The term “complex divorce” may be used to describe any divorce case that is highly contentious or that involves complicated matters. Complex divorce often applies to matters that include high income and substantial assets. These matters tend to be more contentious simply because, among other reasons, there is more at stake that may be worth fighting for.
Equitable distribution can be one of the most time-consuming and challenging areas of family law. Before the marital property and debts can be equitably distributed between the parties, all marital and divisible assets and debts must be identified and valued. Equitable distribution matters that may lead to complex divorce include: disputes over separate property; co-mingled assets and debts; and complex assets and debts, which often involve real estate investments, closely held business interests, professional practices, or other business ventures, some of which may be located out of state.
Family law attorneys routinely associate other professionals, including real estate appraisers, personal property appraisers, certified public accountants, and vocational experts to assist with complex divorce cases. The contributions of such professionals may be essential to providing information and reports that are necessary to help the parties or the court resolve the disputed issues in a fair and equitable manner. For example, appraisers generally are necessary to evaluate real and personal property. A qualified accountant may be called on to evaluate a business or business interest, determine the current and future value of certain assets or debts, trace separate or co-mingled assets or debts to their origin, determine the marital and separate components of assets and debts, investigate hidden or undisclosed assets, or determine the tax consequences that may be associated with certain assets.
High income cases in which child support and/or spousal support is at issue may be contributing factors in complex divorce.
The North Carolina Child Support Guidelines in effect for 2019 provide a formula for calculating the recommended basic child support obligation for parents whose combined adjusted gross incomes is $30,000 per month ($360,000 per year) or less. In situations where the parties’ combined adjusted gross income is greater than $30,000 per month, the child support guidelines cannot be applied and there must be a deviation from these guidelines. Child support awards in high income cases are determined on a case-by-case basis and child support is set in such an amount as to meet the reasonable needs of the child for health, education, and maintenance. In determining child support awards in high income cases, the court must consider the needs and expenses of the child and the incomes, earning potential, and expenses of the parents, as well as other factors of the particular case, including the accustomed standard of living of the child and the parties.
Cases that involve high income in which there is a significant disparity between the parties’ incomes and earning ability have the potential for high-dollar claims or awards of postseparation support and/or alimony. As with child support in which there is a deviation from the child support guidelines, determining contested claims for postseparation support and alimony in high income cases requires an in-depth and extensive examination of the parties’ finances and lifestyle, as well as a consideration of other factors required by statute such as age, health, and homemaker contributions.
In the context of support matters, an accountant may be needed to determine the tax consequences associated with paying or receiving postseparation support or alimony. A vocational expert may be called on to perform an analysis of and offer an opinion regarding the reasonableness of a party’s income or a party’s income earning potential.
Complex divorce cases may take longer to resolve due to, among other things, the time it takes to completely and accurately identify all marital and divisible assets and debts, obtain and analyze supporting documentation of each party’s incomes and expenses, and to retain necessary experts to perform appraisals and evaluations.
Judges in North Carolina have wide discretion in determining family related matters, including equitable distribution, child custody, child support, and postseparation support and alimony. Having effective legal representation and credible expert witnesses on your team can be crucial to the outcome of your case.
The family law attorneys at Tharrington Smith are well-versed in the fine details of family financial matters. No matter how simple or complex your divorce, our attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you resolve your matter as effectively and efficiently as possible. The attorneys at Tharrington Smith have established a solid reputation on providing top-notch legal services to clients in all matters related to divorce and family law, including complex divorces in which there is high income and substantial net worth at stake.