High Net Worth Divorce in South Carolina
The divorce experience is the same for many couples, but those with a high net worth often have unique needs. Large incomes and substantial wealth can impact many parts of a divorce, such as child support, alimony, and the division of marital property. Anyone hoping to divorce must work closely with a lawyer who understands how the legal process interacts with your situation. Please contact Surasky Law Firm today to speak with our Aiken, SC divorce lawyer. Below, we identify the key considerations for high-net-worth individuals looking to split up.
Child Support & High-Income Parents
South Carolina has guidelines which have simplified the determination of child support. The guidelines look at how much the parents make and the number of children to be supported. However, the guidelines only go up to a combined $30,000 a month in income. If you make more than that, a judge will make an individualized determination.
High-income parents have many considerations, such as:
· If you are the parent paying child support, you don’t want the judge to award too much. The guidelines generally limit the amount a judge can award. But remember, the judge is not restrained by the guidelines when parents have high incomes. There’s a real risk the other parent will try to “soak” you with an absurdly high monthly child support payment, and you should have a lawyer who can caution a judge to avoid awarding too much.
· If you are the parent receiving child support, you should try to get as much as you can. The judge’s ability to go off the guidelines presents an opportunity to increase the amount of money you get out of the divorce.
· Many high-income parents have large educational expenses, especially if they are sending multiple children to private school. You need to account for these education expenses.
Marital Property Division
The division of marital property is complicated in high-net-worth divorces because so much is at stake. Couples with considerable wealth derive many benefits from hiring a lawyer early:
· You need to fully account and disclose all your assets, even personal assets. Many people have no idea of all the accounts in their name, some of which might be offshore. Failure to make a complete disclosure could result in sanctions from a judge.
· You need to carefully plan what assets you want. Generally, the judge will divide marital property equitably. Many business owners would like to leave with 100% of the business; otherwise, they will need to buy out their ex’s share or become co-owners.
· If you are a doctor, dentist, or other health professional, you need to protect client confidentiality during the divorce process. You don’t want to be penalized for violating HIPAA regulations when disclosing information about your practice.
· Other business owners want to protect their trade secrets, customer lists, and other proprietary information. Divorce is generally public in South Carolina. You might need to request permission to file this sensitive information under seal.
· There could be enormous tax consequences to how you divide assets in divorce. These consequences might impact what assets you request, so review with an experienced lawyer.
The sooner you meet with a lawyer, the better. Our law firm can review all assets to determine which are marital, separate, or both. We can also help you avoid commingling assets, which will result in them losing their separate character.
Dividing Business Assets
Many high-net-worth clients are entrepreneurs who have substantial business assets. These assets are often subject to division in a divorce as marital property. The key is when you obtained the business interest or how much it grew in value while married.
Many legal issues can arise when it comes time to value and divide your business assets. Consider the complexity of valuation. There are many ways to value a business, but the Family Court typically considers such factors as the fair market value and the earning value of the company.
Another business asset is goodwill, which could represent considerable value. You need to carefully distinguish between personal goodwill associated with the owner from enterprise goodwill, which follows the company.
Your divorce lawyer must also be attuned to cash flow manipulation, which can make the business appear less valuable. In fact, some spouses hide assets by inflating business losses.
Alimony & High Net Worth Divorces
The spouses in a high net-worth marriage are not always equal. One could have greater earning power or separate property, which means they will be more comfortable after divorce. By contrast, the less wealthy spouse might fear for their ability to support themselves moving forward.
The lower-earning spouse might request alimony from the higher-earning spouse. Judges consider many factors, including each spouse’s future earning potential, as well as the marital standard of living.
Alimony can represent a considerable sum of money—and the spouse who pays will be responsible for the taxes, a result of a recent change to the tax code.
Was There a Premarital Agreement?
A valid prenuptial agreement will impact a divorce. You might have already decided how to divide certain assets, like business assets, or even waived a right to alimony. We have represented clients on both sides. For example, the prenup might have been drafted to benefit you. You, therefore, want to enforce it.
On the other hand, we have also represented clients who wanted a judge to set the prenup aside because it doesn’t work to their advantage. Your lawyer should understand how to attack a premarital agreement in court so that a judge will find it unconscionable or the fruit of deception.
Call Surasky Law Today About Your High-Net-Worth Divorce
Like other couples, our wealthy clients can negotiate the terms of their divorce, including the division of marital assets. At Surasky Law, we can work with our clients to negotiate a marital settlement that allows them to exit the marriage on firm footing. We are also prepared to engage in litigation, when necessary, to protect our client’s rights in a contested divorce. Call our law firm if you want to ask any questions.