Three Reasons to Use a Financial Expert in High Asset Divorces
Unlike some states that have “community property” laws in divorce cases, South Carolina is an “equitable distribution” state. This means that in any separation or divorce where assets, debts, and property must be divided, there are several factors that come into play when determining the percentages of the marital estate each party will retain post-divorce.
When marital estates exceed one million dollars, it can become especially complicated to determine the exact value of the assets to be divided. When dealing with high asset cases, we recommend our clients retain a financial expert to assist with this process. Below are three ways an experienced financial expert can help add to or protect your right to an equitable marital estate division:
Explain and Defend Business Valuations
Many high asset divorces include at least one litigant who owns a business or, in some cases, several businesses. These situations typically involve multiple income streams that have resulted from business profits and other business-related investments. During the marriage, these sources of income contributed to the support of the marital lifestyle, but they, unfortunately, aren’t always easy to value since businesses don’t necessarily have one document, like a W-2, that clearly shows how much that business is worth.
When one or both parties earn their income from businesses they own, a business valuation will be required. However, business valuation reports are not always the easiest documents to read and interpret. If a financial expert has been hired, he or she can review this document in detail and highlight the necessary information needed for the asset division. They will also clearly explain to the attorneys, the parties, the mediator, and ultimately the judge (if the case goes to trial) how the valuation numbers can and should be divided between the parties in a way that is easy to understand.
Structure the Division of Assets
I often tell my clients that I view my job as a “professional puzzle-solver.” When it comes to designing the perfect division of assets for a particular client, it often feels like a puzzle that can have many solutions, but only one that is perfect for that particular case. When we hire a financial expert to assist us with a high asset divorce, that person becomes an integral part of the puzzle-solving team.
Experts can review the assets, make determinations of the time value of any assets that have appreciated throughout the marriage, help determine which types of assets will be most valuable depending on the post-divorce needs of each party, and ultimately help design proposals to be presented during settlement negotiations and at trial that will meet the requirements of the court and the long-term goals of the parties.
An experienced financial expert can also assist in quick reallocations of the assets when one party insists on retaining an asset that is not easily divisible in order to maintain the agreed-upon equalization ratios. The better the expert, the more helpful they are in complex or high asset cases.
Advising on the Benefits of Alimony Types
Another excellent benefit of hiring a financial expert in high asset divorce cases is in the realm of assessing alimony need and/or exposure. Financial experts rarely have input into how alimony is calculated, as this is a process that varies from state to state, and sometimes in South Carolina, varies from judge to judge. However, these experts can assist a client by projecting out the lifetime value of various types of alimony.
For example, in some cases, there may be more value in taking a lump-sum alimony payment, which can then be invested and grow over a period of time. In other cases, it may be more beneficial to accept a permanent payment amount over the lifetime of the payor. Financial experts can forecast these calculations for the client, so they can make educated decisions about what to accept during settlement negotiations.
Another important aspect is that clients often don’t understand how much alimony they may need to support themselves and maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage. Experts can conduct a needs analysis to assist with this process, and they can also help clients understand whether they can afford to live on that amount if they have never been or are no longer employed.
These are just a few of the reasons we advise our high-asset clients to hire a financial expert as part of their family law litigation team, but they certainly aren’t all-inclusive. We see this additional expense as an investment that will pay for itself in dividends of value over the course of the client’s post-divorce lifetime.
If you find yourself facing the prospect of a separation, divorce, alimony, support, or other financial issues, you need the help of an experienced South Carolina family law attorney to guide you through the difficult process. Ben Stevens is a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has the experience to help guide you through the most complicated family law issues. You are invited to contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an appointment.
Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or SCFamilyLaw@offitkurman.com to schedule an initial consultation.
ABOUT J. BENJAMIN STEVENS
Ben.Stevens@offitkurman.com | 864.598.9172
Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina. His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.
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ABOUT OFFIT KURMAN
Offit Kurman, one of the fastest-growing, full-service law firms in the United States, serves dynamic businesses, individuals and families. With 16 offices and nearly 250 lawyers who counsel clients across more than 30 areas of practice, Offit Kurman helps maximize and protect business value and personal wealth by providing innovative and entrepreneurial counsel that focuses on clients’ business objectives, interests and goals. The firm is distinguished by the quality, breadth and global reach of its legal services and a unique operational structure that encourages a culture of collaboration. For more information, visit www.offitkurman.com.
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