In a high asset Florida divorce case, issues such as property division and alimony can be more complex. Sometimes it is necessary to utilize experts to conduct a valuation of difficult to value assets or determine the proper valuation of a business or professional practice. However, at the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A., our attorneys focus on protecting clients’ assets and avoid unnecessary cost and expense to our clients’ marital estate by strategic planning and effective negotiation. While there are other prominent divorce attorneys in Florida that will charge an arm and a leg to represent you in a high asset divorce, you will receive high quality legal representation and close personal attention at the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. at a reasonable rate.
Furthermore, confidentiality and privacy is a top priority at our law firm. As long as the elements of the petition are established and the parties agree on venue (location), a divorce can be obtained in any Florida judicial circuit. In other words, the divorce does not have to occur in the same judicial circuit in which you own property. Occasionally, clients or their spouses, who are either well known within the community or are celebrities, would like to keep their divorce low key. Often times, the best method of achieving privacy (if both parties agree) is to have the divorce take place in a different Florida judicial circuit from where they currently reside or own.
A high net worth marital dissolution is much like a complex or substantial business transaction. While sometimes tenacious advocacy and contentious litigation is unavoidable, skilled negotiation frequently results in a better outcome for parties to the dissolution of a marriage. Because of our extensive experience handling high net worth divorces, we often receive calls and emails asking us about the special issues in high asset divorces. We have provided some answers to frequently asked questions below:
My spouse agreed to a prenuptial agreement, so do I really need an attorney?
Yes. While a prenuptial agreement is enforceable in a Florida divorce, they are also vulnerable to attack on various grounds. A spouse typically enters into a prenuptial agreement when a relationship is on solid ground. However, when the relationship deteriorates, it is not uncommon for a spouse to get “buyer’s remorse.” If you were both represented by counsel when the prenuptial agreement was negotiated and drafted, then the chances are good that the court will enforce the prenuptial agreement. Because the attorneys at our firm have negotiated and drafted many prenuptial agreements, we can anticipate potential issues and aggressively advocate for enforcement of a prenuptial agreement. If you are the party seeking to avoid the terms of a prenuptial agreement, Mr. Cunha can evaluate the terms of the agreement and surrounding circumstances so that he can provide a realistic evaluation of your chances that a court will not enforce certain terms of prenuptial agreement.
Is there really much to gain by having a prenuptial agreement executed?
Parties contemplating marriage should think of a prenuptial agreement as a “marital partnership agreement.” The prenuptial agreement will delineate the contributions of each party to the marriage and provide for an orderly mutually agreeable resolution in the event the marriage should dissolve. A prenuptial agreement can avoid unnecessary litigation and, therefore, substantially reduce the cost and expense in the event that the parties someday choose to divorce.
Should I encourage my fiancé to execute a prenuptial agreement without consulting with an attorney?
This is a very risky approach to negotiating a prenuptial agreement. A West Palm Beach family law judge is much more likely to enforce a prenuptial agreement where both parties to the prenuptial agreement were each represented by an attorney or at least consulted one. Defenses to the enforcement of a prenuptial agreement, such as duress, fraud, etc. are much more likely to be effective when only one of the parties had legal advice and representation during the negotiation and preparation of the prenuptial agreement.
Will I have to share management and control of my business or professional practice with my spouse?
Generally, the party that runs a business or professional practice during a marriage will continue to do so during the divorce and after a divorce judgment. However, the business or professional practice may have substantial value so it must be part of the valuation process of marital assets. Typically, the spouse that has operated the business or professional practice will buy out the other spouse’s interest in the business or professional practice. Sometimes a court will appoint a receiver to manage the business if it is shown that the party managing the business during the divorce is engaged in conduct that is damaging the value of the business.
How will the value of my business or professional practice be determined?
Many times we use experts like forensic accountants, business valuation experts and other expert to conduct a formal business valuation. The attorneys at our law firm all have backgrounds in Finance, Accounting, and/or Tax Law and are in a unique position to work closely with experts in reviewing financial statements and business records.
Occasionally, both parties may agree on the value of the business, especially if there has been substantial involvement in the business by both spouses. On the other hand, where one spouse has exercised primary management and control of the business, it may be necessary to do extensive discovery of business documents and financial records and/or employ the services of experts. This is particularly true if you believe that your spouse has been hiding assets or diverting marital income from the business or professional practice.
Will my spouse have a claim against my real estate, retirement plan, 401K and other assets owned prior to the marriage?
This primarily depends on whether these assets were “entirely” owned prior to marriage. Many assets like real property and 401K plans will receive contributions during the marriage. If marital funds or assets are used for maintaining or improving assets acquired prior to marriage, these assets will acquire a “mixed characterization” with both a separate and marital property component. The marital property part of the asset will be comprised of any contributions from earnings or other assets acquired during the marriage as well as the appreciation in value resulting from such contributions.
While this information may provide answers to some of your basic questions regarding South Florida high net worth divorces, the best way to obtain more detailed information about other pertinent issues, i.e., pension valuation and division, alimony, child support, etc., is to speak directly with Mr. Cunha.