Many high-profile and wealthy couples call New York home. When any of them decide to end their marriages, the process is typically a lot more complicated than other divorces. Not only is a high level of discretion required, the couple’s financial affairs are going to be more complex and potentially more contentious to resolve.

In addition to substantial alimony and child support (if applicable) high net worth divorces involve the division and distribution of valuable property such as:

  • Business assets, both separate and jointly owned
  • High-value pensions and 401(k) accounts
  • Extensive real estate investments
  • Stock options
  • Offshore accounts

Splitting up these assets can entail significant tax considerations, but that is not the only complication. If the parties cannot agree on how marital property should be allocated, a judge will be called upon to make that decision according to New York’s equitable distribution laws, and in this instance, “equitable” and “equal” are not always one and the same.

Equitable distribution in New York

New York is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court is required to divide marital assets in a way that is fair to both sides while preserving any legitimate pre- or postnuptial-agreements.

Among the factors taken into account when determining an equitable distribution include:

  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The age and health of each spouse,
  • The income of each spouse as well as their future earning potential,
  • Whether there was evidence of marital assets being wasted and/or fraudulently transferred by one party and/or
  • The feasibility of splitting certain assets “down the middle”

If any property was acquired before the marriage, then it is generally considered separate property (although that can change if it was later combined with marital assets, such as a joint bank account). Any inheritances, gifts, or person litigation litigation-related awards for pain and suffering received by one spouse are all regarded as personal assets and not subject to equitable distribution.

New York’s equitable distribution law does not mandate a 50-50 split of marital assets. It merely requires that any division be “equitable,” or fair. To avoid any division at all, some spouses in high net worth divorces try to hide more valuable marital property so that they can walk away from the marriage with as much as possible. Uncovering such deception requires a high level of financial sophistication.

If you are a high net worth individual planning to divorce in New York, then expert and discreet support from an experienced New York family law attorney is necessary. When valuable assets like offshore bank accounts and multiple real estate holdings are involved, locating them and establishing ownership can be difficult, especially if the divorce is contentious. Choosing the right attorney will ensure that you keep what you are rightfully entitled to, receive a fair share of marital assets, and have a strong financial platform as you rebuild your life.