Normal vs High Net Worth Divorces | Family Law Specialists

Normal vs High Net Worth Divorces

High net worth divorces frequently involve highly complex legal and commercial issues that require expert legal advice and representation.

High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) usually hold their assets in complex assets which makes it difficult to determine the real value of their estate as it is often flued.

These assets may be held in various business structures and trusts. We often find that substantial amounts of the parties’ assets are tied up in business/trust.  It usually is difficult to attack or defend assets held in business/trust, more so if the trusts are held offshore. 

It is therefore essential how the business/trust assets are treated, and this can have a material impact on the outcome of the case.

Obtaining information about a business/trust can be done by way of the discovery process and or by the issuing of subpoenas.

Directors / Trustees may refuse to supply the information or merely ignore any request for information. The Courts will then have to be approached to ensure that the Directors / Trustees make the information available. 

This highly complex area of divorce law requires specialist advice – the earlier in the process, the better.

Businesses in high net worth divorce matters

The most substantial assets in high net worth divorces are often privately-owned businesses. These businesses may have one or more other shareholders, or they may have branches around the world, in a complex layer of structures, complicating the process even more.

Valuing a private business is a complicated process, especially if a party is hiding assets.

Non-disclosure in high net worth divorce matters

When financial stakes are high, such as in a high net worth divorce, spouses often hide assets, or they just fail to disclose assets.

Non-Disclosure or hiding of assets may take on many forms such as:

  • overstate private or business debts;
  • create false (fraudulent) paperwork of expenses;
  • create false (fraudulent) paperwork of reduced income;
  • moving assets into friends and family’s names;
  • “selling” undervalued assets to family and friends;
  • transferring money overseas (making it more difficult to trace);
  • delay the signing of new contracts which would increase the assets and or
            income.

The use of Experts during HNWI divorces

We usually work with a team of experts, which may include Forensic Accountants, Actuaries, Industrial Psychologist, Sworn Property Evaluators, etcetera when we deal with a complicated divorce. These experts assist us with the evaluation of the value of the estate(s) and to see who is entitled to what. We have existing relationships with many of these types of experts that have assisted us over the years.

Interlocutory (interim) Applications

It is often necessary for us to bring interim applications to Court for emergency relief, such as where we locate undisclosed assets, and there is a risk that they may be dissipated, we may apply for an order to the freeze these assets pending the finalisation of the divorce.

International Divorces

Many of our High Net Worth Divorce clients lead international lifestyles. We have acted in many cases that involve international law – from African countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia and the DRC to European Countries such as the UK.

Martin Vermaak Attorneys regularly deal with high net worth cases relating to substantial earnings and large asset bases. If you are a high net worth individual, contact us as we understand how to protect your rights – whether you are the one with the higher assets base or if you are the financially weaker spouse.

 

Martin Vermaak

Practising Attorney