Choosing a Divorce Process: What Are the Available Options?

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 joined assets together.

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 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 assets or children. Mistakes can cost thousands of dollars and you only get one chance to do it right. 

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.

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. 

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.

5 Steps to Championing Your Divorce

Divorce is Not for Sissies” is about the realities of divorce and how it too often leads to painful and long-term emotional, financial, social, and parenting consequences. Unless you’re made of steel, pain in divorce is unavoidable. Long-term trauma can be mitigated if you assume the position of a winner or champion in your divorce. There is, of course, no true winning in divorce but there is surviving, mitigating damage, and putting you and your family on track for a better future.

Whichever end you’re on—initiator or responder—you need to decide that divorce will not define you. At the same time, it’s going to be a dominant force in your life for a bit. That bit of time may be short or quite long depending on your circumstances and how you manage the process.

So, what are the essential steps?

  1. Acknowledge that you can’t do it alone. Build your support team. Initially, it might be your best friend and sister or mother. But don’t stop there! Your best friend can’t fix this for you—they don’t have the skills or knowledge.
  2. Build your divorce team. You need emotional, psychological, financial, and “legal” help. A divorce coach, therapist, divorce financial planner, parenting coach, mediator, real estate and mortgage professional who specializes in divorce and maybe a lawyer 
  3. Stop burdening your family, friends, and children. Especially your kids, whether young or adult, don’t want to shoulder your divorce! If they are young or teens, you can create long-term damage for them. Your family and friends will be there for you, ask questions, call to check in, but they can not fix this for you and trashing your soon-to-be-ex is going to grow very old very fast.
  4. Get organized. Gather your financial statements, tax returns, trust documents, will, insurance policies, business documents and financial reports. Put them in a safe place (electronically or physically).
  5. Develop a plan. Do NOT pick up the phone and call a lawyer! You are setting yourself up for an unnecessarily miserable and expensive divorce. Call a divorce coach, a divorce financial analyst, a mediator. Make a plan to champion your divorce. It does not start with an attorney, even if eventually you need the services of a lawyer to deal with a contentious divorce.

You got this. It’s going to be hard but you can do it and you’ll be glad you took charge.

Divorce: How to Keep Your Money

As soon as you begin to contemplate divorce, the nauseating, panic-attack-inducing realization of losing half of your net worth kicks in. You find yourself wondering if it’s even worth it to consider leaving if you’re just going to end up broke and starving.

There are ways to ensure that your financial future is not destined for disaster. First and foremost, be sure you involve a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) or CDFA®-Mediator so that you will be fully informed of all the creative settlement possibilities that may be open to you. They are your best bet when you want to keep your money safe.

A couple married 24 years were referred together to a colleague for assistance with their divorce. They had gone to an attorney together and were completely amicable. The attorney made it clear that he could only do their document preparation since he was ethically bound to represent only one party. That was ok, but they asked how they would determine their property division. He responded,

“This is a community property state so we’ll just divide each asset and each debt exactly 50/50.”

The couple just didn’t feel like that was the smart thing to do. They were referred to the CDFA® to explore options.

After gathering all of their financial documents and completing the analysis, the CDFA® put together two reports for the clients. The first reflected an exact 50/50 split as the attorney had suggested. The second was a creative settlement solution that also resulted in a net 50/50 split but took into consideration tax planning and consequences as well as the needs of each party as they planned for the next phase of their lives.

This couple had less than $800k in total net worth and the creative settlement solution resulted in an additional $20,000 EACH to their bottom line just because some financial intelligence was used to determine their settlement. That’s real money! That’s how you keep your money! Needless to say, the couple was thrilled knowing that they saved $40,000!

Don’t go into this blind. There are so many ways to ensure that both of you get to keep more of your own money. Get the right experts on your team. We’d love to help you! Call us today.

Parenting Best Practices in Divorce

Parenting and co-parenting in divorce requires some special attention. None of us wants to bring harm to our own children but there are times when the best decision for everyone in the family is a divorce. While divorce presents its own set of issues to be worked through, it can also give each parent the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with their children and teach them about how to deal effectively with life’s difficult times.

Overall, parenting isn’t easy and this holds as true for married couples as it does for divorced ones. Divorce does, though, bring a new set of challenges. TruNorth Divorce has written before on parenting through divorce. In this piece we want to provide a short list of best practices to help divorcing and newly divorced couples navigate the unique issues that parenting as you transition from a single household to two separate ones.

1. Talk to Your Child(ren) About Your Decision to Divorce

Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own emotions that it’s hard to step outside of them and take the time to check in with our children. Talking to your kids about your decision to divorce can create a safe space in which you can help them better understand your choice, and it can provide them with a platform to express difficult emotions.

Divorce impacts the entire household, and it’s not an easy topic to broach when emotions are still raw. Opening a dialog with your children about your divorce in a neutral and calm way and allowing them to ask tough questions and to express their fears will help your children better accept your decision to divorce and work through their feeling about it in a healthy way.

2. Create a Coparenting Plan

How you decide to move forward with parenting after divorce can have a profound impact on family dynamics and your children. To a significant degree, consistency and harmony between their parents is key to children’s mental well-being in the future.

CustodyXChange.com helps parents build sound parenting plans. Per the experts behind CustodyXChange.com, here are some of the reasons why negotiating a parenting plan can benefit your children:

It allows you and the other parent to state your goals for your children

  • It sets up communication habits between you and the other parent
  • It states the legal consequences if one of you don’t keep to the plan
  • It results in a clear visitation schedule you can both refer to
  • It lessens tension between parents and children because the basic daily decisions are already established
  • It forces you to get familiar with divorce and custody laws in your state
  • It often reduces your legal fees when you don’t have it created by a third party

3. Don’t Put Your Children in the Middle

Make a good faith effort to put any hurt feelings aside and shift your attention to what’s best for your children. Establishing some good ground rules can help minimize the impact of your emotions and will help you focus on fostering healthy communication and collaboration. 

Using children as messengers, sharing negative feelings, and venting or speaking negatively about your ex-partner drags them into the middle of things. Any conflict or issues between you and your ex are just that—between you and your ex. Children want a solid relationship with both parents. Keeping these emotions out things will help you turn your attention to your children’s happiness and wellbeing.

4. Keep Lines of Communication Open

Communication is a substantial ingredient in the recipe for successful parenting, and it’s arguably even more important for divorced parents living separately but parenting together. While you are both full-time parents, the time spent with your children is now divided. Operating in silos can leave your coparent in the dark and create conflict—reiterating how important it is for coparents to be on the same page. The only way to ensure that is through open communication.

Discuss issues that crop up with your former spouse and do so as they arise. Don’t just enumerate the problems, fill your co-parent in on the positives too. Communication between households is crucial to maintaining a united parenting front and making sure that both parents are aware of what’s going on in their children’s lives. One resource you may consider to assist with effective communication is Our Family Wizard, an online custody and co-parenting app

There is no greater common ground between two individuals than the well-being of their children and divorce doesn’t change that. Hopefully, these post-divorce parenting practices can help you negotiate the murky waters of post-divorce coparenting. For more resources on all things divorce, explore our blog.

 

 

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Three Critical Financial Steps in Getting Through Your Divorce

Divorce can make it really hard to think straight about what to do next when it comes to most things and especially financial planning. Believe me, I know. The intelligent, together person you are can turn into an emotional, brain-fogged, unorganized mess. You try really, really hard to keep it together but you know this will not go down as “the best of times.” You want to sit down and get it together and plan your future but feel paralyzed and surrounded by a pea-soup cloud of indecision. What’s a person to do to ensure they’re doing the right things to financially plan for your divorce?

Well first, let’s get real.

ADMIT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

When it comes to the finances, what’s your role? Do you handle the family’s finances and investments? Are you on top of your investment accounts, retirement plans, bank accounts, etc.? If you’re in the dark, you need someone to help you turn the lights on and fast!  Gather all your financial statements on your asset accounts and your most recent tax returns, then find a specialized divorce financial advisor to help you out and bring you up to speed.  A CDFA is specially trained in the financial aspects of divorce and will be your best friend in this process. If you and your spouse are able to cooperate, you can use a CDFA-Mediator who will educate you and your spouse on the realities of your financial health and what your future might look like under various settlement options.

START ENVISIONING YOUR FUTURE

Maybe you’ve already been fantasizing about your future life or perhaps this has all taken you by surprise. Regardless, it’s time to start really thinking about what the next phase of your life looks like. Unfortunately, this has to happen at the same time that you are grieving what you thought the next phase might look like. But if you allow yourself some space, it can actually be very productive. You now have the chance to start from scratch. What did you used to dream of doing that got lost while you were married? Is it time to go back to school? Maybe live on a sailboat for awhile or move closer to family? Whatever you dream of, you have to have your budget and financial picture top of mind. So the step above has to come first so your dreams don’t outsize your wallet! A financial advisor specializing in divorce would know how to set you up for future success.

BUILD A SINGLE IDENTITY

Often through marriage many of the credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc. are in the names of both spouses. All of those accounts will have to be closed or converted. After the marriage is over, your credit picture may not be nearly as strong, so you want to be sure to put some things in place while you’re still married. Immediately open a checking and savings account in your own name to begin the process of establishing your own financial identity. Get a credit report and start monitoring it. Track your expenses and create a budget for now and post-divorce. Find a good rewards credit card to apply for in your name alone so that you will be assured of having access to credit through the divorce and beyond.  

These steps seem small but are valuable first steps to get you thinking financially and looking out for your future. You can get through this with a little help from an experienced divorce financial advisor. Having the right professionals on your side will be of great benefit to you.

 

 

Get A free Consultation

484.321.6990

hello@trunorthdivorce.com