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.

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.

San Diego Osteopathic Physicians Learn About Collaborative Divorce

Cinda Jones (left) and Myra Fleischer address the San Diego Osteopathic Medical Association about Collaborative Divorce as an alternative to traditional litigated divorce.
Cinda Jones (left) and Myra Fleischer address the San Diego Osteopathic Medical Association about Collaborative Divorce as an alternative to traditional litigated divorce.

Cinda Jones (left) and Myra Fleischer address the San Diego Osteopathic Medical Association about Collaborative Divorce as an alternative to traditional litigated divorce.

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego incoming 2016 president, attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, CFL-S, and board member Cinda Jones, CFP, CDFA, joined members of the San Diego Osteopathic Medical Association spoke at the group’s November meeting for a presentation on Collaborative Practice as an alternative to traditional litigated divorce.

The presentation provided an overview of the process, introduced the members of the divorce team and how they work together with the couple, and the advantages of Collaborative Divorce as a more holistic approach, including privacy protection and the emotional well-being of the family.

The Collaborative Family Law Group thanks all of the members who attended for their time, attention, and questions about the Collaborative Divorce process.

If you would like a presentation to your business, service, or social organization about Collaborative Divorce, please contact Gayle Falkenthal at gayle@falconvalleygroup.com or call 619-997-2495 to schedule. We look forward to speaking with you.

What If We Get Stuck Mid-Divorce?

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

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).

Realistic Expectations in Divorce: Do Leopards Ever Really Change Their Spots?

leopards-don-t-change-their-spots_things-wish-id-always-known-menby Shawn D. Skillin, Esq.
Collaborative Attorney and Mediator

As a mediator, I met with a Mediation couple today. I like both of them very much. We
are the same ages, have similar interests and if I wasn’t their divorce mediator, I could be friends with each of them. But what struck me again today, was how divorcing spouses treat each other and annoy each other, and yet at the same time they find this surprising and frustrating.
Shawn Skillin

You are getting divorced. There are multiple reasons why you are getting divorced. Many of them boil down to that fact that you each have a different perspective on various issues. One of you likes the house neat and tidy, the other leaves dirty socks and wet towels on the floor. One of you is fussy about the budget, the other just wants to know if the ATM card works. You each have a different set of expectations for the children and approach discipline in different ways. You both have frustrations, disappointments and hurt feelings. You have argued over these issues many times, you can recite each others point of view word for word. You have stopped even pretending to listen.

Yet when one of you decides to file for divorce there is often an expectation that somehow this will change. The other person will now see your point, change their perspective, after all you must have gotten their full and undivided attention now! Right? Mmmm … not so fast.

In divorce, your individual perspectives don’t magically change. You still see things differently from each other. These differences continue to annoy and frustrate you. Yet, both parties often continue to treat each other in the same way and expect a different outcome. These communication styles didn’t work during the marriage, they aren’t going to work during the divorce. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

This is why I love Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. In Mediation, the Mediator is a neutral third party who helps interpret and re-frame what is being said. The Mediator can put a different spin on the issue, help you both see it in a different way, or at least point out that this isn’t unusual that you each see it differently. The fact that you do, doesn’t make either of you right or wrong, good or bad, just different.

In Collaborative Divorce, there is a Coach, or two, and two attorneys who help each party take a step back and take a fresh look at old issues. Perhaps, even learn a new way of presenting information and proposals to each other. They help you see what you do have in common and how, even with your differences, you can resolve issues, co-parent and work together.

Both Mediation and Collaborative Divorce keep you focused on the present and the future; the past can’t be changed.   How you got here is not nearly as important as where you choose to go now and in the future. In the best Mediated and Collaborative Divorces the parties learn new communication tools that can help them resolve their issues and move forward with hope.

Understanding the Chemistry Of A Divorce

Relationship chemistry is sometimes described as a "spark." There is a chemistry present in a divorce as well.
Relationship chemistry is sometimes described as a "spark." There is a chemistry present in a divorce as well.

Relationship chemistry is sometimes described as a “spark.” There is a chemistry present in a divorce as well.

People often express the need to find “chemistry” in their relationships, the connection, bond, or feeling of commonality between two people. Without positive chemistry, any potential for a relationship is stopped cold.

But even an intense attraction which leads to a marriage can often fade or become lost over time, leading to the decision to divorce. What role does chemistry play at the opposite end of a relationship’s life span?

Michele Sacks LowensteinCertified Family Law Specialist Michele Sacks Lowenstein, member of theCollaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, discussed the role of chemistry in a divorce in a recent interview for the Huffington Post. Lowenstein says attorneys need to understand the role of chemistry when working with their clients.

Lowenstein urges attorneys to problem solve with their clients before going to court. In a Collaborative Divorce, family law attorneys work with divorce coaches and financial specialists to help couples reach a solution for their family in a respectful, fair way withe a problem solving approach rather than an adversarial approach.

Contact the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego by calling (858) 472-4022 to help you problem solve and achieve a healthy, respectful 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.

 

 

Del Mar Times: Solana Beach lawyer named president for statewide group

Del Mar Times collaborative divorce Shawn Weber

Del Mar Times collaborative divorce Shawn Weber

Attorney Shawn Weber, a former president and active member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, received coverage in the Del Mar Times/Solana Beach Sun as he assumes the presidency of Collaborative Practice California, the statewide association for Collaborative Practice.

Shawn is one of several members who plays a significant professional leadership role in his or her field. Learn more about Shawn and his work in the article or see below.

Del Mar Times collaborative divorce Shawn Weber

 

Keeping The Costs Of Divorce Down Is Up To You

by Myra Chack Fleischer
Lead Counsel, Fleischer & Ravreby

There is an old joke about divorce.

Why is divorce so expensive? Because it’s worth it. Plunging into Bankruptcy - Financial Speedometer

Humor is rooted in the truth. The truth is that sometimes getting divorced can cost a lot of money. The legal fees can seem out of proportion after it’s all over and the parties involved tally up what they’ve “won” in the form of spousal or child support or property like a home.

But here is another important truth. The cost of a divorce is largely up to you. Your actions determine whether legal fees keep adding up, or whether they can be managed in a reasonable way and minimized.

These are the recommendations I provide to my own clients when they express the need to control their spending on their divorce.

1. Just the facts

Your family law attorney needs to gather all the facts of your case. He or she needs specific information to prepare certain documents and begin the divorce process. The more efficiently and accurately you can provide the necessary information to your attorney, the easier it is for your attorney to get up to speed and prepare documents. Easier equals quicker, and quicker means less expensive if you are paying by the hour.

Don’t think because you “hide” something it will go away. The truth always comes out. Your attorney prefers to avoid surprises.

2. Honesty is the best policy

As part of the divorce process, each side collects as much detailed information about the other side’s circumstances as possible. Written questions are drafted (called interrogatories), and requests for documents and records are made. Depositions are often used, where witnesses are put under oath and asked more extensive questions with all answers on the record. There is no reason not to be forthcoming with your attorney about the good, the bad, and the ugly. The longer it takes to put the story together, the more it costs.

3. Be prepared

If you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse cannot settle your disagreements outside of the courts on your own, with or without help from professionals, you will end up in a trial. This is when divorce gets expensive. Try to avoid this if possible. Consider Collaborative Divorce or mediation as a more efficient, cost-effective way to work things out.

If you are heading to court, a lot of preparation is required. There are simply no shortcuts. There are endless details that must be gathered and verified. Your attorney must be diligent on your behalf and determine how best to use the facts to best persuade a judge to make a decision protecting your interests.

It takes time to prepare the parties and witnesses for a courtroom appearance. This is a new and intimidating experience for most people. They need to understand what will happen when they provide testimony, especially when they are cross-examined and challenged by the other party’s attorney.

4. Watch the clock in court

Assuming you don’t decide on a resolution along the way, you will find yourself in a courtroom where a third party – the judge – will make decisions for you since you cannot. A family law judge will listen to all of the testimony, read all of the written documents, and consider the total sum of all evidence presented by both sides. The judge will then render a decision on all of the issues on which you and your ex-spouse disagree.

Trials can last a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks. Complex cases can last months. Juggling the schedules of everyone involved can make it challenging to get everyone in the courtroom at the same time. Factor in work and family conflicts, sick days and vacations for more delays. If there are lengthy delays, more time is added to get back up to speed.

5. Family court cutbacks

Many family law courts across the country have experienced funding cutbacks from their state governments. The result is often a shortage of courtroom space or a shortage of personnel available for the amount of cases waiting for a trial. It not only takes longer for you to get divorced, it takes even more time invested by your attorney and other professionals involved to stay up to speed. None of this helps the bottom line.

Have you picked up on a common theme? Time is money where a divorce case is concerned.

You can help save costs by working through the process with your attorney as swiftly and openly as possible. Make decisions in a timely manner; get expert help from a licensed financial professional specializing in divorce, and mental health professional if necessary.

For many reasons including cost, consider a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that keeps you out of the courtroom, but still allows both sides to work through disagreements. A Collaborative Divorce can present an ideal way to advocate for your interests without the enormous investment of time and money necessary for a litigated divorce.

Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Follow Myra on Facebook and on Twitter.