Common Divorce Issues and Concerns for High Net Couples In New York

The divorce rate in the United States is quite high, with almost 40% to 50% of married couples in the country ending up divorced. According to the American Psychological Association, the divorce rate for second or subsequent marriages is even higher.

A couple removing their rings during divorce proceedings

Couples going through a divorce often have to deal with complicated issues involving property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. Many divorces end up in prolonged legal disputes with either party refusing to compromise and agree to the terms.

While no two divorces are the same, the issues regarding finances become even more complicated in cases with couples that have a high net worth.

Here are some of the most common issues faced during a high net worth divorce:

Prior Agreements

One of the first things divorce lawyers ask high net worth couples before starting the divorce settlement is whether there is a pre-nuptial agreement. Prenups are quite common in marriages where two people with high net worth are marrying, or a person with a lot of money is marrying someone with very little.

However, prenups aren’t always valid. The first thing lawyers need to do is to review the prenup to ensure the agreement is legally binding. If the prenup is valid, it will be used as a guideline for all issues, including property division and alimony, that have been clearly delineated in the agreement.

Child Support

Children of high net worth couples often have different financial needs such as private school tuitions, nannies, and additional classes such as ballet or piano lessons. This might result in additional child support payments compared to a typical divorce settlement. Another concern for high net couples is college tuition. Couples going through divorce might have to contribute to a trust that has been created to fund their child’s college tuition regardless of their age.

A luxury home of an affluent couple filled with antiques

Property Division

There are several challenges when dividing property among high net worth couples. Generally, any property acquired during the marriage gets equally distributed between the couple. However, most couples with high net worth have assets and individual property that they brought with them to the marriage and cannot be subjected to community property laws. High net worth couples also own household items that are quite high in value, such as antiques, artwork, and jewelry, which complicated the division of property.

Get Legal Advice from Leading Divorce Attorneys In New York

Getting a divorce under New York State law can be complex and full of legal restrictions and regulations.  Our team of highly qualified and experienced divorce lawyers at Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. has been helping all kinds of couples get a divorce in New York. We have extensive experience dealing with child support, property division, pre-nuptial agreements, and tax consideration for a divorce.

Schedule a free phone consultation by calling us at 718-276-6656 and speak to our top Divorce Attorney Brooklyn and Divorce Attorney Queens!

How the Lockdown Affected Custody Battles

a little boy and a little girl

One of the more peculiar aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic was the alarmingly increasing rates of divorce. Yep: more people got divorced during the pandemic than they did otherwise. In fact, it is even expected that divorce rates will rise even further after the pandemic is over. A divorce boom—as the BBC puts it—is in order.

Well, we can’t blame them. But there’s always bad news with the good. And here, the bad news is this: custody battles.

And those were seriously affected by the lockdown.

Difficulty Navigating Visitation Rights

Physical distancing was right off the charts once the world went into lockdown mode. Parents who were living with joint custody had to face the greatest complications. Emergency motions, travel restrictions, even unemployment—all became ab eventual roadblock.

Many couples who have been living separately had to face the ultimate question as lockdowns began: do we still allow our spouse to exercise their visitation rights? Of course, it’s a right—and it would be quite wrong to disallow that right, right?

Continuing Litigation

a sad woman

If visitation rights weren’t already an issue, some were dealing with litigations in process. Spouses can now file ex-parte motions, stopping their ex or separated spouses from visiting their children on the grounds of contagion fears.

Issues for Healthcare Workers

Healthcare workers already have too much on their plate to deal with: they are dealing with COVID patients on the frontlines, are directly exposed to the virus, and have extended work hours.

Add drawn-out custody battles to the mix, and you have a series of unfortunate events on your hands. With healthcare workers facing custody battles, what makes it harder is the fact that their exes can easily file for ex-parte motions. The scales aren’t tipped in favor of healthcare workers, and that makes everything a lot worse than it already is.

Coronavirus or Control?

Many exes who have tried to take undue advantage of the whole situation have acted as if the reason behind their reluctance to go ahead was the coronavirus. But was it really? Is it about the coronavirus—or about control?

More often than not, it’s about the latter. In the pandemic, family lawyers have also witnessed a sharp rise in emergency custody motions. Most of these have emerged due to battles for control—because it’s often a fight for control, not for custody.

An Oklahoma-based worker lost custody rights to her children earlier in the pandemic due to the same reasons—coronavirus fears. Dr. Theresa Greene’s husband filed for an emergency custody motion when she began taking care of coronavirus patients. Eventually, she lost custody of her four-year-old daughter. She did appeal the motion—and that, of course, takes time and money, which not many can afford in these times.

Facing Custody Complications Due to Coronavirus?

The Law Offices of Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. extends Family Law Services Queens, Brooklyn and other parts of  New York. If you are in the Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, and Bronx regions, you can reach out to us for legal counsel and help.


B.B. King’s will to be contested by family members

New York residents who were fans of the late blues musician B.B. King may be interested to learn that there is a dispute over his will. Hours before a Las Vegas memorial service was held for King on May 23, an attorney who is representing some of King’s family members issued a public statement. The attorney said that his clients plan to challenge King’s will and the actions of his named executor.

B.B. King’s executor is a woman who also served as King’s business manager before his death. According to a group of King’s family members, the woman was not qualified to serve as the executor of King’s will. The family also alleges that King’s executor misappropriated million of dollars, lied and exercised undue influence over King’s will. It is unclear if King’s estate included any trust assets .

The family’s attorney is representing five of King’s adult daughters and other heirs. So far, King’s executor has not responded to the allegations from King’s family. Before King’s memorial, she did say that she hoped the service would be calm, peaceful and respectful.

Naming the right person to serve as the executor of a will is an important part of estate planning. The executor will be responsible for disbursing the testator’s assets properly and handling many other tasks of estate administration. A person who has been named the executor has a legal responsibility to adhere to the exact instructions in a person’s will. An executor who has questions about the duties that are required may want to seek the advice of an estate administration attorney.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, ” B.B. King family group accuses estate executor of ‘undue influence’ at death of blues great ,” Ken Ritter, Associated Press, May 23, 2015

Long after his death, James Brown’s estate still in dispute

There are countless examples of how a poorly worded or ambiguous will can lead to battles among heirs — even for years after a person’s death. If some parties think that the trust assets are not being appropriately handled, then the case could be tied up in case for years. In some cases, however, some of those assets might already be more or less gone.

Singer James Brown’s name has constantly been in the headlines since his death in December 2006 because of his estate. Brown’s will, which he signed about six years before his death, specified that most of his estate go to an irrevocable trust for the benefit of educating poor children in Georgia and South Carolina. Three men, none of them related to Brown, were named as trustees.

One of those trustees was recently ordered to give a mansion that he bought in Honduras to the trust fund. The man resigned as a trustee in 2007 and bought the mansion for nearly $900,000 in cash. In total, more than $7 million of the $12 million he earned from the trust was disputed.

He has already run into legal trouble over his trusteeship. In 2009, he was jailed for three months for not paying a court-ordered $400,000 back to the trust fund; in 2011, he was sentenced to home confinement for taking more money from the trust than he was permitted.

The singer’s daughter said that the restitution will help the trust, which might have collapsed otherwise. Regardless, this seems unlikely to put the drama to rest completely.

Source:  The Augusta Chronicle, ” Former James Brown trustee ordered to turn over mansion to musician’s trust fund ,” Meg Mirshak, May 19, 2014

Sporting-goods in-laws fighting over spending from trust

Many families collapse into disarray after the death of a loved one. While much of this is due to family members trying to come to grips on the loss of a husband, brother or father, for example, after some time it often comes down to financial matters. It can be a source of conflict, for example, if a trustee is having a personal conflict with a trust beneficiary .

This is the situation playing out for a family with a famous name in our city: Modell. Modell’s is a sporting-goods institution in the city, and now the company CEO is battling with his sister-in-law over the trust set up by his late brother.

Michael Modell died in 2001 of cancer, and he set up a trust to provide for his wife Abby and their three children. He made his brother Mitchell, now the CEO of Modell’s, the trustee of his estate — an act Mitchell says was an attempt to curb Abby’s spending.

Abby, however, is suing Mitchell, saying that he is using company money to pay for unnecessary luxuries for himself, such as a $100,000 steak dinner. Mitchell, however, says that Abby has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges on company credit cards — even though she hasn’t ever been a company employee.

While this dispute is over large amounts of money, even estates involving much smaller assets can be the subject of family squabbles. It may be important to have an experienced attorney on board, maybe to act as a trustee himself or herself, to help ward off some of these issues.

Source:  New York Post, ” Modell’s president hits back at sister-in-law over spending ,” Julia Marsh, May 3, 2014