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After years or sometimes decades of marriage, elements of a divorce, such as the division of marital property, can become quite complicated.
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For better or worse, high net worth spouses or couples with a substantial marital estate have more complex divorces. These cases are often more complicated because they can involve intricate business valuations, multiple real estate properties, and/or high standards of living. It is important for these couples in Chicago to understand how specific aspects of the divorce process may impact them differently than other married couples who are filing for divorce with a more simplified asset portfolio.
When it comes to the financial side of any divorce, the first step is to value all of the parties’ assets. The more assets there are, the more expertise and time is required to determine their values, and the more likely that disputes will arise over the value of certain assets. Of course, not all assets are the same. Liquid assets (assets in money markets or bank accounts) may not be as complex as real estate holdings, business interests, complex trusts retirement assets, or other investments. Sometimes couples have assets overseas, and sometimes you simply have no idea where your assets are. The job of our award-winning attorneys is to sort out the assets to ensure you get your appropriate share.
An attorney that is not only experienced in handling divorces, but is also familiar with the complex issues that arise from a complicated asset portfolio, is imperative in high net worth divorces. These divorces often require the delicate use and selection of experts to value businesses, the tax consequences of restructuring assets, and sometimes lifestyle experts. As a high-net worth client, you expect your attorneys to be knowledgeable, responsive, and not just willing, but capable of fighting for your rights and entitlements.
One of the most complicated features of a high-asset divorce is the division of marital property. For spouses who are filing for divorce in Chicagoland, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/) governs the manner in which a court makes decisions about property division.
In Illinois, courts follow a theory of equitable division when dividing marital property. As such, property of the marriage—both assets and debts—will be divided in a manner that is equitable rather than one that is equal. In some cases, however, an equitable division is indeed an equal division. Generally speaking, high net worth divorces involve very complicated property division issues. Prior to the division of marital property, spouses will need to make a full and complete accounting of assets and debts to be divided. It is extremely important to be honest in listing all assets and debts. Any type of transfer prior to division—such as transferring stocks to a business partner or to another family member—can be viewed as fraudulent by the court.
The State of Illinois has implemented a formula for spousal maintenance awards, provided that the couple makes a combined income of less than $250,000 annually. Since high net worth divorces tend to involve combined yearly incomes of more than $250,000, the formula will likely not apply to your spousal maintenance award. As such, it will be important to have an experienced Chicago divorce attorney on your side to help ensure that the court determines that spousal maintenance is appropriate and that the amount is fair to both parties.
Given that divorce law in Illinois is complicated, even if you do not have substantial marital property, it is extremely important to work with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer. The dedicated advocates at the Women’s Divorce & Family Law Group can examine the circumstances of your case today and can work with you to achieve the best possible outcome in your divorce case.