High-Asset Divorce Lawyer in North Carolina
The thorniest issue in a divorce is often the division of assets between the separating couple. A couple with high assets such as multiple homes, substantial retirement accounts, family businesses or other high value items may face complex negotiations to reach a separation agreement and divorce.
Even with a prenuptial agreement, you will still be facing detailed scrutiny of your financial accounts and intense negotiations over division of property when going through a high-asset divorce. If your interests are to be fully protected, you must engage a qualified divorce attorney who understands finances and the scope of your holdings. Located in Raleigh, Charles Ullman & Associates is a law firm with the resources to give your case the attention it requires.
Attorney Charles Ullman is a board-certified family law specialist, a trained collaborative law attorney and a practicing family law arbitrator. An experienced Raleigh divorce attorney from our firm can make sure you go through the process of separation and divorce armed with detailed information and the advantage of our decades of family law experience to make the best decisions for your future.
What is High-Asset Divorce in North Carolina?
There are considerations in a high-asset divorce that do not affect lower-income couples. For example, North Carolina has established guidelines for calculating the amount of child support needed to raise a child based on the mother and father’s income, daycare expenses and any other extraordinary expenses that may exist, plus the number of nights the children spend with each parent.
However, if a couple has a combined gross income of $25,000 or more a month, then the state’s calculations do not go high enough, and child support payments are fully open to negotiation.
In a high-asset divorce, we typically see household income exceeding $300,000 a year, a large amount of property and assets to divide, and one or both spouses employed as an executive or a professional or as business owners.
The contentious issues we see in high-asset divorces are similar to those we see in other divorces, but with more money and complications involved:
- Child custody and support
- Asset division
- Spousal support
- Division of retirement or pension plan funds (requiring a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO).
Typically, a high-asset divorce is complex because of the number of assets that must be valued. In addition to asset identification, there may be a business to evaluate, which requires establishing a market value for the business and determining each spouse’s claim to ownership and potentially the value of one spouse’s “sweat equity” contributions to the business’s success.
As assets are identified and evaluated, and decisions about their disposition – whether they go to one spouse or the other or are sold with proceeds split – there are tax consequences, which must be considered.
As your attorneys in a high-asset divorce, our approach is to understand your goals as part of a divorce settlement and to help you evaluate the long-term consequences. Whether yours is a contentious or amicable divorce, our aim is to guide you toward a resolution that protects your financial interests in the immediate aftermath of your divorce and in the years ahead.
Our hope is that we may help you and your spouse craft an amicable separation agreement through mediation. In mediation, your case must only obtain a final divorce order from the courts, and the details of the dissolution of your marriage remain private.
When Your High-Asset Divorce Turns Contentious
Members of our legal team at Charles Ullman & Associates recognize the realities of a contested high asset divorce and how the highly emotional issues surrounding divorce may become combative legal matters. Ending your marriage puts you at financial risk, regardless of your economic status. It is imperative to have the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney who will protect your rights and interests as you pursue separation and divorce.
In a contentious high-asset divorce, there are steps to take to protect yourself financially, which we can assist with as your attorneys. The issues revolve around capturing a full picture of the ownership status and value of all of your household and business property, regardless of whether it will eventually be considered marital property or property acquired outside the marriage.
Some of the steps you can take are to:
- Inventory and photograph all valuables and documents (deeds; tax returns; insurance policies; bank, pension and retirement accounts / portfolios; estate planning documents)
- Identify preliminary ownership status of all property:
- Marital property – obtained jointly during the marriage
- Separate property – owned prior to marriage, or inherited property or gifts
- Obtain proof for any property inherited or received as a gift
- Have all property professionally appraised
- Secure any valuable personal property that is yours
- Remove and secure half of any joint bank accounts. Do not withdraw more than half.
- Cancel all jointly owned credit cards
- Change beneficiary (if spouse) on insurance, pension and/or other transferable accounts
- Establish transparent documentation of business billing, receipts, deposits, withdrawals, etc., that you control.
Is Your Estranged Spouse Hiding Assets?
The first step toward determining an equitable distribution of property is identifying the entirety of the marital estate and its value. The next task is identifying marital property obtained jointly after you were married, and separate property acquired before your marriage or as gifts or inheritances.
To obtain a true understanding of an affluent couple’s complex assets, debts and overall financial standing in a contested divorce, we engage financial consultants.
It is not unusual in a contested divorce of a high-asset couple to find that, among many accounts and assets under either spouse’s control, there are some the other spouse was unaware of. In some cases, one spouse has hidden assets to avoid splitting them with their estranged spouse and/or to try to keep the existence of the additional wealth out of spousal support negotiations or business valuations.
When necessary, our consulting experts include investigators who can uncover hidden assets. They can examine records to try to trace where missing money has gone and how to recover it.
A forensic accountant and/or other specialists may:
- Analyze your and your spouse’s bank deposits and withdrawals, brokerage firm accounts, credit card statements, credit applications and tax returns.
- Examine personal financial statements to determine net worth.
- Examine business financial statements to determine valuation .
- Examine business records to determine whether reported income is accurate and consistent.
- Determine sources of expenditures for personal assets, such as cars, or personal expenses. Using business money for personal expenditures is a means of reducing business profits and, therefore, business value.
- Identify related-party transactions, which may indicate attempts to divert income from a business.
- Balance household income against typical expenditures to determine what support is necessary to ensure the spouse’s/children’s/family’s current lifestyle standards are maintained after the divorce.
Forensic accountants and other consulting experts engaged to investigate a contested divorce will present us with a report of their findings, which we can use in negotiations of the separation agreement. If necessary, they can testify as expert witnesses if your divorce is contested in court.
If a spouse going through a divorce is found to have concealed assets, the presiding judge has the authority to issue sanctions, such as requiring them to pay their spouse’s legal fees or changing asset division or spousal support agreements.
Professional Divorce Representation in North Carolina
At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, we recognize what is at stake for you and your family in a divorce, particularly in a high-asset divorce. There are many steps we can help you take to protect your wealth during a divorce, such as to establish or protect existing trusts for your children or by putting real estate acquired before your marriage in a land trust. Determining what is best for you requires scrutiny and understanding of your finances, as well as understanding North Carolina divorce law and listening to you and your desires.
The Raleigh divorce attorneys of Charles R. Ullman & Associates provide compassionate and professional legal services for individuals considering separation and divorce, and for a wide range of family law practice areas. High-wealth clients in Raleigh, Wake County and surrounding Triangle area cities and towns come to our firm for the assistance of respected, experienced and knowledgeable family law attorneys.
Charles R. Ullman & Associates offers more than two decades of hands-on experience helping clients successfully negotiate separation, divorce, equitable division of all marital assets and related domestic issues. Charles Ullman is certified by the North Carolina Bar as a Specialist in Family Law, a credential that only a small percentage of North Carolina attorneys have. It indicates he has specialized knowledge and training in N.C. divorce law. Contact us today at (919) 829-1006 and schedule a confidential consultation.