What Makes a Complex Divorce?

Tackling the end of a marriage or civil partnership is rarely easy. A number of factors can quickly mount up to make the entire process much more complicated. 

While every relationship is unique, understanding the common features of complicated divorces should help to shed light on your circumstances and make clear the options available to you.

What are the Features of a Complex Divorce?

Employment Disputes

Complex divorces contain elements that are considered more challenging or intricate than the majority of ‘typical’ cases. These separations are often more difficult due to the existence of intricate financial arrangements and ownership structures, overseas jurisdictions, high value assets, inheritance, pensions, (often the largest asset) and points of law.

From financial arrangements to non-disclosure of assets, here we’ll cover all of the main elements that can be present in a more complicated divorce:

– Property and Assets

Regardless of the actual monetary values at stake, coming to an agreement about property and assets is often one of the most complicated parts of divorce and separation. Contrary to a popular misconception, the origin of high value assets is of less importance to the courts than ensuring that all parties receive a fair outcome. Residential properties can be among the highest value matrimonial items, and both spouses often feel that they have a right to continue living in them.
Communication is often the key to simplifying this area of complex divorce. There may need to be some give and take between spouses, with one ‘buying out’ the other with money or other assets in order to remain in the family home. However, the courts will look to ensure that any agreement is in the best interests of any children or dependents — to minimise any disruption to their day-to-day lives.

– Family Business

Sensitive negotiations are often required to finalise the long-term future of a family business. While deciding how best to divide a business can lead to difficult divorce cases, everything begins with an accurate valuation of the company through experts in corporate and commercial transactions. Further potential issues may include:

  • Both Spouses Ran the Business: How to handle the division of the business when both spouses are involved in the operation and rely on it for income. One party may need to agree to step back.
  • Spouse as Shareholder: A spouse may need to agree to sell their shares or accept a more limited role.
  • Other Family Members: If extended family is either involved, or hoping to eventually become involved, their situation will need to be clarified. 
  • Clarify the Level of Involvement: The role of both spouses in the operation will need to be clarified. Even a partner who was not involved in the business could make a claim against it.

While it can be easier for both parties to settle these types of issues amicably, this isn’t always practical. When an agreement can’t be reached, the courts will act to secure a resolution and, should it be necessary, they can even impose a sale of the business.

– Hiding, or Non Disclosure, of Assets

It’s essential that both parties offer a full and frank breakdown of their assets. Failing to do so could lead to the courts penalising you for non-disclosure. 
If you suspect that your partner has concealed assets, it’s important to take immediate legal advice. A full-service law firm will be able to use forensic accountants to uncover this kind of activity. Ultimately, total transparency should be regarded as a must if you want to minimise the risk of a complicated divorce.

– High Net Worth

Significant wealth often leads to more complicated divorce cases as there are usually more high value assets to find, value, and distribute. There is also a greater likelihood of intricate business, trust structures, and complex tax liabilities that, in many cases, might have an international dimension. 

In cases involving high net worth, it’s common for the courts to use a 50/50 split as a starting point. If significant wealth is a factor in your separation, discretion might also be necessary to keep important details about your relationship out of the public domain.

– Pre and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Although they’re not technically legally-binding in the UK, there is an increasing prevalence for pre and postnuptial agreements to be referenced in court. A prenuptial agreement details before matrimony how assets should be split in the event of separation, whereas a postnuptial agreement is entered into when the marriage has already begun. This type of arrangement offers protection for high value assets, but will need to have been entered into freely by both parties to be effective.

– International Dimensions

Situations where one divorcing spouse has multiple nationalities, overseas business interests, or international assets can lead to complicated divorce cases. England’s reputation for an equal split means that determining which country has legal jurisdiction can be an early sticking point. Taking legal advice at the earliest opportunity can help to establish which jurisdiction is in your best interests.

This international element can also make child arrangements more challenging, as one parent might want to move their children abroad. Further to this, additional challenges can arise in the form of offshore trusts, international businesses and investments, and foreign tax structures. In the case of overseas trusts and business assets, offshore jurisdiction can make it much more difficult to get a complete disclosure.

How to Deal With Difficult Divorce Cases

A complex divorce can touch upon multiple legal specialisms. These often include family law and mediation, estate planning, trusts, and tax and corporate and commercial interests. With so many complex layers to tackle, it’s important to work with a full-service law firm that can meet every challenge and offer innovative in-house solutions to any divorce complications.

Alongside comprehensive representation, it’s important to be transparent about your finances and to avoid conflict wherever practical. Mediation can help to encourage dialogue and often leads to a calmer, more swift conclusion. While there is no single approach that might work for everyone, your legal team will devise a strategy that promises a lasting resolution.

Thursfields: Specialists in Difficult Divorce Cases

A full-service law firm, Thursfields has experience in helping clients to negotiate even the most difficult divorce cases. We offer expertise in family law, commercial matters, wills and trusts, and other highly specialised fields. Our comprehensive approach is designed to unravel any complexities and reach a suitable resolution for you. 

From high-value assets and intricate business valuations to international aspects, our tailored strategies ensure every facet is meticulously addressed. We can approach your separation with a focus on results, and are dedicated to providing the clarity, expertise, and support needed to navigate even the most complex divorce cases.
We prioritise sensitivity and work tirelessly towards your objectives at all times. Ultimately, our service is based upon our ethos of being built around you. Contact us today for further information on how we can help.

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