As a collaborative divorce lawyer in New York, headlines announcing the Bezos divorce settlement gave me hope for the future of divorce – and the future of marriages in the US. 

Since the news first made headlines in January that Jeff Bezos and his with MacKenzie were divorcing after 25 years of marriage, the pundits have been obsessing about how this would affect Amazon. As the founder and CEO of Amazon, the most valuable company on Wall Street, and the world’s richest person, this is the ultimate high net worth, high public profile divorce.

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Baby Boomer divorce rates continue to be above the average with one in every four divorces occurring in this age group. When I first wrote about so-called “grey divorce” (also referred to as ‘gray divorce’) in 2012, the overall divorce rate was going down, while the rate of divorce for people born between 1946 and 1964 already had a divorce rate triple that of their parents.

In 2019, those statistics are holding true. Grey divorce is a divorce that occurs after the age of 50. While the divorce rate across all age groups holds steady, the number of 50+ aged grey divorces in the United States has recently dramatically increased and today 1 in 4 people are going through grey divorce.

Grey divorce expert Jocelyn Elise Crowley states,

When same-sex marriage became legal, same-sex divorce also became legal. Divorce among same-sex couples is lower than the average but that is mainly because LGBTQ couples in long-term relationships were the first to marry when same-sex marriage was legalized. As more marriages occur, the statistics on divorce in the LGBTQ community are expected to approach the numbers of divorce in the general population. And many of these couples will have children, which means they will need to make difficult child custody, child support and parenting decisions. That’s not different from most divorces. What is different is that the issues that arise when same-sex parents divorce can be much more complicated.

The US Supreme Court landmark decision on Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 ruled that there is a fundamental right to marry and required all 50 states and the District of Columbia to both license and recognize same-sex marriages under the 14th amendment. However, the courts are not equipped to deal with modern, complicated family relationships – and laws don’t reflect today’s family. When a married LGBTQ couple or unmarried same-sex partners share children, the parents need to be pro-active in protecting their parental rights and the rights of their children. Whether the couple stays married or separates, protecting the legal rights of both parents and the child should be their first priority.

  • Non-biological parents need legal authority to make healthcare decisions, even in an emergency situation.

Divorcing couples who have high-assets – a high net worth divorce – are exposed to considerable risk if they litigate their divorce. Divorce proceedings are part of the public record: that means observers, including the press, are allowed in the courtroom. While you can petition the court to have your divorce filed under the caption of “Anonymous v. Anonymous,” your identity isn’t protected when you actually have to show up in court.

Sadly, news headlines often broadcast the private pains and scandals of many celebrities, high net worth divorcing couples and public figures:

  • Rudy Giuliani and wife Judith Nathan ripped by judge for making divorce trial ‘unpleasant’: NY Daily News

We loiter in winter when it is already spring. 

– Henry David Thoreau

Navigating a divorce is not easy and I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise. But I will tell you that where you choose to place your focus can have a real impact on your well-being during this difficult time.

In our last blog post, we explained what each member of the collaborative divorce team does, However, because collaborative divorce is relatively new when compared to traditional, litigated divorce and mediation, there are some misconceptions and myths about how the process works and whether choosing a collaborative divorce is a smart decision.

Here are some common myths about collaborative divorce – and the real facts!

1. My legal interests aren’t protected unless I go to court. 

Many people who are familiar with traditional divorce may not understand when you say you are considering a collaborative divorce. One aspect of the process that sets it apart from others is the fact that it enlists a team of specialized professionals who can help you navigate the many decisions that need to be made as you end your marriage.

A collaborative divorce team of professionals may include:

  • Collaborative Divorce Lawyers:

On January 1, 2019, I became the new President of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals (NYACP). In this blog, I reflect back on my journey to becoming a collaborative attorney and look toward my goals as President of the leading organization of collaborative divorce professionals in the New York metropolitan area. 

The fact that I’m taking on this new role in 2019 means a lot to me. Exactly 10 years ago, my 2009 New Year’s resolution was that I would stop taking new litigated divorce cases and I would work, instead, with clients who were committed to resolving their family law matters outside of court. 

Ironically, when I was in law school I thought I wanted to be a litigator. I also knew that I wanted to work with people as opposed to corporations. My parents had a difficult marriage and divorced when I was in college, which led me to be fascinated by family dynamics. I naturally gravitated toward family law classes in law school. 

Recent headlines announced that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ 25-year marriage is ending. He and his wife are the wealthiest couple in the world with a net worth of approximately $137 billion, and reportedly never signed a prenup. It’s also reported that when pop star Justin Bieber married model Hailey Baldwin in New York City last fall, they decided to forgo a prenuptial agreement as well. He’s reportedly worth more than $265 million, while her net worth is several million dollars.

We understand Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos are planning to divorce in a non-adversarial and collaborative manner, which is great news for them personally, as well as their four children. If Justin and Hailey ever divorce, we certainly hope they take the same route.

High net worth individuals, not just celebrities, often have complicated assets to value and distribute in the event of their divorces, including, businesses, complicated deferred compensation packages, private investments, assets held in trust, artworks, and more. By entering into a prenuptial agreement before marriage, couples have a contractual opportunity to discuss their assets and finances before the wedding and determine what will happen in the case of death or divorce.

If you’re considering divorce, one of your many decisions will be what kind of divorce is best for you. There are three main types of divorce:

Collaboration

Collaborative divorce helps divorcing couples come to a mutually agreed upon, negotiated settlement without the threat of court. It offers a civilized, solutions-based approach to ending a relationship. Based upon consideration and respect, collaborative divorce also keeps a divorcing or separating couple in control of the process—rather than giving that control over to a judge.