How an Arizona High Asset Divorce Can End in Your Favor

Arizona High Net-worth Divorce

Dissolving your marriage is even more difficult when you own a substantial amount of real property, financial assets, or both. The emotional toll of this type of divorce—known as a high asset divorce— can be devastating, since the sheer number of assets involved can quickly turn the division of property into a highly contentious and time-consuming process. However, despite the additional challenges you may face, it’s still possible for a high asset divorce to end in your financial favor.

When it comes to successfully navigating a high asset divorce, your knowledge and understanding of the process is key. To ensure you’re protecting your interests, you’ll need to learn how to handle the proceedings according to Arizona law. This means understanding what’s at stake, determining which assets are likely to be divided, and properly valuing each asset.

By deeply understanding Arizona high asset divorce law, you will be well equipped to begin protecting your wealth during a high asset divorce. By hiring a skilled high asset divorce attorney, you can ensure you don’t lose more than you must once the dust settles.

Bringing Success to Arizona’s Top High Asset Divorce Cases

You need an experienced attorney who understands the unique aspects of the property division process in a high asset divorce.

What Is Considered a High Asset Divorce in Arizona?

High Asset Divorce in Arizona

In general, high asset divorces are any divorce where the couple has a high net worth—a large amount of physical and financial assets to divide during the divorce process. In Arizona, a high net worth is defined as financial assets of over $1 million. High asset divorce cases can become extremely contentious when it comes to the division of property because the stakes are higher.

In fact, there are significant differences between traditional divorces and high asset divorces. By understanding what makes them different, you will have a better idea of what to expect.

Some differences include:

  • The quantity of assets up for division – Because parties in a high asset divorce have more wealth and belongings than those in a traditional divorce, more assets must be identified, valued, and divided during the property division phase. For this reason, high asset divorces tend to be more complicated and labor-intensive to ensure a financially favorable outcome.
  • The speed of divorce proceedings – In high asset divorces, evaluating assets and negotiating settlements can take an extensive period. There is much more on the table to discuss, which means a great deal of time and effort must be expended combing through financial records and conducting appraisals. However, this time is necessary to ensure a fair division of property, and patience is the key to a successful and financially beneficial high asset divorce.
  • Greater tax implications – Tax implications are more significant for those with complex assets and an extensive income. This is especially true when the property division process involves real estate and large sums of money. You must also consider transfer tax implications in a high asset divorce.

How Long Does a High Net Worth Divorce Take?

High net worth divorces, like other types of divorce, vary in length depending on the unique aspects of the relationship in question and the assets involved. In Arizona, a high net worth divorce can take anywhere from six months to two years, even longer.

As mentioned, these cases are especially complex due to the number of assets involved, making the proceedings lengthy and often expensive.

There are many factors that can further complicate a high asset divorce, including:

  • The need to hire a specialized attorney, forensic accountants, and tax advisors
  • Evaluating complicated assets, such as real estate or closely held companies
  • Dealing with complex, evolving tax laws
  • The presence of children and the subsequent child support and child custody decisions necessary
  • A spouse who refuses to cooperate or was found hiding assets during property division

These factors can add months to divorce proceedings, which can be costly and time-consuming. While the process can be frustrating, it is important to be prepared and patient so you can ensure you exit your marriage with the property you rightfully deserve. Working with an experienced high asset divorce attorney is the best way to improve your chances at success and expedite the process. They are familiar with Arizona divorce and property division laws and can navigate any obstacles that arise effectively and efficiently.

How Are Assets Usually Split in a Divorce?

Arizona is a community property state. This means state law dictates that divorcing spouses must equally split any assets obtained during the marriage. Currently, only nine states uphold community property laws—the rest require judges to divide assets and debts fairly and equitably during the property division phase.

How Assets Are Divided in Divorce in Arizona

How Assets Are Divided in Divorce in Arizona

In general, if you and your spouse purchased or earned assets during your marriage, they must be split roughly 50/50 between you.

Some of the most common types of marital property include:

  • Real estate—homes, land, and buildings purchased or built during the marriage
  • Business interests—shares of stock, ownership percentages, and other business investments
  • Vehicles—personal vehicles such as cars or boats
  • Bank accounts—checking, savings, investment, and retirement accounts
  • Pensions—company pensions or 401(k) plans
  • Valuable personal items—artwork, antiques, jewelry, and other items
  • Debt related to any of the above

What Assets Are Safe from Divorce?

It is important to note that, even in a community property state like Arizona, not all assets must be divided in a divorce. Certain assets are considered separate property, not community property, and are owned by one spouse and not the other.

Common types of separate property not subject to division during a high asset divorce include:

  • Premarital property. Any property the spouses owned before they were married cannot be divided in a divorce, provided it has not since been commingled with marital assets. For example, a separate bank account owned before the marriage is separate property unless you add your spouse to the account and shared spending habits make it impossible to differentiate personal spending from marital spending.
  • Gifts or inheritances. Assets given to an individual spouse by a third party cannot be divided in a divorce. This includes both gifts and inheritances that have been kept separate from the marriage.
  • Property purchased with separate assets. Any property purchased with separate assets like gift or inheritance funds cannot be divided during divorce.
  • Property protected in a prenuptial agreement. If the spouses signed a prenuptial agreement before marrying, the terms of the agreement may dictate the division of community and separate property. Such an agreement trumps state law so long as it is declared valid.
  • Post-divorce assets. Anything newly acquired after the divorce proceedings have begun is considered separate property. This means that anything bought by one spouse with separate assets without any involvement from the other spouse cannot be divided in a divorce.

Complex & High Net Worth Divorce in Arizona

As you can see, high net-worth divorce in Arizona can be complicated. If there are substantial financial amounts, significant property holdings, trusts, businesses, or other considerations, the division of assets and the entire divorce process can become extremely complex. Such divorces will often require experienced legal representation.

It is recommended that you obtain the necessary legal representation, as your spouse will likely do the same. During the divorce process, each asset must be identified, disclosed, and valued. A divorce attorney is an essential component to completing this process, protecting the assets that you worked so hard to accumulate and avoiding legal issues for failure to disclose. Having a professional on your side who is looking out for your interests can go a long way toward ensuring that you get the outcome you desire.

Businesses, trusts, and real estate holdings are key assets that may require the help of an attorney.

Divorcing With a Trust in Place

It is not uncommon for high asset individuals to have a trust established in their name to hold a significant amount of their assets. A major question that can arise during these divorce proceedings is what will happen to the trust. In fact, handling a trust can be a critical component of a high net-worth divorce in Arizona. Trusts can be complicated, and the way they can impact divorces can differ from case to case.

If a trust is in the name of a single spouse, then it may be considered separate property and not subject to community property division laws. However, if the spouse funds the trust with community property assets, then it may become community property and remain subject to division during the divorce. It could also be argued that the court should consider trusts when determining spousal and child support calculations.

Trusts can complicate a divorce proceeding depending on the type and nature of the assets in the trust and how they are classified. Also, it matters where the trust account is located; some trust accounts can be located outside of the United States, which can complicate things further. The best course of action is to hire a skilled high asset divorce attorney who can untangle the complications presented by your trust.

Divorcing When One or Both Spouses Own a Business

high asset divorces often involve business holdings. If a spouse owns a private business, it can bring on another level of complexity to the divorce. The business and its assets will need to be identified and valued. This can be especially difficult if the business has assets and operations around the country. Some spouses even own businesses that operate around the world, making their valuation even more complex.

A business valuation will typically require thorough investigations and substantial work from forensic accountants. Once the business valuation is finished, the spouses will need to determine how to distribute their portions during the divorce. This can become a contentious issue, especially if one spouse does not wish to give up their interest in the company.

If a spouse wants to keep their ownership interests in their company, they may need to give up a larger portion of their other assets to their spouse in order to retain control of their business. Speaking with a divorce attorney who can review your situation and provide you with valuable feedback can be beneficial for business owners going through a high-net-worth divorce.

Divorce With Significant Real Estate Holdings

Diving Real Estate in an Arizona Divorce

Many high asset couples own multiple real estate properties. Outside of their primary homestead, a couple may own rental properties, commercial properties, and vacation homes. An updated appraisal must be completed on each of the properties so the court can understand their fair market value. Then, if they are community property, the properties must be divided during divorce.

Real estate can be classified as community property or separate property. If spouses bring their own property into the marriage, it can generally be defined as separate property. Any property that the spouses buy together is community property. However, it is not uncommon for separate property to become community property. This could happen if a spouse uses community property funds to make improvements on real estate that is considered separate property.

While community-owned real estate cannot reasonably be split in half, when multiple properties are involved, the spouses may each retain properties of a similar value. Alternatively, the couple may elect to sell the properties so the proceeds can be equitably distributed.

What If My Spouse Is Hiding Assets?

Unfortunately, some parties involved in a high net worth divorce act deceptively and attempt to hide assets to prevent their division during divorce. If there is a suspicion that your spouse is hiding assets, it is important to hire an attorney experienced in high asset divorce. The attorney will work with forensic accountants and tax advisors to help uncover any hidden assets.

These experts will study your spouse’s finances, review tax returns, bank records, and more to identify any concealed assets. If there is any indication assets have been hidden, the attorney will provide this information to the court, which will issue an order to identify the assets in question.

If the other party does not comply, they may experience serious legal consequences including financial penalty or perjury charges. The act of hiding assets is far more common in high asset divorces than it is in other divorce cases, which is why it’s important to work with a specialized attorney to prevent loss and unfair division.

Top Steps to Protect Yourself Financially in a High Asset Divorce

There are many ways to protect yourself from losing the assets you have worked hard to earn in a high asset divorce.

Here are some critical steps to preserve your wealth:

  • Be proactive – Know what you have and how it should be valued even before the valuation period begins. This means getting financial records together and doing research, so you know the market value of your assets and how to properly document them for the division process. You’ll be better able to identify missing or unfairly valued assets.
  • Stay informed – Communicate with your spouse and your attorney frequently. Develop a clear understanding regarding what is at stake and settlement terms.
  • Remain open – Be open to negotiating a settlement agreement. There may be opportunities for better terms that could benefit you financially, and most Arizona judges strive to provide a fair and equitable division of property. Having a long-term outlook is key to ensuring your financial well-being.
  • Secure the services of a high asset divorce lawyer – Speaking with an attorney who understands high asset divorces can help you feel more confident about your rights and what to expect during this challenging time. An experienced legal professional is
personally invested in you and your financial future and can help you navigate the upcoming legal proceedings.

Seeking Alimony Support in High Asset Divorce

Those experiencing high-net-worth divorces often encounter the issue of alimony, known in Arizona as spousal maintenance. The lower-earning spouse may seek spousal maintenance during the divorce process. This is typically awarded if there is a large disparity in the earning potential of the spouses. The court will generally try to ensure that both spouses can maintain their current standard of living even after the divorce is finalized.

Some marriages may have a prenuptial agreement that limits the lower-earning spouse’s ability to request spousal maintenance. Even in these cases, the spouse may challenge the validity of the prenuptial agreement or claim that they signed the agreement while under duress. Alternatively, it may be found that the higher-earning spouse was withholding the full extent of their financial position and, therefore, the lower-earning spouse did not fully understand the agreement they signed.

With the help of a qualified Arizona high asset divorce attorney, determinations of spousal maintenance can be resolved efficiently. An attorney can help you establish accurate income levels, navigate prenuptial agreements, and determine the earning potential and current standard of living of each spouse.

Tax Implications in Greater Detail

Managing the tax implications of the high asset divorce is a vital part of the divorce process in Arizona. Each spouse will need to consider the tax credits and tax deductions that could apply to them as a result of the divorce. Dividing up or transferring assets can trigger taxable events, and it’s important to be prepared for them.

These are some of the assets that can trigger a possible tax implication if transferred:

  • Brokerage accounts
  • IRAs
  • 401(k) accounts
  • 403(b) accounts
  • Annuities

As previously mentioned, spousal maintenance or alimony payments are also common in high asset divorces and must be considered when calculating tax implications. Spouses who received alimony payments must report that income on their tax returns. Conversely, spouses who pay out alimony are likely not able to deduct the payments on their tax returns. Speaking with a tax professional experienced in high asset divorce cases is a good way to be prepared for the tax implications of your divorce.

What Value Can a High Asset Divorce Lawyer Provide?

High Net Worth Divorce Lawyer in Arizona

A high net worth divorce lawyer can provide enormous value to any client facing a high asset divorce.

You can expect:

  • Deep content knowledge- Attorneys who specialize in high asset divorces will have the experience and knowledge necessary to guide you through this confusing process. An attorney can ensure you have the answers to your most difficult questions and can navigate property division and divorce litigation with ease.
  • Conflict resolution – A divorce attorney can help you resolve any conflict that arises between you and your spouse. They may suggest mediation or other forms of conflict resolution to prevent a situation from escalating and drawing out the divorce process.
  • Paperwork management – An attorney can help you file all the necessary documents accurately and in a timely manner. Without this support, you risk losing important documents or missing essential deadlines.
  • Positive outcomes – Your attorney can help you achieve the best outcome possible regarding every aspect of your case, including spousal support, the division of assets, child support, child custody, and more.

Arizona Divorce FAQs:

What Is a High-Net-Worth Divorce in Arizona?
A high-net-worth divorce in Arizona can be defined as a divorce that involves at least one million dollars worth of financial or real assets between spouses. As you might expect, this type of divorce can be very complex, and the various types of assets involved and the cooperation level of the spouses can add to the complexity. A high-net-worth divorce can differ significantly from a regular divorce because of the legal and business issues that may be involved. A high-net-worth divorce often requires the help of an experienced divorce attorney.
How Do I Protect My Assets from Divorce in Arizona?
A good way to begin protecting your assets during a divorce in Arizona is to develop an understanding of the property division laws under Arizona state law. Engaging the help of an experienced divorce attorney can be a great way to gain an understanding of the law, but in general, all assets should be identified as either community property or separate property. If you can legally prove that assets are separate property owned by you alone, they can be protected from division during divorce. Contact a skilled high asset divorce attorney for more information.
How Are Assets Split in a Divorce in Arizona?
Assets in Arizona are split between spouses based on the asset’s classification. Assets can be classified as community property, separate property, or commingled property. Community property is typically split equitably between spouses, while separate property is not. Co-mingled property can include assets that were once separate property but have been commingled with community property, and they are now considered community property assets. Each piece of community property is not always divided on a strictly 50/50 basis, but all community property is divided in a way that is equitable. A qualified divorce attorney can review your case and help you anticipate how your assets may be divided.
What Is the Difference Between Community Property and Separate Property?
The difference between community property and separate property is that community property is property that is owned jointly by the spouses, and separate property is property that is owned individually and separate from one another. Community property can include any assets and debts obtained during the marriage, while property acquired before the marriage is typically separate. In addition, inheritances and gifts received during the marriage are normally considered separate property of the individual who received them. Community property is subject to division during divorce while separate property is generally not divided between spouses.
How Can an Arizona Divorce Lawyer Help?
An Arizona divorce lawyer can provide valuable help and advice to those facing a high-net-worth divorce. It can be difficult to navigate the divorce process – especially with the complexities presented by significant assets – but with the help of an experienced divorce attorney, the process can be completed more efficiently. A divorce attorney can provide legal advice, navigate property disclosure and the division of assets, advocate for a favorable spousal maintenance determination, and more. You’ll have a better chance of an equitable divorce decree that benefits you, and you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have a qualified legal professional on your side.

Thinking About A Divorce? Connect with The Valley Law Group Today

High Net Worth Attorney

The Valley Law Group is a client-focused, results-oriented law firm that specializes in high asset divorce in Arizona. We are dedicated to helping our clients achieve the best possible financial outcomes. We provide the support and guidance you need throughout this process, protecting your assets and helping you retain your wealth.

*Editor’s Note: This article was originally published Dec 13, 2021 and has been updated May 20, 2024.


Resources :

  1. U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). QDRO overview. Employee Benefits Security Administration. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/EBSA/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/faqs/qdro-overview.pdf
  2. Arizona State Legislature. (n.d.). Arizona Revised Statutes § 25-319. Retrieved from https://www.azleg.gov/ars/25/00319.htm<
  3. Arizona Judicial Branch. (n.d.). Spousal maintenance guidelines. Child Support & Family Law Information. Retrieved from https://www.azcourts.gov/familylaw/Child-Support-Family-Law-Information/Spousal-Maintenance-Guidelines<
  4. Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County. (n.d.). Divorce/legal separation. Retrieved from https://superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/departments/superior-court/family/divorce-legal-separation/

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