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High-asset divorce - Good reasons to stay out of court

Higher-income couples have more financial resources at their disposal, but being judicious about spending is still a going concern - especially when it comes to divorce.

If you fall into a higher wealth bracket, a prenuptial agreement could prove invaluable at the end of a relationship. But if you didn't draft one, you may be able to use out-of-court alternatives and strategic property division tactics to avoid a messy divorce. Here's why court is less than ideal, what alternatives exist and whey these make good sense.

Litigation - a last resort

Litigation takes time - and where there's bitter conflict, cases can drag on for much longer than either party anticipated. Going to court also means being bound by strict parameters. Once a judge decides, both parties relinquish control over both the process and the potential outcome.

Then there's the human cost of litigating. Fighting it out amid an adversarial judicial atmosphere is stressful and often puts children in the crossfire reaping heavy emotional costs.

The advantages of mediation

Mediation works this way: a couple meets at a time and place of their choosing. Each party may be accompanied by their own lawyer. In all cases, a neutral third-party mediator presides.

The mediator's role is not to decide matters, but to help the two sides arrive at a mutual decision on matters, such as property division, parenting and financial support. The mediator has skill in facilitating communication and may be the catalyst for generating fresh perspectives and exploring customized solutions which neither may have considered previously.

When both sides reach consensus on some or all of the matters in dispute, they draw up a written agreement, have their lawyers review it and then sign off. At the very least, mediation allows couples to narrow down their issues before heading to court if that proves necessary.

Accurate asset appraisals through forensic accounting

It may sound like something out of Hollywood, but forensic accounting allows high-net-worth individuals to arrive at more precise, data-backed valuations of their assets. Oftentimes, when divorcing couples see the facts and figures before their eyes, dividing assets can more often take place with less debate and contentiousness.

Financial experts and lawyers also have a way of ferreting out undisclosed income and hidden assets such as off-shore accounts, shell corporations and income-reducing tactics such as retained business earnings.

If you're a high net-worth individual and not sure how protect your interests in divorce, seeking the advice of a lawyer experienced in high-asset divorce is a wise first step.

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