Mediation: an opportunity for sharing

There are many reasons why divorcing couples choose mediation over collaborative divorce and litigation. Time and money rank tops among those reasons. These are the same reasons  why many couples divorcing via mediation are not inclined to hire experts as part of their divorce process.  While this can be okay in some cases, in others, this approach can be “penny wise and pound foolish.”  The good news is that if mediating spouses need outside expertise they can share the expense of hiring neutral experts to help come to an equitable settlement.

Typically, experts utilized during a divorce mediation range from financial professionals (financial planners, CPAs, estate planners, business or pension appraisers, etc.) to family counselors and child psychologists. While many divorces involve a straightforward 50-50 split of every individual marital asset, some do not and that’s when financial experts are needed. For example:

  • The divorcing couple does not want to sell the current marital home so that one spouse will have to buy the other out;
  • One of the parties has a pension;
  • More than one piece of real estate is involved in the divorce settlement;
  • Divorcing parties are also business partners.

These kinds of scenarios are not that uncommon. In many of them, a 50-50 split of every marital asset might not be appealing to one or both of the parties. By hiring a neutral, financial expert to work on a particular area of the settlement, it enables some out-of-the-box solutions beyond a right-down-the-middle division of assets.Couples with children might also benefit from the services of a neutral, third-party family or educational counselor or child psychologist to address developmental, mental health, educational or emotional issues that children might be experiencing.  These professionals can also help in establishing a mutually agreeable parenting schedule. They can help couples come to a consensus on everything from holiday and vacation schedules to schooling options and more.

As stated on several occasions in this space and what I say to every client, you should try to come up with a divorce settlement that you can not only live with today, but five to 10 years from now. And if part of your divorce involves selling a business or real estate, it can be a decision that has ramifications well beyond the next 10 years of your life. Hiring an expert just makes sense for both parties.

Unfortunately for many divorcing couples, the bottom line is the bottom line—even if it will benefit them in the long run. So while both may agree that hiring a neutral third-party expert would help, the financial implications—even if the expense is shared–prevent hiring one.

There’s no getting around the fact that getting divorced can be  expensive, even for couples who basically agree. Yet the divorces that are the most costly tend to be ones where important issues like division of assets, parenting, etc. are not properly addressed. Many times, those couples spend the money they thought they saved several times over by going back to court after the divorce to clarify or fight about issues that they did not understand at the time of the divorce. Sharing the expense of third-party experts may cost a little more in the short-term, but  might save greatly in the long run.

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