The topic of this article is how the best divorce lawyers handle California executive divorces. What are executive divorces? They are divorces where one or both spouses are professionals, whether that is a CEO, CFO or other significant position with a company.
Executive divorces can range from self-employed presidents of companies that have significant gross receivables (corporate or partnership income) to executive employees, officers, directors or shareholders of large companies such as financial institutions, public traded companies or larger private ones.
We write this article from the perspective of representing the executive in the divorce. In a future article, we will write from the perspective of the non-executive (and supported) spouse.
The best way to handle executive divorces:
1. Planning for divorce
Think of a divorce as a road paved with many hazards. Are you going to just charge in and figure out your plan and direction later? The best divorce lawyers would tell you this is foolish. Filing immediately (unless there is a true emergency at issue, such as the children's health or safety) is often not wise. Divorce planning starts before you file. Putting together a balance sheet of the income, expenses, assets and debts and planning a strategy and a budget are important first steps to a divorce.
2. Public or private judge
There is a choice. The best divorce lawyers talk to their clients about that choice. If the financial information of a business or personal income and assets should be kept out of the public eye, the cost of a private judge to handle the case may be well worth keeping most of the financial information out of a court file. Nearly everything that is filed in court becomes public record. In a divorce that involves significant assets and income, that may not be something either spouse wants. We believe the best lawyers bring this option to the table with their client as well as their spouse's lawyer at the outset of the case.
3. Resolving custody and visitation early
Custody is one of the most hotly litigated issue in divorce cases. Orange County family court is riddled with custody cases. The last thing either parent should want is a custody battle. However, in a case where the executive is concerned his or her spouse will use the children as leverage (especially for an executive that doesn't have a consistent schedule and needs the flexibility of the other parent), getting child custody and visitation resolved and as part of a court order can avoid tens (and sometimes hundreds) of thousands of dollars in lawyer's fees.
4. Retaining experts early
Experts come in different forms. The best divorce lawyers like to bring in a forensic accountant early in cases where controllable cash flow for child support and alimony are an issue and/or if there are business valuation issues. But that is not the only type of expert that may needed. Executives may also want to look at retaining:
a. A mutually agreed and court appointed forensic psychologist if the parents are unable to resolve the custody issues and there are serious allegations of physical abuse, neglect or substance abuse in the case
b. A vocational evaluator if the executive's spouse refuses to work but has the ability to do so and the opportunity for employment is present. Some thought should go into this because if the income potential of the spouse is minimal and there is a great disparity of income between the executive and his or her spouse, a vocational evaluation may not be worth the cost.
c. An appraiser or different types of appraisers may be necessary in the event a home, commercial building, antiques, artwork, class cars, wine collection or other items of great value need to be valued and divided.
5. Manage lawyer's fees
There are family law firms out there that prey on executives. Their entire focus is billing the executive and churning the file until hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes over a million dollars in lawyer's fees are wasted…and to what result? Generally, one that is to a great detriment of the client because not only did he or she have to pay his or her own lawyer's fees but also had to pay the other spouse's fees as well. It's easy to let the emotions get the better of you. I believe the best divorce lawyers help their clients (when their clients let them) manage a divorce's complex emotions.
Preparing a strategy and a budget is essential to the handing of an executive divorce. Don't fall victim to overaggressive lawyers who claim they will "bury" your spouse with paperwork or whatever other ridiculous clichés they use. You can obtain a successful result in your divorce case and do the right thing. These two things are not mutually exclusive.
The best divorce lawyers know that.
Ready to talk to our lawyers? Contact us today for an initial consultation. Let's get your case started on the right track to success.