How are Complex Financial Issues Dealt With in a Collaborative Divorce?

 It is not uncommon in any divorce situation that difficult and complex financial issues arise. The couple may own a business or one spouse may have a professional practice, with several partners. One spouse may be a high income professional and the other a modest wage earner or stay-at-home mother or father who has never had a career. They may own complex investment portfolios or participate in complex pension plans, 401(k) plans. They may own annuities or numerous rental properties.

In a conventional, adversarial divorce, especially if the divorce is hotly contested or the parties or their attorneys have not attempted or are not interested in reaching a negotiated settlement at the early stages of the proceeding, each side will often retain the services of various experts or advisors, such as appraisers, accountants, business valuation specialists and the like with the aim of possibly using such professionals as expert witnesses at the time of trial. In the Collaborative process, the parties jointly retain any expert professional advisors that may be needed or desired.

These professionals act as neutral advisors whose job is to assist the parties and their attorneys in structuring a settlement that meets the underlying short and long-term needs of both parties. Thus, if the Collaborative case involves the valuation of a business or professional practice, the parties may choose to hire a specialist, such as a CPA, to recommend how to best divide up or sell the business or simply value the business as part of the marital “pie.” In the Collaborative process, there is no “battle of the experts.”

The experts are neutral and work for the best interests of the couple and the Collaborative process. In cases where property or income issues are complex, these professionals are a key part of the interdisciplinary team of professionals, including the attorneys, who are there to help the parties make the best, most informed decisions in a dispassionate manner consistent with the goals of the Collaborative process. The participants – even the Collaborative attorneys – in the Collaborative process work as part of a team to empower the spouses or other parties to self-determine their settlement and meet the unique needs and address the particular concerns of both spouses.

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