When someone makes the decision to separate from their spouse, their first step is often to find an attorney. What you might not know is that there are other third-party professionals aside from attorneys that can support you and your family throughout the separation and divorce process. If you are committed to resolving your divorce amicably under a collaborative divorce agreement, you may want to consider improving the collaborative divorce process by engaging one or more of the following third-party professionals.
Upon separation, you might need help figuring out how to separate your marital finances. Perhaps you’ve never been responsible for the bills, never followed a budget, or your spouse has been primarily responsible for investment decisions. A Financial Neutral can step in to evaluate and assist couples in separating the family finances fairly and equitably.
Typically, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and/or Certified Financial Planner (CFP), a Financial Neutral objectively analyzes the parties’ marital estate (assets and debts), budgets, spousal support scenarios, valuation of pensions or complex compensation plans, pre-marital/separate assets, and assists couples by addressing and brainstorming about any financial issues that arise. A Financial Neutral is usually hired by and works for both spouses. This can be a cost-effective solution for divorcing couples who are high-income earners, have complex compensation plans or retirement plans, and/or have significant separate or pre-marital assets. A Financial Neutral analyzes the marital estate once, rather than spouses paying both individual attorneys to fully analyze the marital estate, which may be seen as duplicative. A Financial Neutral’s hourly rate is usually much lower than an attorney’s hourly rate. Additionally, having a Financial Neutral provides the benefit of getting the spouses on the same page about the actual value of the marital estate and can reduce opportunities for disagreement in settlement.
Maybe you have minor children and you and your spouse do not agree on the best custody schedule for your children, but you are committed to collaborating to determine what is in your children’s best interests. Perhaps you and your spouse need some assistance in addressing the children’s needs as they go through this major life transition with you.
In these circumstances, you can hire a Child Specialist to assist your family. Usually a licensed child psychologist or experienced therapist trained in child development and divorce, a Child Specialist ensures that the parties’ child or children have a voice in the divorce process and have a smooth transition from living in one home to two. A Child Specialist can help a child express his or her feelings in uncomfortable situations, encourage a child to advocate for themselves, and guide and educate parents regarding how to address the day-to-day needs of the children. A Child Specialist serves to educate the parents on developmentally appropriate parenting plans and parent/child relationship dynamics. A Child Specialist does not serve in an individual therapeutic role for the child when serving as a Child Specialist in a divorce due to ethical obligations. A child might be well served by a separate individual therapist who is not the Child Specialist.
Upon separation, there are so many decisions to make during one of the most emotional times of your life. You may be feeling overwhelmed with all the decisions and unfamiliar with the divorce path. To help you navigate these emotions and understand the divorce process, you may hire a Divorce Coach.
Normally a licensed mental health professional like a psychologist or counselor, a Divorce Coach can be hired by one or both parties to help process their feelings related to the divorce and figure out a plan for how to tackle the big decisions required in divorce. Divorce Coaches are experts in the divorce process itself, which is unfamiliar to a newly separated couple. A Divorce Coach helps the collaborative process proceed smoothly by allowing the spouses to communicate their needs and priorities to the Coach. The Coach ensures that the emotional issues relative to the divorce are addressed and worked through during the collaborative process, thereby preventing the spouses from cycling through past hurts or perceptions during the collaborative team meetings. A Divorce Coach can help the spouses envision their lives post-divorce, develop skills for negotiation and emotional regulation throughout the divorce process, and educate them regarding the divorce process. A Divorce Coach operates independently from an individual therapist for one spouse and some spouses might have their own individual therapists in addition to the collaborative Divorce Coach.
If you have already hired an attorney, ask your attorney for suggestions and referrals to third-party professionals who can support you through the collaborative divorce process and help you, your spouse, and your children come out on the other side for the better.
I’ve been practicing family law for more than a decade now. Several years ago, I decided to switch my practice from litigating cases to keeping couples out of court entirely.
What I do is called collaborative divorce, but I’m also a certified family court mediator. People often use the two terms interchangeably. I want to explain some of the differences between the two, with the hope that it will help you decide which approach you need.
Both collaborative law and mediation are in the same family, so to speak. They share the same goal of resolving family disputes outside of court. Both options give you, the client, the most control over the outcome of your case. However, they differ to the extent in which the parties are in agreement on their domestic issues.
Divorce is not always ugly. Sometimes, spouses are willing to cooperate to end their marriage very amicably. Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in the collaborative divorce process. Each spouse has his or her own attorney and all parties enter into a legal contract, committing to work together to separate assets and debts, decide on parenting time, alimony, and so forth. Sometimes, spouses utilize additional neutral third-party experts to help them, such as a financial planner to analyze their marital estate and make recommendations regarding an equitable division of assets.
In this scenario, I represent one spouse and advocate on that individual’s behalf. However, I also cooperate with the other side to make sure we’re all fully transparent, disclose all the financial details, and get the divorce resolved amicably and efficiently. In this approach, we all work as a team.
Mediation is different in that you have a neutral third party as a go-between for you and your spouse to help you resolve your divorce, generally in a one-day session. If you are litigating your divorce in North or South Carolina, mediation is required prior to a final trial, and a court will either appoint a mediator or both parties will agree on a mediator. If you and your ex are amicable, you can agree to mediation on your own, with or without attorneys participating in the process.
While I take many clients to mediation as their attorney, I also often serve as a private mediator for two spouses. In that scenario, I am the neutral third party. I help those who cannot come to an agreement on certain aspects of their divorce but who would still like to settle outside of court.
As a neutral, I do not advocate for either side, but I do try to help each spouse or parent see and empathize with the position of the other. Mediators cannot not give legal advice, either. They are trained to facilitate negotiations between the parties so that the parties can come to an agreement on their own terms. In both the collaborative process and mediation, you get to decide what works best for your family going forward.
Generally, parties will call my office and request one service or the other. More often, parties are confused about which option will work best for their family. If you are unsure of what you need, you can always call and schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation in detail and receive recommendations and legal advice.
No matter what role I play, my mission is to do divorce differently. I’ve successfully mediated and collaborated on countless cases and I’m grateful that families have walked away from this process as emotional and financially intact as possible.
If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
It seems a little strange to talk about commitment when you are contemplating divorce. If your marriage is broken, chances are you’ve decided you no longer want to make any commitments to each other. But if you’ve chosen to end things amicably through a collaborative divorce, you will need commitment to get you through this process.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to practice collaborative divorce. This way of divorcing is not like many of the divorces you hear about and like many of the divorces I litigated years ago. The amount of fighting between couples and the resulting impacts on their children became too much for me to witness. Those types of divorces devastated families – emotionally and financially. I decided years ago I wanted to do divorce differently. Now, I’m specially trained to help couples work as a team to separate their assets, decide child custody, and the like.
But this process is not just a promise to play nice.
It’s a commitment – a legal commitment to work together – and as such, it must be taken seriously. If things go awry, the consequences can be damaging.
When you choose a collaborative divorce, both you and your spouse (or ex-spouse, or soon-to-be ex-spouse) will work with your respective attorneys and with each other to resolve all issues pertaining to your divorce. All parties sign a legally binding contract, requiring both sides to act in good faith, disclose all required information, and be fully transparent with one another and the collaborative team.
Sometimes, couples will hire additional experts who serve as neutral third parties to assist with specific issues. For example, a financial neutral can analyze all of the assets and debts, make tax projections, and present a spreadsheet proposing how everything can be divided most equitably. A child specialist can provide input on what custody schedule might work best for the children. A divorce coach can ensure that the spouses stay on track emotionally during the collaborative process and each have the emotional and mental health support they need to tackle the legal problems.
Change of Heart
If all parties are working together as spelled out in the contract, what could go wrong? As you can imagine, divorces can be emotionally devastating. Sometimes, spouses start off in agreement until something happens that gives them a change of heart. They no longer want to be amicable. If that’s you, I would encourage you to reconsider.
If you or your spouse stop cooperating, you are legally in breach of the contract you signed to participate in good faith during the collaborative process. That means your likely next step is entering into litigation. Remember, you’re trying to avoid the courtroom.
Whatever work you’ve done will result in very little progress if the collaborative process terminates. If you end this process, you will have to dismiss your current attorney and retain a new one. If you have an outstanding legal bill, you’ll still have to pay it. If you’ve created any documents with your attorney or had any specialists involved, you won’t be able to take any of that work product with you to the next attorney.
Although there are many reasons to stay committed to the collaborative process, the aforementioned scenarios are two very good incentives for keeping your case collaborative. I’ve been practicing collaborative law for many years now. I’ve helped couples resolve their divorces outside of the courtroom – even when there’s infidelity or marital misconduct of some kind involved. Even in these emotionally difficult circumstances, two people can still work together to end their marriage peacefully and efficiently. I’m committed to helping you divorce collaboratively.
Will you be committed?
Our mission statement here at Dasher Law is “Divorce Differently.” We know your divorce can be different. Call us to set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
If you’re not familiar with collaborative divorce, I’m here to share a few insights with you based on my years of practice. You may hear the word “divorce” and think of mudslinging or being grilled by an attorney while you’re on the witness stand.
Collaborative law is so different. You may have already guessed, but collaborative divorce means the spouses and their attorneys collaborate. They all work together as a team to separate assets and reach a resolution on difficult issues like parenting time, child support, alimony, and the like. The collaborative process is completely voluntary but has proven very successful in keeping cases out of court, ex-spouses civil, and family finances in better shape. Collaborative divorce has significantly grown in popularity in the past few years. In our view, here are five advantages of hiring a collaboratively trained attorney:
1. Less Conflict
Divorce is hard. There’s no getting around that. But divorce can be much harder on you mentally, emotionally, and financially if you and your spouse are going back and forth in court. In the collaborative process, both spouses agree beforehand, in a legally binding contract, that they will commit to resolving their domestic issues out of the courtroom. When the spouses share that same goal, they’re often more committed to working through disagreements and getting issues resolved. Instead of being a team in marriage, they become a team in a different game.
2. More Privacy
Court files are public record. Anyone can go to the file room at their respective county courthouse and look at the most intimate details of a family’s breakup. Was there a cheating spouse? You’ll probably read all about it in the filings. Did a spouse gamble away all the marital assets? That will be in there, too. If you’re considering divorce, airing your most intimate struggles in open court can be like adding salt to a gaping wound. Maybe you just don’t want anyone to know why your marriage is ending. Maybe you don’t want anyone to know the balance of your retirement accounts. Whatever your reason, depending upon where you live, a collaborative divorce allows you to keep most of your private details out of the public record. There is no recorded testimony, no public accusations – just an agreement between two spouses on how their marriage will end. In North Carolina, if spouses successfully complete the collaborative divorce process, the only public record could be that of the legal divorce itself. In South Carolina, your agreement must be approved as an Order of the court and become part of the public record, but you and your spouse control the narrative and will not include any intimate details regarding the breakdown of your marriage.
3. Like-minded Support
Collaborative divorce attorneys are specifically trained in the collaborative process. However, most of us are not trained in child psychology or wealth and capital management. The great news is that if you are committed to the collaborative divorce process and you need an expert to help you figure out, for example, what parenting arrangement works best for the children, there are child specialists, financial planners, and divorce coaches who are also committed to the collaborative process. They can work together with both spouses (or one-on-one) to find a resolution to a specific issue – and they often charge less than the hourly rate of an attorney. These professionals are an excellent resource that can help give you more peace of mind knowing they share your same goal – a peaceful resolution.
4. Streamlined Process
The goal of the collaborative process is to resolve domestic issues as amicably and efficiently as possible. If both sides are following through with their commitment, both spouses and their attorneys are sharing all the necessary documents in a timely manner, there is open communication, and additional professional help can be attained easily by adding trained professionals to the collaborative team. This process eliminates what you often see in litigation: attorneys sometimes repeatedly asking for documents, subpoenas being issued to get more information, each side looking for their own expert witnesses to support their case, and so on. At Dasher Law, my colleagues and I work to streamline the process so that we can resolve your divorce amicably, efficiently, and equitably, and you can move forward with the next steps of your new life.
5. Cost-effective Approach*
I’m always leery when I see the * after a sentence. It means there’s a “but” coming. Let me first say that a collaborative divorce is generally more cost effective than litigation. When you have both sides working toward a resolution, they spend less time fighting. BUT – you and your spouse play a role in the final cost. If you work together, you will keep costs down. But if you start the collaborative divorce process and start having difficulties, your attorneys will have to walk you through those issues, which could mean a higher overall cost. My goal is always to help my clients resolve their divorces efficiently and as financially soundly as possible.
If you’re facing a divorce, I want you to know that there is hope that you can divorce differently. Collaborative divorce is an ideal fit for many families. If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
If you’ve ever driven by my office in downtown Matthews (or you’ve just spent the last few minutes exploring this site), you can’t miss our mission statement:
What’s your first impression of that statement? Is it refreshing? Confusing? Laughable? Maybe when you think of divorce, you think of a knockdown, drag out court battle. Maybe someone you care about has gone through a bitter, contentious divorce where both sides are slinging legal papers at each other at a rapid-fire pace. Maybe you’ve seen a dear friend have to tell a judge what his or her child does and eats and why they’re a good parent. Maybe you’ve only seen that kind of divorce in the movies.
Consider yourself fortunate.
The reality is that divorce is an unavoidable part of our world. I’ve worked in family law for more than a decade now. I’ve represented spouses in contested litigation for years and have now helped couples stay out of court entirely for several years. That’s why I can tell you definitively that you can divorce differently.
Divorcing differently doesn’t mean that spouses are best friends, that they want to split everything fairly and move on, or that they agree entirely about how they want to raise their children after they’ve separated. All of this can certainly happen. I’ve seen it. However, divorcing differently means you approach and execute your divorce differently.
At Dasher Law, we practice what is known as collaborative divorce because we collaborate with the “other side” to come to a mutually beneficial resolution. We help spouses essentially work as a team to separate assets and make decisions regarding child support, child custody, and alimony, using our legal expertise to advocate for a fair outcome.
When couples are willing to utilize the collaborative approach, it often saves a significant amount of money in legal fees because attorneys are not filing contested lawsuits, responding to allegations, gathering evidence, crafting trial notes and arguments, and the list goes on. Every time that attorney (or staff member) makes a copy of something, it costs you money!
Our goal is not only to help families come through divorce as financially healthy as possible, but also to help alleviate some of the mental and emotional anguish that comes with an us-against-them approach.
Divorce is hard. But it can be different. If you’re ready to divorce differently, call us and set up a consultation. We’d love to help.
Lindsey Dasher is the Managing Partner at Dasher Law PLLC