Stockbrokers, financial advisors, hedge fund managers and other high net worth individuals (along with their spouses) going through a divorce often face non-routine issues due to the unique nature of their compensation structures. It is important for a financial advisor, and likewise, his or her spouse, to retain a divorce attorney with substantial experience in analyzing the various forms of compensation that may impact issues such as alimony, child support and equitable distribution. Compensation may include commissions, stock options, restricted stock, deferred compensation, WAP accounts, sign on or stay bonuses, forgivable loans, and various other forms of compensation. It is critical to retain counsel who is well versed in analyzing the compensation structure and how it will impact alimony, child support and equitable distribution.
By way of limited example, it is important to identify a financial advisor’s reoccurring income versus perhaps a one-time form of compensation that should be considered an aberration and not taken into consideration in an alimony analysis. This could include a one-time sign on or retention bonus that the financial advisor received during the marriage. Another example could be a future or unknown sign on bonus/forgivable loan that a spouse may receive after the divorce. These are customarily paid to a financial advisor to stay with a current firm or bring their book of business to a new firm. The advisor may receive a “sign on” bonus in the form of a forgivable loan that can range from $10,000 to over $20,000,000. The $20,000,000 question will be whether or not the former spouse has any entitlement to it as a component of the bonus may have been earned during the marriage. Far too often attorneys either do not take the time or do not have the experience that is necessary to fully grasp a high net worth individual’s compensation and apply governing law to the benefit of their client.