Kline Legal Group P.L.C.

Avoiding a messy high-net-worth divorce

Not every high-net-worth divorce generates much watercooler talk in Michigan unless this type of split involves the head of one of the biggest online retailers in the world. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife of 25 years announced plans to end their marriage shortly after the beginning of 2019.

As is often the case with a high-asset divorce that comes after a long marriage, the couple has many joint interests and obligations along with four teenage children. A general recommendation for handling a split like this is to focus on certain priorities. This may require that both spouses make a mutual effort to avoid negative talk in public about the divorce while continuing to attend social events and functions involving the children and their various charitable interests.

When substantial assets are involved, the figurative marital contract may include a literal prenuptial agreement that dictates what happens in the event of a split. While couples are typically encouraged to keep emotions out of the post-divorce decision-making process, it's not unusual for one spouse to challenge the prenup in court, especially if a successful business was founded after the "I dos" were exchanged as is the case with Amazon. With business-related assets, there's a tendency for the spouse who primarily owns a company to attempt to hold onto enough shares to retain control. However, this may not be possible with a company as sizable and profitable as Amazon.

There's often a desire to settle among high-net-worth couples because of a wish to avoid a public court procedure. Even so, couples sometimes dig their heels in when complex asset division is necessary. A lawyer may recommend settling when settlement ranges start to get within the same ballpark. Another step an attorney might take with divorces like this is to ensure that parenting and marital settlement agreement documents are practical and fair.

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