DIVORCE OPTIONS & SERVICES
How does it work?
Divorce litigation is the standard considered by most in the divorce process. It starts with one spouse hiring an attorney and “filing” for divorce. The other spouse then hires their own attorney and is “served” or signs a waiver of service.
The next step might be temporary orders (depending on the county you live in) where the “rules of the fight” are established: who pays what bills, who lives where, who has access to which assets of the estate, children’s visitation, etc. In some counties, this prevents anyone from being allowed to take money out of their IRA or their 401k without the other person’s consent.
Next is the process of discovery which can be very time consuming and very costly. The extent of discovery, in my experience, can vary greatly. This really depends on the attorney’s involved and the amount of fighting between the two parties. At some point other professionals, friends or family members might be brought in to testify or act in a role for or against one side or the other. These people could be a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, a CPA, a forensic accountant, a business valuator, a special attorney just for the children, a mental health professional or a friend or work colleague.
A mediation session is usually held next to resolve the issues. Some counties mandate mediation. The norm, in our experience, is that you will face at least one mediation session during the process no matter what Texas county you live in. This mediation session, in my experience, involves each party in separate rooms with an attorney/mediator going between the rooms. You can usually have your own “expert” in your room which would usually be a financial professional to help you understand the ramifications of different settlement options on the table during mediation. If mediation resolves the dispute, the attorney can then usually draft a document that makes your agreement binding.
If mediation does not resolve the issue, then your attorney may suggest a variety of next steps – more discovery, arbitration, another mediation, court or a variety of other options.
In Texas, the average cost of divorce per lawyers.com is $15,300 without minor children to $23,500 with minor children. That sounds like a lot, however our experience has been most litigated divorces with some amount of wealth to divide and/or minor children costs upward of $50,000 – $120,000. The average time is 9.75 months without minor children and 14 months with minor children per lawyers.com.* That time frame is also our experience.
How can we help?
Divorce Strategies Group will work closely with litigants and their attorneys in a variety of ways. These are the most common areas we help in litigation:
– Help litigants understand the estate, especially with complex estates including stock accounts, brokerage accounts, pension plans or businesses
– Create financial inventories and suggest different settlement options
– Provide creative settlement ideas in mediation
– Utilize tax ramifications to help resolve the financial disputes
– Provide powerful case exhibits, especially surrounding spousal support, to help litigants reach an agreement
– Illustration the long-term ramifications of different settlement options post-divorce to help litigants decide on what options to choose in negotiations
– Provide separate and marital property tracing, especially when one spouse was with the company who provided a pension or 401k prior to marriage
– Pension plan valuations
– Post-divorce financial planning including cash flow analysis, estate growth analysis, tax analysis, retirement income and social security planning post-divorce
– Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO)’s
– ROTH/SEP/SIMPLE/TRADITIONAL/ROLLOVER IRA paperwork and transfers post-divorce
– On-going monitoring of stock options as they vest over time post-divorce
-Assistance with all needs post-divorce to facilitate the transfer of the assets awarded in negotiations, mediation or court
EARLY INTERVENTION MEDIATION
How does it work?
The parties work together with a neutral mediator to privately handle the details of their divorce. This provides the opportunity to negotiate in a cooperative manner and create settlements that are unique to the family. This can work outside the financial guideline restrictions of the court system. This is a private process in which clients maintain control of the outcome. The parties can save money by hiring only one attorney for the legalities. The costs remain low and a long divorce battle can be avoided.
If parties wish to have their own legal representation, we encourage this. We have a host of attorneys who can provide each individual with legal advocacy while still working within the overall umbrella of a cooperative divorce process.
We do not mandate that each party hires an attorney, but we do encourage it. The parties can hire an attorney to provide “unbundled” legal services which includes reviewing the preliminary divorce plan, the final decree and in general providing legal answers.
We have carefully vetted our referred attorneys to make sure they will not “stir the pot” unnecessarily, but still provide solid, experienced legal advice and advocacy to each individual.
How can we help?
Divorce Strategies Group has implemented a proven a 5-step divorce process which includes mediation. This process helps the parties effectively discern and communicate what they really want from the divorce process. It also fosters positive communication post-divorce, especially regarding minor children. In addition, this process helps to mitigate the emotional as well as financial toil of divorce. If both parties feel reasonably comfortable they understand what is in the marital estate and neither side is trying to willfully hide assets, this can work well. This also works if there are no issues with family violence. If the parties wish to remain civil after divorce for the sake of children or grandchildren, this process helps facilitate that atmosphere after the divorce.
This works well if parties wish to remain private in their divorce matters. The mediation notes are kept confidential, and the mediator cannot be mandated into court if the parties decide they cannot agree and choose litigation. The attorney can also file private documents with the court in order to protect the family’s private financial and child related matters keeping them out of the publicly recorded divorce decree.
Our process is typically completed within 30 days. We charge a flat rate fee for our service depending on the complexity of your estate and the time needed prior to mediation. Our fees and the attorneys’ fees in mediation are a fraction of the costs of divorce litigation and typically much less than the Collaborative Law process.
How does it work?
This is a very structured process where professionals assist clients in interest-based negotiations. This provides the opportunity to jointly engage neutral professionals. The process is lawyer driven usually by attorneys who are collaboratively trained and focused. Each client will hire their own collaborative attorney. A financial neutral or mental health neutral may also be consulted as well as business valuators or other professionals as the attorneys see fit. This provides a private, structured environment where settlements can be crafted outside the restrictions of the court system. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, all the attorney’s must be let go and new attorneys are hired for divorce litigation.
How can we help?
We are trained in Collaborative Law Process to work as the financial neutral in a case. We will work together with the attorney’s and the clients to build the financial inventory, advise on financial matters, tax matters related to divorce, separate property tracing, executive compensation package valuating and division, pension valuations, etc. We are the financial neutral expert in the divorce process, and we work collaboratively with the parties and the other professionals until a negotiation is reached.
THE KITCHEN TABLE APPROACH
How does it work?
This is a direct negotiation between the parties. This should work well if the parties are at a high-functioning point in their lives and are effective at communications with each other. This should work well if the parties do not have children nor own property.
You may think this is a good option to save money, and it is, in the near term. However, we have seen financially savvy couples run into large problems post-divorce by not getting professional help when divorcing. Even if you think you have it all under control, it is wise to seek legal council before signing anything and consult with a CDFA to regularly works with the financial aspects of divorce.
How can we help?
If the parties decide they can create their own settlement, Divorce Strategies Group can help by reviewing the financial aspects of the settlement and providing a professional opinion. We can also advise on tax issues of divorce and provide financial ramifications of the settlement options created by the parties. We can also help the parties understand where post-divorce issues might arise financially, and advise on any financial related issue regarding the divorce matter.
POST-DIVORCE TRANSITION ASSISTANCE
Your divorce is final! Congratulations…. You’ve made it through! Now some of the real work begins. Your accounts need to be consolidated, IRA’s transferred, QDROs completed, bank accounts closed, tax planning considered, wills redone, etc. It can be very overwhelming! We can help you with financial planning after the divorce in order be sure you don’t miss anything important, so you can begin the next phase of your life with confidence and peace of mind.
We’ll work with you as long as necessary to ensure that ALL of the terms of your settlement agreement are completed, and you get the assets you’re entitled to.
As a Financial Advisor and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor with over 22 years of experience, Denise French and her team from French Financial Group are equipped to help you manage your financial life post-divorce to ensure that your financial plan has the best chance of success.
Denise is a full-service financial advisor with French Financial Group. She will make sure that you have a clear vision for your new life post-divorce.
- Retitling assets you have acquired in your name
- Facilitate the transfer of any type of IRA from your ex-spouse to you
- QDRO’s – Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
- Retirement planning*
- Education and college savings planning*
- Investment advice and management*
- Estate planning & life insurance*
- Cash flow analysis
- Help determining if you should keep the marital home or move
- Monitor unvested stock options until they vest and facilitating the transfer of those options into your name.
Denise also has a host of trusted professionals she coordinates with to help you transition seamlessly to your new life including tax planners and preparers, vocational coaches, counselors and attorneys to complete your legal documents, trusts, deeds and a new will. We can also help you find handy-men, pool services, pet groomers, insurance agents, etc. We are here to help you find a new peace and freedom as you make this life change.
How can we help?
Our niche is post-divorce financial planning. Your divorce decree does not automatically give you the assets you have fought for. The work of having those assets put in your name begins after the divorce is final. We help our clients do this. We also work closely with those post-divorce on cash flow analysis, tax planning, investment positioning and estate preservation. We help clients vocationally if they need work, we help them acquire insurance, refinance assets, find CPA’s, organize check books and in general, help our clients have peace of mind financially as they begin the next chapter in their lives.
* These processes are handled by Denise French through French Financial Group.