After more than a decade in the financial service industry, I have learned a lot about how emotions can drive investor behavior and how a lack of financial education can cripple an individual’s ability to successfully reach their goals. When I began working as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® I anticipated the possible challenges I might face, but it didn’t take long to recognize how the same two facets of decision making, emotions and lack of knowledge, can have such a drastic long term toll on an entire family unit when put into the divorce process.
Was it possible that my opinion was formed due to my experience and views from the financial service industry, or was there something to it? Who better to ask than family law attorneys; so, I contacted a few family law attorneys around the Houston area to see what they thought.
- What is the biggest mistake couples make during the divorce process?
The overwhelming response to this question all centered around making emotional decisions and having unrealistic expectations about the legal process. Allison Mundy, Attorney and Founder of Mundy Legal Services PLLC, said that walking in with an attitude of “wanting my day in court” is not only a bad starting place but will ultimately cost clients the most money for very little or no trade off to the ultimate settlement. Hayley Hollands, Attorney with the Hunt Law Firm, said the most expensive words a client can say is “it’s the principal of the matter” and goes even further to explain to her clients that going to court is like “throwing a hand grenade into a family”. Nobody said divorce wasn’t an emotional process but choosing your responses to those emotions is up to you. A couple of the attorneys painfully explained that having that attitude only hurts the parties involved, and that includes any children, because in a city the size of Houston the judges have heard it all and are mostly unphased at the story or reasons behind the divorce decision.
The other mistakes mentioned were aimed at the lack of preparedness and assuming that actions or attempts to hide assets would not be caught, or possibly have an influence on the outcome of the final settlement.
- What should clients know or investigate before they call you?
As a CDFA® it was encouraging to hear from each of the attorneys interviewed, including Jennifer Casey, Family Law and Bankruptcy Attorney of the Law Office of Jennifer Casey, that it would be extremely helpful to have at a minimum the basic understanding of the financials. Based on this and other comments, it is so important to have a meeting with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® at the research phase of the divorce process. Having a CDFA® on your team early can provide huge benefits to the initial start of your attorney relationship.
Hayley Hollands added that having already thought and considered your post-divorce wants and needs can go a long way in providing meaningful direction in the settlement negotiations. She often asks her clients in the initial consult ‘what they want to get out of the process and/or what they need to be set up for their next chapter.’
Outside of financial preparedness and thinking beyond the short term, we also discussed the importance of understanding co-parenting. This is such an important topic and common area of contention for any divorce with minor children. It’s important to recognize that co-parenting goes beyond age 18 and the best possible gift a divorcing couple can give to their child(ren) is working together as amicably as possible when it comes to parenting.
- What are some realistic expectations about the divorce process?
Ms. Casey emphasized that every single case is different and that no matter how similar your case may be to someone you know; the final settlement can be vastly different. An outcome to a negotiation is not just about the facts of the case, it is largely driven by the parties involved. There is so much about the divorce process that is not common knowledge and each couple’s experience will be different.
Ms. Hollands tries to help her clients recognize the long-term benefits cooperation can have on the impact of their post-divorce relationships. This understanding can help to minimize the negative impact divorce has on children who are often stuck in the middle.
Some logistical expectations that were mentioned included Texas 60-day “cooling off period. This does not mean a settlement can’t be reached in that time, but it does mean that a decree can’t be finalized until the 60 days have passed. Ms. Mundy also pointed out the misunderstanding of a retainer. Most attorneys that I have spoken with charge an upfront retainer; this retainer can vary from attorney to attorney, but it is often NOT the final or full cost. Be prepared that you will have additional bills due to your attorney before the divorce is all said and done. The more contentious the divorce the more expensive the attorney gets.
After speaking with each of these family law attorneys, as well as several others, I think it is safe to conclude that the root of many challenges faced throughout the divorce process come from emotions and lack of knowledge. Surrounding yourself with the right team can help to mitigate some of these challenges. I encourage you to seek out a family law attorney (consulting or retained), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, and therapist or counselor. You may also consider working with a Mediator as well.
At Next Step Divorce Solutions, we help to turn your financial fears and confusion into clarity and confidence. Contact us to learn more.
For more information about the attorneys mentioned in this blog please visit their websites below.
Allison Mundy – https://www.mundylegalsvcs.com/
Jennifer Casey – https://www.jcaseylawfirm.com/
Hayley Hollands – https://www.familylawyerkaty.com/