Streamlining the Divorce Process

Streamlining the Divorce Process

If you’re facing an imminent divorce, you probably want the process to be over sooner rather than later so that you can separate and move on with your individual lives. While we understand your desire to move quickly, (we’ve been there, too!) it is so important to think clearly and create a plan as you look toward the future.

 

This is not the time to make rash decisions, and we want to help you streamline the process of divorce. With a clear mind and the ability to truly focus on your future without dwelling on the past, it is possible. That’s why we put together Five Steps to a Seamless Divorce that will help you get to the other side of your divorce with your finances in line and a healthy outlook for the future.

Facing Your Emotions

One of the greatest battles during a divorce is confronting all of the emotions that come along with the decision to get a divorce. Even if you and your spouse decide together that your marriage isn’t working, there are still deep-rooted emotions that span the length of your relationship.

 

After all, no matter how much you’ve grown apart, you still remember the days that you couldn’t imagine life without your partner. You still remember your wedding day in detail, and probably still very fondly. There are happy, wonderful memories that flash through your head and cause you to smile, even in the darkest moments.

This can be so confusing when you’re also deeply hurt, disappointed and maybe even guilty. You may each feel like you’re giving up, like the other person is giving up and you may even wonder if you’re making the right decision. It’s important to accept that confusion is completely normal, among many other emotions you’re feeling.

And you know what, it’s OK to hold onto those fantastic memories you’ve shared together over the years. Just because things didn’t work out the way you each expected doesn’t take away from the good times you DID share together.

Maybe not right now, and maybe not even next year, but one day you’ll be able to look back and appreciate what you had while you had it…and you’ll also appreciate that you were able to let go and move forward with your life when that chapter ended.

Still, when your emotions are at a peak, and while you’re in the middle of a divorce, it can be very tough to make clear decisions. As we have seen so many times, spouses often just want to get their divorce over with quickly. While quick can be good, you also need time to heal.

And to an extent,  these couples are in such a rush that they miss opportunities to begin the mending process. NOW and even save money and make each of their futures better.

 

Consider Counseling

If you’re struggling with emotions, and really even if you think you’ve got it all under control, we highly suggest you pursue counselling prior to settling assets. We’re not talking about marriage counselling together to “figure out your problems” because we know that ship has sailed!

 

We would love to see you pursue individual counselling to help you work through your emotions before making big decisions.

 

After all, you should never make big, important changes and decisions when you are in the throws of any emotional turmoil. But isn’t that so backwards for a couple getting a divorce? Of course, you’re feeling every emotion possible…but you can’t just wait to get a divorce until those emotions pass. That’s not how it works.

But it IS why we are here. Our Army of Angels includes counselors that can talk to you once, twice or even ten times. They will counsel you for as long as you need to begin healing. They will listen, offer their professional input, feedback from other couples they’ve helped and even their thoughts from personal experiences with divorce. If nothing else, at least you will have someone to open up to who understands what you are going through.

Have you ever heard the first step to solving your problem is to admit that you have one? Well, you may be trying to be strong for your family, friends and kids but now is not the time for that. You don’t have to put on a “brave face” to impress anyone. You owe yourself the chance to begin the healing process NOW instead of when your divorce is finalised.

Counseling can help to get all of your feelings out and work through the emotions before allowing them to impact financial decisions. It is so important to keep your emotions separate from long-term financial decisions, and we can’t stress that enough! You and your partner may be separating, but for now, you still have to work as a team to split your assets in a way that makes the most sense for BOTH of you.

 

Think About Your Children

If you don’t have children, go ahead and skip down to our next tip. But according to the Australian Institute for Family Studies (AIFS), around 47% of divorces will involved children under the age of 18. So there is a 50/50 chance that someone reading this is divorcing with children still at home.

 

Knowing that your children are entrenched in your divorce with you and your spouse can deepen the emotions you feel. All of the guilt, anger and sadness you feel is magnified when you think about your children. You probably feel like you’re failing them as a parent.

But consider this, the decision to get a divorce didn’t happen overnight. And even if it DID, the circumstances that led to the decision definitely didn’t. It’s not like you woke up one day and decided to get a divorce because you feel like it. No. Slowly, slowly over time you and your spouse grew apart. Maybe you started bickering more or began spending more and more time apart. Either way, your children have seen these changes. Depending on their ages, they are probably very aware that mummy and daddy aren’t happy together.

So many parents try and stay together “for the kids” and we implore that you consider the other possibility…the possibility that you divorce for the kids as much as you are doing it for yourselves. You kids deserve happy parents who function at 100%. If you’re unhappy in a marriage, you’re definitely not being the best parent you can be to your kids.

So, while it’s important to consider that this affects your kids as much if not more than it affects each of you, please remember that this is for the better. Together, you can show your kids that you’re still a team and you’re both still there for them 100%.

There are many parenting classes available to parents divorcing so that you can learn how to help your kids cope and move forward. You may also pursue individual counselling for your kids with a counselor who specialises in divorce – like those who are part of our Army of Angels.

 

Know Your Assets and Liabilities

Once you’ve worked through your emotions and cleared your head, you might think your next stop is a lawyer’s office. But it’s not! Before you even talk to a lawyer, you should have a clear picture of assets and liabilities.

 

Lawyers are experts in law, but that doesn’t mean that they should be making financial recommendations to you.

 

Instead, set the framework for your divorce in advance of speaking to a lawyer. Know what your entire financial picture looks like. Know what you want the future to look like. It’s so important for you and your spouse to sit down together and review ALL of your assets and liabilities whether they are individual or shared. If this is not possible, do the best YOU can do to put together a financial picture.

Take a look at all loans and outstanding debt, and then look at your savings. This includes superannuation balances and even college savings you’ve set up for your kids, etc. It’s also important to consider each of your individual incomes. And who is currently responsible for which debts until this is sorted? How will you split the assets? Will anyone be paying child support or spousal maintenance based on your individual circumstances and income and how custody will be split?

Many couples go straight to a lawyer’s office to solved all of these dilemmas. But, not you. You’ll have an entire team working to help you – an Army of Angels – that will help you review every aspect of your life. And it doesn’t end there. We will also help you assess what the outcome will be for the future.

When you’re done, you’ll feel a new emotion – relief. You still have a long way to go, but for now, you know how the assets and liabilities will be divided and what’s in store for the future. Then you can go to your lawyer or ours, with a plan in place to streamline your divorce process and your lawyer can help you make it happen from a legal standpoint. This is where our Divorce Roadmap Session answers all those questions.

When we approach the process of divorce, we want to see it streamlined and as amicable as possible – but not rushed or uncontrolled. And there is a difference! If you can work through your emotions and create a plan for the future, there will be a much better outcome for everyone. We want to help you make decisions from a place of love, forgiveness and amicability.

If you would like to know more about what we do please watch our latest video.

About the author:

Tanya Somerton Tanya Somerton is the ‘Divorce Angel’, and helps facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’

Providing step by step processes which limits cost and conflict. 

Tanya is also the Director of TLC Investment Group, a finance and mortgage company.

The author of the Book, ‘The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering independence through Divorce’. Tanya helps with pre-divorce planning, cost-saving strategies and life after divorce. Purchase your copy here

How To Avoid Costly Legal Blunders during divorce

How To Avoid Costly Legal Blunders during divorce

How to avoid costly legal blunders is a question l am regularly asked. When exploring the possible cost, there are no pricing guarantees because so much is unknown. If everything were straightforward, maybe the world would be a different place. Families starting again would not waste funds on unnecessary arguments and legal fees.

In some cases, you can’t control these costs. Because emotions are high and sometimes common sense is hard to find, but there are a few key areas to look out for.

In my experience, there are two sorts of clients. 

  • The client who hassles their lawyer endlessly and then screams about the cost.
  • Or the client who waits for the lawyer to contact them. Letting the process run its course, which in some cases prolongs the outcome.

Without a doubt finding the middle ground is the key to success. So in this blog, I’d like to give you some tips and tricks. How to avoid costly legal blunders during divorce and get a better outcome from your lawyer.

Let’s assume you’ve already chosen your lawyer. Please review my previous blog for helpful ideas. Five legal mistakes clients make when going through a divorce.

 

Legal Blunders No 1:

Lawyers are educated individuals who communicate vastly different from how you and I would talk to one another. Their role when representing a client is to remove all emotion out of their correspondence. They are only interested in the facts at hand. So right there is one of the biggest issues I see. Clients not having enough evidence for their lawyer to be able to support their case in correspondence.

So what do I mean by that?

For instance, say you (as the client) suggest a date, that such and such occurred which is now up for debate. If the letter goes to the other side and they reply saying, “We have evidence on the contrary.” Or, “There’s an issue with that point.” It means your lawyer has to go back and refute the issue or apologise for the mistake. In my book The Jelly Bean Jar – I refer to this as a legal dance. 

So the way you mitigate this is by having all the facts concerning every issue, point or concern at hand. Sometimes this is hard, but there are ways and means to collect the evidence required in many cases. Dates and times can be confirmed by recollections using social media and putting together a comprehensive relationship timeline of events.

Lawyers are educated individuals who communicate vastly different from how you and I would talk to one another.

When you have the history fresh in your mind, it makes it easier for your lawyer to get a better outcome and provide advice. As an example, it may be a question of assets and liabilities brought into the relationship at commencement.  

I encourage my clients to go back to their savings accounts or their old bank statements. Maybe even go into a branch and get proof. That way there is little room for error. And your lawyer is confident knowing this is evidence-based. Having a figure can make all the difference.

This way of dealing with a lawyer can save you a fortune, because I’ve seen it where people will state, “I think it was around this date, or it may have been this much, I’m not quite sure, but that will do.” The lawyer may include this in the correspondence only to receive back, “No, that’s not true and here’s evidence to support our side of the argument.”

So to try and reduce your cost, make sure that you can provide evidence on any point that you have your lawyer put in writing. Not only does it build trust with the lawyer as they’re 100% certain of their argument. In most cases, you have put the point to bed, and it doesn’t need to be debated any longer.

 

legal blunders

 

Legal Blunders No 2:

The second costly legal blunders I see being preventable is rewriting draft letters.  

And even though I coach my clients not to do it, for some reason, there are certain types of people that can’t help themselves. Red pen warriors I like to call them. If you hire a lawyer to represent your welfare and he/she writes a letter on your behalf, they will normally always do a draft first.

They will send it to you for approval making sure the facts within the document are true and correct before it gets sent to the other side. Now, you must remember that lawyers communicate completely different to you and I. They talk in let’s say ‘alien speak’. And they are communicating with their colleague, who also knows this language.

The letter is not written to your spouse; the letter is for your spouse’s lawyer or legal team. So time and time again I see clients go through a letter for approval and want changes made. Changes which do not make one ounce of difference to the context of the letter.

They simply want words altered or to add in something which may cause an emotional response.

What they don’t understand is, this behaviour is costing them money, money they need for their future. The changes then require the lawyer to spend time updating certain words in the letter, to then be approved again and delaying the communication to the other side.

The letter is not written to your spouse; the letter is for your spouse’s lawyer or legal team

These behaviours delay the outcome and can sometimes have opportunity costs associated. Be smart about your team and trust them to act in your best interest. If you know, you are a micro-manager or want to control the situation remember the consequences and meditate on something more important.

In some instances, there may be words which you know will upset your partner or something within the letter which will cause a meltdown. (Your partner will get to read the correspondence, but their lawyer should be highlighting the content) This is different and needs to be addressed particularly if you are trying to be amicable.  But rewriting a whole letter  (don’t laugh this has happened) because you don’t like the tone will lose the support of your lawyer, and that is never good.

 

Legal Blunders No 3:

The third and final costly legal blunders is when clients ring their lawyer and have them on the phone for longer than necessary. Using your lawyer as a therapist is a bad idea and a very costly mistake.  If you are paying $450 – $650 an hour for your lawyer and you can go to a counsellor for $100 – $200 an hour, it doesn’t make sense to be ringing up and having the lawyer on the phone for longer than necessary especially about emotional issues.

Have your list of written questions ready and get on and off the call as quickly as possible. Be sharp and to the point, give them information or get the answers you need.

We make sure all our clients have some form of counselling, it is a necessity when you are going through a separation or a divorce to address your emotional circumstances and help with the loss and grief. But your lawyer is not that person. The lawyer certainly needs to know what’s going on from a factual perspective, but talking about issues that have occurred with no bearing on your legal case, is costly and is not fixing the root cores of the problem.

Using your lawyer as a therapist is a bad idea and a very costly mistake.

They are not there as a therapist or a counsellor. If you feel that things are getting out of control and you want them to stand up for your rights, that’s okay. But if you’re not coping emotionally, your lawyer is not the person you should be ringing because all it’s doing is compounding the issues.

Firstly you’re getting a larger bill, and secondly, you’re not addressing why you feel the way you do. That’s what a counsellor or therapist can help and support your address.  I hope this article on how you can avoid costly legal blunders can be of help to you!       

About the author:

Tanya Somerton Tanya Somerton is the ‘Divorce Angel’, and helps facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’

Providing step by step processes which limits cost and conflict. 

Tanya is also the Director of TLC Investment Group, a finance and mortgage company.

The author of the Book, ‘The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering independence through Divorce’. Tanya helps with pre-divorce planning, cost-saving strategies and life after divorce. Purchase your copy here

Five Legal Mistakes Clients Make When Going Through a Divorce

Five Legal Mistakes Clients Make When Going Through a Divorce

 

There’s a preconceived idea out there that you have to have a lawyer to be able to get divorced.

Now, in many cases, this is true, but there are a few exceptions to this rule. If your financial situation or child-rearing circumstances are such that everything is mixed together and confusing, then yes!  Or, you are facing World War Three and need someone to help mediate. 

Here in this article, I have discussed the five legal mistakes clients make when going through a divorce. These mistakes are avoidable and can save you a lot of money during separation and divorce.

 

Legal Mistake # 1:

Are you and your ex-amicable?

In a small number of client cases, everything is pretty amicable. If you think you can work together and still have each other’s interest at heart. You may not need to spend your hard earned money on legal fees. You both may agree to work together on bringing up your children and putting their interest first, then great. Have minimal assets and not much too divided. You may consider doing your divorce online

Or like a couple* I am currently working with. They sat down around their kitchen table, using our legal questionnaire and couples separation simplified process. They listed all their assets and liabilities and agreed to divide everything down the middle 50/50.  This was completed after a ‘letter of advice’ was provided by one of our legal team.

Having very little guidance from us, they see no reason to make this anymore hurtful.

They are rare but why spend ten grand or more, each on legal bills?

Some couples don’t need to and can submit their paperwork, themselves online. Or compromise with a little hand-holding from us. And use our cost-saving system and employ the lawyers to draw up the consent orders.  Saving them thousands in fees, time and emotions.

 

Or, you are facing World War Three and need someone to help communicate.’

 

Legal Mistake #2:

Can you afford to pick the wrong lawyer?

Where a lawyer is a necessity, choosing the right one can be the difference between a good outcome and a costly one. Like anything, there are good and bad, and the legal game is no different to any other business.

The big question is how do you know?

Between a good lawyer and a bad can be thousands of dollars. Either being paid in legal fees or worst yet, not fighting for your entitlements. Recently a lovely client who has two small children and recently diagnosed with a debilitating illness enquired. She felt her lawyer wasn’t fighting hard enough for her rights. Her ex-husband’s legal team were in her words ‘ bullies’.  And she felt like her lawyer just wanted to get it over and done.

This couples combined asset pool was worth just short of $1,000,000.00.

Now her lawyer was happy with a 60/40 split in her favour. But when we reviewed the file, it was evident that she was entitled to much more given the circumstances and future needs. Our lawyer said easily 70 – 75 %.

In this clients case, the difference in choosing a good lawyer or a bad will cost her $100,000.00 minimum at settlement.

 

‘The difference in choosing a good lawyer or a bad would have cost her $100,000.00 at settlement.’

Legal Mistake # 3:

One of the biggest mistakes that I see is when clients think that they have to pay a large legal firm. Thinking they will get a better outcome. In some cases, this may be true, but it is not about the firm it is about the lawyer. Every day, I have people come to me having spent anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. On legal fees with corporate firms, and the level of service they receive is terrible.

It seems from the experience l have witnessed the bigger the firm, the longer it takes. I recently had a client tell me how she was on a Skype meeting with her lawyer. In walked another four lawyers, and she thought they were training and witnessing how he carried out the meeting. The other people in the room added no value, did not even comment.

When she received a bill for $22,000**, a month later, she asked ‘what for?’ She was told, the cost of five lawyers in the room. She hadn’t agreed to this and was shocked when she received her bill. These are some of the stories that we continually hear.

So just because you’re not paying the most expensive hourly rate does not mean you can’t get the best lawyer to represent you. There are just as many good lawyers in the suburbs that can deal with, let’s call them everyday divorce, and those lawyers aren’t going to charge as much because they simply don’t have the overheads of a city firm.

 

‘There are just as many good lawyers in the suburbs’

legal

 

Legal Mistake # 4:

Why do so many people take on the first lawyer they meet who turns out to be wrong?  

This problem can be avoided. You need to interview your lawyer. When you are hiring anyone to be part of your team, it is important to know they’re the best person for the job.

To do that you have to have aligned goals and make sure you both have the same expectations and agreed outcomes. Make sure the lawyer discusses the consequence and benefits of actions taken, such as keeping the family home or a certain asset. Reevaluate. Project manage your spend.  Ask questions, review accounts and ask for clarification of costs.

Don’t be intimidated and if you feel this way, be mindful, as this is a train wreck waiting to happen and where most costs get out of control. Communication is critical. Confirming the lawyer is not making decisions without your approval. People often comment, ‘something in my gut said I should have sacked him/her, but l felt I was too far down the track to change lawyers.

But in hindsight…..’ If you think you’re on two different pages, cut your losses and move now. Don’t continue doing the same thing, because as Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.” To help with this issue l have put together; how to choose the right family lawyer.

 

 

Albert Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.”

Legal Mistake # 5:

Just because your best friend works or went to a certain lawyer does not mean that that lawyer is the right person for you. If they recommend a professional by all means, go and have a meeting, ask questions, get to know the person you want to represent you but remember, no two divorces are the same. They’re all completely different, just like our DNA. You and your partner are two completely different people than the couple who referred you.

Their partner could have had an agenda which made them want to settle quickly. They may have entered their relationship with a larger asset pool or could have a business. Or theirs could have been quite simple and therefore got it all over and done with quickly at a really good cost, where yours could be more confusing. You might need a special sort of help. He or she might be prolonging the supply of documents which need to be disclosed, and not coming to the party and being amicable in mediation. So don’t ever think just because someone else went to a lawyer, that lawyer is for you.

You need to complete due diligence. Just like a financial advisor, you’re not going to turn up and hire someone to look after your money if they’ve got no experience, they’re not the right person for the job. Do the same thing when picking your lawyer.

 

‘ But remember, no two divorces are the same.’

 

Now, something that I do when I employ professionals to help me, whether that be personal or business including my investment portfolio or someone in my team, can. I put together a list of questions, and I interview them. I’ve done it for my accountant, my financial advisor.

Pretend you are your own HR department and your life is your business. When you’re hiring someone, you want them to be the best you can afford. To add value to the problem at hand with qualities specific to your needs. I see it time and time again where people walk into the office of the very first lawyer*** and hire them.

At a time when life is in complete disarray, and they feel out of control. It is now that you must take back control. This one mistake could be the silliest things I can see any person doing at such a precarious time in their life.

 

‘Pretend you are your own HR department and your life is your business.’

 

*Couple have received minimal advice from our business as to what the court would consider fair and reasonable and have worked on that information. Taking into consideration: the ages of their children, incomes, future needs, etc.

**I have instructed the client to ask for a breakdown of the cost from the legal company and what service they provided to her case. If she is not happy with the response to go to the legal board in her State and make a complaint.

***Our lawyers have been put through a stringent interview process as per my book, the Jelly bean jar, we place our clients into one of the three categories. Thus making sure we have the right team in place for every client.

About the author:

Tanya Somerton Tanya Somerton is the ‘Divorce Angel’, whose business is to facilitate a seamless and amicable divorce and separation with the aid of her ‘Army of Angels.’

She provides a step by step process to limits cost and conflict.

Tanya is also the Director of TLC Investment Group, a finance and mortgage company. 

If you need help and support in this area, contact tanya@tlcinvestmentgroup.com.au for help and advice.

She is also the author of ‘The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering independence through Divorce’. If you are looking to prevent any mistakes and save money this book is a must. Purchase your copy here