Articles Posted in Collaborative Team

The Artisans of the Collaborative Divorce Process: The Financial Neutral | Divorce Attorney Andrea Vacca | Vacca Family Law Group

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

I recently heard the analogy, “Attorneys in a Collaborative Divorce are like the general contractors.” The lawyers know the law and what issues and problems need to be solved, but they do not have the level of financial expertise, nor the level of emotional expertise, that the couple will need to solve those problems. This is the reason why we bring in specialists and experts – the artisans – to help deal with the many details of the new family structure/entity that the Collaborative Divorce team is helping the clients to build. The lawyers have the responsibility to learn what the clients need so that they can bring the right craftspeople to the project. In this blog, I will discuss the expertise that the Neutral Financial Professional brings to the collaborative process. In my next blog, I will discuss the expertise that the Family Specialist brings.

I want a divorce financial professional on all of my divorce teams so that I can make sure the family’s post-divorce financial foundation is properly built and will be able to sufficiently provide for the couple and their family for both their short-term and long-term future.

Nothing good happens in court! I had a great conversation with Christina Previte, Esq., of NJ Divorce Solutions on the Divorce Happy Hour Podcast about keeping your divorce out of court (and why you should want to)!

On this podcast, we discuss why I decided to stop practicing traditional litigated divorce, and instead practice collaborative divorce, with a #NoCourtDivorce team approach to divorce. No one “wins” in divorce and that’s why I chose to stop litigating and use mediation and the collaborative approach. With either process, couples can come together, as a team, and negotiate a mutually agreeable divorce – without a judge making the decision about the future of their family.

We discuss 5 Reasons to Keep Your Divorce Out of Court – and how to decide what type of divorce is best for you and your spouse.

In the blog 7 Tips for Putting Children First in a Divorce, I discussed how to have a child-centered divorce and the benefits to children. The other side of the equation is the common mistakes that parents make when they put their needs ahead of the children’s needs. 

1. Parents Making Assumptions that are NOT in Their Child’s Best Interest:

If you don’t purposely and intentionally keep the children’s needs as your top priority during the divorce, they can get lost in the process. For example, some parents recall their own experience as children of divorce and impose their feelings on their children. Don’t make assumptions. While being mindful of the difficult divorce you lived through as a child can make you more empathetic to what your children may experience, remember that your experiences and feelings may also keep you from being open to what would be best for YOUR children. For example, just because you felt that it was too hard for you to move back and forth between your parents’ homes after their divorce, start with a fresh slate, so to speak, and consider what might be best for your children. This not only means considering your kids’ unique personalities, but also the co-parenting relationship you plan to have with your soon-to-be-ex and the possibilities for your new housing arrangements. For your children, going back and forth often between two homes might be better than being away from one of their parents for an extended period. Only after you get advice about your situation and understand what your children need, should you make these decisions.

If a couple decides to resolve their divorce using the collaborative divorce process, they will have the benefit of working together and with a team to develop their short and long-term holiday plans. In New York, families who work within the collaborative divorce process sit down and discuss the holidays with their family specialist, who serves as a child specialist and a coach for the parties’ communication. When the parties use the collaborative divorce process, the family specialist will help them look at a variety of options for their time with the children. The family specialist can advise the parents what the best options will be to help the children (and often the parents) have the healthiest parenting time arrangement going forward. This conversation is not going to be a legal conversation. Generally, the lawyers aren’t even involved unless there’s a real sticky situation, which is not that common in the collaborative divorce process. The lawyers give some overall guidance to their clients, but because they are working with family specialists who the lawyers know well and trust, the entire experience for the parents and usually the children is very different from that in a litigated divorce. In the collaborative divorce process, the focus is on the children and in the end, that usually is more beneficial to the parents, too. 

Part 1 of our 3 part series on holiday planning during divorce focused on putting your children first. Here, in Part 2, we focus on creative solutions to celebrate the holidays that are available through the collaborative process.

Creative Solutions

People divorcing after the age of 50, often called grey divorce, recognize that they have some different financial and emotional issues not faced in younger couples who divorce. As I wrote earlier, navigating a grey divorce with dignity is often an essential requirement for later in life divorce. Complicated assets, financial commitments to adult children, and retirement planning may all be in play.  Equally important to divorcing couples who have a long history together, is the need to develop the emotional tools to negotiate a divorce and reach an agreement that allows the couple to maintain a cordial relationship and jointly participate in family events. While all of these issues are not unique to grey divorce, that fact that older couples do not have the time to start over and rebuild their life, and in fact may want to maintain many aspects of their current life in the future, makes a divorce team of specialized professionals essential to help the couple address their short-term and long-term needs.

How Mediation and Collaborative Divorce Meet the Needs for Later In Life Divorce

A divorce team is a key resource in alternative divorce processes such as mediation and collaborative divorce. The divorce team is often made up of neutral specialists who help the couple jointly and independently to get the information, emotional support and resources they need to make decisions about their future. A key benefit of the divorce team is they are trained, experienced divorce specialists in their own field and bring in knowledge and expertise to help couples navigate unknown territory, typically at an hourly rate that is lower than a divorce attorney. Divorce attorneys are a critical part of the divorce team, but they are not therapists or financial experts.

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,

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:

The idea behind paralysis by analysis is when a decision needs to be made, all the options are over-analyzed, and not one “works.” Everything that could happen, should have happened, or did happen is considered and weighed. Then, the paralysis sets in, and no action is taken.

Sometimes this concept can lead to marriages lasting beyond their healthy breakpoint; people are afraid to leave because what awaits on the other side is (understandably) unknown. But, this concept can also carry into the divorce process. For example, let’s say a decision to divorce has been made. When it’s time to analyze the options, the paralysis may begin:

  • “Should I try mediation?”
  • “Should we do the collaborative process?”
  • “Should I just find an attorney who will be my mouthpiece and negotiate on my behalf, and I will never have to see my husband again?”

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View a portion of Andrea Vacca’s presentation on the topic of “Real Estate in Splitsville” to the group UnTied: The Thinking Women’s Divorce Resource.

Click here to watch the video.

Vacca Family Law Group

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