What If We Get Stuck Mid-Divorce?

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by Robin A. DeVito, Attorney at Law, Certified Family Law Specialist

One of the most frequently asked questions by clients considering using the Collaborative process for their divorce is this: What if we get stuck? What if there are issues that simply cannot be resolved during the Collaborative process? Does court then become our only option?

The Collaborative Divorce Process can help couples work through problems in a productive way toward a resolution.

The Collaborative Divorce Process can help couples work through problems in a productive way toward a resolution, even when there are difficult sticking points.

I recently concluded a case in which every issue was complicated. It was a high income, high asset case. We were able to successfully resolve all of the issues with the exception of the amount and duration of spousal support. Each party was set in his or her own opinion, and we were unable to reach an accord.

Our solution was to sign a separate mediation collaborative agreement. The agreement allowed the couple and the Collaborative team to bring in a neutral mediator to work with us. Both attorneys representing each spouse prepared briefs setting forth the position of their client. The full team participated in the mediation process. The financial expert was able to provide answers regarding the complicated financial situation surrounding the income and needs of the spouses. The coach was available to keep the mediation calm and focused on the issue before the mediator. This method of resolution enabled the parties to retain their team and all of the work generated by that team.

This hybrid method of resolution is an alternative to abandoning the Collaborative process. It builds upon the work process up to this point, and moves forward in a positive manner. As long as both spouses are willing to continue working on their issues, it is far preferable to take whatever time necessary and bring in people who can offer help and support, rather than giving up and taking a risk by letting a third party determine your future for you. Frequently the result is that no one ends up happy. They can even feel damaged in the process.

The mediation itself was conducted by the Honorable Thomas Murphy, a retired judge working with JAMS (formerly Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services).

Nine Tips for Deciding Fair Spousal Support

by Robin DeVito, Attorney at Law

One of the more difficult issues facing people getting divorced is the issue of spousal support. For both parties, questions generally focus on how much support will be, and how long is it paid.

There are three types of spousal support orders.

The first: Money is paid for spousal support for a period of time.

The second: Money is not being paid for support, but the recipient spouse may go into court to ask for support. This is commonly called the court reserve jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support.

Spousal support decisions during a divorceThe third: The right to ask for spousal support is terminated forever. This means that the spouse may never ask the court to order spousal support.

Through my experience as a family law attorney, I have created a list of nine tips that will help you navigate this tricky area of your divorce.

For the party requesting spousal support:

  1. Be realistic when listing your needs. Your needs are your monthly expenses. A financial specialist can assist in preparing a realistic list of expenses.
  2. Determine if there is anything you can do to increase your income instead of relying on help from support payments.
  3. Put together a plan for school or training to increase your income.
  4. Be realistic about the changes that will occur with both your household and that of your spouse.
  5. Remember that spousal support is not a number generated by a computer. While we have “rules of thumb” for the length of time support may be paid, there are a number of factors that come into play under the law to assist in the calculation of spousal support.

For the party being asked to pay spousal support:

  1. Be realistic as to the time it will take your spouse to become self-sufficient.
  2. Remember that forcing a spouse into a low paying job is counter-productive.

For both parties:

  1. Each party must fully disclose their income from all sources. A financial specialist can assist in the identification of income.
  2. The goal of each party should be self-sufficiency within a reasonable period of time. If it means paying more up front to allow the party requesting support to complete training or education to increase his or her long-term income opportunities, think about it. It makes sense.

Couples who pursue a Collaborative Divorce work with a financial specialist as part of their divorce team. If you need to work through spousal support issues, you may want to consider the Collaborative Process for your divorce.

Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego to find out whether a Collaborative Divorce is right for you.