Yes, my client saved $17,000 because, for 45 minutes, I met with his spouse and then my client in the empty jury room less than an hour before they were scheduled to walk into the courtroom to ask a judge to decide the outcome of their divorce. I had an active hand in getting this couple to an out-of-court settlement. The stories of divorce cases settling at the last minute on the courthouse steps are common. Even so, I have to admit that it feels good to be so useful.
What did I do? I used everyday plain words to explain the financial situation to both spouses. I pointed out the financial impact of some of the unresolved property items. I demonstrated what the true division would be once those items were more accurately factored into the equation. I brought some reality into a situation that is steeped with emotions and pain.
But don’t the attorneys do that? Not as well as a CPA can do it. Attorneys are really good with the law. Family law attorneys know something about everything. But as a CPA and PFS (Personal Financial Specialist), I have honed my skills to explain complex financial concepts in plain words. I can do that faster, easier, clearer and cheaper than can attorneys.
Would collaborative law been a good choice for these people? I usually put in a pitch for collaborative law as the better alternative for divorces. But in this situation, I don’t think collaborative law would have been an option. These two people separated years ago and now live thousands of miles apart. Collaborative law works when the couple can meet face to face throughout the process. To learn about the benefits of collaborative law, read my bog entry of March 20, 2010.
Don’t I have to subtract my fee from that $17,000? No. I already did that math. He saved $17,000 after paying me.
By avoiding the trial, they both have more money in their wallets than if they had not come to this agreement in the empty jury room. They didn’t have to pay their attorneys for the trial. They didn’t have to pay me to testify. And they didn’t have to roll the dice and gamble on the outcome of the trial.
Everyone has heard stories about nasty divorces. Ex-spouses remember the nasty things their ex said about them in court. Far too much money is lost in the adversarial process. People recount their experiences with a shudder.
The collaborative process takes the nightmare out of divorce. Spouses learn to communicate with each other instead of becoming bitter enemies. They can get through birthdays, holidays, graduations, weddings and the joy of grandchildren without the rancor of a bitter divorce to haunt them.
The benefits of a collaborative divorce …
Spouses learn how to work together and communicate during and after the divorce. This benefits themselves and their children.
Spouses and children will have reduced anxiety because the hostility of an adversarial divorce is missing.
Your divorce will probably cost less when it is a collaborative divorce. Just the use of one neutral financial professional will save you money because in an adversarial divorce, you and your spouse will each hire your own experts.
Your collaborative divorce process can be much quicker than an adversarial method. You will progress at the speed you desire, not at the mercy of the court’s calendar and deadlines. This results in saving time and money.
Since everyone is working together toward a mutually acceptable settlement, you and your attorneys are in control of the divorce process. The lawyers support each other while advocating for their clients.
Without court hearings and pleadings, you get to keep your privacy. Collaborative divorce is a confidential process.
The Texas Bar Collaborative Law Course in March 2010 included a valuable presentation titled “Getting Your Case from Zero to 60″. Authors and presenters include Todd Amacher, Jeff Doman, Curtis Harrison, and Vicki James.
Here are some salient points from that presentation that help readers get an idea of what factors affect the speed of a divorce.
Couples who communicate well have an easier time getting through a quick divorce. The inability to communicate slows down progress and decisions. This is important for both the financial decisions and for the decisions about the children.
When there is an imbalance of knowledge about the finances or business, the divorce process takes longer. The financial neutral needs to spend time with one spouse to bring them up to speed.
When one or both spouses have a liberal definition to honesty, the process cannot go at a high rate of speed. The collaborative process stands on the principles of transparency and honesty. The collaborative team will adhere to these principles even if one spouse is trying to play Hide the Ball.
If the financial property is complex and involves items that are not readily valued, the case can take longer than hoped. Examples include family limited partnerships and offshore trusts.
Another factor in how fast a case can go will be the professionals themselves. In my experience, a team that has worked well together before is more likely to be able to move the case to resolution quicker.