When a couple with a high net-worth begins the divorce process, the monetary value of their assets will automatically add another layer of complexity to already immensely difficult time for their family. While you may often read that the wealthiest couples also hire the most high-powered attorneys in their areas, you will rarely hear about those same couples hashing out their differences in a public trial in Family Court. Why? Because their attorneys have likely shared with them these three reasons it's wise to handle their divorce out of court as much as possible.
1. Privacy: Whether it's asset identification and valuation, responding to discovery requests, calculating support, or exchanging reasons for why certain custody-related decisions are to be made, privacy is essential in cases where the parties have a high net-worth. Typically, high net-worth families are made up of at least one family member (sometimes several) who are publicly known, easily recognizable, and who probably depend on their public persona or reputation to maintain their level of income, both now and in the future. When you begin a divorce proceeding, it's likely not because you are getting along with your spouse. More often than not, you are at odds with your spouse over real or perceived slights which have occurred during the marriage and depending on how spiteful each spouse may be, those dirty details will likely be a frequent topic of discussion throughout the divorce process. It is always a smart decision to design your case strategies around what will provide the most privacy for your family at this time. Once papers are filed in Court, the pleadings, motions, affidavits, and exhibits are almost always part of the "public record" and available for any citizen to read at the courthouse.
2. No Burned Bridges: Even though a divorce may be imminent, if you share children with your spouse, you will be dealing with the other parent in some way, shape, or form, for as long as your children are alive. You will share special events such as school award ceremonies, instrumental or dance recitals, school plays, sports games, boy/girl scouts, religious ceremonies, graduations, weddings, grandchildren, etc. with the other parent and your children. While many couples who have a high net-worth are able to afford staff or nannies who will help manage the day-to-day schedules for visitation, it's difficult to hire a stand-in for life's important events which your children will desperately want to share with both of his or her parents. Talking with your attorney to ensure that your case is handled in such a way that ensures you can maintain a healthy co-parenting relationship with your soon-to-be ex is the smart decision for you personally, but will also benefit your children for the rest of their lives.
3. More Economical Options Available: Let's face it, high net-worth couples don't usually get to be "high net-worth" couples by spending all of their money on unnecessary expenses. While a divorce for a high-income family will almost always be more expensive than the process for the 'Average Joe', it doesn't have to always break the bank. Handling your case only by way of litigation is certainly one of the most expensive ways to go about it. When both you and your spouse are able to hire experienced, competent family court attorneys who are well-versed in the issues which present themselves in a high net-worth case, there are far more economical options available to reach a full resolution without the need of litigation. Ask your attorney about the different settlement options available in your area. Whether it's mediation, arbitration or even a blend of the two methods, settling your case with the help of an experienced legal team on your side can save tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees, not to mention the embarrassment of having all your personal family and financial details on display in a court of law.
If these three smart reasons aren't enough proof, take the recent story out of the United Kingdom where one family court judge urged a wealthy couple to consider reaching an out-of-court settlement (Petra Ecclestone, daughter of the Formula One billionaire, Bernie Ecclestone, and her husband, James Stunt, who while born into a wealthy family, has also made millions on his own through his investments and his precious metals company). The judge has warned them that handling their case outside of the public courtroom is "the sensible way forward" as they would be able to avoid giving testimony or presenting evidence in open court. Likely, if what is published in the tabloids is any hint of the truth, the judge knows that their case will surely affect their three children negatively, and possibly their future earning potential if all is exposed in a courtroom.
At The Stevens Firm, the actions we take on behalf of our clients are always aimed at prevailing at trial, however, we also consider, much like the judge cited above, which resolution options might be also best for your case. By resolving the matter outside of the Family Court, you, as the client, have a greater ability to be creative in dividing assets, creating financial options for support, and resolving custody issues, in a private setting which can be better on all sides for your family in the long run.
If you are facing or going through a high net-worth divorce or a case involving complex child-related issues, our team of lawyers is here for you, as we have years of experience in providing counsel and advocacy in cases involving professional athletes, entertainers, international and local business executives, their spouses and partners. The Stevens Firm, P.A. - Family Law Center has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over two decades and we are well-equipped to handle your divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.