In every divorce, but particularly in a high-net-worth scenario, obtaining a complete understanding of the couple’s financial situation is critical.
Accounting for marital and separate assets includes examining each spouse’s current compensation as well as potential future compensation (deferred compensation), which might have already been awarded in the form of stock options, restricted stock units (RSUs), non-qualified stock options and other financial instruments.
Asking the Important Questions
It is important to ask questions about your spouse’s executive compensation: Stock options, restricted stock, and other forms of executive compensation are among the easiest assets to hide, or even to “overlook.”
Many clients who are not in charge of household finances might not realize that their spouse has these potentially high-income benefits. As more companies offer varied compensation packages, it is imperative to be sure your attorney is skilled in these more complex financial matters.
For example, the top 10 companies that offer RSUs include Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Uber, IBM, Starbucks Coffee, Bank of America, Intel, Microsoft and Verizon. Lesser- known entities and many startup companies offer similarly complex compensation packages for executives and non-executives alike.
As your tax returns may not reflect certain compensation until it actually vests, you must have your attorney conduct the necessary financial discovery.
In many cases, your attorney can issue subpoenas to third parties, including the spouse’s employer, or obtain an authorization for certain documents, to achieve a full and unbiased financial accounting of the various forms of compensation that your spouse has and will receive, which will be the basis on which you build a case for financial support and equitable distribution. Your attorney will likely request award letters, employment offer letters and/or contracts as well as other documents.
Put Lisa’s Experience on Your Side
As both a family law attorney and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Lisa Zeiderman has the financial expertise to ask the right questions and understands where to find the answers. She then can assist in performing a complex financial evaluation of yours and your spouse’s executive compensation to determine their worth, always keeping in mind the cost of litigation. Contact her office in New York City or White Plains today to get started.