IN DIVORCE, YOU MAY HAVE MUCH IN COMMON WITH AMAZON’S CEO
Briggs P. Stahl recently wrote an article for Family Lawyer Magazine about certain legal issues in Jeff Bezos’s divorce (you can read the article here). The legal issues in divorces of couples whose net worth is less than the Bezoses’ $137 billion (yes, that’s the number) may be simpler overall, but it’s entirely possible that your divorce has one or more of them. Let’s look at the issues Stahl’s article zeroes in on.
Multiple residences in multiple states. This is by no means unusual, no longer just for millionaires. Many couples own seasonal second homes, for example, summer in New England and winter in Florida. If you own residential properties in more than one state, your lawyer will want to look at how the respective states divide marital property. It may even affect which state you choose for filing your divorce.
Is your divorce amicable? This is tricky, as many divorcing couples initially intend that their breakup be amicable, but then things change. Assuming amicability, you may wish to have a collaborative divorce process. You can read more about it in our earlier post here.
Are non-legal professionals needed? Collaborative divorce is a particularly hospitable venue for experts such as CPAs and child specialists, but they may be needed in litigated divorces as well.
Is there a prenuptial agreement? Stahl writes that the Bezos divorce lacked a prenuptial agreement. Therefore, real or personal property owned by either spouse before marrying may become marital property to be divided in the divorce if it was commingled with other marital assets. Much has been written about commingled vs. separate property; you can read an earlier Lazar Schwartz & Jones, LLP, post here.
Shareholders in a public company. If you or your spouse, or you and your spouse, own controlling stock in a company that’s publicly held, your lawyer should ask if there are shareholder agreements to be honored, or whether the company has a buyback right. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission may be interested in the timing of the sale of those shares.
Stahl writes that divorce is never easy for either party, but high net worth and public notoriety can make it more challenging. While we don’t disagree, we note that at least the first four of the above legal issues occur with fair frequency in New York divorces, and an experienced divorce lawyer can advise you best.