High Net Worth Divorce Lawyers in Arizona
Divorce is never easy. High earners and couples with significant assets face all of the same challenges any other couple would, including:
- The emotional impact and stress of divorce
- Changes in living arrangements, child care, and other practicalities
- Working out or fighting for custody and visitation
- Dividing assets
- Providing for support of children
- Agreeing on or litigation spousal maintenance (alimony)
In a high asset divorce, those fundamentals are only the beginning. A divorce case involving significant investment income, real estate, business ownership and other high-value assets can be more stressful, more contentious, more time consuming and more expensive than the typical divorce case.
A High-Asset Divorce Doesn’t Have to Be High Stress
Some of the additional investment is unavoidable. For example, if you co-own a business or own one high-value piece of real estate, you’ll need to have the property appraised. And, you’ll have to determine–or ask a court to determine–how the value in those assets can be split.
In many cases, though, much of the strife associated with a high net worth divorce can be avoided. At Lincoln & Wenk, we take a personalized approach to every divorce case. We know this is a significant event in your life, and one that impacts more than your finances. We’re here to help you achieve what matters most to you, whether that’s time with your children, a particular asset, the financial support you need to start over, or some other combination.
We know those results can often be achieved through mediation, and we’re happy to take that route when possible. Reaching an agreement with your soon-to-be-former spouse can save you both money, reduce stress, resolve your divorce case faster, and make it easier to co-parent moving forward. We also know that sometimes you have to fight for fair treatment.
Division of Assets in a High Net Worth Divorce
Whether you have many assets or few, a divorce court will divide them between you. That may mean that you reach an agreement with your spouse and submit it to the court for approval, or it may mean presenting evidence to the court and letting the judge decide who gets what.
Arizona is a community property state, but property division isn’t as simple as that might suggest. For example:
- While most property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and is subject to division, assets owned by either party before the marriage are not
- Some types of property, such as an inheritance or gift received by one spouse, are not considered community property even though they were acquired during the marriage
- Some assets may be partially community property and partially separate property, such as a home one party owned with a mortgage prior to the marriage that was paid off with community funds, or was significantly improved during the marriage
- The Arizona statute says community property must be divided “equitably,” which does not mean equal shares of all property–the parties or the court will have to decide which assets will go to one party or the other and, sometimes, which must be sold
- A prenuptial agreement may impact the way property is divided
Typically, experts are required to establish the value of property to be divided, including the difference between the pre-marriage value and the current value of property that has become mixed during the marriage. And, if the parties don’t come to an agreement, each party will have to present that evidence to the court and argue for what they consider a fair division.
This can be especially complicated if one spouse owns a business, or if the spouses own a business together. A spouse who is the named owner and active participant in a business may be surprised to learn that the business, or part of it, may be considered marital property. Generally, this will require determining the current fair market value of the business.
If one spouse co-owns that business with someone else, the options for division may be limited. For example, a partnership or closely held corporation may not allow transfer of ownership. In that case, the spouse who was part-owner of the business would have to make up that value by other assets shifting to the non-owner spouse.
It’s important to work with divorce attorneys who are experienced in managing complex issues such as division of businesses and assets that are partially separate and partially community property. The attorneys at Lincoln & Wenk have that experience, coupled with a straightforward, no-nonsense commitment to understanding your priorities and finding the best solution for you.
Child Support in High-Income Divorces
Arizona’s child support guidelines create a fairly rigid structure for determining how much child support one parent pays to the other. The state uses an income shares model, which means that each parent is expected to contribute to the support of the children in proportion to their income. The actual calculation is a bit more complicated, since it takes into account certain expenses like medical insurance. Once the worksheet is completed, there’s a clear guideline amount of support due. Courts can deviate from this amount under certain circumstances, but it’s not the norm.
That all changes if the parties’ combined income exceeds $30,000/month. When that happens, the presumed amount of child support due is based on $30,000/month–even if the actual total monthly earnings are $50,000 or more. It’s not hard to see how a child’s standard of living could be altered by that difference, particularly in a one-earner household or when one spouse earns significantly more than the other.
It is possible to overcome this presumption, but it’s up to the spouse who wants to raise the amount of child support to demonstrate that it’s in the child’s best interest to deviate from the guidelines.
Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
Spousal maintenance is often a contentious issue. The Arizona Supreme Court has been charged with developing guidelines for spousal maintenance similar to the Arizona child support guidelines. However, as of the spring of 2023, those guidelines have not yet been finalized and adopted. So, courts must make decisions based on statutory factors such as:
- Disparity in income between the parties
- The age and condition of children in the care of the party requesting spousal maintenance
- The age and earning capacity of the spouse requesting maintenance
- Contributions the requesting spouse made to the other spouse’s earning capacity
- The duration of the marriage
- The time necessary for the requesting spouse to increase earning capacity
In the absence of specific guidelines, the award of spousal maintenance will depend largely on the quality of evidence presented to the court.
Temporary Orders in a High Net Worth Divorce Case
When a couple has significant combined income and assets, it may seem that it would be easier to keep the bills paid and property maintained while the divorce case is pending. But, higher income and assets typically come with higher expenses. You’ll also have more assets to protect and keep track of while the case moves forward. And, a high asset divorce may take significantly longer to finalize than one involving few assets.
You’ll typically want to secure temporary orders as soon as possible to establish:
- Temporary possession of assets such as the marital residence and vehicles
- Temporary responsibility for marital debts such as the home mortgage, credit card bills, car payments, and other expenses
- Temporary spousal maintenance, if appropriate
- Temporary custody and visitation
- Temporary child support
Getting these orders in place as early as possible helps protect your financial stability, your ongoing relationship with your children, and your assets and credit rating while longer-term issues are resolved.
Lincoln & Wenk Is Here to Help
Our attorneys have decades of experience helping Arizona residents with divorce and other family law matters. We know the impact of this type of life change, and we aren’t just here to get you to the finish line with your divorce. We’re here to protect your future with the most compassionate, personalized, informed plan of action possible for your circumstances.
To learn more about how we can help, call 623-294-2464 right now, or fill out the contact form on this site.