As some Florida residents may have heard, Mel Gibson's high-profile divorce has cost him a slice of his retirement accounts. According to court documents obtained from his 2011 case, the actor-director agreed to share his pension proceeds from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America with his wife of 31 years. The initial property division is estimated to have involved more than $850 million in assets.
Information derived from settlement documents indicates that Gibson's wife probably had full knowledge of her famous husband's riches. She also appears to have known she could pursue his future income from retirement funds. However, that is not always the situation. Spouses who are unaware of all assets, and their legal rights regarding them, may receive less than they should.
High-net-worth divorces are complicated processes because wealth is usually spread across numerous financial institutions, including offshore accounts. Money managers often invest funds without the direct approval of clients. Significant assets, such as those relating to securities and stock options, can remain hidden without the call for proper disclosure. Unfortunately, deceptive reporting of financial holdings is too common, and business valuations are often calculated at understated levels. A fair settlement can be a difficult to achieve if the numbers are not accurate.
Because of their emotional nature, divorces tend to fuel distrust. Negotiation in good faith can only proceed if each party is satisfied with the accuracy of all financial disclosures. Divorces that involve significant assets require a full understanding of all property owned jointly and individually. Speaking to an experienced divorce attorney may be helpful.
Source: The Arizona Republic, "Mel Gibson's ex-wife to get portion of retirement benefits," Sept. 6, 2012