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High Net Worth Divorce Solicitors

 

People with high net worth face different challenges on relationship breakdown and need specialist advice. High Net Worth Divorce typically involves complex and diverse assets, and often reputational risk to one or both parties.

We have the experience and expertise to manage the sometimes difficult process of locating and valuing the property of high net worth individuals, either to protect it or to ensure that it is included in financial negotiations. We also have the professionalism and understanding to manage any press and publicity agents, ensuring a High Net Worth Divorce does not result in damage to the reputation of either party.

We do all this with our renowned commitment to excellent customer service. High net worth individuals usually have hectic and fast-paced lives; our knowledge and understanding of the complexities of High Net Worth Divorce means we will manage the process with the minimum of fuss.

Definition of “needs” in divorce

In all divorce cases, the court aims to achieve a result which is fair to both parties in all the circumstances. This means, in High Net Worth Divorces, where the parties have become used to a particular standard of living, the definition of “needs” is different to a standard divorce. In cases involving substantial assets, the court can order a party “needs” millions of pounds.  

We will work with you to strive to ensure that your outcome accurately reflects your expectations for your standard of living and you receive everything you are entitled to. It is important to get independent advice from an experienced High Net Worth Divorce professional. Our team has helped parties either side of High Net Worth Divorces ie the financially stronger party or in other cases the financially weaker party, through the financial resolution process.  

Complex asset portfolios

High Net Worth Divorces are complex due to the nature and size of the asset portfolio of one or both of the parties. A financial settlement in these cases will often involve understanding and valuing companies and trust arrangements, sometimes across multiple jurisdictions.

Our team has the experience and expertise in finding, understanding, and valuing complex and diverse assets that is required to either defend or substantiate financial claims in a High Net Worth Divorce.

How is non-matrimonial property defined?

It is important to define matrimonial and non-matrimonial assets as, if the needs of each party can be met by sharing matrimonial assets, it is likely non-matrimonial assets will not need to be shared. In many divorces, the total amount to be shared is not sufficient for this distinction to be of great importance, as all assets are required to meet the needs of each party. That is not always the case with High Net Worth Divorces.

There is no strict definition of non-matrimonial property. Anything which did not form part of the shared assets of the relationship could be included, such as a property acquired before the marriage which did not become the family home. For individuals whose assets are made up in whole or in part of inherited or dynastic wealth, the distinction can be particularly important. Assets which have been handed down within a family will often be considered non-matrimonial assets and arguably will fall outside the scope of a high net worth financial claim.

How are assets valued?

An accurate valuation of assets is essential in a High Net Worth Divorce. Complex asset portfolios can make this process difficult as wealth is usually spread over a range of business, pension, investment, property and trust interests.

Our specialist team will work with forensic and shadow accountants, and your personal financial advisors, to ensure all assets are accounted for and properly valued. This process is vital if a fair and comprehensive financial outcome is to be achieved. 

Can assets be hidden from a financial settlement?

Full financial disclosure is required in all divorce cases, including assets which are believed to be non-matrimonial. If you suspect your partner has assets which have not been disclosed, we have the experience and expertise to find them. Working alongside forensic accounts and specialist asset tracing professionals, we will strive to ascertain the full extent of the assets owned by your partner.

In many High Net Worth Divorces, this involves questions of international law. We have experience working with overseas family lawyers to support this process.

Occasionally one party in a High Net Worth Divorce may try to transfer assets into the name of a third party or beyond the jurisdiction of the English court. If you are concerned about your partner potentially trying to remove assets from consideration, we can apply for an injunction to stop them.

What are the consequences of non-disclosure of assets?

The court is concerned with the fairness of a financial settlement. As such, non-disclosure of assets, whether that is transferring funds to a non-disclosed bank account or hiding wealth in complex offshore trust schemes, is serious and can have significant consequences.  

Search orders allowing entry to premises owned by the suspected non-disclosing party can be made, allowing the representatives of the other party to search for relevant documentation. If there is a risk that assets may be dissipated or transferred, freezing orders can secure those assets. In extreme cases, a non-disclosing party can also be committed to prison for contempt of the court’s disclosure process.

The court can also be asked to draw adverse inferences against a party if it can be shown it has proved impossible to establish the full extent of their wealth. The court will consider the actions of each party during the process and any evidence of non-disclosure of assets, when ruling on a financial award.

How are assets in trusts dealt with on divorce?

High Net Worth Divorces often involve assets held in onshore or offshore trusts. Protecting wealth in this way is a normal and sensible piece of financial planning, but these structures can make determining a financial claim difficult. Trusts can mask both the true ownership of the assets they protect and the identity of the beneficiaries.

It is important to understand the nature and purpose of the trust and the obligations placed upon the trustees. Information about the value and terms of the trust needs to be acquired from trustees and administrators, which can often be a technical and sometimes challenging process. It is also important to ascertain the historic operation of the trust in terms of previous payments to beneficiaries and the reasons for them.

Even after an application for disclosure of information is made, there is no guarantee the trustees will comply. They will need separate legal representation from the divorcing beneficiary. The court cannot force the trustees of a valid discretionary trust to act in a certain way and trustees of overseas trusts may refuse to respond, or refer to the court in their own jurisdiction. The courts of England and Wales can only apply “judicial encouragement” to the trustees to cooperate in advancing funds. Otherwise they may sometimes assume income will be provided to the divorcing beneficiary to assist in meeting his or her financial requirements.

Therefore if your situation involves trying to access funds held in valid trust structures, or protect such assets if a former partner is attempting to include them in a claim, expert legal advice is required from the earliest stages of the process, to ensure a fair outcome is reached.

What happens to businesses and companies on divorce?

A family business is often the most valuable asset in a High Net Worth Divorce, but accurately valuing commercial entities can be difficult, particularly if they hold assets overseas or in complex financial structures. Our team work regularly with accounting and other skilled professionals to uncover the ownership structure and extent of the asset holdings of complex businesses.

It can also be difficult or inefficient in tax terms to distribute the assets of a family business or company. Shares in private companies will often be illiquid and difficult to sell to release funds, or one party may simply be unwilling to sell enough shares to satisfy a financial claim (if selling would mean them losing a controlling stake in the company, for example). In these circumstances, if an agreement cannot be reached, or claims to offset against other funds from the matrimonial pot are not available, the business may have to be restructured. In rare cases the company may have to be sold but this tends to be a last resort.

We can draw on the experience of our Corporate Law team and other specialist advisors to provide the best advice to enable you to achieve your financial and commercial objectives.

What is special contribution?

A special contribution argument is where one party in a divorce claims to have made such a significant “stellar” and one-sided contribution to the combined wealth of a couple that the usual rule of equal sharing of assets should not apply. Special contribution arguments often arise in cases involving successful entrepreneurs, legendary pop stars and inventors.

The courts have been reluctant to recognise special contribution claims, but, in a High Net Worth Divorce, even small deviations from an equal split of assets can be worth millions of pounds, so it is important to consider this argument.

How will tax impact on the settlement?

It is important to consider the tax implications of any financial settlement, but especially in a High Net Worth Divorce, where the amounts in question can run to millions of pounds. We will refer you to specialists to advise you of the UK tax consequences of your proposed financial settlement and ensure you are fully aware of the “net effect” of tax law in the relevant jurisdictions.

Reputational risks

A High Net Worth Divorce is not just about the financial settlement – high profile individuals also need to consider the reputational risks associated with their separation. The benefits of contesting your financial case, hoping to increase your share, need to be carefully weighed against the prospects of a public court hearing. Entrepreneurs, sports, and media personalities often need assistance regarding how to strike this balance. The potential cost of reputational damage needs to be carefully assessed when determining the right strategy and forum for your negotiations.

If your circumstances are such that you would prefer to limit public exposure, a court process is unlikely to be the best option. We have an in-house collaborative lawyer and experience of working with high net worth family arbitrators. These forms of alternative dispute resolution offer more private options in resolving High Net Worth Divorce cases. In addition they both have a host of other advantages such as setting tailor made agendas, private hearings and meetings, speed and certainty of lawyer/tribunal availability.

International complications

Many High Net Worth Divorces involve international considerations, as well as complex financial assets and questions of reputational risk. If the parties in a separation live and/or own property in a range of jurisdictions, the choice of jurisdiction can have a major impact on the outcome.

While the English court is known for its commitment to achieving a fair financial result, other jurisdictions are not as flexible. In relevant cases, we will discuss with you the complicated considerations of jurisdictional disputes and will take specialist advice from experts in the appropriate jurisdiction to ensure your separation is dealt with in the most advantageous location.

Why choose Lanyon Bowdler?

We are committed to providing our clients with practical, clear, and accurate advice and are proud of the reputation we have built as experts in complex financial cases. We have been recognised for our family law expertise in the 2022 editions of the pre-eminent legal directories, Chambers UK and The Legal 500.

Furthermore, we are renowned for our compassion and sensitivity in this often emotionally charged area of law. Understanding the needs of our clients is of paramount importance, emphasised by our signature of the Armed Forces Covenant and our membership of the NFU law form panel. We ensure our technical legal advice is always given based on your specific circumstances.

Contact the High Net Worth Divorce Solicitors at Lanyon Bowdler

Lanyon Bowdler is a member of the Law Society Family Panel and accredited specialist with Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers, so you can be sure our solicitors are experienced in all aspects of UK law.

Our divorce lawyers are approachable and professional, and will always adopt a balanced and practical approach to negotiations, minimising conflict and working to an acceptable outcome for you. Our aim is to achieve amicable resolutions swiftly, but if litigation is necessary we have the experience and know-how to deal with the courts effectively.

Please give us a call for a friendly, confidential, chat about how we can help support you when you or your family need legal advice and representation. Please contact a member of the team or complete our online enquiry form on the righthand side of this page. 

By choosing Lanyon Bowdler for family law legal advice, you can rest assured that you have the best legal expertise on hand no matter what the situation. We are committed to providing exceptional levels of client care and will work closely and considerately with you to help find the best outcomes. Our Family Law Solicitors team has great experience in all areas of family law and family mediation. 

We have offices in Shrewsbury, Bromyard, Conwy, Hereford, Ludlow, Oswestry and Telford, so are able to act for clients all over Shropshire, Herefordshire, Mid and North Wales and across the Midlands (including Wolverhampton & Birmingham). As a leading full-service law firm, we can represent you wherever you live in England and Wales.

Testimonials

I was impressed with the efficiency and welcome of staff. Excellent office layout and service.  

- Mrs S James & Mr W Parkinson, Telford

A warm welcome from the receptionist. Extremely impressed by all that have helped us, peace of mind for our future.

- Mr M Court & Mrs A May, Shrewsbury

Always very efficient in dealing with the workload and advice given in divorce. Would highly recommend the service I received. 

- Mrs Suzanne Purvin

Knowledge and information given was accurate and realistic.

- Mrs Eleanor Margaret Howells, Hereford

Very efficient, pleasant and fully explained. I am well satisfied.

- Mr Stephen Turner, Oswestry

Friendly atmosphere and very professional attitude. 

- Mr Sidney Jolliffe, Oswestry

Advice was sensible and informative. It allowed me to make the decisions with understanding potential concequences. 

- Mr Paul Simon Burgoyne, Hereford

They listened to my worries and my concerns, which put me at ease and made me feel that I completely had someone in my corner fighting for myself and children's best interests. 

- Miss Deborah Lisa Bradley, Shrewsbury & Oswestry

Case Studies

Nothing Left to Partner

Claire acted for a claimant whose partner died, leaving his entire estate to ...

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