Do I Need to Have an Attorney Review Our Prenup or Post-nup Before I File for a Divorce to Ensure Everything Is Enforceable by the Courts? Isn’t That the Whole Point of These Agreements in the First Place?
You should absolutely have any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement reviewed by an attorney. Yesterday, I had a client come into my office with a postnuptial agreement he and his partner had gotten off some online website. Agreements such as this are most likely unenforceable. Among many other issues, the client’s online agreement did not contain a “certificate of acknowledgement,” which New York State law requires to be word-for-word pursuant to the statute. Any issue with this certificate of acknowledgement makes the agreement itself generally unenforceable.
Another issue with the online agreement was that it purported to resolve child support issues. Under New York State law and the Child Support Standards Act, you have to set forth verbatim what the presumptive calculations are for child support. If you fail to follow the statute to a T, the agreement itself is usually unenforceable.
If my client had tried to push that postnuptial agreement through court without consulting me first, the court would have rejected it, making it a complete waste of time and money.
What Specific Experience and Skillset Should the Attorney I Hire for My High-Net-Worth Divorce Case Have? Are All Divorce Attorneys Created Equal?
Not all attorneys are created equal – simply because attorneys vary by experience and by knowledge. An attorney who’s been in practice 20 or 30 years certainly has a lot more experience than an attorney who’s just graduated from law school or even one with 5-10 years of experience. With a high-net-worth or high-income divorce case, you should generally aim to hire the more experienced attorneys (those with at least 20 years of practice).
Good attorneys also invariably specialize or concentrate their practice in one particular field versus another. You wouldn’t want to hire a personal injury or criminal law attorney to handle your high-income divorce. Only an attorney who concentrates the majority of their practice, if not all, on divorce law and family law will bring you the confidence of being well-versed in this area of law. Each attorney has a limited number of hours that they can spend at the office, as well as a limited number of hours to keep up with the law and the various changes and case law interpretations coming down from the appellate courts. If an attorney’s time is divided between five or six different areas of law, they won’t be able to know as much about one area of law as an attorney who solely concentrates on that one area. You should take that into consideration when hiring an attorney for your divorce case.
What Other Professionals Should I Consider Consulting Along With My Attorney to Evaluate My High-Net-Worth Divorce?
You would certainly want to consider consulting a forensic accountant, who would be able to tell you things like what is more advantageous for you to offer in terms of certain transfers of assets and property, as well as what’s more advantageous in terms of transfers of property versus payment of child support and maintenance. A forensic accountant can advise you better than an attorney can in terms of the tax consequences of any given settlement scenario, so you should work in conjunction with that forensic accountant and your attorney to propose several different settlement scenarios.
Let’s say you have a grouping of properties or assets and want to know, “If I transfer property A and C and asset portfolio 1, 5, and 7 to my spouse, is that more advantageous versus paying a higher amount of maintenance and child support?” You can interplay the properties, the assets, the maintenance, and the child support in a wide variety of ways. Ultimately, you want that forensic accountant to weigh in on what, on a long-term basis or even a short-term basis, is going to be more advantageous to you in terms of taxes and financial planning.
You may also wish to consider retaining an investigator – especially if there are any issues with hidden income or assets. Finally, consider hiring a vocational expert if maintenance (a/k/a “alimony”) is an issue & it may be alleged the spouse requesting maintenance is suppressing his/her income.
For more information on High-Net-Worth Divorce in New York, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (914) 468-0968 today.