Thursday, May 16, 2013

Complicated Finances: When You Should Use Collaborative Law

Couples facing divorce after a long-term marriage often have serious concerns about how to deal with and protect their hard-earned assets.  There can be a variety of investments, business interests and employment benefits built up over the years.  In a litigated divorce, if the case reaches trial, a judge is likely to divide the assets in ways that may not benefit both parties.  Some assets might be liquidated and others split up.  People on both sides are usually unhappy with parts of a judge's rulings.  An alternative to turning over the decision-making to the judge is to use the Collaborative process.

Here are some types of issues that might be resolved better with Collaborative Law:

1.  Family owned business -- Instead of  just letting a judge arbitrarily award it to one party or the other, the parties can work together to come to an acceptable agreement on how to handle it.  That could include the possibility of everyone continuing to work in the business, which is more likely to be possible in a Collaborative approach which seeks to protect important family relationships.

2.  Need for alimony:  now, interim or later in life-- The need for transitional help is common in the aftermath of a long-term marriage.  That need may occur immediately, for a short term, as one spouse gets re-established or goes to school.  It could could be long-term or short term.  It could also be a bridge later in life as the spouse approaches or reaches retirement age.

3.  Retirement assets to be divided -- In court, judges are tempted to pick an arbitrary percentage and divide retirement accounts across the board, regardless of expected needs or the expected ability (or lack of ability) to replenish the accounts.  In Collaborative cases, the assets can be allocated to meet the needs of both parties and consider the future abilities to acquire new retirement benefits.

4.  Need to provide for college education for children -- In Texas, courts can't really provide for college education expenses unless the children have special needs.  Collaborative Law cases often make it a priority to take care of the children's education, both private school (elementary through high school) and college.

5.  One or two professional practices -- Most professionals don't want their private financial and personal matters exposed to the public.  They want to maintain their professional practices and support their families.  To minimize cost and disruption, Collaborative Law is a good choice.  Value can be shared and used to benefit all family members.  Too many litigated divorces involving professional practices really get ugly.

6.  Planning for long-term care for spouse or child -- Sometimes a spouse or a child will need long-term care.  Judges can provide for that to a limited degree.  Collaborative Law provides a better way to come to more comprehensive agreements to provide the needed help, and money isn't wasted on litigation expenses.

These are some of the matters that can be dealt with effectively for people who have complicated, difficult financial issues.  If any of these apply to you, or if you have other questions, make sure you talk with a trained, experienced Collaborative Lawyer before you decide how you will proceed with a divorce.  You need to figure out all your options.

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