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Unique Issues in High Net Worth Divorces

Thu 16th Sep, 2021 Blogs

Divorce is never easy for any couple. For high-net-worth couples, the silver lining is that divorces tend to be less common. Using educational attainment as a proxy for income, individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher have a 29.8% divorce rate, while that figure rises to 58.8% for those with less than a high school diploma. Unfortunately, while divorces are less common among high net worth couples, they also tend to be more complex, particularly where this no prenuptial agreement in place. High net worth individuals should take certain issues into consideration when planning a divorce, as a Stockton family law attorney explains below. 

Confusion about the Identity of Assets

It can often be difficult to determine the identity of marital assets. California is a community property state, meaning that all property acquired during the marriage is split 50/50 upon divorce. However, assets obtained before the marriage may be considered separate property. Identifying property as separate property or marital property can become complex when a particular asset — like a business — was obtained prior to the marriage, but marital funds were used to contribute to it, or when separate property and marital property are commingled. 

Complex Asset Valuations

High net worth couples tend to own property that occasionally is difficult to value with precision, such as artwork, jewelry and antiques, intellectual property, businesses and professional practices, investment portfolios, and retirement assets. Disputes over the valuation of complex assets can lead to conflict and make it more likely that the divorce will require litigation. 

Hidden Assets

Hiding assets to protect them from property division is illegal, but many divorcing individuals do it anyway. The impulse to hide assets may be particularly strong for high net worth individuals due to the higher value of their assets and because high net worth individuals typically have effective means for doing so, such as by moving money around to hidden accounts, making complex financial transactions, etc. The possibility of hidden assets can make discovery in high net worth divorces more difficult. 

Deviations from Child and Spousal Support Formulas 

California courts use statutory formulas and take into account a wide variety of factors when determining the amount of child support and spousal support to award in a divorce. One of those factors is the lifestyle a child or spouse enjoyed prior to the divorce, which can occasionally justify child and spousal support awards far in excess of what would have been awarded under the standard formula.  


Concerns about publicity are not the exclusive domain of public figures and celebrities. High net worth individuals tend to be deeply involved in their communities by running businesses, sitting on boards, and belonging to exclusive social clubs. The rumors generated by a contentious divorce have the potential to cause serious reputational damage to the parties involved. 

Contact a Stockton Family Law Attorney for More Information

If you are concerned about the prospects of a divorce as a high-net-worth individual, you should consider speaking to an attorney to make sure you are prepared. To get started, please contact a Stockton family law attorney at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.

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