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The Unique Considerations In Silicon Valley Divorces

Silicon Valley is the epicenter of tech-wealth and entrepreneurship in California (and perhaps the world). It has the nation's second highest concentration of wealth, and has become a culturally iconic place, immortalized in TV and popular culture. But even the country's youngest, brightest--and richest--minds have to deal with marital problems. So when Silicon Valley players are seeking to divorce, even with the assistance of quality lawyers and law firms, they run into a unique set of problems. 

A complex network of wealth

Every divorce has the potential to be difficult, and financial considerations and consequences, along with custody concerns, are usually at the forefront. However, for those working in Silicon Valley, the concerns can be amplified, due to the complex nature of many individuals' financial dealings.

For example, there may be disputes over:

  • Salaries
  • Equity, including in start-ups (which may fluctuate depending on the success of the company)
  • Restricted stock units (RSUs), a form of compensation used by Apple and others, in which employees are rewarded with stocks based on completing certain criteria, such as achieving seniority or assisting in the launch of a new product
  • Retirement funds

Under California law, any property or money owned prior to a marriage is yours to keep in the event of a divorce. However, anything that is accrued after signing a marriage contract is considered joint property ("community property") and is meant to be equally divided in the event of separation, which can create headaches for couples, as assets are frozen after a divorce in order to simplify the division process.

This can be difficult for those who like to transfer their money, or use it for new ventures and other business opportunities. Divorce proceedings can last several years, which can significantly hamper the ability of high-net worth individuals to reinvest their assets.

An additional problem encountered in high-asset Silicon Valley divorces? Many of the individuals involved are very successful, and not used to settling. In fact, some may consider it "losing." This can lead to prolonged--and expensive--divorce proceedings, and draw out a messy situation for years.

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