There are high-wealth South Florida divorces and then there are very high-wealth divorces. Back in July, the Palm Beach Post reported on the divorce of a couple who achieved significant success together in real estate, amassing wealth estimated to be around $750 million. Then, after more than six decades of marriage, the wife filed for divorce. The case presents an example of the many issues and complexities that can come into play when high-wealth individuals decide to divorce.
The then-newlywed couple, starting in the early 1950s, took a few investment properties and a business established literally in their kitchen and, over the next six decades plus, built an empire worth close to three-quarters of a billion dollars. Then, in 2016, the wife filed for divorce. The alleged motivation for the split was one that was not particularly unusual. According to the Post, the wife claimed the husband had found a new love and refused to end the relationship after she demanded it.
However, most couples’ divorces don’t entail numerous multi-million-dollar assets. The portfolio included shops in Palm Beach, restaurants in Delray Beach, bars in the Keys, and retail complexes in New York. The couple’s Palm Beach County assets alone were estimated to be worth roughly $160 million. Divorce matters involving large amounts of high-value assets can be complicated. First, the court must determine which assets are marital and which are non-marital. Additionally, the court must determine the value of each of the assets. This latter requirement was a main focus in this divorce, with “appraisers and accountants try[ing] to sort out the complexities,” the Post reported.
Another issue in this case, in addition to the equitable distribution, is alimony. The Post indicated that the wife sought, and the trial court ordered, an award of temporary support from the husband. News reports do not indicate whether or not the wife asked for permanent alimony. The mere fact that this wife might receive millions in an equitable distribution does not necessarily mean that she could not qualify, under the law, for an award of permanent alimony. Florida law says that, in cases involving long-term marriages, there is a presumption in favor of permanent alimony. Florida defines a long-term marriage as 17 years or more. (The couple was married for 67 years when the wife filed for divorce.)
In an alimony case, the court looks primarily at the recipient spouse’s need and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. An important aspect of a recipient spouse’s need is whether or not an award of alimony is necessary to allow her to continue to maintain the standard of living she enjoyed during the marriage. In other words, just because the wife was potentially worth millions would not automatically eliminate her from receiving an alimony award, depending on the difference in the spouses’ relative wealth after the divorce and the standard of living the couple maintained while married.
Another potentially complicating factor in this divorce was that “standard of living” prong of the law. In many cases today, judges must wrestle with alimony disputes in which the couples lived lifestyles far beyond their actual means. This couple, however, maintained a standard of living far below that of your typical couple worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Until the wife filed for divorce and ordered the husband to leave, the couple shared a one-bedroom apartment over a shop in Palm Beach, according to the Post report.
High-value divorces can be complicated matters for many reasons. At the very least, these cases are likely to involve a large volume of assets and therefore a large amount of evidence gathering that will go into the issue of the proper valuation of assets. For assistance with these and other aspects of a high-asset divorce, contact the knowledgeable South Florida high-asset divorce attorneys at Stok Folk + Kon. Our attorneys have been helping spouses protect their personal and financial interests in divorce for many years.
Contact us online or by calling (305) 935-4440 to schedule your consultation and find out how this firm can help you protect your interests.
More blog posts:
Dealing with High-Value Asset Items (and High Expenses) in Your Florida Divorce, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, June 2, 2017
South Florida Husband’s Notice of Dismissal Helps Him Escape $50K-Per-Month Alimony Obligation, Florida Business Lawyers Blog, May 2, 2017