Last week three of our clients signed their separation agreements and property settlements after intense but successful collaborative law proceedings. Each had their own unique challenges.
In the first case, the husband was returning to his native country of Norway. The wife had her own career and was financially independent. There were no children. They had marital assets totaling nearly $4 million dollars and there had been an affair. The marital assets included accounts in both Canadian and U.S. banks, investments, retirement accounts, real estate, stock options and restricted stock units, as well as a complex severance package that the husband received shortly before the collaborative law proceedings started. With some help from a financial specialist in the collaborative process, and after several collaborative law sessions, Springfield Collaborative Divorce and the collaborative team were able to devise a way to divide pre-tax assets, Canadian dollars, U.S. investments and cash, and the potential tax liabilities in a way that was fair and equitable to both parties. As you can imagine, throughout the collaborative law proceedings the emotions of hurt and sadness along with the sense of betrayal over the affair were present and acknowledged. But in the end, a monetary acknowledgement of the betrayal was included in the settlement and both parties divorced feeling financially secure and honoring the good marriage they had before it began to dissolve.
In the second case, the wife had stayed home with the children, now 8 and 11. The plan was for the wife to return to school, but certification for the type of job she wanted would take two years. With bonuses, the husband earned about $200,000. We projected the expenses for each of the two households following the divorce, adjusting for three different periods of time—for 6 months during which the wife could continue to work part-time; for the 18 months after that during which she would attend school fulltime without working; and for the long-term where the wife would begin a new career. After only three collaborative law sessions, we were able to arrive at cash flow projections for each party that included child support and alimony payments. At the end of these meetings, both parties agreed the terms were reasonable.
In the third case, the wife’s extended family lives in California, and she wanted to have the option to return to California within the next few years if she desired. The older child was graduating from high school, but the younger still had three more years of high school. Given the younger child’s own connections with the wife’s family in California and his situation at his current high school, it was unclear to the parents whether he would chose to remain in North Carolina or move to California if given the option. The wife works as a part-time nurse, and the husband earns approximately $250,000 with bonuses. Again, over the course of several collaborative sessions, we arrived at an agreed upon financial plan that would allow the wife to stay in the home for another school year and have primary care of their younger child, along with an option to continue in the home for a longer period if she chose. The parties also agreed that after the divorce, they would engage a child specialist in the collaborative process to talk with the child about his living preferences to avoid the risk of putting the child in the middle of the divorced parents. They also agreed that collaborative attorneys would still be part of their team and available to help with any conflict or changes that might occur throughout the legal custodial arrangement.
In all three cases, both spouses left the collaborative law proceedings with the sense that their agreements were both equitable and reasonable. In contrast, after court proceedings, both spouses rarely leave the courthouse with the sense that the court’s order was equitable and reasonable. Nearly always, there is a sense that one or the other spouse lost in court, and, not infrequently, that both spouses lost in court.
Springfield Collaborative is always available for your questions and initial consultations.
The cases mentioned in this article are illustrative of matters handled by Springfield Collaborative Divorce. Results in the collaborative law proceedings depend upon a variety of factors unique to each situation. Since collaborative law proceedings are voluntary, about 10% of collaborative cases do not end in resolution.