February 10, 2020

Divorce Disaster Avoided

Imagine where this could have gone.  My client, the husband, had single-handedly created and built a thriving business serving a handful of loyal customers.  His fragile wife was struggling with worsening mental issues and drug and alcohol problems. Add to that her ongoing affair and the well-meaning but detrimental advice of her mother.

Husband feared the impact on the business of typical divorce: to start, two intrusive, time consuming and expensive audits to value the business-one by his expert and one by the wife’s.  And even if the wife didn’t carry out her threats to ruin the business by intentionally exposing pricing and other confidential information, it would likely become public in court hearings that competitors and customers could attend or hear about. 

Wife was terrified she would lose her children, social status and lifestyle, ending up lonely and poor.  They both feared the prospect of disclosure in open court of psychological assessments and other aspects of their private lives.

Faced with those prospects, with encouragement from their lawyers, the spouses agreed to pursue a collaborative divorce.  You may have read about the mechanics and benefits of collaborative divorce in my previous column. 

Here are two specific actions the wife’s lawyer and I took that helped this couple avoid divorce disaster.  Neither of these are typical, or perhaps even available, in a traditional divorce. 

First, we engaged a collaboratively trained CPA we both trusted. To limit the potential of intentional or inadvertent disclosure of business information to the public, all agreed he would provide an oral rather than the customary written report. Both spouses trusted the financial professional’s business valuation and cash flow conclusions because he was their joint expert rather than the husband’s or the wife’s and both were included in all aspects of the valuation process.

Second, we structed the settlement meetings to be as effective as possible.  We held most meetings mid-day, when the wife was most likely to be physically and mentally able to participate, and quickly ended them without judgment when her participation was not productive.  Sometimes we invited the wife’s mother to attend to preempt her disruptive influence.

The meetings weren’t always easy.  But they led to a good resolution for both spouses. Collaborative divorce saved the family tens of thousands of dollars of legal, financial and mental health professional fees and maintained the privacy the husband prioritized.  Instead of villainizing the wife or empowering her to be a troublemaker, collaboration gave her the structure and support she needed to make rational decisions.  The process worked to the benefit of both spouses to allow them to move on with their lives.

This article was originally published in the February 6, 2020 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

« Back to all news