Collaborative Divorce for Executives and Business Owners
How does Collaborative Divorce Work?
By Pete Roussos, MFT https://peterroussos.com
Posted with permission by Sandra L. Popescu, CPA, CVA, CFF email@example.com
People hearing about Collaborative Divorce for the first time usually have a great deal of questions about the process and how it works. Collaboration is quite different from the other forms of divorce that people have typically heard of – litigation, self-representation, or mediation. Collaborative Divorce is a complex and comprehensive approach to the legal, financial, and emotional issues in divorce. Collaborative Divorce helps families to stay out of court and to end their marriage and, when children are involved, transition into their post-divorce co-parenting in the healthiest way possible.
A good metaphor for a Collaborative Divorce process is a Charter Airplane Service. The “airplane” is operated by a highly trained, diverse group of professionals whose different areas of expertise are all required to operate the plane efficiently and safely. In a Collaborative Divorce, the clients are the passengers. Passengers come to us because they want to end their relationship as a married couple and get to a different place in their relationship with each other. As long as their destination is one of the routes we service, (towards a respectful, and collaborative divorce) we are happy to take them on their journey. There are some places that we can’t take our clients, such as an acrimonious slide into litigation, and passengers seeking to fight or not cooperate with each other will have to find another carrier.
Our passengers select their own “flight crew” often starting from a list of the highly trained members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego. Our member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals have the different areas of expertise which are required in a Collaborative Divorce. Our clients select the professional team whom they think best meets their needs and specific family circumstances.
Our passengers have a great deal of input into the flight plan. Do we take a longer, perhaps more scenic route? Do we take a faster, more direct route? How many layovers will we make along the way? Like any good charter operator, we consider our passengers’ input and recommend a flight plan that best meets their needs while conforming to safety rules and standards of operation. The passengers then decide if they agree with the flight plan. If they don’t, we refer them to other carriers.
There are other variables that will affect the journey. The baggage the passengers bring with them will impact the flight. Heavy passenger baggage may consume more fuel, slow the plane down and make the trip more expensive, but as long as the passengers understand this and are willing to be patient and bear the increased cost, the professional team can complete the journey and transport the passengers to their desired destination.
Bad weather or turbulence may require a course adjustment. Our passengers are always consulted about this. If they decide they are up to it, and if we think the airplane is strong enough, we may decide to keep our seat belts buckled and fly directly through it. Sometimes we need to land, refuel, settle the passengers’ (or our own) nervous stomachs, and re-take off when the weather has improved.
Our passengers hire us for our expertise in flying our plane. They expect us to be at the controls at all times, and we should be. There is no automatic pilot on this plane, and expecting there to be leads to disaster. We can’t expect our passengers to take the controls, as they do not know how to fly our plane- that is why they came to us.
There are rules that apply to our charter flights, and these rules must be complied with. Our passengers are not allowed to hijack the plane to try and send us towards a non-agreed upon, or unsafe destination. Neither passenger is allowed to grab the controls to steer us off course or put the plane into a catastrophic tailspin. When we put the fasten seat belt light on, everybody has to buckle up. Our passengers have to help keep our plane clean. Cigarettes or other inflammatory materials cannot be used on board.
Our passengers have to provide each other, and us, with all the information that we need to make sure that the journey goes safely. There can’t be any surprises such as finding out after take off that one of the passengers did not inform of us of dangerous cargo hidden in his/her baggage. Such things can be dealt with safely as long as we know about it beforehand. Every flight involves some turbulence, and getting through it requires that our passengers honestly express their concerns, trust our judgment, and at times defer to our expertise about what is required to fly the plane safely.
There are risks to operating a charter airline. Few flights go completely smoothly and not every flight ends well. Sometimes passengers decide that they made a mistake in choosing our airline, because they really want to fly to a different destination that we can’t or won’t serve. When that happens, we end the trip early and safely escort the passengers off our plane and try to help them find an airline that will better serve their needs.
Sometimes one or both of the passengers are not willing to comply with our in-flight rules. Sometimes this is unintentional and merely requires further explanation to help the passengers behave in accordance with our safety standards. Some passengers though, are just not willing to comply with the rules. When this happens, we have to land the plane prematurely, keep it on the ground, and escort the passengers off the flight, so that we and our airplane are not put in harm’s way. When a flight ends, even if it ends prematurely, the passengers will take their baggage with them, but the flight plan and flight records stay with the flight crew.
Ours is a very elegant aircraft, and it requires a great deal of mindful maintenance. The passengers have to help us keep the inside of the plane clean, but it is the professional team’s responsibility to keep the plane operating safely and smoothly. This requires a great deal of coordinated effort during each flight. Sometimes clients may question whether or not the crew needs to do so much work during a flight, or whether or not each crewmember is really needed, but when it comes to flying the plane safely, ultimately those are the professional team’s decisions to make.
So how does Collaborative Process function? The clients define their goals for their divorce process and, if they have children, their post divorce co-parenting relationship. Together with input from trained Collaborative Divorce practitioners, the clients decide if the process is the right vehicle for them to achieve their divorce goals. The clients own their final settlement decision-making, and they own their behavior, but the Collaborative process, “the airplane” is owned by the professional team. Our clients step into it at the start of their journey and step out of it at the journey’s conclusion. Above all else it is the responsibility of the professional team to maintain “the airplane’s” structural integrity, so that Collaborative clients can be transported to the intended destination- a healthier divorce.
Response from Sandy Popescu:
I’m not sure what year this article was written, but it was at the beginning of the Collaborative Divorce movement in the early 2000’s. Pete does a great job of explaining what Collaborative Divorce is and providing a visual analogy to a Chartered Airplane Service is genius! Not only does the Collaborative Team (the Flight Crew) help couples stay out of court and end their marriage in a more peaceful and respectful manner, but we actively assist them in transitioning to their post-divorce life!
We need to fly above the clouds to obtain financial clarity to help navigate the plane successfully. Visibility/transparency is a key factor for choosing and/or adjusting our “route” when the weather changes. With full cooperation and disclosure, we can craft creative solutions for your family situation that help everyone make the transitions anticipated.
When we work together, we have more choices to choose from and more ways to keep the plane stable and safe for all on board and especially when we land!
ABOUT SANDRA L. POPESCU, CPA, CFF, CVA, August 16, 2019:
I started working as a Collaborative Divorce Financial Specialist in San Diego in 2003. Nothing I’ve ever done in my career (forensic accounting, business valuations, start-up company accounting) has ever been more rewarding! As difficult as it is, I’ve seen people rise above the fear and upheavals in their lives and push forward to find solutions that work for both sides and especially for the children! It’s not about “winning” or just about money; it’s about cultivating those “loving” memories and forging ahead with a new plan for everyone. Relationships don’t have to end, they just need to change and adapt.
Sandra L. Popescu, CPA, CFF, CVA
Forensic Accounting & Business Valuation Services
Divorce Finances Negotiations
Want to communicate better? These tips will help you avoid misunderstandings and improve your work and personal relationships.
What is effective communication?
Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what’s being said and makes the other person feel heard and understood.
Effective communication sounds like it should be instinctive. But all too often, when we try to communicate with others something goes astray. We say one thing, the other person hears something else, and misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts ensue. This can cause problems in your home, school, and work relationships.
For many of us, communicating more clearly and effectively requires learning some important skills. Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, learning these skills can deepen your connections to others, build greater trust and respect, and improve teamwork, problem solving, and your overall social and emotional health.
What’s stopping you from communicating effectively?
Common barriers to effective communication include:
Stress and out-of-control emotion. When you’re stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, you’re more likely to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior. To avoid conflict and misunderstandings, you can learn how to quickly calm down before continuing a conversation.
Lack of focus. You can’t communicate effectively when you’re multitasking. If you’re checking your phone, planning what you’re going to say next, or daydreaming, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. To communicate effectively, you need to avoid distractions and stay focused.
Inconsistent body language. Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel that you’re being dishonest. For example, you can’t say “yes” while shaking your head no.
Negative body language. If you disagree with or dislike what’s being said, you might use negative body language to rebuff the other person’s message, such as crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping your feet. You don’t have to agree with, or even like what’s being said, but to communicate effectively and not put the other person on the defensive, it’s important to avoid sending negative signals.
Effective communication skill 1: Become an engaged listener
When communicating with others, we often focus on what we should say. However, effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to convey.
There’s a big difference between engaged listening and simply hearing. When you really listen—when you’re engaged with what’s being said—you’ll hear the subtle intonations in someone’s voice that tell you how that person is feeling and the emotions they’re trying to communicate. When you’re an engaged listener, not only will you better understand the other person, you’ll also make that person feel heard and understood, which can help build a stronger, deeper connection between you.
By communicating in this way, you’ll also experience a process that lowers stress and supports physical and emotional well-being. If the person you’re talking to is calm, for example, listening in an engaged way will help to calm you, too. Similarly, if the person is agitated, you can help calm them by listening in an attentive way and making the person feel understood.
If your goal is to fully understand and connect with the other person, listening in an engaged way will often come naturally. If it doesn’t, try the following tips. The more you practice them, the more satisfying and rewarding your interactions with others will become.
Tips for becoming an engaged listener
Focus fully on the speaker. You can’t listen in an engaged way if you’re constantly checking your phone or thinking about something else. You need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience in order to pick up the subtle nuances and important nonverbal cues in a conversation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words over in your head—it’ll reinforce their message and help you stay focused.
Favor your right ear. As strange as it sounds, the left side of the brain contains the primary processing centers for both speech comprehension and emotions. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favoring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying.
Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns. By saying something like, “If you think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can’t concentrate on what someone’s saying if you’re forming what you’re going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind’s elsewhere.
Show your interest in what’s being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”
Try to set aside judgment. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand them. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can often lead to an unlikely connection with someone.
Provide feedback. If there seems to be a disconnect, reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is,” or “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back. Don’t simply repeat what the speaker has said verbatim, though—you’ll sound insincere or unintelligent. Instead, express what the speaker’s words mean to you. Ask questions to clarify certain points: “What do you mean when you say…” or “Is this what you mean?”
Hear the emotion behind the words
It’s the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion. You can become more attuned to these frequencies—and thus better able to understand what others are really saying—by exercising the tiny muscles of your middle ear (the smallest in the body). You can do this by singing, playing a wind instrument, or listening to certain types of high-frequency music (a Mozart symphony or violin concerto, for example, rather than low-frequency rock, pop, or hip-hop).
Skill 2: Pay attention to nonverbal signals
The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing.
Developing the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication can help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships at home and work.
· You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to.
· You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal message—patting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your message.
Improve how you read nonverbal communication
Be aware of individual differences. People from different countries and cultures tend to use different nonverbal communication gestures, so it’s important to take age, culture, religion, gender, and emotional state into account when reading body language signals. An American teen, a grieving widow, and an Asian businessman, for example, are likely to use nonverbal signals differently.
Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don’t read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language. Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact go, for example, or briefly cross their arms without meaning to. Consider the signals as a whole to get a better “read” on a person.
Improve how you deliver nonverbal communication
Use nonverbal signals that match up with your words rather than contradict them. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will feel confused or suspect that you’re being dishonest. For example, sitting with your arms crossed and shaking your head doesn’t match words telling the other person that you agree with what they’re saying.
Adjust your nonverbal signals according to the context. The tone of your voice, for example, should be different when you’re addressing a child than when you’re addressing a group of adults. Similarly, take into account the emotional state and cultural background of the person you’re interacting with.
Avoid negative body language. Instead, use body language to convey positive feelings, even when you’re not actually experiencing them. If you’re nervous about a situation—a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example—you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you’re not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put the other person at ease.
Skill 3: Keep stress in check
How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your spouse, kids, boss, friends, or coworkers and then said or done something you later regretted? If you can quickly relieve stress and return to a calm state, you’ll not only avoid such regrets, but in many cases you’ll also help to calm the other person as well. It’s only when you’re in a calm, relaxed state that you’ll be able to know whether the situation requires a response, or whether the other person’s signals indicate it would be better to remain silent.
In situations such as a job interview, business presentation, high-pressure meeting, or introduction to a loved one’s family, for example, it’s important to manage your emotions, think on your feet, and effectively communicate under pressure.
Communicate effectively by staying calm under pressure
Use stalling tactics to give yourself time to think. Ask for a question to be repeated or for clarification of a statement before you respond.
Pause to collect your thoughts. Silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response.
Make one point and provide an example or supporting piece of information. If your response is too long or you waffle about a number of points, you risk losing the listener’s interest. Follow one point with an example and then gauge the listener’s reaction to tell if you should make a second point.
Deliver your words clearly. In many cases, how you say something can be as important as what you say. Speak clearly, maintain an even tone, and make eye contact. Keep your body language relaxed and open.
Wrap up with a summary and then stop. Summarize your response and then stop talking, even if it leaves a silence in the room. You don’t have to fill the silence by continuing to talk.
Quick stress relief for effective communication
When a conversation starts to get heated, you need something quick and immediate to bring down the emotional intensity. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, you can safely take stock of any strong emotions you’re experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.
Recognize when you’re becoming stressed. Your body will let you know if you’re stressed as you communicate. Are your muscles or stomach tight? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Are you “forgetting” to breathe?
Take a moment to calm down before deciding to continue a conversation or postpone it.
Bring your senses to the rescue. The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell—or movement. For example, you could pop a peppermint in your mouth, squeeze a stress ball in your pocket, take a few deep breaths, clench and relax your muscles, or simply recall a soothing, sensory-rich image. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find a coping mechanism that is soothing to you.
Look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress when communicating. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or an amusing story.
Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned. If you realize that the other person cares much more about an issue than you do, compromise may be easier for you and a good investment for the future of the relationship.
Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes meditating. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.
Skill 4: Assert yourself
Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost your self-esteem and decision-making skills. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.
To improve your assertiveness:
Value yourself and your options. They are as important as anyone else’s.
Know your needs and wants. Learn to express them without infringing on the rights of others
Express negative thoughts in a positive way. It’s OK to be angry, but you must remain respectful as well.
Receive feedback positively. Accept compliments graciously, learn from your mistakes, ask for help when needed.
Learn to say “no.” Know your limits and don’t let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so everyone feels good about the outcome.
Developing assertive communication techniques
Empathetic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person. First, recognize the other person’s situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion. “I know you’ve been very busy at work, but I want you to make time for us as well.”
Escalating assertion can be employed when your first attempts are not successful. You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. For example, “If you don’t abide by the contract, I’ll be forced to pursue legal action.”
Practice assertiveness in lower risk situations to help build up your confidence. Or ask friends or family if you can practice assertiveness techniques on them first.
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph. D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. Last updated: June 2019.
From Sandra Popescu, CPA, CFF, CVA
Many people are completely perplexed by the idea of me finding personal enjoyment, through my role in someone’s divorce journey. You see, in society we have this image or idea that the process of divorce has to be a negative or perhaps even a traumatic event for all parties involved. A big attraction for me, in becoming a professional with the Collaborative Process, is the fact that we are doing just that, we are collaborating with all parties involved and determining the best possible outcome for the family unit. As a Divorce Coach I have the opportunity to walk alongside someone as they express their anger, fears, relief, resentment, joy, concerns, future goals, disappointments, and happiness. While many couples enter into a marriage with the expectation: till death, do us part; life happens. Our team of professionals are sensitive to this, and are able to work at the pace, of the couple. Through on-going support and conversations we are able to identify areas which may delay the process, and provide that additional support or even suggestions on how to have a positive outcome. When children are involved, one of the most rewarding parts, is having the ability to work one on one, with each partner. We have the ability to work on areas such as communication, scheduling, housing concerns, and shift in family dynamic. It is quite rewarding and an accomplishment when you are able to get each partner to a point of cognitively focusing on co-parenting and considering what is in the best interest of the child, above all else. There are many unknowns when preparing for a divorce, and through the on-going help and support of our collaborative team, we are able to deliver positive outcomes. If you or someone you know is considering divorce, please contact any professional within Nebraska Collaborative Divorce, and let us help you through your divorce journey.
Adjusting to Life Financially After a Divorce
There's no doubt about it — going through a divorce can be an emotionally trying time. Ironing out a divorce settlement, attending various court hearings, and dealing with competing attorneys can all weigh heavily on the parties involved. In addition to the emotional impact a divorce can have, it's important to be aware of how your financial position will be impacted. Now, more than ever, you need to make sure that your finances are on the right track. You will then be able to put the past behind you and set in place the building blocks that can be the foundation for your new financial future.
Assess your current financial situation
Following a divorce, you'll need to get a handle on your finances and assess your current financial situation, taking into account the likely loss of your former spouse's income. In addition, you may now be responsible for paying for expenses that you were once able to share with your former spouse, such as housing, utilities, and car loans. Ultimately, you may come to the realization that you're no longer able to live the lifestyle you were accustomed to before your divorce.
Establish a budget
A good place to start is to establish a budget that reflects your current monthly income and expenses. In addition to your regular salary and wages, be sure to include other types of income, such as dividends and interest. If you will be receiving alimony and/or child support, you'll want to include those payments as well. As for expenses, you'll want to focus on dividing them into two categories: fixed and discretionary. Fixed expenses include things like housing, food, and transportation. Discretionary expenses include things like entertainment, vacations, etc. Keep in mind that you may need to cut back on some of your discretionary expenses until you adjust to living on less income. However, it's important not to deprive
April 08, 2019 yourself entirely of any enjoyment. You'll want to build the occasional reward (for example, yoga class, dinner with friends) into your budget.
Reevaluate/reprioritize your financial goals Your next step should be to reevaluate your financial goals. While you were married, you may have set certain financial goals with your spouse. Now that you are on your own, these goals may have changed. Start out by making a list of the things that you now would like to achieve. Do you need to put more money towards retirement? Are you interested in going back to school? Would you like to save for a new home? You'll want to be sure to reprioritize your financial goals as well. You and your spouse may have planned on buying a vacation home at the beach. After your divorce, however, you may find that other goals may become more important (for example, making sure your cash reserve is adequately funded).
Take control of your debt While you're adjusting to your new budget, be sure that you take control of your debt and credit. You should try to avoid the temptation to rely on credit cards to provide extras. And if you do have debt, try to put a plan in place to pay it off as quickly as possible. The following are some tips to help you pay off your debt:
• Keep track of balances and interest rates
• Develop a plan to manage payments and avoid late fees
• Pay off high-interest debt first
• Take advantage of debt consolidation/refinancing options
Protect/establish credit Since divorce can have a negative impact on your credit rating, consider taking steps to try to protect your credit record and/or establish credit in your own name. A positive credit history is important since it will allow you to obtain credit when you need it, and at a lower interest rate. Good credit is even sometimes viewed by employers as a prerequisite for employment. Review your credit report and check it for any inaccuracies. Are there joint accounts that have been closed or refinanced? Are there any names on the report that need to be changed? You're entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can go to annualcreditreport.com for more information. To establish a good track record with creditors, be sure to make your monthly bill payments on time and try to avoid having too many credit inquiries on your report. Such inquiries are made every time you apply for new credit cards.
Review your insurance needs
Typically, insurance coverage for one or both spouses is negotiated as part of a divorce settlement. However, you may have additional insurance needs that go beyond that which you were able to obtain through your divorce settlement. When it comes to health insurance, make having adequate coverage a priority. Unless your divorce settlement requires your spouse to provide you with health coverage, one option is to obtain temporary health insurance coverage (up to 36 months) through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). You can also look into purchasing individual coverage or, if you're employed, coverage through your employer. Now that you're on your own, you'll also want to make sure that your disability and life insurance coverage matches your current needs. This is especially true if you are reentering the workforce or if you're the custodial parent of your children. Finally, make sure that your property insurance coverage is updated. Any applicable property insurance policies may need to be modified or rewritten in order to reflect property ownership changes that may have resulted from your divorce.
Change your beneficiary designations After a divorce, you'll want to change the beneficiary designations on any life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank or credit union accounts you may
have in place. Keep in mind that a divorce settlement may require you to keep a former spouse as a beneficiary on a policy, in which case you cannot change the beneficiary designation. This is also a good time to make a will or update your existing one to reflect your new status. Make sure that your former spouse isn't still named as a personal representative, successor trustee, beneficiary, or holder of a power of attorney in any of your estate planning documents.
Consider tax implications You'll also need to consider the tax implications of your divorce. Your sources of income, filing status, and the credits and/or deductions for which you qualify may all be affected. In addition to your regular salary and wages, you may have new sources of income after your divorce, such as alimony and/or child support. If you are receiving alimony, it will be considered taxable income to you. Child support, on the other hand, will not be considered taxable income. Your tax filing status will also change. Filing status is determined as of the last day of the tax year (December 31). This means that even if you were divorced on December 31, you would, for tax purposes, be considered divorced for that entire year. Finally, if you have children, and depending on whether you are the custodial parent, you may be eligible to claim certain credits and deductions. These could include the child tax credit, and the credit for child and dependent care expenses, along with college-related tax credits and deductions.
Consult a financial professional
Although it can certainly be done on your own, you may want to consider consulting a financial professional to assist you in adjusting to your new financial life. In addition to helping you assess your needs, a financial professional can work with you to develop a plan designed to help you address your financial goals, make recommendations about specific products and services, and monitor and adjust your plan as needed.
A creditor has the right to
Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Karl Rohrbaugh, AAMS, CRPC, CDFA Vice President, Investments 1010 N 102nd St Suite 203 Omaha, NE 68114 402-800-1366 Karl.Rohrbaugh@RaymondJames.com www.Stridewealthplanning.com
In this article, collaborative lawyer, Chaim Steinberger, explains some of the techniques and strategies that are used in a collaborative divorce which help clients to achieve a better resolution of the issues in their case. If you are interested in learning more about collaborative divorce, please contact one of the professionals in the Nebraska Collaborative Divorce professionals and let us help you through your divorce without creating more destruction in the process.
Divorce Without Destruction
Die-hard litigators who have only one tool in their toolbox often believe that the way to achieve the best results for their clients is to be as aggressive and confrontational as possible. Clients buy into this narrative because by the time they involve lawyers they have already concluded that the other party is unreasonable. Clients mistakenly believe that in order to win the other party must lose. Moreover, the fear, anger and pain of the dispute restrict parties’ creativity and result in psychological tunnel vision, leaving them unable to visualize or create other acceptable options. As a result, too many pursue (intentionally or inadvertently) a scorched-earth strategy that destroys what might be their most precious things—their children, businesses and family relations.
Aside from the benefits of avoiding permanent injury to children, using game theory and advanced negotiation techniques can often achieve better financial and emotional results for the clients. Lawyers can be part of the healing rather than the destroying, doing well as they do good.
Game theory teaches that adversaries achieve better results by developing trust and working collaboratively, than they ever could by remaining distrustful, oppositional adversaries. As adversaries each party must protect themselves against the possible double-cross by the other. As a result, the parties can only agree to what is a “pareto optimal” solution—a solution in which any unilateral deviation by a party will hurt the deviating party more than it advantages them. These solutions are akin to the “lowest common denominator,” often not the very best solution for either of the parties but only the best solution that leaves them both protected. If the parties can, however, create some measure of trust and collaboration they can often find solutions that leave them both better off. The techniques outlined below foster just such results.
In their seminal book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Professors Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton of the Harvard Negotiation Project develop techniques for achieving the seemingly impossible “win-win” resolutions in which both competing sides win at the same time. They recommend that negotiators be “hard on the problem, but soft on the people.” That is, negotiators should thoroughly and critically analyze the positions of both of the parties, but do so without personally attacking either of them which could destroy any hope of a future working relationship between them.
Instead of using “positional bargaining” where each side conclusively states their demands, the professors recommend “principled” negotiation in which the parties negotiate around core values. So for example, parties may agree that they both want to be fair. They may agree that they both want to do right. They will likely both agree that they want to protect their children. Just expressing such common core values reminds the parties of the interests that unite them.
The parties can then discuss aspects of fairness, of what is right, or of how to protect the children. Because the discussion is centered around fairness rather than demands, neither party feels attacked or becomes defensive. Parties can now hear and acknowledge the validity of the points made by the other, without feeling vulnerable or giving up their own deeply-held positions. This allows each party to feel heard and validated, a major step in fostering the trust that is necessary for a collaborative result. Unlike in the typical brute-force negotiations—negotiations in which the parties negotiate based on who has the better legal argument, the more aggressive or intransigent lawyer, or who is willing to spend more on legal fees—from which the parties walk away feeling worse about one another, these techniques create trust and understanding between the parties, making them more willing to work collaboratively in the future and perhaps even giving them the tools with which to resolve their own future disputes. Often a magical moment occurs in which what was a “me-against-you” problem becomes a “we have a problem; how can we find a solution that works for the both of us.” Using creativity and empathy the lawyers and parties can then put their heads together to find win-win resolutions that would be impossible when the parties distrust one another.
Another powerful technique is to focus on the parties’ interests instead of their positions. Instead of accepting the parties’ positions as absolutes, the negotiator delves into the reasons why each position is important to the party. Though asking basic questions when the answer seems obvious might make one feel a bit daft, it is surprising how often the seemingly obvious motivation is not the party’s actual motivation. The other difficulty of this technique is that after asking for the reasons behind the party’s position, the person asking must be quiet, not talk, and actually listen to the answer–a skill difficult for many, lawyers included.
The classic example of this principle involves two people fighting over an orange. Unable to agree and having grown impatient, one pulls out a knife, slices the orange in half and walks off with half. Having walked away, the party peels the half-orange and throws away the peel to eat the fruit. The second peels the remaining half, throws away the fruit and uses the peel to bake a cake. How frustrating for those with a bird’s eye view to know that each could have had the whole orange—one the whole fruit and the other the whole peel. Because it hadn’t occurred to either of them to ask why the other wanted the orange, their “positions” were diametrically opposed, though their “interests” in actuality were not. Because of the way the dispute was positioned, it seemed that one could “win” only if the other “lost.” At the least, each had to “settle” for one-half of what they wanted in order to reach the only “fair” result they imagined. In actuality, however, neither had to give up anything; they each could have received 100% of what they wanted and they both could have “won” without ever making the other one “lose.”
Like with the orange, so often uncovering the reasons behind parties’ stated positions allows creative, empathetic lawyers to find win-win resolutions in which both sides win. A parent might demand the family home but really only want to remain in the school district with the special-needs program for the parties’ child. Or it may not be the specific home a parent wants but only proximity to certain special friends or family members. Each of these motivations opens myriad choices that can fulfill the party’s interest, one of which might satisfy the other party’s interest as well and making a win-win resolution possible. A father’s stated position may arise from his fear that his relationship with the children will be impaired. Acknowledging his legitimate concerns and providing assurances and guarantees may go a long way in reestablishing the shattered trust between them, which might then make it possible for the parties to craft an out-of-the-box resolution that is right for them and that can benefit them and their families for years to come.
Be Calm, Cool and Collected
Like litigation itself, these techniques require solid, thorough preparation, lots of patience and a cool and collected demeanor. The lawyer must know the client’s case and all of its relevant, even picayune but emotionally persuasive, details. The litigator’s theory of the case demonstrating why justice demands a ruling in the client’s favor, is used here to demonstrate the fairness of a particular position. The facts, the law (and the fairness it represents), the closing argument and the advocacy are all put in play, but in a safe, respectful collegial environment, one that makes the parties feel heard and understood so that they can be amenable to fashioning a resolution that works best for themselves and their family. As Sun-tzu advocates, a true pacifist must be the most accomplished warrior.
By listening carefully and respectfully, being genuine and forthright, agreeing with valid concerns and accommodating them when they can reasonably and fairly be accommodated, a good negotiator can avoid further traumatizing the parties’ relationship and obtain better results for the client. By creating an atmosphere of rapport and even trust, the parties can discover or create resolutions that benefit both of them in ways that no adversarial win could. Achieving such a better resolution allows the parties to heal and move on, without the emotional negativity, recriminations and ill will that often linger long after the final appeal is decided and the adversarial battle is supposed to be over. Moreover, in addition to the better settlement terms, the parties will be better positioned to work together in good faith on joint issues like those involving their children. They will give their children the greatest gift divorcing parents can give children—permission to love the other parent and a willingness to work together to raise their children in a loving, cooperative manner.