There was a recent article in the Los Angeles Times
addressing the growing rate of divorce in later years of marriage. The article summarizes statistics showing this is a large segment of the divorcing population. And it continues to increase.
The article outlines a number of potential reasons for this growing phenomenon:
- As people live longer, there is more years after the children leave the home and retirement to enjoy life. People find themselves less likely to be complacent and stay in an unhappy relationship that could last for 20 or more years.
- As the retiring generation has found more financial success, there are more resources available in later years allowing individuals to feel more comfortable living independently. They also have more resources to enjoy their lives.
- Empty nest is a time when parents focus no longer points towards the children and it may coincide with having lost connection with the spouse. So many years of dedication to the children can lead to less time to focus on the marriage. Once the children leave, there may no longer be a functional marriage.
- Parents feel that adult children may cope better with divorce as they have their own lives and means.
- Societal comfort and acceptance of divorce has made it more tangible for older adults.
The article outlines the reasons why divorce is happening in the older generation. How they divorce, however, is not discussed. My collaborative practice has also seen an increase in gray divorce clients. By choosing an efficient, non-adversarial process, clients can preserve their resources and proceed in an amicable manner. Outcomes are often more easily reached when clients commit to a collaborative process.
To learn more about divorce processes regardless of your age, contact me
I once heard that parenting books are one of the largest segments in non-fiction
publishing. Everyone apparently thinks they have tips and ideas to help others parent. As a collaborative divorce attorney, clients often seek guidance and support in co-parenting during and after the divorce. No book ever fits the bill. While traditional books may offer some guidance, co-parenting after divorce is a unique situation. Not only do children sometimes have challenges as the result of the divorce, parents too are transitioning into a new reality.
In collaborative divorce, we often work with a family specialist or child specialist to help families transition from one home, into two. This neutral party can assist in many aspects of parenting, including the following:
- Coach parents on telling the children about divorce.
- Bring the children’s voice to the process by hearing their concerns and hopes and communicating them to the parents.
- Communication coaching.
- Developing a parenting plan and schedule for parenting in two homes.
- How to maintain relationships with extended family.
- Consulting after divorce as new things arise.
- Periodic check-ins on parenting and child development.
- Any other parenting challenge that arises during or after the divorce.
The child specialist or family neutral is a uniquely qualified individual who can build the strongest family possible. They can support the children while still helping parents establish routines and a healthy co-parenting relationship. This work is some of the hardest during a divorce, but often the most rewarding.
To learn more about collaborative divorce, please contact Kimberly Miller.
A collaborative law colleague recently wrote a lovely piece in the Boston Globe describing his reasons for leaving his litigation practice behind and representing clients only in alternative dispute resolution processes. His article resonated greatly with me. I too left behind a litigation practice to enter the world of peacemaking. While not an easy choice at the time, I look back six years later and realize that these years have been the most fulfilling of my career. I have not stepped foot in a courtroom in almost six years.
I am thankful for many things in my current “out of court” career, but here are just a few:
- I spend my days working with clients on resolutions that meet their big picture goals.
- My conversations and negotiations are fruitful, honest and genuine. The teams I work with and clients who choose me are seeking this type of interest-based negotiation without gamesmanship or posturing.
- My colleagues are professionals with passion and dedication to help people through transitions in their marriage – many are my friends, including attorneys who are on the “other side” representing my client’s spouse.
- I can be creative in tailoring outcomes to meet my clients goals.
- We can tailor my work to each client and what they need and want out of the process.
- I am a peacemaker who is at peace.
Peacemaking professionals provide the best experience for clients. I share my own story as a practitioner in the hopes that potential clients will read this and get a sense of who I am.
Knowing that, clients too may choose a path of peacefulness.
Like many things in life, people tend to divorce at certain times of the year. My professional experience corresponds with a recent study out of University of Washington. The study looked at the time of year that divorces are most often filed. Research over 14 years shows that divorce files peak in March and August.
As our children head back to school this time of year, it is often a time that parents consider divorce as an option. It is much less common to initiate a divorce in the summer or over the holidays. Those are the times that families choose to remain peaceful and accepting of challenges. But come spring or fall, when we get back into our daily routines of life, it is often a time to initiate a change of life, such as divorce.
It is interesting that people avoid the conflict of divorce for the sake of the children over the holidays or summer, I assume, because they want to minimize conflict. They want to enjoy the holidays or relax in the summer, yet marital conflict often inhibits that joy. If couples could choose to divorce collaboratively, in a respectful and non-adversarial way, they may realize that it doesn’t matter what time of year it occurs, divorce can be done well.
Many clients feel relief and peace once divorce or separation occurs. A collaborative divorce can help maintain that peace throughout the process. Building better outcomes and preserving what is very best about the family can make the time of year not matter.
As many know, because Minnesota is a no fault divorce state, one spouse not being ready does not need to stop the process from moving forward. The ready spouse can file for divorce and the process moves on in court with little control of the reluctant spouse.
A potential client recently came in for a consult and, as often is the case, her husband was struggling to move forward in the process. They were at very different points on the divorce readiness scale – she was ready, he was not. This is quite typical. The other spouse is sometimes called “reluctant” or “in denial.”
When one spouse is looking for a non-adversarial, out-of-court alternative (like mediation or collaborative divorce), there is more of a need to bring that other spouse along. The reluctant spouse really can delay the process and interfere with the non-reluctant spouse’s desire to divorce. This potential client said something very interesting to me. She said, “I know I am committed to collaborative divorce, but I am learning that this does not have to be a collaborative decision.”
This realization was profound. She realized that she could control the process (with her husband’s agreement), even if her husband never agrees with the decision to divorce.
It is common during the divorce process to have spouses be at different comfort levels with the decision to divorce. These levels of readiness can change throughout the process and even vary greatly from one meeting to another. The challenge often lies with helping the reluctant spouse commit to a collaborative process, while acknowledging his or her disagreement with the process.
A good collaborative attorney can strategize ways to bring the reluctant spouse into the process and help move things forward. Ways to teach him or her about the divorce options and lay out the pros and cons of different processes for divorce. To learn more, contact Kimberly Miller.
When getting divorced, it is important to have a support network. Having a sounding board and friends to talk through things with can help you evaluate options. They can remind you that you are not alone. Acquaintances who have gone through divorce themselves or who have certain expertise (like financial or real estate), may be able to help you with some of the decisions. Everyone needs someone to talk to.
However, sometimes well-intentioned people can cause more harm during the divorce process than good. Everyone seems to have a neighbor that somehow obtained a “better deal” than you did. They either received more in settlement or support than you are considering or they paid less than you. This “Greek Chorus” phenomenon can slow down progress and make a collaborative process more difficult than it needs to be.
When reaching out to others for support during divorce, keep the following things in mind:
- Remember that you live with your resolutions. If something feels right to you, it might be best to not let your friends talk you out of it.
- You can always ask your support network to just listen.
- Figure out how you feel after talking through things with certain friends – if it doesn’t make you feel better or more positive about resolutions, they may not be the best support.
- If you ask for advice, be very specific about what you are asking for and let your support know that you may not take their advice, you are just gathering information.
- Be careful if you seek advice on one piece of the settlement without considering all elements.
- You can always use your collaborative attorney as your sounding board instead of peers. Your friends and family can support you in other ways.
While researching for this post, I came across a number of divorce-related blogs. The blog medium provides an efficient and concise opportunity to share information and educate the public. This blog focuses on the collaborative process
— where clients commit to an out-of-court, non–adversarial process.
Here are some other blogs that may provide additional information as you navigate the divorce process:
- Jeff Landers writes in Forbes Magazine about complex financial issues that women face in divorce. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Planner who has extensive experience with high asset divorces. His blog is informative and financially savvy.
- Divorced Girl Smiling is a personal blog written by a woman during – and now after her divorce. It is a personal account of her experience, as well as a gathering of resources for others who may be going through the same thing. The archived blogs provide a great path through the litigation process, and provides some insight into why a non-adversarial approach may be better.
However you choose to get advice, being armed with information and prepared for the process can help you feel confident and ready for the transitions that come with divorce.
There is a lot of information available online, if you know where to find it
As a collaborative attorney
, I am often asked “what would a court do?” Although parties in a collaborative divorce are not asking the court to make decisions in their case, what the law is and how a court may view an issue is important. It is part of the information that a client needs to understand to truly make a decision in their own best interest.
I recently attended an education series with local judges to gain an understanding of the current state of the law. In the second part of this 2 part series, I outline some of the factors a court may consider in making litigated decisions.
On property division and cash flow, here are some of the considerations:
- When dividing assets and liabilities, the courts often begin with an accounting and confirmation of all real estate, accounts, retirement assets, investments, stock options, inheritances, gifts, debts, personal property, vehicles, and all other possessions.
- The courts have to differentiate between marital property that was created or acquired during the marriage and non-marital property that should stay with one party. Non- marital property may include assets from before marriage, gifts or inheritances, and student loans.
- Non-marital property stays with the receiving party. Marital property is divided equitably. This is often interpreted as equally, although there are some exceptions if the outcome is deemed unfair.
- Division of property is a separate question from cash flow (child support and spousal maintenance).
- Child support in court is often calculated with the guidelines based on percentage of overnights with each parent and incomes. Then medical expenses and extra curricular activities are shared by percentage of income.
- Spousal maintenance or alimony is a discretionary area of the law. It is based on the needs of the recipient and the ability of the other spouse to provide support.
- Court requires an analysis of budgets and income or potential income of both parties. It can be difficult to address income if a party has not or is not working.
- Some of the factors for determining support include: length of the marriage, education and age of the spouses with regard to work ability, work history, parenting needs of children, and reasonableness of expenses.
- Because spousal maintenance is one of the most discretionary areas of family law, it is difficult to find consistent outcomes in the court as every case is decided based on the individual facts (and judge).
A collaborative process
is a different paradigm but clients have the same legal rights as parties in court. Know what the law is and what a court may do and then make well informed decisions. A good collaborative attorney
can help in this journey.
As a collaborative attorney, I am often asked “what would a court do?” Although parties in a collaborative divorce
are not asking the court to make decisions in their case, what the law is and how a court may view an issue is important. It is part of the information that a client needs to understand to truly make a decision in their own best interest.
I recently attended an education series with local judges to gain an understanding of the current state of the law. In this 2 part series, I outline some of the factors a court may consider in making litigated decisions.
On parenting and custody, here are some of the considerations:
- A court first needs to establish jurisdiction and make sure they are the correct court to make a decision. This can often be a substantial (although non- substantive) part of the process.
- The first decision is legal and physical custody. Legal custody is decision making and legal parenting rights. Do you jointly make decisions on medical, education and religion or does one of you have sole rights? Physical custody outlines the parenting time with each parent.
- There is a presumption that both parents have a meaningful role in making decisions and regular contact with the children.
- All other elements of parenting are based on the best interests of the children. This is an in depth analysis that considers the developmental stage of the children, safety, and common values of the family.
- Some particular challenges in custody and parenting can be: domestic abuse, chemical dependency, high conflict, special needs of the child, reunification with an absent parent, and temporary plans with revision.
- It is rare for a child to testify in court or be asked for their opinion on parenting.
A collaborative process is a different paradigm but clients have the same legal rights as parties in court. Know what the law is and what a court may do and then make well informed decisions. A good collaborative attorney can help in this journey.
When you first consider divorce, there are often many financial questions and concerns. A complete resolution will answer many of these questions, but it is important to have a complete understanding of the financial situation before coming up with resolutions. These questions are designed to help you think through the financial issues and build that foundation from which to negotiate.
- What are your assets? This includes all bank and investments accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, debts (including loans, mortgages, credit cards and student loans), vehicles, and personal property.
- What are your liabilities? This includes all personal loans, bank loans, mortgages, credit cards and student loans.
- Do you have a full understanding of your financial situation? This is necessary for negotiations to happen in good faith.
- What are your financial goals? What is most important to you financially moving forward after the divorce.
- What is less important? What part of your financial picture are you willing to give up or do you not care as much about?
- What are you most scared about financially? This can help your team know where to focus their attention to make the resolutions most comforting.
- Do you have an outside financial advisor? It may be helpful to have your outside professionals work with your divorce team to make sure everyone has the same information and you are not receiving conflicting advice.
- What is your earning potential moving forward? Your capacity to earn is likely to be an important piece of the divorce finances so it is good to think about it ahead of time.
- Do you expect changes to your financial situation? For example, are you expecting an inheritance? Do you have any large expenses coming up?
Think about these questions should prepare you to move forward in the process with the foundation to make good decisions. Using collaborative professionals, both legal and financial, can help you reach resolutions that fully address your financial needs. Learn more at www.collaborativelaw.org