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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.