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High-asset divorces come with unique problems

Some assume that when wealthy people divorce, it is not as much of a hardship as it is for those of more modest means. And while it is certainly true that having a cushion of wealth to soften the blow is a plus, divorces between the wealthy are often quite complicated.

The co-founder of a Virginia-based wealth advisory firm observed that wealth can be wielded as a weapon in an acrimonious divorce. She said that while money generally is not a major factor in the divorce (children and trust issues top the list), money morphs into the tool used to retaliate against the spouse with greater assets.

If the disparity between the spouses' individual levels of wealth is too great, the less affluent spouse resents having to live a more moderate lifestyle than what was enjoyed during the marriage. Children, too, may be confused at the obvious differences and wind up confused or angry.

All of this can cause the less solvent spouse to allow the stress to escalate into legal vengeance. Protracted wrangling in court can hold up a divorce and property settlement for years. The two former partners are denied the closure they need to move on.

But a high-asset divorce doesn't have to be fraught with stress and animosity. Mediation is often the best way to avoid unnecessary drama and expensive litigation. 

Sometimes the issues can be decided between the couples and their respective attorneys, but when the parties continue to butt heads, a professionally trained mediator can sometimes sort out the matters. This allows the divorce to wind up faster and can keep financial and other confidential records out of the court record.

Source: Bankrate.com, "High cost of a rich divorce," Judy Martel, June 4, 2014

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