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Couples are more likely to divorce amicably if they're worth $5 million or more, says a divorce attorney

Hillary Hoffower
rich couple

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images


  • Rich American couples who have about $5 million are more likely to have an amicable divorce, says one divorce lawyer.
  • That's in contrast to upper middle class couples worth between $1 million and $5 million, who tend to fight more under the strain of socioeconomic pressures.
  • This insight comes from writer Lauren Vinopal's exploration on Fatherly of why the upper middle class — dubbed "the fighting class" — fights the most about money.

Couples fighting about money is nothing new. Financial problems are at the root of many divorces ... and that may be particularly so if the couple has a net worth of less than $5 million.

That's the magic threshold for rich people to have an amicable divorce, divorce attorney Randall Kessler told writer Lauren Vinopal in an article on Fatherly. That's because, according to Kessler, money still matters under $5 million, and it's worth fighting about. "If you have less than $5 million you're not set for life. Less than $5 million, you're not secure no matter who you are," Kessler told her.

This is insight from Kessler's experience, not data based on a large-scale study. Still, Kessler's observations align with Vinopal's analysis of why the upper middle class is dubbed "the fighting class."

"There is a thick line between those who are wealthy enough to not fight over money and people who have money, but not substantial wealth," writes Vinopal. "The very wealthy fight less and often through proxies. The nearly wealthy fight directly and fiercely to maintain a more tenuous position in the social order. To be almost rich is to be part of America's fighting class, a group that — despite profound privilege — seem particularly prone to serious family conflict."

"That nervousness hangs over the upwardly mobile, who feel a unique sort of pressure that tends to catalyze disagreements," writes Vinopal.

The threshold for an embroiled upper middle class couple is more difficult to put a number on. With $1 million as a standard for "financially comfortable," writes Vinopal, citing the Schwab Center for Financial Research, that leaves families with a net worth between $1 million and $5 million (around 9.4% of Americans) as "the fighting class."

With money often at the forefront of contention for this cohort, it may be wise for couples to get a prenuptial agreement before getting married.

Prenups determine what happens to assets, like property, and financial obligations, like debt, in the event of a divorce. While they often instill fear of a worst-case scenario among couples, it's smart to sign a prenup so things don't get ugly should the marriage take a turn for the worse.

"The point is to discuss and plan now, while you are most in love and most in tune with each other," Terry Savage writes in "The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, Or Moving On! "not later, when you need to argue it out, and these become power issues as much as financial or social issues."

But even if marriage does end in divorce — even the fighting kind — that doesn't mean it was a failure. Couples therapists have said that marriage helps people grow, even if they grow out of the relationship. 

Marriage and family therapist Hal Runkel previously told Business Insider that marriage has "evolved into a people-growing machine," and sometimes, one or both partners change. 

"Making a mature decision in that direction may be the best outcome of all," he said.

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