Divorce: A Professional’s Personal Story

Divorce doesn’t have to difficult. Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as Collaborative Divorce can make a painful process easier for anyone.

by Mark C. Hill, Certified Financial Planner, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Managing Director, Pacific Divorce Management

It is not unusual for professionals who work in the divorce field to have been motivated in their choice of career by personal experience of divorce. Sometimes it is the memory of how their parents’ divorce was handled in childhood, while other times it is the experience of their own divorce that drove them to work in the field.

In my own case, it was the experience of my second divorce in the 1990s together with watching others struggle with the process that was the motivation. At first glance, this divorce should have been simple since we had no children and it was a short marriage lasting less than four years. However, it went all the way to an all-day trial that resulted in me saying these words to my attorney at its conclusion: “I feel violated by this process.”

Ironically, a conversation with my ex-wife years later had me learn that she felt exactly the same way that day — despite the fact that we both had very experienced, competent and caring attorneys working on our behalf. Additionally, as a financial advisor since the early 1980s, I had watched clients go through the traditional litigated approach with devastating financial consequences and yet still feeling compelled to share their stories of being disappointed, frustrated and angry at the outcomes.

As the years have passed, on many occasions I have thought back on my court experience and compared and contrasted it with the very different way my first wife and I chose to end our marriage. This was in the early 1980s and our financial and personal situation was very different from my second divorce. Our finances consisted mainly of debt, but we had a child, then a toddler, who we both loved dearly and were determined to be involved in raising.

At the time the concept of alternative dispute resolution when it came to divorce hardly existed in San Diego. But my wife and I both refused to go through the adversarial process. After a conversation with a non-family lawyer friend, I learned there was nothing inappropriate in a couple negotiating their own settlement if they both had full command of the issues involved.

The problem was that initially I could not find a family lawyer willing to work with us and prepare the agreement. Meetings with four lawyers resulted in the same pushback: “I must represent either you or your wife,” they would tell me. Despite this, I kept looking and eventually found a lawyer who did not say “no” fast enough! As a result, we were able to resolve all issues between the two of us and then, after signing disclosures for the attorney saying that she did not represent either one of us, have the Marital Settlement Agreement filed with the court.

Time passed, and by the time my son was attending college I was actively working in the divorce field and felt that the time was right to ask him “How was it growing up for you?” After getting this first comment off his chest, “You and mom are so different, I can’t imagine you guys ever being together!” he said “The good thing was that I never heard either one of you say a bad word about the other and I knew that you both loved me.”

So, despite the fact that his mother and I had challenging times, especially when both of us remarried, we were able to keep his needs above our fray. I doubt that we would have been able to co-parent so successfully if we had been through an adversarial divorce. I feel great relief that there were no children involved in my second divorce as the ending was so toxic that I cannot imagine it not having a negative impact on children.

Divorce is intrinsically difficult because very few marriages end unless trust has been broken, and it will always represents a loss of some kind. Usually we experience this as the loss of personal relationships and of financial resources. I believe that the underlying negative backdrop this provides is more often than not exacerbated by the traditional litigated approach.

Please know I understand there will be cases where avoiding this is impossible, and our court system is critical in attaining resolution. However, where both spouses show a willingness to try to work together, taking the alternative dispute resolution approach will usually result in more durable and better outcomes with less residual bitterness. Additionally, today couples have access to trained professionals in the legal, financial and mental health fields to offer support throughout the process that did not exist for my first wife and me.

As my own experience shows, this can result in better outcomes for our children. Isn’t that really what is most important?

Law Week 2017 Special: Divorce Options Workshop Free June 3

TGet your questions about divorce answered at a free workshop on Saturday, June 3 in Carmel Valley. RSVP today.

Special for Law Week: Workshop is free for the last time in 2017 – RSVP today

San Diegans facing difficult decisions about divorce can now take advantage of a valuable workshop offering information about their alternatives to a stressful, adversarial divorce.

Led by volunteer attorneys, financial specialists, and mental health professionals who are members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, the next “Divorce Options” workshop session takes place on Saturday, June 3, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at 11622 El Camino Real, Suite 100, San Diego, California, 92130. The building is next to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at the intersection of Route 56 and Interstate 5. See a map here.

In honor of San Diego Law Week 2017, this workship will be offered to the public at no cost. For the remainder of 2017, workshop attendance will cost $25.

TGet your questions about divorce answered at a free workshop on Saturday, June 3 in Carmel Valley. RSVP today.

Get your questions about divorce answered at a free workshop on Saturday, June 3 in Carmel Valley. RSVP today.

Workshops are held on the first Saturday of each month. Facilitators cover the full range of choices couples have as they contemplate divorce, focusing on the non-adversarial, out-of-court options.

Divorce is difficult and stressful even under the best of circumstances. If you have children, it’s even more difficult. Most people have a lot of questions, but aren’t sure where to get answers.

Our workshops let people know it is possible despite challenges to preserve the emotional and financial resources of the family while respecting everyone’s needs during a divorce. Presenters offer unbiased information about self-representation, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigated divorce. The workshop deals with the legal, financial, family and personal issues of divorce in an informational and compassionate small group setting.

Our goal is helping people avoid crowded family courts, save the time, cost, and emotional stress involved in litigation, and emerge with healthy family relationships moving forward.

The Divorce Options program is useful to anyone thinking about divorce or other relationship transitions including co-habitating couples with children or LGBT couples looking for a process aware and respectful of their unique needs.

Becoming more knowledgeable can go a long way to ease the anxiety about your divorce, and allows you to take control of your future.

For additional information or to RSVP for the Law Week Divorce Options Workshop ONLY, call Divorce Options at (858) 472-4022 or email at sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

About the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

CFLG San Diego’s members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem-solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

New Technology Opens California Court System Access to All

Screen shot of the innovative California Courts app.

by Susan L Rapp, CFL-S

California courts, including Superior Courts handling divorce, support, and child custody matters, have been severely impacted by state budget cuts. This has resulted in a reduction

Susan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorney

Susan Rapp, CLS-F, Family Law Attorney

in family court personnel, reduced hours for filings, lengthy waits for divorce judgments to be processed, and delays in child support wage assignments being issued. Family law litigants are sometimes required to have a hearing without a court reporter or to provide a reporter at their own expense. Delays in obtaining hearing dates compound a divorcing couple’s financial and/or emotional distress particularly if there are pressing issues that cannot be resolved without court intervention.

It is often stated justice delayed is justice denied. While I lament the impact the budget cuts are having on our California judicial system, I am heartened by the judicial system’s significant, but not yet universal, adoption of the internet as a resource for litigants, attorneys, the courts, and the general public.

Computers were just replacing typewriters when I first began practicing law. There was no internet. Legal research required access to a well-equipped law library. Reported appellate cases, statutory provisions, and law review articles were found in printed volumes you hoped would be on the shelf when needed.

Given what we had to work with then, it is exciting to see a wide range of information, pleadings, and documents related to the courts and judicial process readily and inexpensively accessible using various websites and apps. Let me share a few of my favorites.

Screen shot of the Judicial Council of California website self-help section.

Screen shot of the Judicial Council of California website self-help section.

Judicial Council of California Website

The Judicial Council of California is the policy making body of the California courts. Its website has an excellent “self-help” section containing a vast amount of information. Specific pleadings that need to be completed and filed with the court regarding a particular legal matter are identified. The mandatory and discretionary Judicial Council pleading forms for family law cases (as well as civil and probate) are available in auto-fill format at the website. These forms can be printed for signing and filing once completed. The site even has videos designed to walk a litigant through completing certain form pleadings. The site is particularly valuable to litigants who cannot afford an attorney or choose to be self-represented.

Every county in California including San Diego County has a comprehensive courts website.

Every county in California including San Diego County has a comprehensive courts website.

San Diego County Superior Court Website

The Superior Court of every county in California has a website accessible by entering “[County name] Superior Court website” into the Google search box. Our San Diego Superior Court family court website includes links to the state and local rules of court, courtroom judicial assignments and telephone numbers to court clerks and various administrative offices, hearing calendars, a video designed to familiarize parents with the Family Court Services mediation process that is required when there are child custody or visitation issues, Judicial Council pleadings forms, and an index of cases filed in the San Diego Superior Court during the last several decades. The websites of the Superior Court of various other counties contain detailed information regarding the nature, date and outcome of court proceedings occurring in a particular case, and a link for ordering conformed copies of pleadings and orders in the court file.

Screen shot of the innovative California Courts app.

Screen shot of the innovative California Courts app.

California Courts App

The “California Courts” app is available through the iTunes store for $2.99. This app pulls information into a single location from a number of different websites. This app is particularly useful to practicing attorneys but is also a great resource for anyone wanting to become more familiar with the workings and work product of the California judicial system.

The app provides quick access to all published opinions of the California Supreme Court and the California Courts of Appeal. You can use this app to access information at the State Bar of California website pertaining to attorneys, including information related to when a particular attorney became licensed, law school attended, and whether the attorney has been the subject of any disciplinary proceedings. You can search for attorneys within a particular county designated by the State Bar of California as certified specialists in a particular area, such as family law.

Besides assisting those involved in legal proceedings to maneuver through the court system, the low-or-no cost and ease of access to information available to everyone via the internet bodes well for our democracy. The vast amount of information allows citizens to become educated about the law, their legal rights and the recourse available through the courts when those rights are infringed.

I would love to see civics and government teachers and their students become familiar with and take advantage of the educational resources available through websites and apps like those mentioned. I am hopeful adequate funding will soon be restored to the California courts to ensure litigants have their day in court in a timely, efficient, and effective manner, so that our judicial system, designed to enforce the rule of law upon which our system is premised, will continue to receive the respect it justly deserves.

Top Four Reasons Why You Should Hire a Divorce Financial Specialist

by Shawn Weber, CLS-F
Attorney, Weber Dispute Resolution

There are so many financial implications to divorce, it is best to work with a financial professional on your side.

There are so many financial implications to divorce, it is best to work with a financial professional on your side.

In my years as a Collaborative Divorce practitioner, folks have asked me why they should spend the money to hire a Financial Specialist as part of their divorce team. A financial specialist is an excellent resource, who can bring a neutral financial perspective to a legal process. Here are my top four reasons why it makes TONS of sense to hire a financial specialist as part of your divorce team:

  1. It’s Usually Not a Good Idea to Ask a Lawyer for Financial Advice. Most went to law school instead of getting an MBA for a very good reason. I, for one, went to law school so I could avoid math. (Ironically, I do math all the time anyway). I know there are exceptions, but we attorneys are generally not trained to be financial advisors. Yet many of our clients ask us to play that role.
  2. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. There are so many financial implications to the decisions you are about to make regarding your property, cash flow and debt. Why not get with a professional who knows the questions you may not know to ask. As an attorney, I am grateful when a financial specialist points out a tax pitfall that I may not have known about.
  3. Your Spouse May Trust the Neutral Financial Specialist More Than You. Let’s face it. You’re getting a divorce and often trust can be an issue when a divorce is happening. Don’t worry! You don’t need to have trust. Let the Financial Specialist digest all of the financial data into a digestible format. This gives your spouse less reason to be distrustful because a neutral third party helped assemble the information. Increasing the trust factor saves money by preventing the need for costly forensics.
  4. You Have to Do a Financial Disclosure Anyway. Why Not Let the Financial Neutral Do This? In every California divorce, a full and complete financial disclosure is required. You can pay your attorney at his exorbitant rate to put the disclosures together, or you can have a financial professional take care of this part. You’ll spend less money and get better work.

The temptation is to assume that hiring more professionals costs more. But, often the opposite is true. Just like any mechanic will tell you, use the correct tool for the correct job. The Financial Specialist is the best tool to use when considering the financial aspects of your divorce.

Why a Collaborative Divorce Makes Financial Sense

Collaborative Divorce offers many advantages to divorcing couples, particularly financial. Courtesy US News & World Report

Collaborative Divorce offers many advantages to divorcing couples, particularly financial. Courtesy US News & World Report

For couples ready to part ways, a Collaborative Divorce can often prevent the angry, destructive results of many divorce proceedings. As reported in U.S. News & World Report, Collaborative Divorce embraces the concept that a couple once considered themselves partners during their marriage, and should be able to end it together as well, deciding how to split assets and how the co-parenting should work out in a way in which neither party feels too disappointed when it comes time to sign the divorce papers.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego is encouraged by media coverage in publications like U.S. News, helping spread the message about the option offered to couples by the Collaborative approach.

Read the entire article at this link.

 

 

Ten Must-Dos After Your Divorce

What are the first steps to take if you're thinking about divorce? Get answers at our free workshop December 3. RSVP 858-472-2022 San Diego

Divorce must-do list by Nancy Stassinopoulos, Certified Family Law Specialist
Nancy Stassinopoulos, APC

Many couples think their case is over on the date they sign their Marital Settlement San Diego divorce attorney Nancy StassinopoulosAgreement. This is a momentous occasion, especially in a collaborative case where the entire team usually meets in a conference room to review and sign the final documents. Emotions can run high, ranging from tears to smiles of happiness that a divorce has been concluded with dignity and respect.

But wait, before you break out the champagne to celebrate with your friends, there’s more to be done. Here are ten important reminders:

  • Finish your QDROs. If your Marital Settlement Agreement provides for retirement accounts and pension plans to be divided by a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, you should start working with the QDRO attorney or QDRO preparation service recommended by your collaborative attorney. In fact, most collaborative attorneys recommend that the couple start the QDRO drafting process before the Marital Settlement Agreement is signed, so that the QDROs can be signed and submitted to the court with the Judgment. Then, you need to make sure that the QDRO is served on the Plan.
  • Divide Your IRAs. The division of Individual Retirement Accounts is usually spelled out in the Marital Settlement Agreement, either as a formula (one-half to each spouse) or a dollar amount to one spouse. The division of IRAs does not require a QDRO. However, you need to contact the custodian of the IRA to request forms for the transfer of the funds, which can be rolled over into the transferee’s IRA without tax consequences. Your Collaborative Attorney or Financial Specialist will assist you if you need help.
  • Change your estate plan. You should make an appointment with an estate planning attorney. If you and your spouse had an estate plan, such as a family trust or wills, be aware that the divorce will automatically revoke any wills or trusts that were in existence on the date of the divorce. Thus, you will need to make a new estate plan. If you fail to do so, and then pass away, the laws of the State of California will decide how to distribute your assets. Also, probate fees for those who die “intestate” (without a will) are costly.   You can leave more money to your heirs with a good estate plan.
  • Check your life insurance. You should review and change the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies, to conform to the Marital Settlement Agreement. Remember, life insurance is not controlled by a will or trust. All beneficiary changes must be made in writing.
  • Change retirement plan beneficiaries. You will need to change the beneficiaries on your Individual Retirement Accounts, 401(k) Plans, and pension plans, to conform to the Marital Settlement Agreement. If these accounts will be divided between you and your spouse, you will need to get that done before you can change the beneficiaries. All beneficiary changes must be made in writing, usually on a form provided by the company.
  • Change your powers of attorney. During marriage, you might have given your spouse a financial power of attorney, or a power of attorney for health care. Be sure to revoke those documents and create new ones. Your estate planning attorney can assist you.
  • Close all joint credit card accounts. Remember, on a true joint credit account, both you and your spouse remain liable for any future charges, even after your divorce is final. If you are not sure whether an account is a true joint account, as opposed to one on which your spouse is an authorized user, call the card issuer and ask.
  • Close all joint bank and financial accounts. Most banks and financial institutions will require both account holders to authorize the account closure.
  • Copy your family photos and videos. Usually the Marital Settlement Agreement will provide that family photos and videos will be copied, with the expense to be shared. Be sure to make these arrangements as soon as possible.
  • Change the passwords on all accounts. If your spouse had access to your online financial or credit card accounts, you will have to change your passwords. Remember, your ex-spouse may be able to answer security questions such as your mother’s maiden name, and obtain access to your accounts after the divorce.

This list may seem overwhelming. It is a lot of work to address these important details. But think about how much work you have already done, to get to this point in the divorce process. Don’t let it all unravel because an important detail was not addressed.

Here’s a tip: Start with the tasks you can accomplish quickly. Tackle the tasks one at a time, check them off as you complete them, and move on to the next one. You will have all this work done in no time. Then you’ll be able to relax, knowing that your future, and your family’s future, will be secure.

 

Empower Yourself During Your Divorce

Debra N. Caliguri, family law and divorce attorney, Carlsbad

by Debra Caliguri, Law and Mediation Offices of Debra N. Caliguri

How many times have we all heard and even repeated the phrase “Ignorance is

Debra N. Caliguri, family law and divorce attorney, Carlsbad

Debra N. Caliguri

bliss”?  Itmay be popular, but ignorance is bliss is no credo to live by. One online dictionary defines “Ignorance is bliss” as “a term used to falsely justify apathy on the given subject in the form of a catchy cliche.”

In our knowledge-based society it is unlikely that choosing to be ignorant will bring you success in any of your life’s endeavors. This is particularly so when you are going through a major life transition like divorce.

Gone are the days when you and your spouse can afford to hire attorneys to take your case and leave the decision-making and thinking to the attorneys and judge to figure it out. Instead, you need to empower yourselves by gathering reliable information and becoming a savvy consumer of divorce-related services.

One of my clients recently concluded her divorce process in which I served as her Collaborative attorney. She and her husband had been married over 20 years, had children preparing for college, and with ten years or less to work before reaching retirement age, they were concerned with preserving their retirement funds.

Like many divorcing couples, both spouses felt wounded and found it difficult to trust the other. Their children were hurting as well, having witnessed the parental conflict over the years. The parties had disagreements over financial, legal, and even parenting issues.

The one thing they agreed upon: they wanted to stop the hurt, not only for their own sake, but for the sake of their children. This goal led them to seek alternatives to a knock-down, drag out fight in court.

The couple considered mediation, but decided they needed more information, advice, and support than the neutral mediator could provide. They found their way to Collaborative divorce after meeting with several attorneys and financial professionals. Through the Collaborative process, they were able to successfully reach a full agreement in under six months.

My client is extremely grateful she found the Collaborative divorce process and shared with me what she had learned to help going through a painful divorce.

My client found that for her, Collaborative divorce was superior to going to court, as the Collaborative process fosters an environment of creative problem-solving. This is strikingly different than what happens in court where a judge makes decisions in an atmosphere of mud-slinging advocacy.

The team approach was key to providing the parties with the right information, financial analysis, legal advice and emotional support to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion. My client said the time spent on the Collaborative process was productive time in which the parties were directed and engaged with the team to identify issues, define their interests, and the issues at hand.  The Collaborative team members facilitated the couple’s discussions, which led to their finding a path to agreement on all their issues.

The presence of legal counsel, the financial expert and coaches resulted in the parties feeling safe enough to talk to each other directly about their goals, concerns, and needs for their individual futures. They found common ground in wanting what is best for the children.

Collaborative divorce may not suit those people who prefer blissful ignorance. But it is the wise choice for those who choose knowledge, even in a difficult and painful life transition.

 

Stress, Divorce and Down Dog

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

By Win Heiskala, Certified Family Law Specialist
Attorney-Partner, Beatrice L. Snider Family Law Group

Stress. That is one word that comes to mind for most people when they think of divorce. Either their own or someone else’s divorce[1]. How to manage that stress? Obviously, the best way to handle any stress is to remove it, but that is not possible if you find yourself in the middle of a divorce process, either as the initiating party or responding. The divorce will happen and you need to be involved in important decisions affecting you and your family. Even if you think you are “in control” and have come to terms with the decision and the outcome, it is still one of the most emotional processes of your life.win-heiskala-photo

I am not a medical expert, nor is this a medical/mental health article, but it seems fairly well documented that stress is hazardous to one’s physical and emotional health. And, based on experience and observation, your stress (anxiety, anger, fear) can be very hazardous to those around you. Your children can be irrevocably damaged by your inability to control the negative emotions of a divorce, your workplace will only tolerate so much, and your friends can be quickly exhausted.

So, what to do? You are already overloaded to make time for attorneys, accountants, therapists, and the inevitable repair people for those appliances that always decide to break down during this upheaval. But there must be space for some time for you. Find the time.  I recommend you spend that time at the closest Iyengar[2] yoga studio, and begin lessons at whatever level is recommended to you.

Focusing on your mind/body connection, through methodical, specific instruction can result in a calmer, more centered you.

Meditation in yoga is experienced, not by sitting staring into space, but by concentrating on the movement of specific parts of your body with awareness and attention. It is difficult to think of one’s problems when you are attempting to remember the multiple points it takes just to stand straight (let alone on your head – but you won’t be asked to do that in the first class). And you are the arbiter of what you will do in class – it is your body. The alignment of your body, in and of itself, provides calmness and clarity of thought. A backbend can provide joy (that won’t happen first class either).  The release of tension can be immediate and lasting.

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

Yoga is one of many methods you can try to manage stress during a divorce.

In the Iyengar discipline of yoga, you are encouraged to ultimately establish your own “home” practice as well as attend classes. Yoga is good for any body, at any age, regardless of any physical limitations. Obviously, there are no guarantees and much depends on the time and effort expended. This is not an ad for yoga. I am not a paid representative of Iyengar yoga. There is no contract to sign. It is a pay as you go system. No commitment is expected except your own commitment to your own mental, emotional and physical well being. Try it!

[1] As an attorney I do feel obliged to make reference to the legal terminology of Dissolution of Marriage, but it is still commonly called Divorce by most.

[2] My yoga experience (of over 20 years) has been exclusively with this discipline of teaching. So I am not comfortable making a recommendation for any other method, but that is not to be interpreted as a negative for any other yoga discipline or course of study.

Collaborative law featured on ESPN 1700 Radio

Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San Diego

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member attorney Shawn Weber, Certified Family Real Estate Radio on ESPN AM 1700 San DiegoLaw Specialist with Brave Weber Mack, discussed the Collaborative approach to divorce during a recent guest appearance on “The Real Estate Radio Hour” on ESPN Radio 1700 AM with host Ryan White.

Weber pointed out that recent budget cutbacks to California’s family law court system makes it much more difficult, time consuming, and expensive to pursue a divorce via litigation, making the Collaborative approach to divorce a better choice for many families.

Hear the entire interview with Shawn via the link below.

Can a Divorce Team Save You Money?

By Win Heiskala, Certified Family Law Specialist
Attorney-Partner, Beatrice L. Snider Family Law Group

You made the very serious personal decision to terminate your marriage. This decision necessarily takes you to the procedure known as divorce (AKA Dissoluiton of Marriage in the Court).

You found yourself an attorney who discusses the different processes with you that can be win-heiskala-photoused to divide assets and debts, set a child sharing plan, and set support. You say, “We don’t want to go to court – we just want to settle.”

The Collaborative Family Law model provides the most complete and efficient process to meet your goal. The hallmarks of the Collaborative Law divorce process is an agreement from everyone at the outset to exclude all court proceedings, and engage the services of various professionals, known as “the team” to make assist in the resolution of all issues.

Why is a “team” needed? Why do we need a team just to get a divorce? If you don’t have any assets, income or children, then you don’t need a team and you can stop reading. If you do have any of these, I encourage you to continue.

ALL parties in a divorce in California no matter what process is used are mandated by law to exchange Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure. It means each side must provide in writing to the other a disclosure of all assets and debts. There is considerable debate regarding the extent and specificity required, but the goal of the law of disclosure is to adequately inform both sides before decisions are made regarding dividing assets and liabilities.

The main advantage to having one neutral financial person as part of a Collaborative team is that you deal with just one individual working to provide fair and accurate information to both parties in a divorce. Both parties provide financial information to the single financial expert. He or she verifies and organizes it, and reports the information in an understandable form to both parties and their counsel. Everyone is on the same page.

In comparison, in many “litigated” cases, a joint expert is not retained at the outset of a case, and after a great deal of increased animosity, distrust and anxiety, not to mention expense, the parties either reach the point of a joint expert or continue to battle each other with their own expensive experts – two instead of one.

Many times even the most sophisticated party in a divorce may be surprised to learn some information in the exchange. For example, husbands and wives can be wrong about how title is held on a property, whether something is community property or not, or the true value of a given asset. Clear, organized information such as this is essential to the parties in a divorce to reach reasonable and informed solutions.

The independent financial specialist also assists in determining the true income of both parties and the relative expenses for separate households going forward. Compensation packages for W-2 earners as well as the self employed have become increasingly complex with the proliferation of compensation such as Restricted Stock/Units, Performance Restricted Stock, Stock Options, claw back provisions, insider trading rules, irregular bonus payouts, profit distributions, 401K and profit sharing plans. Employment benefits can impact both asset division as well as ongoing income available for support. Self employed individuals often have unrealistic opinions of their worth or income.

The parties and their respective counsel need accurate, efficient documents and information in order to adequately educate and advise the parties as to the best solution and informed decisions for their particular case.

Even more important than the financial considerations in a divorce is the attention needed to preserve the best interest of the children. A child specialist can be the most valuable person on the Collaborative team.

First, the children need to be assured early and often that the separation of the parents is not the fault of the child. The child may be in need of therapy that neither parent is able to recognize or facilitate because of his or her own emotional upheaval. The child needs a neutral place to discuss his or her input and even vent, without fear of recrimination from a parent. Children of different ages have different needs and concerns.

All of this can be discussed with the parents and the child specialist in a safe and calm situation in order to reach a suitable, workable family child sharing plan. Every mental health expert agrees that continued animosity and conflict between the parents in divorce renders irreversible harm to the children from which they never recover. The Collaborative team, with the help of the child specialist, has the best chance of avoiding this tragedy.

If parents are unable to agree regarding the sharing of the children in a litigated divorce case in court, the family frequently undergoes a costly custody evaluation process and may have their own “expert” to review the work of the expert conducting the evaluation. Once again, you have the potential for three experts instead of one, as well as counselors and therapists, coming in at a much later stage of the proceedings after further polarization of the parties and damage to the children. The structure of the Collaborative team and process can “put everyone in the same room” from the beginning of the process.

Equally important to the team are the coaches for each of the adults. Divorce is one of the most emotional processes a person can go through in a lifetime. Everyone can use assistance from time to time for insight and balance while dealing with the inevitable feelings of loss, uncertainty, fear, anger and overall anxiety. Your attorney is not a psychologist. It is the duty of the attorney to maintain as much objectivity as possible in order to advise the client in the decision making process, and the individual coaches are a tremendous assistance in facilitating the parties to reach resolution.

With a professional Collaborative team of your choice in place from the outset of a divorce, you will be provided information, organization, support, advice and assistance for the entire family in the transition process for the best possible solutions. Otherwise, you may end up with a team or two anyway, but in a courtroom instead of a conference