Lauren Preedy – Senior Associate Solicitor – Head of Divorce Team

High Net Worth Divorce

We have a strong team of specialist Divorce Lawyers who assist clients with High Net Worth.

An Experienced Team

Our divorce team includes several highly experienced and respected specialist divorce solicitors.

These include the head of our divorce team, Lauren Preedy who is the Chair of the Somerset region of Resolution and Bridget Garrood who is a former Chair of the Devon region of Resolution. Bridget currently sits on the Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division committee.

Our founder Ian Walker is the long-standing chair of the Devon region of resolution and a former member of the Law Society Family Law Committee and former trustee of the Family Mediators Association. Ian is a current member of Resolution’s Dispute Resolution Committee.

legal 500 leading firm logoOur team also includes an in-house accountant.

Divorce is difficult for any couple and their children. Although cases where the couple have accumulated significant wealth can be more complicated, they should be able to follow a similar process to a couple divorcing with more limited and less complex arrangements.

Our team are all members of Resolution and our objective is to assist our clients to achieve good outcomes to their divorce and in the right way.

 

High Net Worth Divorce or Big Money Divorce Cases

You will find on the websites of lots of divorce solicitors references to high net worth divorce or claiming a specialism in acting for high net worth individuals.

Bridget Garrood – Senior Consultant Solicitor – Divorce/ Finance/ LGBT+ Specialist

In law high net worth has no definition.

The divorce law in England and Wales is about achieving fairness between the parties. In most cases the consideration of fairness starts with ensuring that the reasonable housing needs of the couples children are met. The search for fairness then moves on to the housing and income needs of each of the parents taking into account the degree to which each should be expected to maximise their own income. Longer term issues such as pensions then fall into consideration. Achieving a clean break between the couple is always desirable if it is possible.

Most cases start and end with the consideration of the reasonable needs of the couple.

There are of course couples who divorce who are fortunate enough to be in a position where there are more than sufficient assets to meet reasonable needs.

In the case of FF v KF, Mr Justice Mostyn (who is one of the leading Judges in the field of divorce law) remarked (at para [18]) that:

‘Plainly “needs” does not mean needs. It is a term of art. Obviously, no-one actually needs £25m, or £62m, or £224m for accommodation and sustenance. The main drivers in the discretionary exercise are the scale of the payer’s wealth, the length of the marriage, the applicant’s age and health, and the standard of living, although the latter factor cannot be allowed to dominate the exercise.’

In other words – as the wealth of the family increases – what constitutes fairness can become more complicated.

In high net worth divorce cases or big money divorce cases there the three principles of fairness apply: needs, compensation and sharing. There is very often greater room for manoeuvre in terms of options than in cases where the standard of living of the family has been more modest.

Issues which can arise in High Net Worth divorce or Big Money Divorce Cases include the following:

  • Where the wealth of the couple is substantial (£10 million plus) and one of the couple claims that they have made a special or Stella contribution to the wealth of the family.
  • Where some of the assets may relate to a business or shareholding. It is the business and assets which requires a valuation or is it a resource from which money can be drawn to fund the divorce settlement? There may be other shareholders in the business other than one or both of the couple divorcing – and they may wish to protect their interests. As a further complication it should not be forgotten that a company is a legal entity distinct from its shareholders.
  • Some assets may be held in complex trust arrangements
  • One of the couple (often the wife) may have given up their own (not insignificant) career prospects early in the marriage.
  • Inherited assets may also be more of an issue in cases where the assets are greater. Such types of cases could include farms.
  • It is more likely that assets will be held in different jurisdictions.
  • The greater the wealth – the more likely there will be significant tax issues to be considered.

These are all issues which require particular consideration. But all cases are different and will throw up their own particular issues.

Our team of specialist divorce lawyers are comfortable representing clients who have a high net worth and/or have finances which are more complicated than the average divorce.

These cases are by definition complicated and achieving good outcomes means working together as a team with our clients and other relevant professionals.

Other relevant professionals would often include: Senior Counsel, Accountants, Financial Planners and Pension Actuaries.

Clients may have existing finance professionals who they work with. Sometimes it will be necessary to find independent experts. We are fortunate that our team includes an in-house accountant. Whilst he is not authorised to give financial advice – he is by definition more financially literate than divorce lawyers and his input can assist in seeking the right assistance at the right time from the person with the best and most relevant expertise.

Our team are well connected with external finance experts and indeed at our Head Office in Exeter there are also three respected financial services companies.

On a more practical level, we recognise that discretion and privacy are extremely important.

Our head office is located in a quiet location close to the Exeter M5 motorway junction and clients can attend our offices for meetings conveniently and discreetly.

Paul Jacobs FCCA – Finance Manager – Our in house accountant

It doesn’t have to be a battle

Couples who have been fortunate enough to accumulate assets which would bring them into the category of high net worth divorce or big money divorce – have usually done so through hard work and by being careful with their money.

Whilst there clearly needs to be an examination of the couple’s finances in order to achieve a fair settlement, this doesn’t mean that there is a blank cheque for lawyers and finance professionals. The approach that we take in representing clients is the same with all our clients. We recognise that couples have worked hard and that they do not go into a divorce wanting it to become and emotionally draining and financially expensive battle.

Sensible Negotiation

Achieving good outcomes means sensible negotiation based on good advice and taking reasonable positions in negotiation. Achieving good outcomes isn’t about arguing about every single small detail – it is about maintaining focus on the bigger picture.

Fiona Griffin – Senior Consultant Solicitor – Divorce/ Finance Specialist

Collaborative Family Law, Family Mediation and Family Arbitration are all forms of family dispute resolution which can be used successfully in high net worth divorce cases.

There are models of mediation which can successfully be used where lawyers and financial experts are present during key mediation meetings.

Collaborative family law is all about achieving fair solutions through sensible negotiation – avoiding court processes.

Arbitration can be used to support both family mediation and collaborative family law and indeed principled Solicitor/Solicitor negotiation – as a way of resolving blockages along the way – which might be the final matter to be resolved or a matter of principle – which once resolved clears the way for agreement to be reached on other matters.

Karen Elliott – Senior Consultant Chartered Legal Executive – Divorce/ Finance Specialist

In the South-West and at your convenience

Our head office is at the edge of Exeter. We have a variety of other locations across the South-West. We are also available to clients by video conferencing.

We can easily arrange meeting rooms in London.

 

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