High-Asset Divorce & Family Law Attorneys
Handling a high income divorce in Georgia is something that takes special skill, knowledge and experience. In many ways a high-net-worth divorce is different from a divorce where the clients have less financial resources.
Whether in Atlanta or anywhere else clients need attorneys who understand and appreciate the issues that affluent people have to contend with. High net worth individuals need the care and assistance of attorneys who can call upon the varied resources needed to specifically address their issues. Attorneys Valerie W. Sherman and William H. Sherman have cultivated resources around the country that can be utilized, if necessary, to help ensure the proper representation of rich people. While the Sherman Law Group handles all of the legal work, the resources we can call upon can assist us in valuations of real and personal property of all types, finding assets that may be hidden and ensuring that the other party is being truthful. Our expert network extends to specialists in places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Houston, or even internationally in cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul and Mumbai. When affluent people divorce all assets must be accounted for.
There Are many Issues in High-Income Divorce
The decision to get divorced is rarely, if ever, simple or easy. Couples are pressed sometimes to make immediate, high-pressure, life-altering decisions affecting their children, living arrangements, personal property and financial futures. This is especially true for high-income individuals, professionals, business owners, professional athletes, executives, inventors, entrepreneurs and those with family-owned businesses who are presented with substantial and often complex financial issues in divorce. Our clients understand that these issues can have a substantial impact upon their lifestyles and want to ensure that their lawyers understand the many issues potentially involved.
Identifying & Valuing Assets in High Net Worth Divorce
At the Sherman Law Group, based in North Fulton County, GA, with a satellite offices in Cumming, Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Marietta and elsewhere, we have extensive experience protecting the interests of doctors, dentists, business owners, professional athletes, entertainers, inventors, bankers, entrepreneurs, professionals, CEOs, scientists, professors, executives and spouses of top-salaried individuals in divorce and family law cases. Our experience in high-asset divorce gives us a clear understanding of the financial and emotional stakes when family-owned businesses, real estate, pensions, stock options, art collections, antiques collections, planes, stamp, coin, gun or car collections are in play during divorce proceedings. Many times these assets and collections have been built-up or years, even decades, they may have been in the family for generations. And while they may have substantial economic value, they also may have great emotional value.
We are committed to providing legal representation of the highest quality, have substantial “hands-on” experience in contested family law matters, and are knowledgeable and aggressive in protecting our clients' rights and assets. At the same time, we focus on preserving fundamental, key relationships, which is often essential when divorcing spouses need to continue working at the same firm or in the same industry, are owners of a business concern or are shareholders in a successful business enterprise — as well for co-parenting and other important family purposes. Indeed, there are always important child-rearing decisions to be made about schools and activities. We have assisted clients in issues related to charitable giving (to colleges and universities and prep schools, to religious institutions, to arts and cultural organizations) and understand how those commitments can impact a divorce settlement.
Protecting Affluent Clients in Complex Divorces
Each divorce case is unique; each has its very own issues, circumstances and financial and emotional elements. When you hire us, we come in with no preconceived notions. Most importantly, we listen closely; you explain in depth what your goals and vision are. The Sherman Law Group has handled numerous divorce proceedings involving complex issues of asset classification and valuation, as well as more contentious issues involving hidden assets of many types.
What Are Some Common Assets in High Net Worth Divorces?
We dig deep to obtain a true picture of the situation and can call upon skilled financial analysts, accountants, experts in many fields and valuation specialists when needed. Common assets involved in high-asset divorces can include:
- Professional practices (medical, dental, accounting, chiropractic, for example) and family-owned businesses
- Retirement funds, 401(k) plans, pensions and benefits
- Financial assets such as IRAs, stocks, stock options, stock warrants and bonds; local, interstate and international bank accounts (including bank accounts in Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Panama, Monaco or Luxembourg);
- Houses, condominiums, co-ops, vacation homes and investment properties
- Valuable collectibles such as antique cars, jewelry, art, coins, stamps, watches, rare books and manuscripts or firearms
- Compensation awards from workers' compensation, personal injury or medical malpractice cases or employment matters or business litigation and class action litigation
- Yachts and other watercraft
- Private jets
- Trust funds
- Hedge Fund accounts
- Mutual Funds
- Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Cardano, Monero, Bitcoin Cash, Dogecoin and Litecoin
- Wrist Watches (including such brands as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Omega, Tag Heuer, Blancpain, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Breitling)
- Fine wines
Children's Activities That Can Be At Issue
Children's activities are sometimes at issues in divorce, and this is true for couples with high incomes. Whether a former spouse must continue to pay for a kid's activities is a question that frequently arises. A judge will make the final decision based upon the "best interests of the child" standard. Here are some activities that we have seen addressed in divorce cases:
- Horse Riding/Equestrian
- Figure skating
Women Who Make More Money Than Their Husbands: Warning!
An interesting report published in the Journal of Family Issues concluded that women who earn more money than their husbands are much more likely to get divorced. A study conducted over two decades revealed that women who earn more than their husbands are almost 50% more likely to get divorced compared to marriages where the man earns more than the wife. Even rich couples had the same elevated percentage of divorce.
We Perform An Analysis -- What You Need to Know
We will perform a thorough, in-depth analysis of how your assets and debts were handled and apportioned during the marriage, so we can properly and effectively classify your marital property and non-marital property for the court. The analysis can include calling upon the knowledge of experts at leading financial institutions, on Wall Street or elsewhere, as well as consulting with top-tier auction houses including Sotheby's, Christie's or Bonhams or similar experts around the world. We also have experience protecting clients from becoming financially liable for debts associated with their spouses' business enterprises, investments, lawsuits and tax liabilities.
High income divorces can also involve unique issues regarding child custody and visitation, child support, alimony and other things. We understand how a high net-worth, affluent person should best engage these common divorce issues and what sorts of strategies and tactics they can employ for success. We advise them on their best legal options and strategies.
The Reasons Affluent Couples Divorce Are Often the Same as Other People
Reasons for divorce are many. But here are some that are frequently cited:
- Fighting about money
- Child-rearing philosophies clash
- Substance abuse
- Emotional or physical abuse.
- Someone feels lonely
- Someone feels misunderstood
- Someone feels undesired.
Compatible Credit Scores?
Interestingly, according to research by the Federal Reserve Board, the greater the mismatch between a couple's credit scores, the more likely they are to separate within the first five years of marriage.
People with the highest credit scores, according to the data, were most likely to form long-lasting committed relationships. The study found that the better your financial standing and the higher your credit score when a committed relationship starts, the less likely you are to divorce, at least initially.
Tax Avoidance for the Affluent
Successful people in business tend to try and take maximum advantage of the tax code. So affluent couples getting divorced who have been in a long-term marriage have likely dealt with some tax issues and tax strategies along the way. When necessary we can work with your tax professionals (or we can suggest some to assist you) to help ensure that your tax issues are properly addressed.
Are Children of Wealthy Families more Affected by Divorce?
The children of wealthy families are more affected by divorce than are kids from lower income backgrounds, studies have shown. Just why is unknown, but experts have surmised it has to do with:
- fathers, who are usually the breadwinners, often move out of the home so there's a large decrease in household income
- the kids relocate to a new neighborhood
- the kids may have to attend a new school
- the children may get a new friend group
Interestingly, this has been observed in studies where the children are 5 years old or younger. On children 6 to 12 years old, there was no observed affect differentiating them from lower income kids. It's worth noting, however, that the quality of the home environment, regardless of family structure, mattered most to the kids' social and emotional well-being.
Super-wealthy Divorces Often Do Not Involve Alimony
In a divorce involving the super-wealthy, alimony can be of far less importance than in our situations (like if the people are merely affluent). That's because if you have tens of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions or billions, after assets are split, there often is no need for alimony. The former spouse simply doesn't need it; he or she was well-provided for when the assets were divided.
What About Trust Funds?
Where a couple was living quite well off a spouse's trust fund, if they get divorced, there can be a serious diminution in lifestyle for the non-trust funder. That's because the trust fund was financing a grand lifestyle, but with a divorce, that could be cut off. That is in contrast to a non-trust funder who was a business owner, a professional or an executive. In those cases the other spouse would lay claim to a portion of those earnings.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Do I have to include my Rolex watch collection as an asset?
Answer: Yes, Rolex wristwatches have value and sometimes they have considerable value. Whether you own a Daytona, Submariner, Datejust, Day-Date, Explorer, GMT-Master, Sky-Dweller or another Rolex offering, you would include those timepieces among your assets. Of course, not every Rolex is valuable, but if you have a collection, that could become an asset to divide in the divorce. We had a client whose husband had a substantial Rolex collection and she knew about it and it became part of the negotiated divorce settlement.
Question: My husband bought a country house about 30 years, that was 5 years before we married. Will I be entitled to some of the value? - Rachel from Sandy Springs
Answer: Yes, you are likely entitled to some of the appreciation in real estate even when the property or properties were bought pre-marriage. This is a frequent issue and particularly in a long-duration marriage the spouse would be entitled to some value from the home. That is usually determined via negotiation and sometimes real estate appraisers are used. We have handled this issue involving second homes in places like Blue Ridge, GA; Ellijay, GA; homes on Lake Oconee and Lake Lanier in Georgia; as well as homes on Long Island, Hawaii and in California.
Question: I think my husband is making purchases at Sotheby's and Christie's, the auction houses, and hiding them from me? Can you help me find out? - Jill from Alpharetta
Answer: We may very well be able to subpoena records from Sotheby's and Christie's (or other auction houses) to determine if in fact such purchases are being made. We have discovered such purchases in the past of such items as contemporary art, books and manuscripts, Chinese works of art, Impressionist art, jewelry, diamonds, Italian paintings, and French and Continental furniture, posters and coins.
Question: I think my husband is having an affair with some nude dancer at the Pink Pony. He said he's not. But on his credit cards he's spending almost $5,000 per week there and he had some pictures that were very revealing. Can I find out if he's cheating? - Mary from Dunwoody
Answer: Cheating is a frequent cause of marriage breakdown. We work with various private detectives who are skilled at ascertaining a spouse is cheating or not. If they are and we have proof, that can be a factor in a divorce.
Question: My husband has a Ferrari collection but he says it's not valuable at all. He said each car is worth at most $10.000. I don't believe him. What do you think his Ferrari collection is worth? Cari from Cobb County
Answer: Ferrari is a high-performance sports car with a storied history. Even non-collectible Ferraris are worth substantially more than $10,000. But to be specific and precise, we'd hire a Ferrari appraiser to review, evaluate and value the collection. We've done that in the past with collectible vehicles including Ferrari, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Corvette, and the Ford Mustang, as well as other well-known American "muscle cars." We may not even need to hire an appraiser as there are many sources available to generally value automobiles.
Question: My wife makes a lot more money than I do and I'm worried she'll get the kids in a divorce. But she works almost 100 hours a week and she is addicted to pain pills. Does the person with more money get custody of the kids? - David from Marietta
Answer: The person with with the greater financial profile does not necessarily get custody. The standard used by Georgia courts in child custody matters is the "best interests of the child." We have seen many cases where the wealthier spouse is not given primary custody because the other parent has demonstrated that they would be a better choice for primary custody.
Question: If I am granted stock options by my company after I get divorced, can my husband claim any of the options for himself? Jillian from Atlanta
Answer: The key part to your question seems to be that the stock options were granted after your divorce. Generally speaking, stock options granted after a divorce would not be apportionable to the former spouse, because you are no longer married. However, the settlement agreement may play an important role here. Because if in the settlement agreement provides for an ex-spouse to get a share of the stock options, that would control.
Question: My wife thinks she can get a share of my 401(k) that I worked hard for over these past 29 years at my company. She never worked and since we didn't have children, she never stayed home with the kids. She just liked to drink wine and shop. Can she really get a portion of my 401(k)? - Kelly from Buckhead
Answer: She probably can. In a long-duration marriage, your former spouse would likely be entitled to a portion of your 401(k). However, what portion can be negotiable. A qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) would be used to split a 401(k).
Question: Can a court order me to sell my Picasso painting? My wife says a court can order it sold and the money split between us. Is that true? - Thomas from Milton
Answer: We can't give you a definitive answer without knowing some more information. But, yes, a court can order the sale of assets, and art is an asset class. Whether a court would order the sale of artwork is determined by various issues. A court would want to know if you bought it or inherited it. If your spouse paid for some of it. When was it acquired (i.e., at the start of the marriage or much later?) And was it a negotiated item in the settlement agreement, in other words, was there an agreement, for example, that one party gets the Picasso and another gets the house? Or would giving her the Picasso painting absolve you of paying alimony?
Question: If I pay my wife alimony, I think she'll just use it to buy expansive handbags. She collects Prada, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Judith Leiber and Mouawad. Can I stop her from using my alimony money to buy designer handbags? - Nick from Duluth
Answer: Under Georgia law, she can use alimony money for pretty much whatever she wants. That can include the purchase of luxury goods, such as handbags. Alimony is spousal support to enable a former spouse to live a lifestyle that they have become accustomed to post-divorce.
Question: I told my ex-wife I'd buy our kids a dog. But my ex-wife is insisting I purchase some of the most expensive dog breeds in the world. She gave me a list of the dogs she wants me to buy and it includes the breeds: Samoyed, Chow Chow, Tibetan Mastiff, Canadian Eskimo Dog, Dogo Argentino, and Afghan Hound. She's being vindictive because she caught me having sex with her sister. - Barry from Forsyth County
Answer: We are dog and cat lovers and those really are amongst the most expensive dogs you can buy. They are wonderful and beautiful canines, but they are quite pricey. Unless you have an agreement to specifically buy a breed like that for your children (perhaps as part of your settlement agreement), it is unlikely that a Georgia court would require you to do so.
We must point out that there are many, many great dogs waiting to be adopted at local animal shelters and adopting a rescue is a route chosen by many dog owners.
Question: My husband bought our home in Buckhead before we were married. We've been married for 33 years. He said if we get divorced I get nothing from the sale of the house. He paid the down payment and he paid the mortgage. I never worked because he never wanted me to. Is that true that I'll get nothing from the sale of the home? - April from Lawrenceville
Answer: It is probably not true. You will likely get something, perhaps a lot, from the sale of the house. Under Georgia law, you have been married for a long period of time and you are most likely entitled to some of the appreciation of the Buckhead house. In fact, you may get 50% (or more) of the increase in value of the home over the many years you have been married. It is often very much a matter of negotiation as to how much money you will receive from the sale of the residence.
Question: I paid for my wife to have a lot of plastic surgery. She has had pretty everything done: facelift, breast augmentation, even her eyes. Now she says she wants a divorce. Can I get her to pay me back for the money I laid out for the plastic surgeon bills? - Ted from Brookhaven
Answer: This question comes up often these days as plastic surgery has gotten very popular. You are unlikely, however, to get reimbursed by her for the plastic surgery. But it is possible that it can be used as a negotiating point because it was an expensive outlay of funds on her behalf for a luxury.
Question: I don't think I'm the father of our baby daughter. Besides not having sex with my wife for over a year, my wife said she was having an affair with an old college boyfriend and the child is his. How can I prove the kid is not mine? - Braxton from Atlanta
Answer: Although there is a strong presumption that the child is yours since you are married to the mother, you will need to take a DNA test to refute paternity. A DNA test will offer proof one way or the other as to who is the father.
Question: I really don't think my husband and I will fight about very much. I think we can have an amicable divorce that should be pretty much uncontested. Do you think we can settle all our issues without a divorce trial? - Tina from Roswell
Answer: Yes, that is very possible. Most divorce matters don't involve hearings or trials. Most can be negotiated. Sometimes they can be settled at mediation. But, if a trial is necessary, we can certainly handle that for you. But it would be good to settle all issues without a trial.
Question: I noticed my husband's credit card bill has charges from Atlanta strip clubs and escort services. Should I save it as evidence? - Monique from Woodstock
Answer: If your husband is frequenting massage parlors, escort services and strip clubs, that can have an impact on a divorce. If he's doing it to excess, for instance, it can show him wasting money and squandering marital assets. It also can demonstrate that he is participating in criminal activity if he is paying sex workers, which is illegal in the state of Georgia.
Question: My wife and I moved to Gwinnett County about 9 months ago. Now she wants a divorce so she can marry a guy she met on vacation in Florida like 3 months ago. How long do you have to live in Georgia before you can get a divorce here? - Lance from Norcross
Answer: Georgia divorce law provides that residency is established when either party to a divorce has resided in Georgia for six (6) months. Either spouse can meet the residency requirement and then the divorce can occur here.
Question: I just found out that my husband is still married to his first wife! He told me they got divorced like 10 years ago in California. Is he a criminal for lying about the divorce and marrying me? - Maria in Canton
Answer: If someone lies and marries another woman (or man) when they have not divorced their fist spouse, that person has committed bigamy, which is a felony in Georgia, punishable by a prison sentence.
Question: I am in a same-sex marriage and my wife thinks she can take part of my bikini-wax business I've built-up over more than 15 years. She did nothing for the business; never helped out; never worked here, nothing. Can she get part of it in a divorce? - Martin in Roswell
Answer: That depends on several factors, including how long the marriage has lasted. If you were married just recently, for example, her claim would certainly be less than if you were married the entire time. She may have a claim under Georgia divorce law to some portion of the business.
Question: I want a divorce but don't know where my husband is? He left me right after the honeymoon. He said he was going out to buy some soy milk, wasabi, and brie cheese, and I never saw him again. - Patricia in Dawsonville
Answer: If we can't locate your spouse to serve him with the divorce papers, you could be a good candidate for what's known as a “divorce by publication.” This is a provision under Georgia law that allows us to, basically, run a notice in a pre-approved newspaper that serves your spouse's last known whereabouts to give them notice of your intent to divorce.
A divorce by publication in Georgia requires that we establish that we've done suitable due diligence in our attempt to locate a vanished spouse.
Question: I've been living with a lady for 18 years and we tell people we're married, but we never actually got legally married. Are we legally married by living together as husband and wife — in a “common law marriage” — under Georgia laws? - Tate in Henry County
Answer: A common-law marriage cannot now be created in Georgia. A common law marriage can exist in Georgia, but it must have been created before January 1, 1997.
High-Income Divorce Attorneys
At the Sherman Law Group our fundamental success as a law firm has been in building quality, long-term relationships with our clients. We have always been dedicated to personal attention, responsiveness, and full accessibility.
As a former Senior Assistant County Attorney and an Assistant Attorney General and former corporate executive, William H. Sherman knows how the issues in high income divorce situations. Attorney Valerie W. Sherman has the extremely valuable experience of serving as a Magistrate Judge and as an Assistant County Attorney, as well as having years of hands-on experience helping high net worth individuals navigate the often treacherous landscape of divorce.
Call us today at (678) 712-8561 to discuss your situation and to schedule an appointment at our Roswell, GA or Cumming, GA offices. We are very proud to serve clients from all over the Atlanta Metro Area, North Fulton County and North Georgia.