Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie recently announced that they were separating after 25 years of marriage. The couple are estimated to be the wealthiest in the world, with Jeff worth $137 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
When couples of a high net worth separate, the first thing the press are likely to comment on is how much the divorce is likely to cost them. No doubt public opinion of such splits automatically assumes a massive court battle, costing each party huge amounts of legal fees.
However the reality in family law today is that there are many different methods of alternative dispute resolution which are often utilised by high net worth couples. These methods allow parties to keep the details of their split out of the public eye, and also allows them to come up with more creative solutions for the division of their, oftentimes complicated, finances which a court would be unable to give them.
At BTO Family Law we regularly act in such cases, not only in providing representation where a court action is required, but also in providing mediation and collaborative services.
We explore all process options with our clients at the outset, so that they embark on a process that “feels right” to them. Depending on the level of conflict and the existing relationship between couples there are a number of routes available.
Mediation involves both you and your partner attending mediation sessions with a trained neutral mediator who will work with you to find a solution to your dispute. Mediation tends to suit couples where there is no history of aggressive behaviour or power imbalances. Each party will be encouraged to take independent legal advice throughout the mediation process. At the end of mediation, the mediator will prepare a mediation summary. The couple will then need to instruct their respective lawyers to draw up a separation agreement.
We like collaborative practice at BTO as it potentially offers long term benefits to the children of separating couples in cases that might otherwise become high conflict. Collaborative suits most couples. We find that most people are able to sit in the same room as their spouse/partner, but they really like the idea of having their legal representative with them! Often people don’t want to go to court and many are relieved to find out that Collaborative Practice offers a private and safe forum for creative discussion about possible solutions. Most people also like the idea of finding common ground, working in the interests of their family and ensuring that their children are at the centre of the process.
We work with an interdisciplinary team including a financial specialist and a family consultant with counselling experience providing a team ideally placed to assist the couple in reaching the best settlement for them. You remain in control of the process. And your collaborative lawyer is with you throughout and drafts the separation agreement for you. At BTO all of our senior family lawyers are trained in Collaborative practice. Visit our Collaborative Divorce page for more information.
Arbitration offers an alternative to court in that an Arbitrator (a private judge) is appointed by agreement to decide any issues that you have been unable to. It is designed for situations in which you and your spouse/partner cannot come to an agreement but still want to attempt to resolve matters privately. Its advantages are that you get to choose your own private judge who could be a specialist in family law. It is fast, efficient and private. The decision that they make is binding on you and your spouse/partner. Arbitration is normally also a more cost-effective option than court. For more information on Arbitration read our blog post: Arbitration – A better bet for resolving your family dispute?