Legal and other professional fees can be crippling for Middle Tennessee divorce clients – sometimes running from $50,000-$100,000 or more in legal and related fees to get all the way through a contested divorce trial, especially if kids are involved. Collaborative Divorce works to streamline and tailor the divorce process so that the clients’ specific needs and goals are addressed for significantly less than the cost of divorce litigation. Here are a number of ways the process works to keep costs as low as possible while still providing a more satisfying outcome:
- Future Focus – Because the ground for divorce in Collaborative Divorce is always irreconcilable differences, the parties, lawyers, and other divorce professionals spend very little time focused on the past and trying to prove who did what wrong to whom during the marriage. In litigation, many thousands of dollars are spent looking backwards trying to prove an affair happened or otherwise trying to show how one partner was a worse spouse than the other. Because of its insistence on treating the divorce like a problem to be solved rather than a competition, Collaborative Divorce takes the parties where they are and tries to build from their strengths as they make agreements that focus on doing things better in the future than they did them in the past. By not having to pay legal fees and other expenses on mud-slinging about what happened in the past, the parties’ total divorce expenses can be significantly reduced.
- Emotional Divorce is Managed – Every single divorce includes an emotional element. Sometimes the emotional issues are subtle and sometimes they are huge, but emotions are always in the mix one way or the other. Collaborative Divorce recognizes and respects this aspect of divorce and deals with it proactively so as to contain and prevent conflict during the divorce and after. Traditional divorce settlement often tries to pretend like the divorce is merely a business transaction and does not address the emotional elements in any sort of intentional or constructive way. Much more often than not, at some point in the divorce, the emotional elements then seep into the legal/ financial discussions hijacking the settlement process, slowing the case down, and running up stress and fees. Collaborative Divorce takes the proverbial “bull by the horns” and uses a neutral mental health Coach to work with the parties to manage the emotional divorce, rather than having the emotional divorce manage them – at a high financial cost.
- Financial Information Gathering is Targeted – Formal discovery in litigation typically involves both parties’ attorneys asking the other party to produce hundreds, or even thousands, of pages of financial reports and statements, only a fraction of which are actually relevant to the divorce. The clients then pay their respective lawyers to sift through the paperwork looking for the information that is ultimately needed to understand the marital estate. Because litigation is an adversarial process, both attorneys end up sorting through the same voluminous financial paperwork such that the parties pay to have the same information analyzed twice by two different attorneys, each of whom is charging hundreds of dollars per hour. Collaborative Divorce addresses this inefficiency in two ways. First, the process includes a neutral financial professional as part of the team whose job it is to take the lead in gathering and summarizing the financial information in the divorce. In Nashville, most of the financial neutrals hold recognized professional financial credentials such as CFP (certified financial planner) or CPA (certified public accountant). The financial neutral then works with the parties to gather all relevant financial information needed for the parties to make solid, well informed decisions in the divorce. While they are comprehensive in their approach, the financial neutrals do not waste the parties’ time and money by asking them to produce financial documentation unless the information will be helpful in the divorce settlement process. So at the end of the day, the clients end up paying one financial professional to gather and assess the financial information, rather than paying two non-financial professionals (e.g. lawyers) to assess the same information twice, with less qualified eyes. This more efficient approach not only saves in professional fees, but results in a more financially sophisticated review of the material itself giving the parties a higher quality product for less money.
Divorce forces clients to make very tough decisions about the things that are the most important to a divorcing couple – their children, their home, their retirement security. As a result, doing a divorce “on the cheap” in a way that cuts corners or rushes to a settlement without being thoughtful can lead parties to regret their choices in the divorce after the dust settles and it is too late to change their mind. On the other extreme, litigation is ripe with inefficiencies that run up stress and legal fees needlessly. Collaborative Divorce provides an alternative way to help families make the best decisions they can from a legal, financial, and emotional perspective while still being cost effective.