Could a collaborative law approach to divorce work for you?

While the decision to marry may be impetuous, filing for divorce requires careful deliberation. The mental picture of the divorce process involves courtrooms and bitter fighting. However, there are various avenues to seeking a divorce, and many Florida residents may find that a collaborative law approach meets their needs.

In general, there are five options to consider when filing for a divorce. One option that might sound appealing but is usually only appropriate for a small number of couples is the do-it-yourself divorce. This is usually only applicable to those spouses who were married for a short time and do not have children or numerous assets. An option that may work better for couples who are able to compromise readily is the mediation method. This involves having a neutral third party assisting spouses as they work out details relating to a settlement, and it can include outside professionals to ensure a fair and equitable solution.

An option that may prove to be most suitable is the collaborative law divorce. This method allows for each party to be represented by an attorney who will work with the other team members to ensure that the process avoids animosity and as fair to each party as possible. If children are involved, then outside professionals can provide advice as to the best arrangements to meet the family’s needs. If either party cannot come to an agreement, then the process can be halted and another method selected to restart the process.

The last two avenues are an attorney-assisted settlement and the traditional, but costly, litigation process. Both of these will be more expensive, but they may provide the structure needed for some situations. The decision to file for a divorce is never an easy one. However, for those Florida residents who wish to ease some of the emotional stress while arriving at an equitable settlement, a collaborative law divorce may be the most appealing solution.

Collaborative divorce versus divorce mediation

People may choose to divorce for a variety of reasons, and sometimes the split is amicable. In such instances, the two parties may not deem it necessary to seek a divorce through the court.

Many divorcing parties appreciate the benefits of alternative divorce options, such as a collaborative divorce or divorce mediation. When choosing between the two, it is important to understand what sets them apart.

Similarities

As alternative means for divorce, collaborative divorce and divorce mediation share several important characteristics. Both options help to settle the divorce out of court, which helps to keep them private matters. Also, rather than a third party making the decisions for the parties, the divorcing individuals must agree to specific terms amongst themselves. This helps to avoid a combative environment and fosters working together, which can be beneficial in maintaining a positive relationship in the future. Though there is no judge, a party that is acknowledged by the court does help to facilitate the proceedings.

Differences

Though mediation and collaborative divorce have strong similarities, one of the most distinguishing differences is their processes. The process for a collaborative divorce is lead by the collaborative lawyers, while a mediator leads mediation. Parties may still consult with their lawyers before and after mediation sessions, but the attorneys do not usually attend the mediation sessions. On the other hand, collaborative attorneys receive specific training and a designation to be able to participate in a collaborative law divorce. By entering into the collaborative divorce setting, the attorneys agree to work together to aid the parties in reaching a mutual decision, without either party escalating matters into litigation. During the course of mediation, either party’s attorney could initiate litigation, taking the case to court.

Every divorce is different and depends on the parties involved. Take some time to consider the distinct attributes of a collaborative divorce and divorce mediation, and determine how either option could apply to your situation.

A high asset divorce can be exceedingly costly in many ways

Those who are considered to be extraordinarily wealthy attract more than their fair share of media attention. To that end, when a marriage ends, the ensuing high asset divorce typically draws a great deal of attention and speculation from news outlets and social media. Fortunately, for most Florida residents, their privacy will remain intact while they work through the details of their own dissolution.

A divorce is a complicated undertaking no matter the circumstances. There are many important decisions that must be resolved, and if a divorce involves minor children, then it can become even more complex. For wealthy couples who did not have a prenuptial agreement in place, the costs of obtaining a divorce could be devastating. In light of the recent divorce between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his former wife MacKensie, a list was compiled of the most expensive divorce settlements to date.

Several of the divorces that were on the list involved business owners who were at risk of losing a significant portion of their control and investments. Though the former Mrs. Bezos could have sought a 50 percent share of Amazon’s stock, she elected to retain only a quarter of the company’s stocks and relinquished any claims to some of her husband’s other ventures. Nevertheless, her settlement netted her an estimated $35.6 billion in assets. Other costly divorces have resulted in settlements that ranged between $400 million to $1.7 billion in assets. 

Regardless of a couple’s financial standing, a divorce is an unsettling process. If there are significant assets at risk, then the settlement process may become even more contentious. Florida residents who are worried about how their high asset divorce will impact their current and future finances may be best served by consulting with an attorney who is skilled in drafting a settlement that protects one’s financial well-being.

Prenuptial agreements validity questioned in contested divorces

Years ago, only those with a family legacy were inclined to enter into marital contracts. More recently, more Florida couples are electing to draft prenuptial agreements so that they are in agreement over how to divide property in a divorce. However, there are times these contracts are contested, especially during a contentious divorce.

In 2000, Natalie Maines, known as the lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, married actor Adrian Pasdar. The couple signed a prenup that stipulated property division if their marriage ended. Unfortunately, the couple did eventually file for a divorce, but Pasdar is now contesting the terms of the agreement. According to Pasdar, the terms of the previous agreement would leave him in an impoverished state and unable to meet his expenses and provide for the couple’s children.

According to Pasdar’s argument, his monthly income of $150,000 is inadequate and that he is over $200,000 in debt. He is requesting an estimated $60,500 monthly in both spousal and child support. In addition, he has requested that the singer pay approximately $350,000 for his accumulated legal fees. He has alleged that Maines has more than $50 million in assets and cash and that she is expected to make millions more after the release of her solo album and subsequent tour.

Maines asked the court to uphold the couple’s prenup. She stated that the contract would speed up the divorce proceedings as both parties signed the agreement willingly at the time. It is unclear whether the court will grant any of Pasdar’s request. Florida residents who wish to protect their personal assets during a divorce and are concerned that the validity of their prenuptial agreements will be called into question may benefit from consulting with an experienced attorney who can ensure that their contracts are well drafted and that both parties are in agreement over the terms.

Take steps to prepare for high asset divorce before marriage

Though not pleasant for engaged couples, discussions involving a possible future divorce are a prudent measure. Approximately half of all marriages end in a divorce, and those who own considerable assets may do well to prepare for a high asset divorce even before the wedding. Florida residents who are concerned about such an eventuality can take steps to ensure their financial security. 

If either party cannot have a serious conversation about the possibility of a divorce, it may indicate that communication problems already exist. When one or both parties own considerable assets, it may be best to enter into either a pre- or post-nuptial agreement.  Ideally, both spouses will be knowledgeable about the property division laws in their state and will set up their finances in the manner best suited to their needs. If either partner owns property, it is recommended that he or she remains separate and that tax and other property related liabilities are maintained under the individual’s name.

Spouses may wish to set up a revocable trust to manage their personal assets. Doing so could prevent those assets from being subjected to division in a future divorce. Spouses are encouraged to maintain thorough records of all of their major transactions and to keep a record of their credit scores at the time of their marriage. It is also helpful to maintain a record of personal wealth both before and during the marriage. If the value of assets increases, careful record keeping can determine whether the increase was attributed to individual or joint efforts.

Though no wants their marriage to end, the reality is that many marriage do not survive. Those who own considerable assets are acting prudently if they plan for a possible high asset divorce. Florida residents who are concerned about how their divorce will impact their finances may be best served by seeking the guidance of an attorney who can structure a settlement that will provide for their current and future needs.