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High asset divorce splits real estate dynasties

When wealthy people divorce, whether in Colorado or elsewhere, the financial repercussions sometimes go beyond the couple and their immediate circle. That appears to be the case in a divorce currently in progress between a husband and wife who were among the elite of the New York real estate world.

The husband and wife are the offspring of two of America's most prominent real estate families, his centered in San Francisco and hers in New York. Their marriage in 1987 represented a merger, of sorts, of the two dynasties. Their divorce brings an end to that business relationship.

Before the recession the husband had built a reputation as an aggressive real estate developer in Manhattan. His property interests were worth an estimated $3 billion. When the real estate markets began to tighten up in 2007 the husband took out a $21 million loan from his in-laws. At the same time the couple signed a postnuptial agreement that provided that if the couple divorced, the wife would get their two homes plus an estimated $12 million in artwork. The husband would assume responsibility for the debts secured by the homes. When the recession came in 2008, the business came crashing down in a flurry of lawsuits and recrimination. The marriage unraveled, and the couple filed for divorce.

A high asset divorce requires an attorney with a sophisticated understanding of the financial issues involved. Asset valuation and division are far more complex than in other divorce cases. To get your fair share, you need to show the other spouse and their attorney you are willing to fight for it. Having someone in your corner who knows the rules and understands the stakes involved can be critical.

Source: New York Times, "With Fortune Falling, a 1 Percent Divorce," Julie Creswell, Feb. 1, 2014

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