California is a community property state, so financial gains and losses during a marriage are shared 50/50 between the spouses. Theoretically, this means they could divide the property equally if they later divorce, but it rarely works out that way in practice.
In fact, property division can often be a very complicated process in California divorces. This is particularly true in high-net-worth divorces.
When the rich and famous divorce, what many people gawk at is the number of commas and zeros in the settlement. Some of these splits are also noted for their bitterness and acrimony.
In one business magnate’s divorce a few years ago, there were tales of abuse, stalking and erratic conduct. When it was time after 31 years of marriage to divide property, every last asset was contested, including the $36 million mansion, the $35 million Picasso and a trio of pet cats.
Ultimately, the wife’s settlement came to $1.5 billion, about half of her husband’s net worth.
An extensive process
Whether you’re dealing with millions or billions of dollars, a high-net-worth divorce imposes an immense project of identifying assets and having them appraised and inventoried. A battalion of professionals might be needed including appraisers, valuation analysts, forensic accountants, private investigators and more.
There are intangibles, too, to manage like the divorce process itself — the time, the energy, the social cost of gossip and intrigue, and the burdensome stress and worry the children might experience.
Many high-net-worth individuals model decorum and restraint, putting a premium on privacy, which can be achieved by pursuing mediation or a collaborative divorce, thereby sidestepping the courts and keeping most details out of the public record.
However you choose to proceed, it’s vital to have a strong support network and, in particular, the guidance of skilled counsel experienced in this area of the law.