Six Tips for Separating Emotions from Economics in Divorce

Financial Infidelity and The Money Trap

by Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®, CDFA 

They say that a bad marriage is like a game of cards. You start out with two hearts and a diamond – but end up wishing for a club and a spade. When those feelings surface during a divorce, it leads to unproductive conflict and often results in a less than optimal settlement.

In divorce it is important to focus on the real problems to come up with real solutions. If spouses are at war, they are likely to see each other as the problem and the divorce as the solution. But they won’t get to true resolution until they recognize that simply isn’t true. The real problem is how to divvy everything up in divorce, and divorcing spouses won’t arrive at the best solution for their family until they collaborate on resolving their issues by working together, not against each other.

No matter how much spouses despise each other, they often equally despise spending money on a divorce battle, so even though they are on the outs they may be willing to work together to settle matters and keep the costs down by staying out of court.

When you are going through a contentious divorce, the key is to avoid letting uncertainty whip either of you into an emotional tizzy. The more frenzied your emotions, the longer the proceedings and the more costly the divorce. Collaborative divorce can be a Godsend in reaching optimal resolution at a reasonable cost.  In collaborative divorce, you’ll have all the professionals at the same table, working with the same facts, and engage coaches to keep everyone on track. That keeps uncertainty and miscommunication down, which helps everyone focus on the issues that are most important.

The job of the professionals in collaborative divorce is to help clients figure out how to divvy up the assets and debts so that each spouse emerges from divorce with a fair share of the pot that will let them begin anew. Here are six tips the divorcing spouses can use to separate emotions from economics:

Don’t let guilt rule you. “Please release me, let me go,” pleads the country song, but don’t give up everything to buy your freedom. Your spouse will still be unhappy that the marriage is ending, and you’ll be unhappy when you find yourself impoverished by your foolish gesture. The needs of each person are important, and the goal is to reach the best agreement possible as you balance those needs.

Don’t give in just to get it over.  When going through divorce, carefully consider your current needs and your needs in the future. You can’t depend on your soon-to-be-ex have your best interests in mind, and you can’t depend on your attorney to know exactly what is best for you and your family. Don’t try to shortcut a divorce. The only way out is through, and it will take your conscious involvement to reach a resolution that will work for you.

Don’t make nice to get him or her back. It’s all right to hope against hope that your divorce will end in reconciliation, but don’t bend over backward to make it happen. Stand up for yourself and get your share. If you successfully reconcile, and some couples do, that’s wonderful, but if you don’t, you’ll still be able to take care of yourself financially.

Leave revenge at the door. Legally, it doesn’t matter who did who wrong. Revenge is costly, and funding a wild rampage by not giving an inch is bound to turn out badly. You won’t win every battle, no matter what, and if you stubbornly stick to your guns despite all reasonable offers to settle, who knows, you might even end up paying part of your spouse’s attorney fees.

Don’t succumb to threats, or threaten your spouse. Money and power are emotionally linked, but in divorce it isn’t smart to try to use money to control your spouse and get your way. If you launch a full-blown court battle and argue every financial issue, be assured that most of what you can’t agree on will end up being split between your attorneys, with a sizeable amount going to the financial professionals. That is money that could be used to fund your family’s future if you stay out of court.

Focus on problem-solving, not fighting. Don’t let meetings with your ex turn into posturing to show who is in control or how smart you are. Settling your divorce is the problem you confront, and it won’t get solved through fighting. You can’t get everything you want in divorce, so figure out what is most important to you and let the rest go. You’ll end up with a better agreement, a less tumultuous relationship, a happier family, and a healthier future.

More Women Are Paying Child Support and Spousal Support

When a female celebrity making big money paid out spousal support, it made headlines: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Janet Jackson, Jessica Simpson. Now the trend is trickling down.

Jennifer Lopez is among many high earning women celebrities who have paid out spousal support. Photo: Fox/American Idol

Women are breaking professional and societal barriers at a tremendous rate today. Women professionals, entrepreneurs, military and organizational leaders are no longer considered unusual.

Just as gender stereotypes are breaking down in other areas of American life, they are breaking down in divorce outcomes. If the wife makes more money than her husband, she faces the real – and fair – possibility of paying spousal support. If a spouse of either gender gave up a career or worked less hours to be the primary parent, it doesn’t matter whether this was mom or dad, the stay-at-home spouse is likely to receive spousal support, and possibly child support if he or she continues to have primary or in some cases even shared custody.

In circumstances that are atypical of the norm, using the Collaborative Divorce approach to seek a fair and equitable outcome without preconceived assumptions can be a wise choice.

Read more here about this family law trend in a column published this week in Communities Digital News by CFLG San Diego member Myra Chack Fleischer, lead counsel with Fleischer and Ravreby in San Diego.
 

 

Five Tips For Successfully Negotiating Your Divorce

by Michele Sacks Lowenstein, Attorney, California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist, Lowenstein Brown, A.P.L.C.

Trying to negotiate a divorce in a conference room with either a mediator or two attorneys is hard work. However, the result can be worthwhile if you bear in mind that you are a parent forever and the story of your divorce will, ultimately, be your child’s story as well.

An important component of successful negotiation is the use of language during these negotiations. Words express how we think about and see life. The words we use are symbolic of our perspective on life. Some people may wonder why the use of language factors so heavily into these negotiations. In my experience most people going through a divorce don’t want to end up in court. They do, however, want to feel that they have been heard by the other person and efforts were made on both sides to address each party’s issues and concerns.

Consider that when people have filed for divorce they are already at a point where they are unable to communicate effectively and are probably unable to communicate effectively about anything. Participating in divorce negotiations requires people to do something they probably haven’t done in a long time; they must listen to each other in a new way where they no longer jump to conclusions about what the other person is saying.

It’s not easy. In fact, it is hard. However, it can be done. And, it can be done successfully so long as each party is aware that they can each frequently press the other’s “hot button” without even meaning to do so.

So, here are five tips for the successful discussion and negotiation of a divorce.

1.         Stay Away From Polarizing Language.

Using the terms “custody” and “visitation,” while accurate, tends to draw battle lines. Expressing the child sharing plan in terms of “I want to have custody and I want you to have visitation” will certainly cause the other parent to begin to focus on the terms “custody and visitation.” The focus, in fact, should be on a parenting plan that works for the child and not on the terms. Parents who focus on working out the times the child will be spending with each of them rather than arguing over the terms “custody and visitation” will be more successful in their negotiations. And, being more successful in the negotiating process means that these parents will ultimately be more successful in their co-parenting post divorce. Ultimately, the parents are more likely to stay out of court, which causes less stress to the children and to them. So, everyone comes out ahead.

2.         Frame the Issues in a Non-Combative Manner. 

I have been in a number of negotiations where we have reached an impasse on an issue and have decided to move onto another issue. Unfortunately, someone may say “We can fight about that later,” when the non-combative way of phrasing this is “We’ll put this on our list to discuss later.” It may seem small, but framing issues in terms of having to be fought out later rather than discussing them makes a huge difference in the mindset of the parties who are experiencing the divorce. People have already had their share of “fights” and don’t need to be gearing up for another one.

3.         Engage in Interest Based Negotiations Instead of Position Based Negotiations.

Positional based negotiations are adversarial as the “other side” or “opposing party” is seen as an opponent. (Again, labels play a large part here). Reluctantly, a concession will be given. Reluctance leads to resentment and this, of course, results in either the negotiations breaking down or the parties litigating issues in the future. Also telling someone that you are not going to change your position is not conducive to reaching resolution as it only causes each party to dig in their heels. Interest based negotiations seek to find an outcome that is mutually acceptable to both parties. Of course, neither party can generally meet all of their goals and objectives but it is important that each party work  with his or her professional team to set forth realistic goals and objectives and see if a solution can be fashioned which will benefit both parties.

4.         Don’t Refer to Your Soon to Ex in the Third Person.

Sometimes a person will refer to his or her spouse as “he” or “she” rather than using the other person’s name. While it is understandable that doing this is part of venting anger and frustration, referring to someone in the third person as if they aren’t even the room only serves to create additional conflict because that person will feel they are being diminished. People who feel their feelings are being diminished are not likely to be able to act in a constructive fashion to resolve issues.

This  applies especially to lawyers who tend do this or, even worse, refer to the parties possessively as in “your client” or “my client.” This is very de-personalizing.

5.         Don’t Curse, Please.

It should be evident that using four letter words during a business meeting is unprofessional and disrespectful. However, it is amazing how many people actually do swear during negotiations. Using curse words will not bring resolution to any issues but will only serve to cause people to focus on the fact that “them is fightin’ words.” Learning how to express oneself not only allows for improved communication but also provides for a better understanding of one’s own feelings.

As Margaret Thatcher once said: “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. And watch your character for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become.” Good advice for everyone.