At the beginning of each new year, many couples who have been contemplating divorce make a final decision to move forward and end their marriage. That decision was probably hard enough to come to. But there is one more important decision the two of you have to make — HOW will you divorce? What process will you use? You may have heard about the collaborative divorce process from friends, or colleagues, or just your own research online. It sounds exactly like what you need, but you’re not sure how to talk to your spouse about the idea. The one thing you don’t want to do is try and force your spouse to use the process. You don’t want him or her to enter the process under duress. Instead, you want to make sure that your spouse has the information he or she needs to properly consider this process. Continue reading
I recently presented a workshop entitled “Collaborating in the Face of Financial Betrayal” at the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals 18th Annual Networking and Educational Forum, alongside my colleagues, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, Ivy Menchel and Divorce Coach, Abby Rosmarin.
While this workshop was geared to the divorce professionals in the room, there are many lessons that anyone who has dealt with financial betrayal in his or her own marriage — and is contemplating divorce — should understand.
To start, we defined financial betrayal as the keeping of financial secrets in an intimate relationship. Financial secrets are different from other secrets because of the enormous ramifications that often result from them for many years to come.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
– Maria Robinson
As true as this quote may be, it’s not easy to think about re-writing your future when you’re in the process of divorcing. You want to put your marriage behind you, but removing yourself from it is not the sort of thing that happens by snapping your fingers. You need support.
When you’re considering divorce, you should seek out an attorney who understands that the dynamic of your marriage does not need to control the dynamic of your divorce; an attorney who wants to help you break the cycle of arguments and miscommunications that engulfed your marriage.
The feeling of or ability to be in control can be an elusive concept to many, and the lack of control can be a source of anxiety to those who crave it. When it comes to personal matters, like divorce, the need for control may be even greater. The feeling like one is not in control of his or her own future or relationship is a common frustration expressed by divorcing couples who are litigating and at the mercy of the court system. Luckily, there are alternative options for couples wishing to seize control of their divorces.
Mediation and collaborative law are private processes. These processes keep everything between just you, your attorneys and any other professionals who you invite into your case.
Besides offering privacy and dignity, the mediation and collaborative law processes also provide a degree of control that is absent from the court system:
The legal, emotional and financial needs of couples divorcing due to “financial infidelity” are often complex.
When many people hear that “infidelity” was the reason for a divorce, they automatically assume it has to do with sex. More and more often, however, I see that “infidelity” with money is the reason why marriages are ending.
Where physical infidelity may have happened once, twice, or within a limited amount of time, financial infidelity has probably occurred over an extended period, and has done much greater damage.
When a couple divorces, it is usually the case that neither party gets everything he or she wants. Understanding and accepting this fact before you start the divorce process can help make the process less costly – both financially and emotionally.
One of the many things I have learned from my family law clients over the past 20+ years is that when they strive for an outcome (whether via agreement or court order) that provides them with everything they want, they are inevitably disappointed. Perfection is not achievable in life and it’s certainly not achievable in divorce. Instead, I encourage my clients to think about what a “good enough” outcome would look like.
For example, if we’re talking about spousal support – How much money per month do you really need or can you afford to pay? What are the most realistic options that are available to you now that there will be two households instead of one? Many times sketching the financial picture makes people cringe – especially if they’re being told things that they don’t want to hear, such as “You have too much debt,” or “You’re going to have to return to work.” But sometimes there is no way around these facts. It’s better to accept reality and work within those parameters, rather than to strive for an outcome that may look perfect to you but will leave your soon-to-be ex (and perhaps the children) suffering terribly.
I was reading an article at psychologytoday.com that highlighted a story that made me think about how important a person’s response to difficult life changes, such as the end of a marriage, will drive the experience.
Reading the article I learned that while India was under British rule, a posh golf course was constructed in Kolkata (Calcutta). The course was home to monkeys, who developed a habit of picking up balls in play and throwing them. After years of trying to solve the problem by expelling the monkeys, the golf course resigned itself to the reality of the situation.
So it changed the course rules: Where the monkey throws or drops the ball is the place from which it must be played. That is a great metaphor for divorce.
In my last post, I explored the idea of “doing no harm” as a collaborative divorce attorney. Some of the comments I received focused on what it means to be a collaborative professional, while others lamented the prevalence of lawyers who call themselves “collaborative” when their actions are anything but.
If you are a client who wants to use the collaborative process and stay out of court, you want to know that your attorney is actually committed to that process and understands the different mindset that it requires on his or her part. To get the information that you need, these are the questions I would suggest you ask a collaborative attorney and the types of answers that you want to hear:
How concerned are you about whether my spouse gets what he or she wants out of this divorce?
Andrea Vacca will be amongst the panelists at an upcoming free event, Emotional Economics of Divorce
When? Tuesday, March 18, 2014 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM (EDT)
Where? Citrin Cooperman, 529 5th Ave, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10175