In the past, divorce processes have been primarily adversarial in nature. In a typical divorce scenario, spouses each hire an attorney, and then a variety of expert consultants who advise them on finances and custody plans.
This type of divorce can go on for many months or even years, driving up fees and increasing a couple’s stress levels, anxiety and animosity. Children can get caught in the middle. They can become awash in the tension and harsh feelings between their parents. They often experience their own stress and anxiety about what the future holds for them.
The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Increasingly, attorneys, mental health professionals (MHPs) and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CFDAs)/financial planners are collaborating in a variety of non-adversarial approaches to divorce and child custody cases. Divorcing couples may now choose to settle their divorces using what is called Early Intervention Mediation, or Cooperative Divorce Mediation. More couples are exploring these approaches to see if they can work for them.
Here is how it works
- Co-mediators for this process can be CDFAs, other financial experts, psychologists or family-law attorneys. Each one uses the tools of their trade to facilitate mediation sessions. The goal is to produce a written divorce agreement both spouses can accept.
- In preparation for mediation, the couple meets with a neutral CDFA or financial expert and if desired, a mental health professional;
- The divorce financial analyst or expert works up an inventory of assets and debts, creates a spreadsheet of these items and develops a post-divorce financial budget for each spouse using a couple’s input. This is prepared pre-mediation and can be revised during mediation. The financial expert may also provide an optional analysis of the long-term outcomes of one or more proposed settlement scenarios for each party.
- If there are children, the MHP may help the parties create a parenting plan that prioritizes their welfare and takes into account parent’s concerns and needs. The MHP also may assist spouses and family members in resolving any disagreements or issues that arise, giving the family new tools for managing their relationships post-divorce.
- A mediator/attorney co-mediates with the CDFA/financial advisor and guides the parties toward a settlement. The attorney/mediator draws up the mediated settlement agreement in a document to be signed as evidence of an agreement.
- After the mediation is complete, another attorney files the request for divorce, beginning the 60-day waiting period. He or she answers questions concerning legal issues but doesn’t treat the case as “litigation.” This attorney writes the divorce decree and “proves up” the agreement in court accompanied by one spouse. This is typically the only court involvement and takes only a few minutes in front of a judge.
Early Intervention Mediation of Cooperative Divorce involves trained professionals who encourage rational discussion of each spouses’ concerns and needs. They work toward developing reasonable, mutually satisfying solutions. If needed, the spouses may attend a second mediation session to resolve difficult issues. However, the overarching goal of this approach is to save couples time and money, while minimizing stress and preserving relationships going forward.
If you would like to explore using the above approach for your divorce or have other questions about divorce finances, call me at 832-858-0099.