What Is Considered a High Net Worth Divorce in California?


While asset and property division are complex and contentious processes for many couples, they are especially complicated for couples with high-value assets. Keep reading our blog to learn more about what is considered a high net worth divorce in California and how to prepare for one.

What Is Considered a High Net Worth Divorce?

A high net worth divorce is any divorce that involves a significant amount of money or property acquired by one or both spouses. Usually, assets amounting to $1 million or more are considered high net worth divorces. One of the most difficult steps in the high net worth divorce process is identifying every relevant asset and determining the property value.

Note that money is not necessarily the only high-value asset in such a case; assets may include stocks, real estate holdings, and other assets that may appreciate or depreciate. These assets can be difficult to evaluate, so high net worth divorces often bring in an appraiser or some other valuation expert to determine the worth of every asset. Some cases may even involve a forensic accountant to locate concealed assets or bank accounts.

Property Up for Division in a High Asset Divorce

Recall that California is a community property state, so all property acquired during the marriage must be divided equally between the spouses. Income acquired during the marriage may come from a variety of sources, including:

  • family businesses;
  • investment properties and stocks;
  • retirement benefits and pension plans;
  • vacation homes and real estate holdings;
  • motor vehicles, boats, planes;
  • jewelry, antiques, art collections.

Note that a business does not need to have begun during the marriage in order to be subject to division; a family business that was started before marriage could be subject to some division if marital funds contributed to the business at any time.

Child Support and High-Earning Spouses

Child support is an important matter that might arise in a high net worth divorce. While California has a statutory formula for calculating child support, the court may deviate from the calculated amount if the parent ordered to pay support has “extraordinarily high income” (within the court’s discretion to decide) and the amount determined under the formula would “exceed the needs of the children.” The main guiding factor for making such a decision, however, remains the child’s best interests. The court will consider the lifestyle the child was accustomed to during the marriage (e.g., played a club sport, attended private school) and issue a child support order that allows them to continue the same standard of living.

High net worth divorce can introduce a range of concerns and negotiations, whether both spouses bring in high assets or only one spouse has a high net worth. It is best to consult with an experienced attorney to guide you through your high net worth divorce to ensure you are not overlooking any of your rights or assets. We might bring in an appraiser if appropriate, and we will do our best to make sure you do not relinquish any property or assets you rightfully own. Property division issues can be lengthy and contentious, and they require the trained eye of a professional to protect your assets in a legal context.

Schedule an initial consultation with The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc. for more information on how to navigate your high net worth divorce today.