An experienced divorce attorney thoroughly explains the issues that arise when ultrawealthy marriages dissolve.
Divorce is never an uncomplicated affair, but according to lawyer Bikel, it poses “unique challenges” for rich couples. Such parties may be acrimonious, and they must have all of their considerable assets valued and divided equitably—an astonishingly complicated process that can take years and, in itself, come at an extraordinary cost. The author, a veteran divorce attorney based in New York City, takes his readers on an expert tour of the myriad issues that can arise in such situations, including property division, conflict over the custody of children, the difficulty of maintaining privacy, and revelations of infidelity, among many others: “there are countless things that can go wrong with a high-stakes divorce. Affluence can make life easy, but it can also make it infinitely complicated unless experienced counsel is at hand.” He illustrates the lessons of this instructional primer with a series of high-profile cases involving the marital woes of actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; Donald Trump and both of his former wives; and Amazon.com founder, CEO, and president Jeff Bezos and his spouse, MacKenzie Tuttle, among others. The overarching lesson of Bikel’s lucid, comprehensive guidebook is that one should prepare for every eventuality and hire the finest legal and financial experts that one’s money can buy: “a legal team with a panel of expert forensic accountants, valuators, art appraisers, real estate appraisers, and other specialists who understand the appropriate appraisal methodologies to use for each specific asset type.”
Although much of the author’s counsel in this book will be of practical interest to anyone who may be facing the end of a marriage, it does specifically focus on the wildly financially fortunate. As a result, many less-wealthy readers will find the text to be more entertaining than edifying. Relatively few people, for example, will be able to relate to such questions as “Did you use your income as a gallerist in Soho to improve your condo in Belize?” However, even for those readers who don’t have billions of dollars at stake, the book will offer a prudent cautionary tale about the costs of being unprepared for a marital catastrophe. In addition, the book looks at divorce not only as a division of wealth, but also as a bitter contest between relentlessly competitive Type A personalities. For the most part, Bikel largely sticks to his own areas of expertise—this is a legal guidebook, after all, and not a self-help manual—but he does offer a wellspring of prudent counsel on the equitable mediation of conflict. Along the way, he also discusses, at great length and with impressive authority, the messiness of child-custody negotiations. These sections will be of value to many readers, including those who are less well-heeled. Overall, this is an impressively comprehensive survey of its subject conveyed in flawlessly clear language.
An intelligent handbook to divorce for the abundantly rich that also contains some useful information for the rest of us.