High-Asset Divorce

All divorces present their own challenges, of course, but those involving significant assets require special attention on a number of fronts.

Property division
A Maine divorce court is charged with setting aside to each party their non-marital property, and then “equitably” (fairly) dividing the marital property.  While this sounds simple in theory, it can be quite challenging in practice.  Your assets and rights are at stake, and you need an excellent lawyer.

The first task is to identify all the assets in play.  This includes financial accounts, business interests, real property, personal property, trusts, stock options, other intangible assets, and so forth.  Whether a given asset is marital or non-marital is a question of law, and you need an attorney who can make a strong legal case for the correct characterization of your assets.

Next, these assets must be precisely valued in order to support a fair division of the marital estate.  This valuation step might require professional real estate and personal property appraisals, formal business valuations, net present value calculations for annuities and pensions, and so forth.  Equities and other investment assets must be valued with their tax basis controlled for, of course.

Spousal support
There are two common theories of spousal support and it is critical that your lawyer be able to articulate and advocate for either theory based on your situation.

The “needs-based” model tracks the statute closely.  It asks first whether or not either party “needs” support in order to maintain a “reasonable” standard of living.  It then asks if the other party can afford to pay that support.  The key point of contention under this model is what constitutes a “reasonable” standard of living.  One answer under this model might be: “He needs $5000 a month, she can pay $5000 a month, so the alimony will be $5000 a month.”

The other primary theory of spousal support is the “shared enterprise” model.  This model asks first the extent to which the parties have contributed to the overall joint financial posture of the parties.  Next, it seeks to allocate the fruits of that joint posture moving forward, often on a fixed percentage basis.  One answer under this model might be: “They were married for a long time, and during that time, she built a great career as a doctor while he stayed home and took care of the kids.  Moving ahead, they will split their joint discretionary income on a 60/40 basis.”

Both models provide valid theories for arguing one side of the alimony discussion or the other.  Naturally, you will want to have an attorney who can maximize your position in a way that will be supported in court if it comes before a judge for decision.

Smart moves
As with any divorce, a high-asset divorce in Maine presents the opportunity to play it smart.

There are latent tax implications in any divorce order, and careful planning can help the parties in a high-asset divorce achieve a fair settlement with an optimal tax treatment.  There are a lot of moving parts in a high-asset divorce.  To make the most of a bad situation requires thoughtful analysis, planning, and negotiation.