No one was surprised when Maria Shriver filed for divorce on July 1, 2011, after discovering her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, fathered a child with their former housekeeper. But what is surprising is that the divorce reportedly wasn’t finalized until December 2021 – more than 10 years after the initial divorce petition.
High-net-worth divorces are complex. Multiple business interests, stocks, bonds, real estate portfolios, expensive art collections, and more can take time and strategy to sort through. That said, a divorce rarely takes 10 years to resolve.
The terms of their divorce agreement are confidential. A complicated property settlement and a lack of motivation have been cited as reasons the divorce took a decade. Importantly, the pair did not have a prenuptial agreement when they wed in 1986.
We’ll look at three issues that can prolong the divorce process.
Complicated Property Division
Schwarzenegger and Shriver reportedly share a $400 million fortune. High-asset divorces take considerable time because each asset must be categorized as marital or separate property. Only marital property is generally divided between spouses living in equitable distribution states like New York. A pricey painting, a luxury car, a vacation home, stocks, and any other valuables must be appraised. The valuation requires careful analysis by experts.
High-net-worth individuals also have more resources to hide money. Forensic accountants are often employed to ferret out assets that are not being disclosed. Sometimes, this investigation includes bank accounts and trusts in foreign countries.
No Prenuptial Agreement
A prenuptial agreement can greatly reduce complications involving finances. A well-written prenup protects assets for both spouses. The agreement establishes what is separate property going into the marriage. The agreement can address property division and spousal maintenance in the event of a divorce. An agreement can cover just about anything as long as it doesn’t violate the law. There are a few things a prenuptial agreement cannot do. A prenup cannot predetermine who gets custody of any children or how much will be paid in child support.
With a prenup offering a roadmap for a divorce agreement, high-net-worth couples can experience a less costly and stressful dissolution of their marriage. Without a prenup, everything can be a point of contention in a divorce.
Lack of Motivation
Media reports said that Schwarzenegger and Shriver had come to a friendly place. They even would attend events as a family. They were involved in relationships. There was no driving force to rush to divorce as they sifted through the property issues.
Some speculate that Schwarzenegger may want to marry his girlfriend of 8 years. Others believe the couple wanted to finalize their divorce before any potential tax changes could be implemented in the Biden administration.
Wanting to remarry and avoiding potential financial implications are two leading catalysts to legally end a marriage.
Child Support Disputes
Child support conflicts, not reported to be an issue between Schwarzenegger and Shriver, can also create delays in a divorce. New York law provides a formula courts use to determine child support. Child support is a percentage (based on the number of children) of the combined parental income up to $154,000 and then divides the amount between the parents according to their income. The noncustodial parent pays their portion to the custodial parent.
High-net-worth divorces far exceed the income cap used in the formula. Determining what should be paid monthly in child support in high-asset cases considers the age of the child, the lifestyle the child has been living (private school, luxury vacations, private tutors, etc.), and the financial resources of both parents.
Experienced Legal Counsel for High-Net-Worth Cases
Divorces that involve considerable assets and valuable holdings require strategic, detailed, and insightful legal representation. At Samuelson Hause PLLC, our attorneys have tremendous experience in providing legal counsel to high-net-worth individuals divorcing in the Long Island area.
High-asset divorces have elements not found in most other cases. We know how to navigate business assets, foreign investments, inheritance, tax implications, and other financial complexities.
Schedule a confidential consultation with one of our seasoned attorneys to learn more about the value we can bring to your case. Contact us online or call (516) 584-4685 to schedule.