Stock Options and Restricted Stock In Divorce

by Thea Glazer, CFP®, CDFA™, MS Accounting
Glazer Financial Advisors

When dividing property in a divorce settlement, stock options and restricted stock may be thea-glazer-photopart of the marital estate. This brief overview provides a basic understanding of the factors you need to take into consideration. It does not go into all the many tax and technical issues that are aspects of equity compensation. Seeking professional guidance for your specific circumstances is always a good idea.

Many companies grant their employees equity compensation in addition to their salaries, commissions and cash bonuses. Equity compensation is non-cash compensation representing a form of ownership interest in a company. Among the most common are employee stock options and restricted stock or restricted stock units. In divorce, stock options and restricted stock are property to be divided. The employee’s separate shares are often also considered as income in the calculations of support.

Employee Stock Options (ESOs)

An employee stock option is the right given to an employee to purchase a specified number of shares of the employer’s stock for a specified price and for a specified time. There are two types of ESOs, Incentive Stock Options (ISOs) and Nonqualified Stock Options (NQs). The primary difference is that ISOs have an advantageous tax treatment explained below.

Stock options have a Grant Date, Exercise Price, Vesting Schedule and Expiration date. Example: Company ABC grants John Smith 3,000 nonqualified options on January 4, 2015 at a grant price of $10.50, a four-year annual vesting schedule and an expiration date of January 4, 2025. That means that John can exercise (buy) the 750 shares of stock annually on January 4 from 2016 through 2019. He does not have to exercise any shares until January 3, 2025. If he doesn’t exercise by the date of expiration, they will expire and be worthless.

Taxation of stock options

Nonqualified stock options are taxed at the time of exercise as ordinary income. The amount taxed is the difference between the grant price and the fair market price. Most companies sell enough shares to cover the withholding tax and release the net shares or proceeds if the shares were simultaneously sold. If the shares are held once exercised and sold later, there may be capital gains tax as well. Unless shares are about to expire, most people exercise and sell simultaneously.

Incentive stock options are not taxed when they are exercised. If the shares are held for at least one year from exercise and two years from grant date, the gain is taxed at the advantageous long term capital gains rate.

Restricted Stock (RS) and Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)

Unlike stock options, restricted stock and restricted stock units are actual stock. There is usually no purchase price and, if there is, it is very, very nominal (one cent). Holders of restricted stock have voting rights while holders of restricted stock units do not. Restricted stock units cannot be “underwater” which happens to options when the grant price exceeds the fair market price so they are much less risky. Grants of restricted stock usually have about one-third as many shares as do options. Restricted stock grants have a grant date and vesting schedule. There is no expiration date and usually no grant price.

Taxation of restricted stock

Once a share of restricted stock vests, it is released. Upon release, the fair market value less any purchase price is taxed as ordinary income. Most companies sell enough shares to cover the withholding taxes and release the net shares. There is no decision making needed by the employee like there is regarding when to exercise options. Once restricted stock vests, it is automatically released. Many employees continue to hold the net shares until a time they need the cash, feel the stock has reached a good selling price or want to diversify their portfolios.

Transferability of stock options and restricted stock

Some plans allow NQs to be transferred to the former spouse of the employee, but the majority do not. It is very rare to see ISOs transferable. If they are transferred, they may lose their status as ISOs and fall under the tax rules for NQs.

RS and RSUs are not transferable.

For non-transferable shares of options or restricted stock, the employee holds the shares on behalf of the nonemployee spouse and exercises on his/her behalf or transfers released shares. There are IRS acceptable ways to allocate the taxation so the nonemployee spouse is taxed at his/her rate rather than that of the employee.

Division of equity compensation in divorce

Both stock options and restricted stock shares are divided by formulas. The most commonly used ones are Nelson and Hug.

The Nelson formula is Date of grant to date of separation ÷ Date of grant to date of exercise or release

The Hug formula is Date of hire to date of separation ÷ Date of hire to date of exercise or release

The reason the grants were awarded determines which formula is applicable.

Valuation of stock options and restricted stock

It is rare to value the options rather than to divide the shares. That is because the value is constantly changing so it is imprecise at best. In order to correctly value the options, the following factors are the elements of a complex formula, the Black-Scholes formula:

  • Grant price
  • Grant date
  • Date of expiration
  • Vesting schedule
  • Current stock price
  • Volatility of the stock price

Sometimes valuing the options is the only way to effectuate the property division by offsetting another asset. However, dividing the shares divides both the risk and reward to both spouses. I believe it is preferable when possible.

Collaborative Divorce Offers Flexibility

In collaborative or mediated cases, there is far more flexibility in dividing assets. Unequal divisions are also acceptable if the parties agree and have reasons to do so. In court, such flexibility is not nearly as possible. This is another great reason to consider alternative dispute resolution such as collaborative divorce to allow you to make the best decision possible for your circumstances, rather than a decision forced upon you by a judge.

Don’t Divorce Alone: It Takes A Village

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

by Myra Chack Fleischer, CFL-S, Fleischer & Ravreby

As we start a new year, it is natural to take stock of your life and look for ways to improve your situation. Sometimes, this means facing the reality that a divorce is necessary for your emotional and sometimes financial health. January is the month with the most new divorce filings all year.

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

Attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad California

When a person makes the decision to get divorced, there are a lot of questions and concerns. Some are practical: Will the legal business be a nightmare? Will it cost me a fortune? Some are more personal: How will I ever get through it without breaking down?

Divorce is the most common legal matter that people try to handle by themselves, also referred to as “pro per.” A 2013 study found nearly three-quarters of all people getting divorced in the U.S. do so without an attorney.

Why does this happen? Many people think hiring a lawyer will be expensive, or stressful. They don’t anticipate any big arguments, and the paperwork looks simple enough. Just fill it out, pay the fee and you are done, right?

Not exactly. Often, people get started and discover a divorce involves a whole lot more than just legal paperwork. Court cutbacks in many states means less personnel to help you work your case through the system if anything is confusing or unclear. Mistakes can delay getting the divorce finalized for months while you are in limbo.

Divorce is never simple. It involves complex financial decisions that can affect you and your children for years to come. It involves emotional turmoil for most people: Anger. Grief. Fear. Anxiety. It makes the rest of every day life that much tougher.

Perhaps you think it’s self-serving for a family law attorney to advise people to hire a lawyer to handle your divorce. You should not stop there. For many divorces and any with children or significant financial assets, you need three key experts looking out for you.

First, find a family law attorney with expertise in divorce cases. Your attorney should hold family law specialty certification in your state. In California, look for the initials “CFL-S” for “Certified Family Law Specialist.”

After you have checked legal qualification, ask direct questions about his or her fees and how they work. You are entering a business agreement and you are hiring someone to work for you. Yes, it may get emotional, but this part should be handled as matter-of-factly as you can. Be honest and open about your finances. It will make things easier on everyone.

Attorneys aren’t quite as individual as snowflakes, but you may need to interview several before you find a good fit for your circumstances. Find out your attorney’s amount of experiences. Does your attorney tend to go to court or does he or she settle most cases outside of court? Some attorneys are better negotiators that litigators. Does the attorney represent mainly husbands or wives, or both equally? If you have a same sex marriage, find out how comfortable and experienced your attorney is with these new types of divorce cases. How much of your case will he or she handle personally? Meet any other professionals such as junior attorneys or paralegals and feel comfortable with them as well.

Next, it’s crucial to seek the services of a divorce financial planner. You may not be able to rely on your regular CPA or financial advisor. Find one specifically qualified to advise you on key aspects of the divorce process and how this will affect your assets. Look for a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) certification. This person will work with your attorney to oversee critical financial tasks outside a lawyer’s area of expertise. This individual will review the impact of your legal choices in the divorce on your financial and tax situation, especially in regard to a divorce settlement offer. This will strengthen your attorney’s ability to negotiate from a position of strength on your behalf.

Finally, don’t neglect your mental health needs. Long after the divorce is over from a legal and financial standpoint, you and your children will be feeling the effects of the emotional fallout. It is wise to bring in a mental health professional with training in family counseling. Divorce is an emotional experience unfolding in the midst of what is essentially a business deal. It can overwhelm you while you are struggling to focus on practical decisions about legal and financial issues. A therapist or divorce “coach” can help you cope with strong feelings while the divorce process unfolds and provide a safe place to express yourself. This allows you to avoid drama with your attorney and your financial planner.

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

It takes a village to get through a divorce.

What about the cost? It’s true hiring three professionals is more expensive than filing the paperwork on your own. But consider the risks you face on many levels. If you have any children or property, you can end up making mistakes or bad decisions that have a negative impact for the rest of your life. You could end up paying an attorney or other professionals down the road to fix the problems you created after the fact. Your kids could suffer emotional damage later that could seriously effect their future. Consider it an investment in yourself and your children for the long term. What is more important than this?

With the expertise of highly qualified, experienced legal, financial, and psychological professionals on your side, you will have all of the help you need to get through your divorce with a bright, secure future ahead of you and your family.

One way to find this kind of team to work with you is to consider the Collaborative Divorce method. Collaborative divorce is an alternative dispute resolution process to the typical adversarial divorce. A divorcing couple agrees that they will work together with family law attorneys, financial specialists, divorce coaches and child and family therapy specialists as a team outside the court system to resolve their differences. This team will help guide you through a divorce. These professionals often work together on a regular basis and can rely on each other’s specific expertise. You can still have significant disagreements with your spouse when you start this process, as long as you pledge to keep working and remain civil as much as you can until your situation is resolved.

The Collaborative Divorce process depends on the level of cooperation between the parties, their willingness and ability to commit to a healthy divorce, and the complexity (emotional and financial) of the case. It takes work. But it preserves the well-being, diginity and relationships of parents to children and even extended family. Collateral damage is minimized.

Copyright © 2014 by Fleischer & Ravreby, Attorneys at Law

Is Mediation or Litigation the Right Choice for My Divorce?

Julia Garwood, Family Law attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, San Diego, Collaboartive Family Law Group of San Diego

by Julia Garwood, Attorney at Lawjulia-garwood-photo
Family Law, Mediation and Collaborative Divorce
Garwood Family Law and Mediation

When heading toward the end of a marriage, many people ask what the difference is between divorce mediation and litigation. And beyond that, which one is right for them. There are numerous differences between divorce mediation and litigation, however the primary three include cost, decision-making and privacy.

Cost

Mediation is often much less expensive. Litigation can cost as much as six times the amount as mediation.

Decision-Making

A judge makes all the decisions in the case of litigation. This includes decisions about your children, division of property, alimony and even pets. However, through mediation, you and your spouse make the decisions together.

Level of Privacy

Mediation occurs in a private conference room and details never have to be disclosed publicly. Because of the public nature of the courtroom, when your divorce is litigated, all information is public record. That means all the details, including your finances and “dirty laundry,” are available to the public.

In order to help you decide whether mediation or litigation is right for you and your personal situation, below is a list of frequent situations when mediation and litigation are used.

Mediation is often used when:

  • You and your spouse mutually have decided to get a divorce.
  • You and your spouse can have a rational conversation in the same room.
  • You both realize that divorce is happening and you’re able to rationally approach the outcome.
  • You’re both willing to try to agree on issues like alimony, child custody, division of assets and child support.
  • Cost is a factor and you and your spouse want to incur as few costs as possible.
  • You both want to be active decision makers regarding the details of your divorce and don’t want to leave the final decisions for a judge to make.

Litigation is often used when:

  • One or both of you aren’t open to mediation.
  • One or both of you have difficulty conducting reasonable conversations.
  • There is a history of domestic violence or child abuse during the marriage.
  • Either you or your spouse has a drug or alcohol problem, impeding rational thinking and decision-making.
  • One or both of you is stalling or gathering information on the other spouse and don’t have any intention to settle. Sometimes spouses agree to mediation to stall the process or to gather information for later use against the other spouse during litigation.

While we’ve included some basic guidelines above, every situation is different. Consulting with a divorce attorney who is trained in Collaborative Family Law and/or a Certified Family Law Specialist including members of professional associations such as the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, is the best avenue.

Discover Your Divorce Options at Workshop Oct. 22

Lessen the stress of divorce by learning about your alternatives 


September 26, 2014
Media Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR
619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

(SAN DIEGO) – Divorce is difficult and stressful even under the best of circumstances. It can be especially hard if you have children or economic difficulties. Divorce affects people from all walks of life, and no two situations are alike.

It is possible despite challenges to preserve the emotional and financial resources of the family while respecting everyone’s needs during a divorce. Learn about your alternatives at “Divorce Options.” The first “Divorce Options” workshop in San Diego takes place on Wednesday, October 22, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hacienda Building, located at 12625 High Bluff Drive, Suite 111 in San Diego.

Divorce Options provides 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.

Led by volunteer attorneys, financial specialists, and mental health professionals who are members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, the workshop will cover the full range of choices couples have as they contemplate divorce, focusing on the non-adversarial, out-of-court options.

“Divorce Options presents a unique opportunity for the public to learn about resources they can draw on to plan an effective transition that respects the needs and interests of all family members,” said Shawn Weber, attorney and Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member.  “It puts you in control of your own divorce instead of someone else who doesn’t know you or your family circumstances.”

Weber said 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.

Topics include:

  • Litigation, mediation and collaboration – the risks and the benefits of each process
  • Legal, financial, psychological and social issues of divorce
  • How to talk about divorce with your children
  • Guidance from divorce experts

By learning about divorce and the different process options available you can maximize your ability to make good decisions during the difficult and challenging time. Divorce Options is a workshop designed to help couples take the next step, no matter where they are in the process. It identifies strategies to help you stay out of court, and helps you identify the social, emotional, legal, and financial issues that are most pressing for you. There is no solicitation of business. The cost is $45 for materials. The materials fee is waived for mental health professionals to attend.

Questions? 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.

CFLGSD is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and on LinkedIn.

Choose Your Filing Options Wisely in a Military Divorce

Military families and divorce

Military families and divorce

One-quarter of all active duty United States Navy and United States Marine Corps personnel are based in San Diego County. Add the large number of veterans, retirees, reservists and National Guard, and the significant influence of the military is apparent.

When you are a civilian facing divorce, you file in the state where you live. If you are a member of the military, it isn’t always that simple. In the military community it is common for a couple to be from one state, married in a second state, living in a third state and own property in a fourth state.

Further complicating matters, the couple may have recently been moved by the military to the state where they live and they may not have been there long enough to establish residency.

How does a military couple decide where to file their divorce and does it matter which state they choose? Family law attorney Mark Sullivan of Raleigh, North Carolina provides some helpful guidelines in this article for Military.com.  Sullivan is the author of a guide for lawyers called “The Military Divorce Handbook.”

Whatever your decision, Collaborative divorce remains an excellent option for military families to avoid the negative effects of divorce on the family, particularly where children are involved.

 

 

 

Tips on How to Find the Best Family Law Attorney for You

Attorney Frann Setzer

by Frann Setzer, Esq.
MBA/Certified Family Law Specialist
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

It surprises me how many phone calls I receive from potential clients whose first question is, ‘what is your hourly rate?’  While I appreciate that legal help is not inexpensive, my experience is that receiving advice from a qualified professional is invaluable.

My tax professional charges a similar rate to an attorney. While she is not the least expensive accountant, she has saved me thousands of dollars.

Remember when you are speaking with a family law attorney for the first time, you are in fact interviewing each other to see if it is a good fit.  Money should not be the only criteria in your hiring decision.  Rather than start by asking an attorney’s hourly rate, you need the answers to the following questions first:

  1. Expertise.   Does the attorney you are interviewing have solid credentials?  Is he or she certified as a Specialist by the State Bar?  Does family law comprise 100 percent of his or her practice, or does he or she practice in several other areas of the law as well?  Does the attorney have other degrees, such an MBA, a master’s degree in taxation or a financial credential? While well-credentialed, experienced attorneys invariably charge more than those who are not, the quality of the advice received is often vastly different.  As with my tax accountant, paying for good advice can translate into thousands of dollars saved.  Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
  2. Philosophy.  Attorneys are people too!  Some are more aggressive, some are more passive.  How often does the attorney you are speaking with litigate?  Is he or she trained in Mediation?  Is he or she trained in the Collaborative process?  When presented with a problem, would this attorney suggest filing a $5,000 motion with the court, or would he or she first pick up the phone and call opposing counsel or write a letter to try to solve the problem?  Certainly at times it is necessary to litigate, but litigation is usually the most contentious and expensive route to take to solve a problem.
  3. Chemistry.  Your family attorney is someone who you are going to be ‘living with’ for a period of time.  Do you communicate well with this person?  Does your attorney understand your concerns and suggest solutions with which you are comfortable?  Is your attorney able to explain the legal issues to you in plain English?  Having a certain amount of chemistry is necessary in order to create a feeling of trust that this person is acting in your best interest.
  4. Comparison Shop.  Quite a bit of information can be found on an attorney’s website.  Even more information can be gained through a personal interview.  While many attorneys charge for a consultation, it is money well spent.  You will gain a sense of who this person is, the type of office in which he or she works and most important, you will be able to assess whether the hourly rate quoted is a good value.  You should also receive an initial professional opinion about your case.  See at least two attorneys.  Remember that consulting with an attorney does not obligate you to hire that person.
  5. Billing Practices.  Should you decide to consult with an attorney, ask about his or her billing practices.  Exactly what does he or she charge for? Does staff complete some of the work? Staff work costs less money per hour than the lead attorney.  You should receive a retainer agreement from an attorney you are considering hiring.  Unless you have an emergency situation, take a day to read that agreement and be sure you understand the services provided and how they are charged.  If you do not, do not hesitate to ask questions. Attorneys vary more than you might think on how they charge for services and the services that they provide.

Selecting the right attorney to represent or consult with you can make all the difference in the experience you have during dissolution or other matters, the amount you spend in legal fees and in the outcome of your case.  Unless you have an emergency situation, take the time to make a well-considered hiring decision.

Don’t Trash Talk Your Ex: Staying Civil After Divorce

Family conflict and stress

Among the many significant benefits of collaborative divorce is providing a framework for respectful, civil discussion between spouses about difficult issues. By remaining civil, emotional stress is lessened on everyone in the family, especially the children.

Once the divorce is final, parents need to continue those respectful communication practices as they work together to raise their children. The positive aspects of collaborative divorce can be unraveled quickly when children witness their mother and father speaking harshly about one another, even if the conversation isn’t directed at the children. Conflict and the family stress it creates benefits no one in the long run, no matter how justified you may feel at the time.

Marina Sbrochi  is a dating coach who works with people returning to the dating scene after a divorce. She offers her advice about refraining from “trash talking” your former spouse. Sbrochi’s endorsement that reinforces our collaborative divorce philosophy of respectful communication continuing well after all of the legal details are final. Read Sbrochi’s sensible advice here.

 

Your Brain on Collaborative Divorce

Your brain and Collaboraive Divorce

By Garrison “Bud” Klueck

Americans of a certain age likely recall a memorable TV commercial.  The TV image is that of someone breaking an egg.  The voice-over announcer says “This is your brain.”  It then cuts to a very hot frying pan sizzling.  The egg is dropped into the pan, where it rapidly fried.  The voiceover says “This is your brain on drugs. Get it?”  In other words, taking drugs fries your brain.

Your brain and Collaboraive DivorceThe services offered by the professionals in a Collaborative divorce team have the opposite effect on clients going through the divorce process.  Collaborative divorce “unfries your brain.”  The client’s “unfried brain” then has the capacity to make the important decisions that a divorcing person needs to make.

Brain science tells us that there are parts that are basically the source of all the emotions that we experience.  These brain parts are known by the term “amygdala.”

While emotions are important to living a full and satisfying life, almost everybody has experienced how our emotions can sometimes become overwhelming.  Modern brain scans tell us why. Those brain scans show that, when the emotional parts of the brain are activated, the higher-reasoning parts show little or no activity.

The divorce process generates intense emotions.  Meanwhile, those divorcing spouses have to make very important decisions by weighing the costs against the benefits of various options.  In other words, the usual way people get divorced demands that they make important life-affecting decisions at a time in their lives when their emotions make them least likely to make sound decisions.

As a Collaborative attorney, I have witnessed that the very valuable services rendered by our well-trained divorce coaches have the effect of “turning down the heat” of the emotions of our clients.  When you lessen the activation of the emotional centers of our brains, it lets the decision-making centers become activated; then the divorcing persons are freed to make the very important decisions that will affect their lives and their children’s lives for years to come.

Over my more than a quarter-century of family law practice, I have witnessed people in the traditional court-based divorce process make some very bad decisions which affected their future and their childrens’ future.  To protect against this almost inevitable problem, there must be some process to prevent those very powerful emotions of the moment affect long-term planning.  The involvement of mental health professionals to help divorcing people process their emotions not only lets those people feel somewhat better during the process, it empowers them to make the decisions they will need to make.

Your brain “on collaborative divorce” will not be a fried brain, like on drugs, but a healthy brain ready to make good choices for a healthy future for you and your family.

Author Garrison “Bud” Klueck has received training as both as an attorney and as a mental health professional.  As an attorney, Bud has been practicing law for over 27 years and is a certified legal specialist in family law.  He was among the first group of San Diego professionals to train in the collaborative process in 2001 and has, over the years, participated in many collaborative cases. As a mental health professional, Bud has a Master’s degree in counseling psychology (MACP) and has internship status with the California Board of Behavioral Science (BBS).

 

Hildy Fentin named President of Southern California Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Falcon Valley Group
619-997-2495 / gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

(SAN DIEGO) – Family law attorney and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mediator and collaborator Hildy Fentin has been named President of the Southern California chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers for the 2014-2015 term. Fentin is the first attorney named to this leadership role whose practice is limited to Alternative Dispute Resolution. Fentin is Immediate Past President of CFLGSD and a valued member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego.

Hildy Fentin, Collaborative Family Law Group of San DiegoThe AAML, founded in 1962, is recognized as the most prestigious national family law organization in the U.S. with more than 1,600 Fellows in the United States. Academy Fellows are highly skilled negotiators and litigators who represent individuals in all facets of family law. To be represented by an AAML Fellow is to be represented by a leading practitioner in the field of family law.

Fentin has extensive experience in various alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation, Collaborative Divorce, and settlement conference judging. She is often brought into cases to facilitate settlement because of her history of success in finding creative solutions.

“This honor is meaningful to me because it represents a significant shift in thinking about how best to resolve family law disputes,” said Fentin. “It was not so long ago that the only accepted approach to divorce was the traditional litigation model. Now divorcing couples have the option to engage in a consensus-oriented, collaborative approach which is a more dignified and respectful process for everyone involved. It reduces emotional stress and keeps decision making in the hands of the parties, rather than handing their future over to the courts.”

The mission of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego 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. That is why Fentin has devoted significant time and effort to the growth and development of CFLGSD.

“My goal in any legal matter is to educate and help guide parties to a fair resolution and avoid stressful, lengthy and expensive litigation,” said Fentin. “My reward is when they reach a comprehensive settlement in a peaceful and respectful manner.”

Fentin is a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California; Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers; and immediate Past President of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego. Fentin is a recipient of the Judge Norbert Ehrenfreud Family Law Award (“Norby Award”) for dedicated and meritorious service to the Family Law Bench and Bar, awarded by Family Law Judicial Officers. She has extensive training and experience in negotiation, collaboration and mediation.

“My appointment to this AAML leadership role recognizes the significant impact of Alternative Dispute Resolution and its growing acceptance in the legal community.”

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.

CFLG is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com, and LinkedIn.

 

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.