Date of Separation and the Collaborative Divorce Process

There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.
There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.

There are so many financial implications to divorce including the date of separation. It is best to work with expert divorce attorneys and financial professional on your side.

by Frann Setzer, Esq.
MBA/Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Office of Frann Setzer, APLC

In some dissolutions, the date that parties separate is a crucial issue. This is because by law, the marital ‘community’ ends on the day when parties separate. The end of the marital community means that income earned or possibly property purchased after that date might belong to only one person. The date that parties separate also determines the length of the marriage, which potentially affects the length of spousal support or whether or not spousal support can be terminated.

Attorney Frann Setzer

Family law attorney Frann Setzer

While each situation is different, the date of separation can be a very contentious issue in a divorce.

For example, let’s say that Ms. Smith is the primary wage earner for her family. She believes she and her husband separated in January 2015, when she packed most of her belongings and began to spend many nights at her friend’s house and on the sofa at her office. Ms. Smith did return to the marital home for dinner at least twice a month. The couple also decided not to tell very many people about their impending divorce. Mr. Smith works, but earns approximately 20% of Ms. Smith’s income. He believes that the parties separated in August 2015, when Ms. Smith finally rented an apartment.

In March 2015, Ms. Smith received approximately $500,000 in commissions from work that she did from January 2015 until March 2015. Since Ms. Smith believes the date of separation was January 2015, she also believes that the $500,000 is her separate property.

Conversely, given his belief that they separated in August 2015, Mr. Smith believes the $500,000 is community, making him entitled to $250,000. To complicate matters further, in March 2015, the parties would have been married for 10 years. Under California law, a marriage of 10 years or longer is considered ‘long term,’ which could greatly affect spousal support.

The facts of this particular situation are such that, a court could find for either party in terms of a date of separation. It could be January or August. One person ‘wins’ and one person ‘loses.’

Does this sound complicated? The above situation occurs more often than you might think. Many people do not wish to be a part of the adversarial world of litigation, where the outcome is all or nothing and where they risk making enemies of each other.

Enter the Collaborative Divorce process, where clients can meet with their attorneys, divorce coaches and their financial neutral and craft a solution to a very complicated situation that works for them. Their attorneys advise them of the law, their coaches get them to examine their true goals and the financial neutral can examine their needs. A global solution can be reached that takes into account property as well as support. Complexity is not the issue, the willingness of the parties to listen to each other and reach an equitable solution is the definitive factor.

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.

 

Ask These Five Questions to Find Out If You Are a Candidate for Collaborative Divorce

by Adryenn Cantor, CFLS, AAML 
Law Office of Adryenn Cantor, San Diego, California

If you see the completion of your marriage as transition, instead of failure, then you can consciously decide how to move forward in dissolving your marriage with grace and thoughtfulness.

Instead of seeing the process as dividing assets, dividing time with the children, and each of you having your “own” attorney, using conscious transition means you can work together with the support of a Collaborative Team.

You may have no choice that your marriage is ending, but you have many chooses on how that ending is accomplished.

The team approach used in the Collaborative process allows:

  1. Each party to be supported by their own attorney, who works individually with their client and cooperatively with the team to assist the couple in getting to a win-win result.
  2. Each party, should they so desire, can have guidance from a well-trained mental health professional to help them with the emotions of transitioning.
  3. Children can have a mental health professional to be their voice during the process.
  4. The parties can have the wisdom and expertise of one neutral expert to assist with the financial issues; thereby getting the information they need at half the cost.

So, if this New Year you find your marriage ending, perhaps the Collaborative approach is the way to make this important transition happen with the help of a conscious and caring team.

Some thoughts about whether you are a good candidate to use the Collaborative Team approach. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you want to end your marriage with respect and integrity?
  2. Is taking a rational and fair approach to dividing your assets more important than seeing yourself as a winner and your spouse as the loser in this process?
  3. Are your children the most important aspect in this process?
  4. Is saving money, which could go to you or your children more important than spending it on protracted litigation?
  5. Do you want to model for yourself, your spouse and your children how mature adults handle significant challenges?

If your answer is “yes” to two or more of these questions, you should definitely consider having a consultation with a collaboratively trained professional to see if the Collaborative Team process is for you.