Articles Posted in High Net Worth Divorce

As a collaborative divorce lawyer in New York, headlines announcing the Bezos divorce settlement gave me hope for the future of divorce – and the future of marriages in the US. 

Since the news first made headlines in January that Jeff Bezos and his with MacKenzie were divorcing after 25 years of marriage, the pundits have been obsessing about how this would affect Amazon. As the founder and CEO of Amazon, the most valuable company on Wall Street, and the world’s richest person, this is the ultimate high net worth, high public profile divorce.

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Baby Boomer divorce rates continue to be above the average with one in every four divorces occurring in this age group. When I first wrote about so-called “grey divorce” (also referred to as ‘gray divorce’) in 2012, the overall divorce rate was going down, while the rate of divorce for people born between 1946 and 1964 already had a divorce rate triple that of their parents.

In 2019, those statistics are holding true. Grey divorce is a divorce that occurs after the age of 50. While the divorce rate across all age groups holds steady, the number of 50+ aged grey divorces in the United States has recently dramatically increased and today 1 in 4 people are going through grey divorce.

Grey divorce expert Jocelyn Elise Crowley states,

Divorcing couples who have high-assets – a high net worth divorce – are exposed to considerable risk if they litigate their divorce. Divorce proceedings are part of the public record: that means observers, including the press, are allowed in the courtroom. While you can petition the court to have your divorce filed under the caption of “Anonymous v. Anonymous,” your identity isn’t protected when you actually have to show up in court.

Sadly, news headlines often broadcast the private pains and scandals of many celebrities, high net worth divorcing couples and public figures:

  • Rudy Giuliani and wife Judith Nathan ripped by judge for making divorce trial ‘unpleasant’: NY Daily News

Recent headlines announced that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ 25-year marriage is ending. He and his wife are the wealthiest couple in the world with a net worth of approximately $137 billion, and reportedly never signed a prenup. It’s also reported that when pop star Justin Bieber married model Hailey Baldwin in New York City last fall, they decided to forgo a prenuptial agreement as well. He’s reportedly worth more than $265 million, while her net worth is several million dollars.

We understand Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos are planning to divorce in a non-adversarial and collaborative manner, which is great news for them personally, as well as their four children. If Justin and Hailey ever divorce, we certainly hope they take the same route.

High net worth individuals, not just celebrities, often have complicated assets to value and distribute in the event of their divorces, including, businesses, complicated deferred compensation packages, private investments, assets held in trust, artworks, and more. By entering into a prenuptial agreement before marriage, couples have a contractual opportunity to discuss their assets and finances before the wedding and determine what will happen in the case of death or divorce.

A high-net-worth couple going through a divorce can benefit greatly by staying out of court.

Couples with considerable assets (which I will define here as more than $5 million) are often lead to believe that their divorce will be a “no holds barred,” brutal, lengthy process with astronomical legal bills and complicated offers and counter-offers. Because of this belief, many high-net-worth couples assume that mediation or the collaborative law process will not work for them.

They couldn’t be more mistaken. In my experience, the opposite is true; high-net-worth families have more to gain by keeping things civil and private. Unfortunately, many attorneys who practice litigation harbor a killer instinct that grows along with their clients’ assets, and they see a litigated divorce as the only way to satisfy that instinct.