I am often asked if there are different rules that apply to someone who is getting divorced in Greenwich, Connecticut, or any of the neighboring towns. I have even been asked by a high net worth and sophisticated client, whether you need a specific qualification to be a Greenwich divorce attorney. The simple answer to both questions is no. Whether you live in Greenwich, Hartford, Westport, or any other town in Connecticut, the laws governing divorce are the same and an attorney licensed in Connecticut can represent you.
What is “different” is that there are many high net worth divorce cases in Greenwich. This is due to the concentration of wealth there, including a large number of hedge funds that consider Greenwich their home. As a result, these divorce cases may be more complex. For example, partners in hedge funds often receive employment compensation well beyond a W-2 based income.
In these types of cases, it is often necessary to hire a financial expert to value a spouse’s interest in their investments. Of course, due to the nature of many of the investments, it is often difficult to assign a value. When this is the case, it is up to the attorneys to try to be creative in reaching a resolution. One alternative is to have the assets paid out on an “if, as and when basis”. For example, the wife will maintain an interest in her husband’s investments, and she will receive distributions at the same time that he does. Conversely, if there are additional funds due with regard to these investments, such as capital calls or clawbacks, it will be the wife’s responsibility to make her share of these payments.
Just because a couple has a high financial net worth, it does not mean their divorce has to be complicated. Hopefully, after reviewing the financial information in the case, the lawyers can keep things simple and predictable for both parties. This allows for less entanglement in the future. If the parties agree to “if, as and when” language as mentioned above, there are many different procedures that parties have to follow after the divorce. This often includes annually exchanging tax returns, K-1s, 1099s and other income related documents.
The “Greenwich divorce” is no different from any other divorce that occurs within the State of Connecticut. The same statutes, rules and case law apply. However, when there is a high net worth divorce case it is crucial to be sure you have an attorney that is experienced and understands the implications related to these often complex cases.