Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Avoid Financial Mistakes in Divorce

If you are facing a divorce and are worried about how you will come out financially, you are not alone!  Most people who think about their future want to make sure that the divorce process works to protect them from being taken advantage of and from missing out on something they are entitled to have.

Karen Covy has an excellent blog and website  that discuss various aspects of getting divorced. In a recent post, she wrote about "10 Financial Mistakes in Divorce You Don't Want to Make".  She listed 10 important issues and it turns out that  Collaborative Law is an effective process to address each of them.  Here are her issues:

1.  "Not taking the time to do an accurate post-divorce budget BEFORE you settle!" 
We normally use a neutral financial professional for both parties and one of the standard steps is to prepare a budget for each party for after the divorce.  That helps everyone address the needs of each party as we work out a financial agreement.

2.  "Not insisting on getting all of your (and your spouse's) financial documents."  In Collaborative cases, we start with getting the current statements for all financial accounts and then get any other prior statements that are really needed.  We don't request statements just to request them.

3.  "Not getting assets valued."  If an asset, like a house, business or painting (or anything else) needs to be valued, we get a neutral expert for both parties to do the valuation.  If it doesn't matter or if the parties agree on the value, we don't spend the money to get a valuation.

4.  "Not looking at (and understanding!) all of your financial documents."  One of the great benefits of Collaborative Law is having the neutral financial professional who gathers, studies and organizes the financial records.  Either party can discuss the finances and get help understanding them.  The finances are also discussed extensively in joint sessions.

5.  "Relying on your lawyer to do everything."  In Collaborative cases, we make sure the parties are very active and participating in the preparation and in the discussions at joint meetings.  Most often, we have the parties meeting, without the lawyers present, with the mental health professional on children's issues and with the financial professional on financial issues.  There is a lot of work done without the lawyers being present.

6.  "Not understanding how taxes will affect your support and settlement."  We also discuss taxes and can arrange for a neutral tax expert if specialized knowledge is necessary. When we discuss alimony and property division, taxes are always a consideration.

7."Forgetting about the long term."  Collaborative professionals are very aware of the long-term implications of the negotiations and we can do projections into the financial future.  Considerations for retirement income are always very important.

8.  "Not thinking about insurance."  We look at insurance as an asset and also as a safeguard.  Insurance can be considered in the context of a long-term plan, but it's also the back-up for financial obligations that may continue after the death of a party.

9.  "Sacrificing your own financial security for your children." We try to be as realistic as possible in working out agreements.  There are many different ways to pay for the children's expenses and Collaborative Law provides more flexibility than Litigation does.  It is possible to protect your own financial needs while making sure the kids are provided for.

10. "Making settlement decisions out of exhaustion."  In Collaborative cases, we have a series of meetings, usually an hour and a half to two hours long.  In mediation in Litigation cases, the sessions are usually a half day or a whole day, which can be exhausting.  In court, you are likely to spend a half day to several days or a week.  Collaborative Law provides a safe, measured process without the pressure to get everything done at once.

Bottom Line:  If you have serious financial concerns, be sure to investigate Collaborative Law.  Talk with an experienced Collaborative lawyer.  You should get a second opinion if an attorney mentions Collaborative Law on a web site, but then spends the consultation time trying to talk you out of using the process.  With a lawyer like that, be sure to ask how many Collaborative cases the attorney has actually handled.  Before you decide, talk with a real Collaborative attorney.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Starting Over After 50

There seems to be a lot of discussion about people over 50 years old getting divorced now.  Of course, there are a lot of Baby Boomers who are still alive and in relationships.
  • Many of them are suddenly facing a divorce they hadn't planned on.  
  • The flip side is that many Boomers have finally decided to go forward on the divorce they kept thinking about, but which they just couldn't face.  
  • And some couples in second or third marriages are also facing divorce as they pass 50 years of age.
All of these people face somewhat similar circumstances.  If you find yourself in such a situation, here are some suggestions to help you get through the process.

1.  Shock or relief.  The first stage, after at least one spouse decides to leave the marriage, is shock, if the other spouse somehow isn't expecting it, or relief, if the spouses have been discussing the decision openly until one or both commit to ending the marriage.  It's a difficult decision for so many reasons.  Once that decision is made, both parties need a little time to let it sink in.

2.  Fear.  A common second emotion is fear about the future.  Past plans come undone.  Finances get stretched thin and new arrangements need to be made. The need to work may put off retirement and will affect spending.  Relationships with grown and nearly-grown children may change and will probably be a little awkward for a while.  So many things that are taken for granted suddenly have to be changed.  There's a lot to be concerned about.

3.  Recognizing opportunities.  With the changes comes some new freedom to change course and try something new. Most people at 50 will still have 30-40 more years to live. You can move to a different job or another town or a new neighborhood.  You might downsize and streamline your life.  New hobbies and activities are possibilities.  You can also make new friends.

4.  Start with small changes.  With so many new and different directions you can take, don't go crazy and completely start over.  Generally, you will be more comfortable with adding small changes at first and then making bigger changes as you get used to new arrangements.  Everyone needs some stability which can come from some carryover aspects of your life.  Especially -- Don't rush out and get remarried.  Take your time and get to know the person.  There's plenty of time!

5.  Expand your horizons.  Use this opportunity to try completely new things that maybe you couldn't do while you were married.  You don't have to re-create your old married life.  Try some new interests and make some new friends.  Take some classes.  Reconsider your assumptions about how you want to live your life.  This could be the beginning of an interesting new life.  If you don't want to do a lot of new things, you still can have a fresh start to some old activities.

One other thought:  If you are facing divorce after 50, you should look into using the Collaborative Law process for a civilized, less-destructive divorce.  Be sure you talk to a trained Collaborative attorney who actually handles Collaborative cases.  Collaborative Law won't work in every case, but it will in a great number of them.