High-Asset Divorce: High-asset divorces in New Jersey involve complex issues due to substantial assets and wealth, necessitating the need for experienced high net worth divorce attorneys.
  2. Types of Assets: Assets such as closely held businesses, extensive real estate portfolios, luxury items, and international holdings are common in high-asset divorce cases and require accurate identification and valuation.
  3. Essential Attorney Characteristics: Honesty, extensive experience in high-asset property division, deep knowledge of related legal and financial fields, and strong organizational skills are crucial for a high-asset divorce attorney.
  4. Preparation for Consultation: Treating attorney consultations as interviews and being prepared with relevant financial documents and questions is essential for evaluating potential lawyers.
  5. Common Mistakes to Avoid: Not hiring an experienced lawyer, failing to secure all financial documents, and attempting to conceal assets can prolong the divorce process and lead to unfavorable outcomes.
  6. Asset Protection and Valuation: An adept attorney should provide strategies for protecting certain assets and assisting with complex valuations, often working with other professionals to ensure accurate asset identification and valuation.

Why High-Net-Worth Divorces Are Complex

Dividing property in a standard divorce is typically a fairly straightforward process. People going through traditional divorce cases might be able to easily determine which property is separate and which should be divided. By contrast, a high-asset divorce frequently involves extensive assets, and it can be difficult to locate and identify them and assign them proper values.

Some examples of assets that might be involved in a high-asset divorce that might not be involved in a regular divorce include:

  • Closely held businesses
  • Extensive rental real estate portfolios
  • Vacation homes
  • Luxury items, including yachts, recreational vehicles, sailboats, and high-end automobiles
  • Valuable collections of art, jewelry, and other items
  • Trusts
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Cryptocurrency holdings
  • Investment accounts
  • Overseas holdings
  • Intellectual property
  • Stock options
  • High-value retirement accounts

High net-worth divorce attorneys know how to investigate matters and commonly work with other professionals to find and value all assets, including those that are held overseas or that one spouse has attempted to conceal. An attorney without this type of experience might not know how to do what is necessary to protect a client's interests and face a steep learning curve. If you retain an inexperienced lawyer, you might not achieve the most favorable outcome in your case.

Types of Assets in High-Asset Divorce

Asset TypeExamples
BusinessesClosely held businesses
Real EstateRental portfolios, Vacation homes
Luxury ItemsYachts, high-end automobiles
Financial InstrumentsStocks, bonds, Cryptocurrency
CollectionsArt, jewelry
Other AssetsIntellectual property, Overseas holdings

What to Look for in a New Jersey High Asset Divorce Lawyer

There are several key characteristics that quality high-net-worth divorce attorneys have, including the following:

  • Honesty and transparency and the ability to provide a detailed assessment of the potential outcome and costs of your case
  • Experience in high-asset property division cases to help them anticipate issues and approach them in a more cost-effective way
  • Deep knowledge of real estate, business, patent law, and finance in addition to holding a law degree
  • Thorough understanding of issues that can cause a separate asset to become transmuted into a marital asset and subject to division
  • Strong organization and structure during both the pre-divorce planning phase and the case itself
  • Experience with prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
  • Experience in handling spousal support, custody, and child support issues, including support above child support guideline amounts, payments for private tuition, payments for college, etc.

Characteristics of a Quality High-Asset Divorce Attorney

ExperienceExtensive experience in high-asset property division and related legal fields
Honesty and TransparencyProviding detailed assessment of potential outcomes and costs
Deep Legal and Financial KnowledgeProfound understanding of real estate, business, patent law, and finance
Organizational SkillsStrong organization during both pre-divorce planning phase and the case itself
Asset Protection ExpertiseAbility to craft strategies for protecting certain assets

Questions to Ask a Prospective High-Net-Worth Divorce Attorney

When you consult lawyers, it's important to treat your consultation like an interview with you as the interviewer and the attorney as the person seeking employment with you. Be prepared and bring financial documents with you. Have a list of questions to ask each lawyer you consider, and carefully evaluate responses. Here are some questions you might ask a potential attorney if you are preparing to go through a high-net-worth divorce:

1. What Is Your Experience With High-Net-Worth Divorce Cases? Can You Give Me Some Examples of Outcomes You've Achieved in These Types of Matters?

The attorney you retain should have extensive experience in handling high-net-worth divorce matters. Some New Jersey divorce lawyers have several decades of experience handling divorce matters but do not have specific experience with cases involving complex asset division and substantial wealth. Ask about experience with high-net-worth cases specifically, and ask about the outcomes of those cases.

2. How Do You Help With Complex Valuations?

An attorney who handles high-asset divorces should be able to tell you how he or she helps with complex valuations of property, including businesses, collections, extensive real estate holdings, and others. The prospective attorney should tell you the strategies used for assessing the value of tangible and intangible property, the types of valuation experts that might be necessary, and how to go about finding the right experts.

3. Do You Have Former Clients Who Might Be Willing to Talk to Me?

While personal information about an attorney's past clients is confidential and shouldn't be divulged, some lawyers might have a few past clients who have expressed willingness to speak to potential clients about their experiences. You can ask if an attorney has former clients who would be willing to speak with you. If you're provided with names and contact information, make sure to follow up. If they don't attorney doesn’t have previous clients who are willing to speak with you, you can also search for reviews online and read the information provided with a critical eye.

4. Is There a Way to Protect My Assets?

An attorney should be able to explain strategies for protecting some of your assets. In a divorce, you should anticipate that your marital assets will be divided with your spouse fairly. However, your attorney might be able to protect certain assets from division by crafting an innovative property division strategy.

For example, if you have a business and don't want to have to divide it, your lawyer might be able to negotiate an agreement with your spouse for your spouse to take more of a different asset.

One thing to note is that you should never try to conceal assets. If you do, you could risk potential consequences in court and face a much longer and expensive divorce. Instead, be honest about your assets. This will make it easier for you to negotiate an agreement.

5. How Might Alimony Factor Into My Case?

Depending on whether you are the spouse with a substantially higher net worth or the spouse who is financially dependent on the high-net-worth individual, alimony will likely be a concern in your divorce. The court will consider multiple factors when deciding whether to award alimony, its duration, and the amount. An attorney should be able to explain these factors and what you might expect to happen in your case.

6. Can You Explain How My Lifestyle Might Change?

When you and your spouse divorce, your assets will be divided fairly. The division of assets will affect your net worth and income, and you might need to make adjustments to your lifestyle to compensate for this. A lawyer should be able to review your situation and explain how your lifestyle might change and suggest areas in which you might need to make slight adjustments to prepare.

7. How Should I Communicate With My Spouse?

If you and your spouse can't be civil, a lawyer will likely tell you to keep your communication in writing and only communicate about necessary things while avoiding engaging in emotional conflict. Keep copies of all emails and text messages between you and your spouse in case they are needed later.

Mistakes to Avoid in a Complex High-Net-Worth Divorce

When you are preparing to file for divorce, you should avoid the following common mistakes:

  • Not hiring an experienced high-asset divorce lawyer
  • Failing to get copies of all financial documents, deeds, titles, account statements, etc. before filing
  • Not speaking to an independent, qualified financial advisor about how your case might affect your finances before filing
  • Failing to keep your business and personal affairs separate
  • Attempting to hide assets or dissipate them
  • Being less than honest with your attorney

Making these types of mistakes could make your case take much longer and might leave you with a less-than-desirable outcome.

Contact the Ziegler Law Group

The high net-worth divorce attorneys at Ziegler Law Group, LLC have extensive experience with handling complex asset division cases. If you are preparing to divorce your spouse and have accumulated substantial wealth, you should schedule a consultation with us by calling (973) 533-1100.

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