Over 40 years of firm experience assisting clients with high value assets, complex assets, and high-net-worth income streams during separation and divorce
Divorces and separations can often come with many financial headaches. When spouses separate, income and finances are not always equal. For high-net-worth couples who own several properties, complex investments portfolios, and a variety of business interests, the law can be unclear and unpredictable when dealing with financial issues. You may find yourself in a family law situation dealing with complex income streams and assets comprised of interests in corporations, employee shares, stock options, offshore holdings, securities and trusts. When spouses with high-net-worth, high-value and complex assets are going through a separation and divorce, the standard rules and obligations do not always apply. Often, the manner in which high-net-worth spouses manage their financial affairs does not fit well into the system of family law.
The Divorce Act and the Family Law Act are designed to be accessible regardless of income; however, they are largely designed for the biggest segment of the population – the middle-income wage earner who may have a pension. The law offers less clarity on how to determine financial issues for high net-worth individuals who may multiple businesses and earn income from multiple sources, such as dividends from private corporations.
Understanding how to value these types of complex assets and incomes can be very complicated. Untangling the web of shared wealth frequently requires that we consult with forensic accountants, financial analysts, and business valuators. The value of assets and income is the basis upon which equalization payments and support is calculated. However, difficulties can arise when dealing with property division, including reviewing asset valuation. Our team of highly skilled Kitchener family law lawyers regularly assists clients with the review of high net-worth incomes, high-value assets, and complex finances. We will provide you with the personal support and attention to detail that you need to protect your interests in a divorce.
Having the expertise of a lawyer who understands high-value assets is crucial.
Many clients often ask our lawyers, "I have a pension and stock options, are those subject to an equalization?" The short answer is yes - all of those items are "property" and subject to an equalization. Retaining a lawyer who understands the income tax implications arising from your divorce in dividing high-value assets is crucial to your success as part of your separation. At Sherman Law LLP, we have experts in forensic accounting, corporate law, and wealth management that we consult to assist in these areas to ensure that your assets are given proper consideration. Our Kitchener family law lawyers can assist you with the valuation and division of complex assets as part of your separation and divorce, including:
When dealing with stock options, we always suggest to our clients that an expert valuation is critical to address issues such as vesting, restrictions, legitimate tax planning, and deferred income. There are also circumstances where a double-dipping argument may apply to avoid the holder of the stocks from paying support on equalized stock option income. When dealing with pensions, there are circumstances where valuation is necessary by an actuary, including health considerations and early retirement. Often pensions that are not in payment can be equalized internally, such that a pension-holder does not have to come up with other assets to defray the value of their pension.
Collaborative divorce can be an effective tool for conflict resolution.
For those spouses who are executive and business owners, collaborative divorce and family law can be a valuable tool for conflict resolution because it can reduce the impact a divorce will have on their work, their employees, and the business performance.
For high-net-worth individuals with established businesses, the financial situation for both spouses can be complicated. One of the most challenging situations, in terms of both personal and financial implications is when spouses are also business partners, where the exit of one spouse can have a major impact on operations. In this regard, we suggest that spouses at the time of marriage pro-actively prepare themselves upfront though marriage contracts and shareholder agreements, in order to protect themselves and business should divorce occur.
However, there are also other ways to minimize the negative impact on both the individuals involved and their business. Research from the Canadian Research Institute for the Law and Family (CRILF) indicates that couples who choose to avoid the courts and instead use alternative dispute resolution processes such as collaborative divorce and family law and mediation benefit from resolving their dispute quicker and with lower legal fees than the traditional litigation process.
For over 40 years, clients have trusted in our ability to explain more than simply their legal rights and obligations in a separation or a divorce. We are confident that you will appreciate our professionalism and personalized service. To benefit from our knowledge and experience with respect to your separation or divorce, please contact 519-884-0034 or send us an email. Many of our clients are referred to us by former and current clients, as well as by lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. We serve clients in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford, Hamilton, London and surrounding areas.
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