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Choosing your battles in a high-asset divorce

Divorce is never an easy process. When you're working through one in which numerous assets are at stake? It's even more complex. That's why it's important to choose your battles wisely when you're involved in a high-asset divorce.

It's tempting if you have plenty of wealth to fight hard for what you believe you are owed from your soon-to-be former spouse. But here's the drawback: Divorce takes a mental toll. Why make the process even more difficult than it has to be? Just because you can afford a long fight, doesn't mean you should spend your money and time doing so.

The better approach? Focus on what's truly important to you. Maybe you're most concerned about child-custody and -visitation issues. If so, spend your time and energy working out a compromise agreement that works for everyone. Maybe you're most concerned about what happens to your home. If that's the case, focus on that and don't fight as hard on other issues.

Removing Stress From The Process

Here are five tips for handling a high-asset divorce:

    1. Don't try to hide your assets: You might think you can hide some of your most valuable assets, perhaps transferring them to a child from a former marriage or a business partner. You can't. The odds are high that these transfers will be uncovered and be labeled as fraudulent. Not only will the assets still be part of the divorce proceedings, you'll have lost your credibility. That won't help you as the divorce process continues.
    2. Protect your business: If you own a business, you need to take the steps necessary to protect it during your divorce. You can do this by drafting a shareholder agreement -- before the divorce process begins, ideally -- that limits the amount of stock that can be transferred in the event of court order related to a divorce.
    3. Work out a detailed valuation of your assets and liabilities: At the very beginning of the divorce process, meet with your financial planner, attorney and accountant to discuss the value of the assets that will likely be involved in the divorce. You'll also need to discuss the exposure of each of these assets: How likely is it that you will lose, say, your house or your vacation home? It's important to understand this information early. Only then will you be able to craft the best plan to minimize your losses.
    4. Don't forget the experts: There's a reason why high-asset divorces can be so complex: They often involve various businesses, plenty of real estate and often art, collectibles and other antiques. That's why it's important to call in various experts, including an experienced divorce attorney, who can help you determine the true worth of assets. For instance, a forensic accountant can help you determine an accurate value of a business, while an appraiser can help determine the value of your art collection. These experts will cost money, but they'll pay for themselves by providing you with accurate values of your assets.
    5. Don't let revenge get in the way: Your final goal in a divorce should be to get on with your life as quickly and painlessly as possible. It's best, then, to work with your spouse to find compromises that can speed the process along. Sometimes, though, one spouse lets a desire for revenge -- that spouse is angry and wants to make the other partner suffer -- cloud judgment. Don't fall into this trap. Especially when children are involved, you want as civil a divorce as possible. This doesn't mean not fighting for what you think is fair. But it does mean avoiding bad decisions based on anger.

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