High Asset Divorce

By | April 25, 2016
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In 2015, Curran Moher Weis, through negotiation or litigation, equitably distributed more than half a billion dollars in assets.  Though our Northern Virginia family law practice represents clients who come in all shapes and sizes (and asset levels), we typically see the same firms over and over again in our high asset divorce and high conflict divorce cases.  Those firms tend to have three common characteristics:  (1) manpower; (2) relationships with experts; and (3) high level experience.

Manpower Helps in High Asset Divorce

Manpower (or womanpower) is critical in document intensive cases like those of high net worth individuals, because the “paperwork burden” can overwhelm smaller firms.  To be clear, I’m not suggesting a lack of intellectual horsepower in smaller firms; there are plenty of very capable, smaller firms.  Instead, I’m talking about sheer processing power.  A small firm of 2 or 3 attorneys with a handful of staff almost certainly has a higher probability of being figuratively, if not literally, swamped in paper when document production exceeds 100,000+ pages.  If you are a successful business owner or high net worth individual heading towards divorce, retain a firm that cannot just survive the paperwork onslaught, but also bear the analytical burdens associated with making effective use of that paperwork.

Experts Are Critical in High Asset Divorce

Second, divorce firms practicing at a high level will be familiar with the area’s leading experts and, perhaps more importantly, have a working history with those experts.  Does your Fairfax County divorce case involve a complex business valuation?  If so, would Stuart Rosenberg be preferable to Joe Estabrook or Charlie Rains?  Does your Loudoun County divorce case involve a complicated custody and visitation matter?  If so, is someone like Stacey Hoffman a better fit for you and your children than Stanton Samenow, Christopher Lane, or Edward Farber?  In your Arlington County divorce case, are you claiming your spouse is capable of returning to work?  Is H. Gray Broughton likely to outshine Kathleen Sampeck or Anthony Bird on the witness stand?  Knowing the proclivities of these experts may put you at an advantage.  Moreover, the expert’s belief that he or she won’t be “sold down the river” by an attorney certainly can’t hurt.

High Level Experience in High Asset Divorce

Finally, there is no substitute for experience in high asset divorces and high conflict divorce cases.  A firm might be large and have good working relationships with experts, but if it doesn’t get involved in at least 2-3 such cases each year, it might be cause for concern.  Is it familiar with dynastic wealth transfer; has it dealt with Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trusts (QTIPs), Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), or Grantor Retained Interest Trust (GRITs)?  Is it familiar with the myriad forms of executive compensation; has it dissected Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOPs), deferred compensation and lending packages, and multi-tiered ownership?  What about Charitable Lead Trusts (CLT) and Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRT)?  Like the law itself, strategies for identifying issues and effectively dealing with them also evolve.  You will want a firm that is current on those tactics.  Similarly, in particularly high stakes cases, the Court itself may harbor its own hesitations that a seasoned attorney with regular experience in such cases may ameliorate.

In both Maryland and the District of Columbia, I have represented family law clients controlling eight-figure (i.e. +$10,000,000.00) asset portfolios.  In Virginia, I have represented family law clients controlling nine-figure (i.e. +$100,000,000.00) asset portfolios.  If you’ve got questions about these issues, feel free to drop me a line. Jason A. Weis, Esquire – Curran Moher Weis P.C. – jweis@curranmoher.com – 10300 Eaton Place, Suite 520 Fairfax, VA 22030 – 571-328-5020.


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