As Certified Divorce Financial Analysts® (CDFAs®), we are trained to help divorcing couples create an equitable settlement that works today and into the projected future. We are bound by our ethical guidelines to not suggest settlements that are by no means going to happen. Often, one of our most important roles is coaching our clients to not get hung up on the little things. We also encourage them to put resentment aside with their soon to be ex-spouse. Our goal is to try to work together to navigate a very stressful and difficult situation even if we are only representing one spouse. We try to promote an open line of communication and collaboration so that each spouse can voice their concerns, express their priorities and understand each other. This approach does not work in every case, however, with the majority of them it does.
Over the years we have met with hundreds of couples and individuals at our firm that are seeking help with the financial complexities of their divorce. The meetings and divorce proceedings that seem to yield the best results financially and emotionally for couples are those when they are working together through this difficult situation in a collaborative nature. The divorce cases with the poorest results are those in which one of both of the individuals have hired an aggressive or “bulldog” attorney. When we hear our potential client describe their attorney this way it is an immediate red-flag that their case may not be a good fit for us. No doubt if you are feeling you need an attorney representing your legal rights in your divorce you would want one that represents your best interests, however, there is a big difference between good representation and someone who just wants to cause conflict and drag out the divorce longer than needed. When one or both of the divorcing parties have hired the “fighter” attorney, the whole dynamic of the divorce case changes. What may have been a quick divorce case has now turned into a boxing match with each party in their own corner.
Communication becomes difficult as it is now almost exclusively done between the attorneys via email or court documents, which can be misinterpreted by each spouse. Spouses may not understand the reasoning for specific requests in custody arrangements, division proposals, etc. and become angry at each other. The attorney will then add fuel to the fire by provoking the client and promising things that clearly are not reasonable. In turn, more time and money are spent. Who ultimately wins in this situation? The attorneys, as they keep burning through their retainers. The client loses because they have been coached into fighting and chasing priorities that just are not realistic.
Not all attorneys are abrasive and high-conflict. If you are considering a divorce and have interviewed attorneys that have promised you the world, I would reconsider. We have aligned ourselves with attorneys that believe in a low-conflict collaborative approach to divorce. Why? Because we believe this is the best approach for our clients. Just because an attorney is promoting a low-conflict or collaborative divorce does not mean they will not represent you with your best interest in mind. Rather, they will represent you in a manner that is realistic and will likely save you time, money, and stress. Whether a couple is coming in to see us together or just as an individual, we have a prepared list of potential attorneys they can interview who have the same philosophy as us we when it comes to divorce.