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How to Win in Divorce

In a recent post, I addressed the notion of “winning” at divorce. There are many lawyers who claim they can do just that, and they will be happy to take your hard-earned money while they fight your war for you. The reality is, in the vast majority of cases, you’ll wind up no better off than if you’d negotiated to begin with while funding your lawyer’s kids’ college education instead of your own. 

Winning might instead be viewed as getting through this divorce transition with integrity, keeping more of your own money, and maintaining your and your children’s emotional health throughout. Ideally, you’ll do this without ever stepping foot into a courthouse or even speaking to an attorney. 

So, how do you get better outcomes, at a lower cost and without judges, courts, or even lawyers? If you have minor children and marital assets, don’t attempt a do-it-yourself divorce unless you want to risk costly mistakes that cannot later be reversed. If you want an easy, affordable, and legal solution, seek a qualified divorce mediator. 

You will want to find a mediator who has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you and your spouse to a financially optimized settlement agreement and, if applicable, with a parenting plan that preserves the integrity of your family. A mediator with the divorce financial expertise of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) is ideal. 

How, though, to address the legal piece of your divorce? You will find that legal agreements and divorce papers are straightforward in a mediated case. These can be easily facilitated by your mediator so that you never even have to work directly with an attorney to process your divorce. (It’s never a bad idea, though, to have an attorney review your agreements before they are finalized, and this can be done at a minimal cost.)

Rationally approaching your divorce, along with a dose of grace, can result in a lower-cost and faster process while addressing your financial needs and preserving your family’s emotional well-being. Now, wouldn’t you agree this would be a “win” at divorce?

What it Means to “Win” at Divorce

Are you thinking about a divorce and wondering how you can achieve a lopsided division of assets and alimony, so you don’t have to work? And maybe sole custody of the children, too? If so, you wouldn’t be alone.

You’ll easily find a divorce attorney who will fight your war with you for years. And you’ll only end up where you would have if you’d negotiated to begin with. And guess what—you’ve funded your lawyer’s kids’ college accounts rather than your own. Is this a “win” at divorce?

Perhaps you should instead consider getting through this overwhelmingly difficult transition with dignity while keeping a lot more of your own money and maintaining your and your children’s emotional health throughout. In most instances, you can do that without ever stepping foot into a courthouse or even speaking to an attorney. 

The fact is that ninety percent of divorces don’t belong in the court system. When you involve the court, you give up total control around life-altering decisions regarding your assets, your income, and the custody of your children. Whether within or outside of court, if you involve an attorney for both you and your spouse—the traditional model—it will result in legal expenses that you can’t possibly fathom when you’re 1) just getting started and 2) convinced the “system” will see your side of what’s just. Attorney-driven divorce processes will not provide you with practical guidance and needed emotional support nor correctly value all your assets and considers both the short and long-term impact on each spouse’s financial health.

I set out years ago to find a better way to divorce, creating and refining a process to deliver just that. At TruNorth Divorce, we provide a legally-sound, one-stop solution for divorcing couples who want a financially optimized settlement that helps both spouses achieve their long-term goals. When children are involved, we also provide effective and durable parenting plans. Yes, there is indeed a better way that will be less expensive, faster, less stressful, minimize the negative impact on your children, and launch you towards a new and promising future.

Want to know more? Read How to Win in Divorce.

How to Choose a Divorce Process?

The complexities of a divorce case depend on a variety of factors, including how long you were married, the residency requirement laws in your state, whether you have children together, own a home together, have significant differences in your income, are self-employed, unemployed, or have debt or joint assets.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! Don’t worry, TruNorth Divorce is here to help you decode divorce. Your first major decision in divorce is choosing the right divorce process and team of professionals for your divorce. In our previous post we outlined six alternative processes:

  • DIY
  • Mediation
  • Negotiated representation
  • Litigation
  • Arbitration
  • Collaborative divorce

This article addresses the criteria/questions you need to ask in order to choose one of these processes.

What are the Decision Criteria for Choosing a Divorce Process?

  • Presence or history of physical or significant emotional abuse.
    • If this is an issue, hire an attorney. 
  • The complexity of marital assets; do you share property, retirement accounts, or other financial assets together? 
    • If you share assets, rule out a DIY divorce. The mistakes you are likely to make will cost you far more than the expense associated with professional assistance. Settlement agreements are a one-shot deal and can’t be revisited after the divorce.
  • Presence of minor children; the process of divorce can be more complex when separating with children. 
    • Here again, a DIY divorce should be off the table. Unless you are in full agreement on parenting time, responsibility for important decisions affecting your children, expenses, relocation, etc., you need help developing a comprehensive parenting plan. This can be accomplished in mediation or an attorney-lead process.
  • Whether one spouse will actively or passively resist or stall the divorce beyond an acceptable waiting period.
    • You’ll need an attorney to establish a firm date of separation or get the divorce process started. Don’t, though, get sucked into litigating your divorce in court. Ask the attorneys you’re considering what percentage of their cases are settled out of court. If attorneys are required, negotiated representation is going to be less expensive than litigation. Also, you may still be able to mediate specific issues around custody, support, and division of marital assets and limit the attorney’s role to handling the legal process and those issues you aren’t going to be able to compromise on.
  • Do you already know your spouse and you will not agree to a settlement of financial issues and/or custody? 
    • Being amicable with your spouse is not necessarily a requirement for mediation but negotiation is. It takes two to negotiate a settlement, and the ability and willingness to do so is the number one requirement for whether mediation can be successful. If you or your spouse will resist the divorce or have demands that can’t be met in compromise, you’ll need the assistance of an attorney. 
  • Amount of money and time you’re willing to spend on the divorce; Know your full financial picture before you begin, as the cost of divorce, as well as scheduling time off work for meetings, can far exceed your original expectations.
    • Attorney-lead processes and, especially litigation, can get expensive fast. How much is it worth to you to avoid a contentious battle that may cost tens of thousands or more? Is what you aren’t willing to compromise on worth the extra attorney fees and emotional cost?
  • Your court’s backlog of cases; due to the pandemic your local court may be bogged down by cases and take much longer than typical divorce litigations.
    • Even if you think your case might need to be litigated, you may want to consider arbitration and avoid the cost, time, and lack of confidentiality issues that come with a court-driven process.
  • Your need for privacy: do you want to keep the details of your divorce and finances away from public access? 
    • If you want privacy, you need to keep your divorce outside of the court process, i.e., don’t litigate
  • The intensity of and ability to manage anger or grief; divorce causes varying emotional states to arise that range from anger to lowered self-esteem, to resentment and depression. How able are you to handle a contentious process–are you prepared to handle the toll of stress that arises from confrontation with your former spouse? 
    • Consider your emotional health and the impact it might have on your well-being, job, parenting, and more. It is another cost that needs to be factored into your decision on the divorce process. Attorney-lead processes are almost always contentious. You might consider a collaborative divorce (not necessarily Collaborative Law), that provides the assistance of mental health or other professionals on the team
  • Ability to express your needs to one another and be heard; this is a key skill in making the divorce cost as little time and money as possible. 
    • Being able to negotiate and compromise requires good communication skills. A good mediator can assist you with this but if it’s a “my way or the highway” situation, seek an attorney.

I hope that decrypts some of the confusion over what you should consider as you decide which divorce process works best for you. If you’re looking for more divorce guidance, please click over to my free eBook, 7 Things to Do Before You Divorce. Otherwise, schedule your TruNorth Divorce complimentary strategy session today.

Should I Use Divorce Mediation in Maryland?

Once you’ve made the decision to go ahead and move forward with a divorce, the next step is deciding how you want to pursue a divorce settlement agreement. One of the questions that you might ask yourself is whether divorce mediation is the right choice for you here in Maryland.

If you’re getting a divorce in the state of Maryland, the first step is to explore the options that are available to you locally. Did you know that most modern divorces don’t go to court? It’s true. Unless there are issues present that are complicating your divorce and barring you from reaching any kind of reasonable mutual agreement, you probably won’t be needing to hire a family law lawyer to handle your divorce proceedings.

1. Why divorce mediation is a great alternative to hiring a lawyer

If you’re seeking divorce mediation in Montgomery County, you might know that it’s a great alternative to hiring a divorce attorney to handle the proceedings. Why? For starters, divorce isn’t cheap. While the rates charged by divorce mediators and family law lawyers vary by location and different professionals bring with them a different level of expertise, divorce mediation is generally more affordable. Divorce mediators in the US charge anywhere between $100 and $1000 an hour, and the average cost of mediation varies between $3,500 to $7,500 (this is dependent on the nature of mediation services and on how long it takes to reach an agreement). 

2. Mediators are out-of-court settlement negotiation experts

Another reason that many divorcing couples choose to work with divorce mediators over hiring attorneys is that it’s not always necessary for a divorce to go to court. Court is costly in terms of dollars and time spent for all parties involved—you, your soon-to-be-ex, your lawyer, court officials, etc. The fact of the matter is that unless your divorce is hopelessly contested, you will be settling it outside of the courtroom.

The court plays a very small role in uncontested divorces in terms of filing paperwork and submitting fees. Your divorce settlement agreement won’t be legally presided over by a judge but will be recognized and upheld by the court as legally binding. Professional mediators have the expertise and know-how to handle the ins-and-outs of out of court settlements with the same ease that a divorce lawyer can. Both specialize in handling divorce negotiations. Lawyers only provide an edge when the court is involved because they know the court system and can better navigate contested divorces.

3. How to go about choosing a divorce mediator

If you choose to seek out the services of a local mediator, it’s important to do your homework. Ask questions about their mediation process and about the professional expertise that they bring to the table. This will not only help you gauge expectations when it comes to the mediation process, it will provide you with a clear picture of the services you’re paying for.

Looking to explore your options for divorce mediation in the Towson, Maryland area? TruNorth Divorce Solutions can provide divorce mediation packages tailored to fit your needs. Visit our Maryland office or schedule a free strategy session to learn more.

Choosing a Divorce Process: What Are the Available Options?

The complexities of a divorce process depend on a variety of factors, including how long you were married, the residency requirement laws in your state, whether you have children together, own a home together, have significant differences in your income, are self-employed, unemployed, or have debt or joint assets.

If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is! Don’t worry, TruNorth Divorce is here to help you decode divorce. Your first course of action is to understand the different types of divorce processes and then know the right questions to ask as you debate what works best for you and your unique circumstances. In this piece, we go over available options and we’ll address which questions in our next post.

 

What are My Options for Divorce?

 

1. DIY Divorce

Most states provide access to free divorce forms online that you can download and fill out on your own. Generally speaking, though, it’s not a good idea unless you have no assets or children. Mistakes can cost thousands of dollars and you only get one chance to do it right. While it may seem like the most simple divorce process, it can end up being the most costly

 

2. Mediation

Mediation includes the use of a mediator, a neutral third party that does not “pick sides” but rather helps both spouses reach a mutually beneficial agreement without the case going to court. You and your spouse ultimately make the decisions but a good mediator isn’t so much a neutral as she is a “dual advocate.” In this role, she will help both spouses identify an optimal financial settlement and make choices that are most beneficial for you both. Other than DIY divorce, mediation is likely to be the least expensive, fastest, and least stressful of the options. It can be the most streamlined process of all.

 

3. Litigation

Often thought of as the de facto divorce process, litigating a divorce involves both parties having attorneys and involving the court to make decisions regarding support, division of assets, and custody. Litigation should only, though, be considered a last resort, as it’s lengthy and expensive, stressful, divisive, and you’re giving up control of the process and outcome. Sometimes, though, it’s unavoidable.

 

4. Negotiated Representation

An option where both parties are represented by their own lawyers who negotiate an agreement between them and minimize court involvement.. Compared to litigation, a negotiated settlement tends to be less expensive, shorter in duration, and is more confidential than a court-led process, protecting you and your family from public scrutiny.

 

5. Arbitration

This out of court process entails the resolution of a dispute through an award of damages to a party, decided upon by a neutral third party called an arbitrator. Decisions are binding, enforceable by law, and have very narrow grounds for appeal. The advantage, relative to litigation, is that you stay out of court  and maintain privacy.

 

6. Collaborative Law Process

Collaborative Law is a branded form of a team-supported divorce. Each spouse must be represented by their own attorney and the team includes a financial neutral and mental health professional. While team-supported divorce can be very beneficial, the Collaborative Law process is rigid and dictates that if it fails to produce an agreement on all aspects of the divorce, the couple must start anew with different attorneys.

 

Which Divorce Process is for me?

I hope that decrypts some of the complexities of navigating which divorce process is right for you. Our next post addresses the questions you need to consider as you decide. If you’re looking for more divorce guidance, please click over to my free ebook, 7 Things to Do Before You Divorce. Otherwise, message me on our TruNorth Divorce  Facebook page.