Can Mediation Work for a High Net Worth Divorce?

A high net worth or high asset divorce is one in which couples have significant income and assets. Their annual income often runs into the mid to high six figures, and they typically have a net worth that as well into the seven figures or even higher. Those who are in this category usually have a much more complex financial picture than an average couple, and when they separate or get divorced, they often assume that the division of assets will be too complicated and difficult to handle using a process like mediation.

Divorce mediation is becoming an increasingly preferred alternative to traditional litigation, and it is not hard to see the appeal of mediating a divorce rather than going to the courts. A typical divorce can cost upwards of $20,000 or more for attorney fees alone, while the divorce can usually be handled through mediation for a fraction of that cost. Mediation can also be finished much sooner, and the process is entirely confidential, flexible, and typically far less acrimonious than litigation.

While the numerous potential benefits of divorce mediation seem very attractive to high net worth couples, some are still apprehensive about the process. Much of this is based on the common misconception that complex financial issues cannot be effectively resolved through mediation. The truth is that mediation is no different in this regard than if the spouses hired attorneys and went to court.

When divorce attorneys represent high net worth individuals, they do not handle everything by themselves. Their area of expertise is the law, and they will often need to call on outside specialists such as CPAs, business evaluators, forensic accountants, and other professionals to help with various aspects of the divorce. What many people do not realize is that these same professionals are used when needed during divorce mediation as well.

At AMS, for example, we work closely with a team of skilled professionals who have extensive experience with some of the most complex financial assets; including family-owned and closely-held businesses, franchise businesses, commercial real estate holdings, complicated business arrangements (such as stock options and deferred compensation), international investments, and rare and unique assets. Whatever the level of complexity your finances bring, we are fully equipped to handle it.

What about Protecting my Interests?

You might be thinking, “it’s nice that you can handle our complex financial situation, but how can I be sure that my interests will be protected if we mediate the divorce?” This is a valid concern, and one that is often brought up when one spouse is worried that the other will walk all over them if they do not hire a good lawyer.

First of all, spouses who go to mediation are totally free to hire an attorney as well so they can receive expert legal advice during the process. Secondly, mediation is a voluntary process that is conducted in a cooperative rather than combative environment. Although the mediator facilitates the process, both participants must agree to any settlement that is reached, and nothing can be imposed upon someone that is against their will. Mediators are trained professionals who guide the discussion toward finding common ground and developing a resolution that is acceptable all parties involved. 

Mediation is certainly not for everyone, and spouses need to enter the process with the mindset that they are willing to cooperate and work together toward an amicable settlement. Most often, the process is successful, and the spouses are able to resolve their divorce without a long, drawn-out court battle. But if the couple is unable to come to a resolution, all that is lost is a little bit of time and money.

Why Mediation Makes Sense for High Asset Couples

If you are a high net worth couple that is considering divorce, you can either litigate or mediate. The same types of professionals will participate in the process either way, and as far as the division of assets goes, the end result is likely to be about the same. With divorce litigation, however, you will be spending a whole lot more of your hard-earned money on legal costs, and depending on the complexity of your situation, the process could take years rather than months complete.