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Collaborative Divorce - The Team Approach

Updated: May 16



I had a great experience, recently completing Collaborative Divorce training with LACFLA (Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association). The Collaborative method is gaining in popularity as it’s a process that can be significantly less stressful than other forms of divorce as it is purposefully designed to be less adversarial. Additionally, compared to litigated divorce it is generally quicker and can be much less costly.


Divorce Options


There are many options for divorce and even derivations of the main methods that are highlighted below (such as utilizing two Financial Neutrals instead of just one). The main divorce approaches include:


  • Do-it-Yourself (DIY), otherwise known as “Kitchen Table;’”

  • Litigation;

  • Mediation; and

  • Collaborative.


For more divorce alternatives, please visit our website at: https://www.confluenceca.com/divorce-options.



Do-it-Yourself (DIY)


In this situation, an amicable couple is able to sit down and work out the details together: splitting of assets, support payments, schedules for children, etc. No lawyers are required. In some locations you also have the choice to fill in the paperwork yourself or hire professionals that are neither lawyers nor paralegals to do it for you.


Litigation


The vast majority of couples resolve their divorces without going to court. However, a small number of cases are settled through the judicial process. This tends to be the most costly form and also the most time consuming. Here, one spouse is sued by the other and a judge decides the outcome. The communication is centered around the judge. The desired result is rarely obtained via litigation. Through litigation, Confluence works with one spouse, advocating for their needs.



Image key: J (judge), H (husband), W (wife), A’s (attorney, one for each side),


X’s and Y’s (professionals such as divorce financial planners, coaches, and therapists)




Mediation


The mediator serves as a neutral third party to facilitate a private negotiation. As a neutral party, the mediator guides you through the process, but does not offer any legal advice, maintaining objectivity. However, mediators are helpful in that they are able to present options for you to choose. Through mediation, Confluence is able to work neutrally for both parties, or can advocate for a single spouse. The picture below shows a version of the mediation approach with the arrows representing communication flow.



Image key: M (mediator), H (husband), W (wife), A’s (attorney, one for each side),


X’s and Y’s (professionals such as divorce financial planners, coaches, and therapists)



Collaborative Divorce


Both sides are represented by their own team of professionals to assist them through the process, meeting all of their needs. In addition to each side having an attorney, they may also benefit from other professionals present in the negotiations, such as a neutral financial expert (often one is shared by both spouses), coaches to help with productive communication, and even mental health professionals. This option is also done in a private setting. In Collaborative Divorce, Confluence acts as a neutral party, providing education and clarity when needed.


A unique and key aspect of Collaborative Divorce is that all professionals must withdraw from the process if the case ultimately goes to court. To be truly Collaborative, a Disqualification Agreement must be signed by all professionals. This helps to align the professionals throughout the process, setting the stage for a team approach with a commitment to strive for solutions that take into account the interests of all family members. It promotes an atmosphere of volunteerism, honesty, and a good faith exchange of all relevant information. The lines in the rectangle below represent the free flow of communication across the professionals and divorcing individuals, without a focal point such as a judge or mediator, depicted in the examples above.


Image key: H (husband), W (wife), A’s (attorney, one for each side), C (coach)


X’s and Y’s (professionals such as divorce financial planners, coaches, and therapists)


The Financial Neutral’s Role (1)


Outlined below are some of the benefits that a Financial Neutral can add to your Collaborative Divorce process.


What We Do:


  • Deal with emotions and pacing;

  • Act as a neutral for both spouses;

  • Work with a team;

  • Ascertain interests and concerns;

  • Look at future impact;

  • Provide education and analysis; and

  • Avoid jumping to solutions.


Typical Work of the Financial Specialist:


  • Develop a Statement of Assets and Liabilities (i.e., marital balance sheet);

  • Analyze cash flow (i.e., income and living expenses for each client, including the children’s expenses);

  • Analyze the long‐term outcome of proposed financial agreements; and

  • Analyze the ability for a client to stay in the family residence, sell the family residence or purchase a new home.


Complex Financial Issues:


  • Valuation of retirement plan assets;

  • Valuation of business interests;

  • Gifted, inherited property issues;

  • Options regarding community and separate property interest in real estate (Moore‐Marsden issues);

  • Pre‐marital assets;

  • Post‐separation tracing; and

  • College funding for children.


Whatever divorce option you chose, Confluence is able to support you throughout the process. For further information on the role of a Financial in Collaborative Divorce, please visit https://www.lacfla.org/financial-divorce-accountants.








Citations:


1. LACFLA Day 2 training materials, August 12, 2021.


Disclosures:


This information is not intended to be and should not be treated as legal, investment, accounting or tax advice and is for informational purposes only. Readers, including professionals, should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific legal, accounting or tax advice from their own counsel. All information discussed herein is current only as of the date appearing in this material and is subject to change at any time without notice.


The information contained herein, including any information regarding specific investment products or strategies, is provided for informational and/or illustrative purposes only, and is not intended to be and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation or recommendation with respect to any investment transaction, product or strategy. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All material has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy, completeness and interpretation cannot be guaranteed.

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