Adjusting to Life Financially After a Divorce

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.

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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

Divorce Without Destruction

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.

Game Theory

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.

“Win-Win” Techniques

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.

Source:  https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2018/07/27/divorce-without-destruction/

Why Bad Marriages are Worse for Kids than Divorce

When marriages turn toxic, divorce can actually help kids.

When I was a kid, divorced parents were given the evil eye. Heads shook, tongues clicked; divorcees were home-wreckers, selfish and unloving, they destroyed children's lives. Some churches banned them from services—apparently, even God wasn't a fan. The message to married couples: Keep your family intact by any means necessary.

Times have changed; today, nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. Whether divorce hurts or helps children depends on how it is handled by their parents, but one thing is certain: Staying in a toxic marriage is certain to cause children more damage than good.

Kids forced to endure loveless marriages and to tolerate emotional tension day after day bear the full brunt of their parents' dysfunctional relationship. They intuitively feel their parents’ unhappiness, and sense their coldness and lack of intimacy. In many cases, children blame themselves, feeling their parents' combative relationship is somehow their fault. In such cases, staying together “for the kids” is a cruel joke.  

Here are four ways kids suffer through gloomy and despondent marriages:

1. Chronic Tension

Our parents’ relationship leaves an emotional imprint on us that never fades. A natural part of children’s development is internalizing both their parents. When parents are consistently at odds, their kids internalize those conflicts. Rather than feeling soothed or comforted when they are with both parents, they feel tense. Such ongoing tension can produce serious emotional, social, and physical ailments in children, such as depression, hopelessness, or chronic fatigue.

2. An Unstable Sense of Self

James Dean cried out to his bickering parents in Rebel Without a Cause, “Stop it! You’re tearing me apart!” because the war between parents does take root inside children’s minds. The strain eats away at their security and leaves them with little internal peace, putting them at odds with their own impulses. For example, they long to be loved, but reject closeness; they yearn for friends, but choose isolation; they will have great intellectual or creative abilities, yet sabotage their own efforts. The external conflict between their parents eventually becomes an internal battle with themselves that complicates their life and hinders their emotional development.

3. Fear of Intimacy

Children raised by battling parents have great difficulty getting close to others. Intimacy triggers the traumas they suffered when witnessing their parents’ dysfunction, so they avoid closeness to steer clear of getting hurt. If they manage to establish an intimate relationship, they remain cautious or guarded. When conflict arises, they’re most likely to flee or to reenact their parents’ conflicts with their own partner.

4. Mood Problems

Warring parents produce children who struggle with serious mood problems, such as dysthymia. These problems, if left untreated, may fuel personality disorders or substance abuse. At the root of these problems is a profound lack of hope. They learn at an early age to abandon optimism and expect the worst. Sadly, bad marriages cause kids to mature too quickly and lose out on their childhood.

Before You Consider Divorce

Ending a marriage is a brutal undertaking that should only be an option after all other efforts have been exhausted. Before you call your lawyer, here are a few suggestions:

Couples Counseling

Couples counseling works best when it teaches parents how to work through their conflicts without resorting to emotional warfare (see "Hate Me in a More Loving Way: A Couples Guide to Better Arguing"). It also gives ill-tempered parents a place to work through their differences rather than exposing their kids to them. The goal of couple’s therapy is to enrich communication and enhance intimacy. But be warned: Couples therapy can be treacherous, and the wrong therapist can spell doom for your marriage. Gather trustworthy recommendations, take your time, and interview several professionals. Make sure you both agree on the therapist you choose; otherwise, the therapy will become just another bone of contention.

Individual Therapy

Nothing stirs up unresolved childhood issues like marriage. Too often, couples have unrealistic expectations of marriage, and become disillusioned when they discover that good marriages take work. Before you blame all the problems in your marriage on your partner, get some help for yourself. A skilled therapist can help you identify problems from your past that are resurfacing in your relationship.

Support Groups

The best outcome of group work comes from sharing your feelings and discovering that you’re not alone. Hearing about other couples’ struggles, the difficulties they face, and how they work through them can bring much-needed inspiration and relief. It also provides you with a community of people who can inspire you with new choices in your marriage.

Zoe’s Story

   Zoe, a shaggy-haired thirteen-year-old with sad eyes, glares at me, arms folded and jaw set; a therapy hostage if I ever saw one. Parents exert their executive power when it comes to therapy, so I don’t expect Zoe to cooperate, especially during our first tumultuous session. To kids like Zoe, therapy is an insult.

   Zoe, however, offers me a deal: “I’ll be in therapy with you only if you promise one thing. I want you to convince my parents to get divorced.” I was flabbergasted by her request, but it opened my eyes to something I had never considered—the positive side of divorce

   Zoe suffered ongoing humiliation in public, in school, and in front of her friends due to her parents' combative relationship. The verbal abuse she witnessed her mother suffer at the hands of her father never let up. As a result, Zoe struggled with ongoing headaches, depression, and weight problems.

   After meeting with her parents and witnessing their sneering contempt for each other, I understood Zoe’s request. If I could barely stand them for 30 minutes, what must it be like to live with them?

   Within a year after her parent’s divorce, Zoe's depression lifted: She went from failing school to placing on the honor role. She also had her first boyfriend and became socially outgoing. In fact, I was amazed at how much better life became for everyone.

Source:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-kids-call-the-shots/201703/why-bad-marriages-are-worse-kids-divorce?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=FBPost&utm_campaign=FBPost

Submitted By: Samantha Willey, LMHP, NCC, Divorce Coach

What is a Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreement?

Participation Agreement.png

When spouses agree to utilize the collaborative process to dissolve their marriage, the parties and their attorneys will sign a Participation Agreement.  The Participation Agreement is a contract that sets forth the terms and expectations of the parties throughout the collaborative divorce process.  

By signing the Participation Agreement, the parties are committed to the collaborative divorce process.  This ensures that the spouses and their attorneys are devoted to a negotiated settlement.

While the specific language of a Participation Agreement may vary, there are essential components that you can expect to be included the document. 

1.    No Court Intervention

The Participation Agreement sets forth that the parties and attorneys agree that they will resolve all matters in dispute by settlement agreement only.  Neither party nor counsel will seek Court intervention to resolve disputed matters. 

2.    Attorney Disqualification by Court Intervention

The Participation Agreement will clarify that the scope of the attorneys’ representation is to participate in the collaborative process.  If at any point either spouse seeks Court intervention to resolve a disputed matter, both attorneys will withdraw from the case.  At that point, the parties would need to seek new legal counsel.  This requirement ensures that not only are both parties committed to the process, both attorneys are as well. 

3.    Release of Information

As part of the collaborative divorce process, the parties agree to release relevant and necessary information to all parties, including the lawyers and other team members, if appropriate.  This is an important provision in the Participation Agreement because it allows for open, frank, and direct communication to resolves all issues from a solutions-based approach.  Due to the collaborative nature of the process, the attorneys may learn of information that they might not have otherwise if the parties were engaged in traditional litigation. 

4.    Agreement of Full Disclosure

Parties participating in the collaborative process agree to open, honest, and transparent communication regarding all relevant issues.  As such, the Participation Agreement will require the complete and full disclosure of any necessary information or documents.

5.    Integrity, Professionalism, and Transparency

Parties to the collaborative divorce process commit themselves to resolving all matters without litigation.  For the process to be effective, the Participation Agreement requires that the parties commit themselves to being open, honest, professional, and transparent in the process.  

The Participation Agreement provides an important foundation for the success of the collaborative divorce process.  If you’re interested in collaborative divorce, make sure you discuss with your lawyer the details of the Participation Agreement to make sure you fully understand the what is expected of each party and how the process will unfold. 

By:  Angela Lennon, collaborative attorney at Koenig│Dunne, PC, LLO.  Contact Angela at www.koenigdunne.com or (402) 346-1132.

 

Choose Not to Declare War: Choose Collaborative Divorce

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-djk4MSV33Y

When a couple decides to divorce, they have many decisions to make.  But it starts with how they will divorce.  One of the ways to do divorce in Nebraska is through the collaborative process.  In the collaborative process, the spouses literally choose not to declare war; they make the choice to be civil and professional with each other despite how they feel about each other.  During the process, they will agree to take off their gloves and not fight.  This doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it does mean that the spouses will remain in control of their outcome.  When spouses can maintain control over their case (with the assistant of advocates), they are better able to manage their finances, their parenting time and their living arrangements.

If you’ve decided to divorce, learn about the collaborative process in Nebraska.  Join us for a Divorce Options Workshop every Second Saturday of the month.  At this workshop, you’ll learn about how to take the war out of divorce and move on in a civil manner.

By: Tracy Hightower-Henne
      Hightower Reff
      Collaborative Practice Attorney
      www.hrlawomaha.com

Is Collaborative Divorce the right choice for me?

Divorce or the ending of a long-term relationship is a sensitive and personal matter. No single approach is right for everyone. Many couples find Collaborative Divorce to be a welcome alternative to the often destructive, and sometimes very expensive aspects of court proceedings.

If the following values are important to you, Collaborative Practice is likely to be a workable option for you:

  • I want us to communicate with a tone of respect.
  • I want to prioritize the needs of our children.
  • My needs and those of my spouse/partner require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.
  • I believe that working creatively and cooperatively resolves issues.
  • It is important to reach beyond today's frustration and pain to plan for the future.
  • I can behave ethically toward my spouse/partner.
  • I choose to maintain control of the divorce/separation process with my spouse/partner, and not relegate it to the courts.

If this path reflects your own thinking, we suggest that you talk to a Collaborative lawyer, Collaborative coach, child specialist or financial professional about your own situation. A Collaborative professional can help you decide if Collaborative Practice is the right alternative for you and your family.

Source: International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, www.collaborativepractice.com

By: Jaimee Johanning
Collaborative Practice Attorney
jdjohanninglaw@gmail.com 

Sometimes Everyone Loses

As a collaborative attorney, I truly believe that the best people to make decisions for a family is that family.  When decisions are left up to a judge, both parties walk away feeling like they’ve lost.  Beyond the parties feeling a sense of loss, the parties’ extended family members; friends; and, most importantly, their children are losers when a couple goes through a trial.

Years ago, I tried a case to a Judge confident that the court would make the right decision for my client and her family.  My client, I’ll call her Alice, had the facts and the law on her side.  She was well-educated, hardworking and a devoted parent.  She also benefited from having good insight and a remarkable ability to articulate her position.  How could Alice not get the relief that she was asking?  

Alice’s story started when she moved from her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska to complete her residency training.  Although Omaha was not her first choice of locations for her residency program, she was happy about the prospects that Omaha held for her and her family.  At the time of her move, four years prior to our trial, she had two children under the age of four and one on the way.  Her husband, a computer software engineer, quickly found work in Omaha at a technology company.  The family made an easy, quick transition to life in Omaha.  

Alice intended to participate in a Hematology/Oncology fellowship for three years following the completion of her residency program.  During her final year of residency, Alice started looking more closely at the fellowship programs.  She began interviewing all around the country in hopes of finding a program that would be the perfect fit for her and her young family.  During the months of interviewing for a fellowship position, her husband abruptly filed for divorce.  This came as a complete shock to Alice.  Sure, Alice and her husband had been having problems.  But Alice assumed that their problems were caused by the stress of having three young children and both working demanding jobs.  She didn’t realize that her husband was ready to call it quits and get a divorce.  To make matters worse, Alice was served with the Complaint while at work.

Alice found me shortly after she was served with the Complaint for Dissolution.  When she realized that her husband intended to prevent Alice from moving out of state with their children to complete her fellowship, she stopped applying to fellowship programs.  Alice was crushed that the man that she married; the father to her children would be so cruel and heartless.  Alice had worked her whole life toward her intended career and suddenly to Alice, it felt as though everything was crashing down around her.  Alice couldn’t attempt to match with a fellowship program as there were no guarantees that her choice of location would be where she landed.  There was no way that Alice was willing to live in a different state than her children.  

Alice quickly attempted to get her husband to agree to use collaborative for  their dissolution.  Alice understood that they would maintain power over their case; it would cost them less; and they’d be able to formulate a plan for their family’s future together.  Alice was a self proclaimed planner and the idea of not knowing anything about her future was beyond stressful.  Alice knew that she and her husband were the best people to decide where their children would live; what parenting time each would enjoy; and how their marital estate should be divided.  In addition, Alice was a private person and was less than thrilled about having a public record about her divorce and understood that collaborative offered more discretion than litigation. 

Unfortunately, Alice’s husband refused to even consider the option of collaborative law.  He was certain that litigation was the best way forward.  He had already retained an attorney and that attorney was not trained in the collaborative model.  Because collaborative is voluntary, Alice couldn’t use collaborative for her divorce.  She’d have to go through the litigation route.

Alice’s case lagged on for nearly a year.  During that time, Alice had to build a potential future for herself and her children back in Des Moines and also keep the options in Omaha open in case the court denied her request to return with her children to Des Moines.  She attempted on multiple occasions to offer her husband a settlement that she thought was fair.  At the very least, Alice hoped to keep the dissolution amicable for their children.

Alice’s husband and his attorney had other ideas.  Alice and her husband appeared incapable of agreeing on anything.  The couple had three separate temporary hearings.  They were unable to agree on who should remain in the marital home, whether or not Alice should be able to spend Christmas with the children, and their temporary parenting schedule.  Alice and her husband attempted mediation, as required, and reached a resolution as to custody and parenting time.  However, Alice’s husband’s attorney objected to nearly whole plan.  Certainly, I’m biased as I represented Alice but the whole time, it appeared as though Alice’s husband was incapable of making even the slightest compromise without his attorney’s blessing.  This back and forth resulted in hours of litigation; thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees; and an immeasurable amount of damage to their co-parenting relationship.

Alice’s husband refused to even consider any possibility that would allow his children to return to live in Des Moines.  Alice couldn’t fathom a future in Omaha where she had no family and few remaining friends.  

In the end, trial to a Judge was necessary.  The trial was full of baseless accusations and inflammatory statements aimed at painting a picture to the Judge that Alice had been absent from her children during her time in residency.  Alice’s husband called his extended family members; neighbors; and mutual friends to testify that he was a better father than she was a mother.  During trial, Alice’s husband’s real motive came to light.  Alice’s husband mistakenly believed that Alice had an affair during their marriage.  Alice was fuming.  Not only was this belief false, her husband’s misconception had led to Alice’s emotional torture.  

In collaborative, such accusations would likely have been vented and dealt with during the process.  Regardless of whether Alice had an affair, the collaborative team would have worked with the couple to assist them in communicating with each other about their feelings and thoughts about this perceived act of mistrust.    

At the conclusion of the trial, Alice and I felt good about her prospects.  She had a great job opportunity, house and her extended family waiting for her in Des Moines.  We both felt confident that the Judge would agree that Alice and her children should be allowed to relocate to Des Moines.
        
I knew the ramifications for Alice and her family was going to be life long. I was shocked when I got the court’s ruling months later.  To my disbelief, the court ruled against Alice and granted the relief that her former husband had requested.  Not only did the court’s ruling determined Alice’s parenting time with her three children; it also dictated in what city she would raise her children and what job she would take.  The amount of impact that this Judge was afforded to make for Alice’s future is remarkable.  

Although Alice felt like she had lost, so did her former husband and most importantly, her children.  Alice and her former husband started the divorce process still speaking to each other and on relatively good terms.  Remember, Alice didn’t even know that her husband wanted a divorce.  After thousands of dollars; months of emotional turmoil; and the involvement of family members, neighbors and colleagues; Alice and her former husband were no longer able to have a meaningful conversation about anything.  They both felt like they’d been wronged by the other. Their neighbors, friends and extended family members were also brought into the divorce.  They took sides and interjected their opinions to the parties throughout.  The biggest losers to this trial were Alice’s three young children.  The effects of this protracted litigation on this couple’s children are mostly unknown.  However, it is safe to say that the animosity that their parents feel toward one another will have ramifications for the rest of these kids’ lives.  

Hopefully, in time Alice and her former spouse will learn to work together to co-parent their children.  Had Alice and her former spouse been able to go through the collaborative process, the work toward co-parenting would have started from the beginning.  The collaborative process would have also affording Alice and her former husband the opportunity to gain valuable insight about their relationship, their children and their future. The collaborative process is all about providing divorcing or separating couples with the tools necessary to co-parent.  

If you know someone contemplating divorce, tell them about collaborative.  You never know the impact it could have on someone’s life.

By Jodie Haferbier McGill  Contact Jodie:  Jodie@McGillLawOmaha.com