Privacy and Divorce: What Happens in Vegas Should Stay in Vegas

Shake hands man and womanOutside his Suffolk County, NY courtroom, Justice Blydenburgh had proudly posted a letter from an Assistant Attorney General who thanked him for passing on news of tax evasion revealed in a divorce case. While it is not the role of any lawyer – collaborative or otherwise – to assist a client to evade taxes, there are times when some matters are best kept private.

The value of privacy is not limited to “cash businesses” or “off-the-books” earnings. There are, perhaps, as many “none-of-your-business” categories as there are divorces. However, when couples in a Collaborative Divorce commit themselves to “transparency,” meaning a full, voluntary, open disclosure of all relevant information, their team of collaborative lawyers, coaches, and neutral financial experts can help the couple craft the best overall resolution within a private, confidential forum.

Whether a spouse likes to privately view Internet porn, or has been prescribed medication for a personality disorder, or has started to socialize as a “single,” in almost all cases these matters are best kept “in the family.” That’s true for both the family that is intact or one transitioning to a “divorced family.”

On the other hand, launching divorce litigation with the traditional inflammatory affidavit drafted by a “warrior” attorney looking to place the “other” spouse in the worst possible light, is not a productive way to resolve the end of the marriage if the real goal is to move on with your lives.

Divorce is not pleasant for anyone involved, ever. Why would it be? But subjecting your spouse’s business associates to subpoenas and a formal inquiry styled more as an attack is not, even in the short run, the best approach. For good or bad, vindication and vengeance have no place in the court system. The judge is not going to tell you that you were right, that you were a good wife or husband, and that we are now going to punish your husband or wife for walking out on you.

The Collaborative Divorce team, from the very first meeting, acts to focus you on moving forward productively. Necessary information to assess the division of assets, support, parenting decisions, etc., will all be obtained – but within an atmosphere of security and purpose.

Lawyers who “collaborate” do not abdicate their role as advocates and advisors. In the Collaborative Divorce process, we represent our own clients, committed to reaching by agreement the best possible resolution, while causing the least amount of damage and baggage.

One way or another, when a couple has decided to divorce, the marriage will end. The parties will try to pick up the pieces of their lives: financially, socially, as co-parents, and in the other areas of their lives. Why would you select a litigation process designed to shine the harshest of lights upon the most private of moments?

Collaborate, Don't Litigate

You are getting divorced, but do you really want a judge telling you how to raise your children?

 

Robert Emery, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law at the University of Virginia, focuses a light on this issue in his New York Times Opinion piece “How Divorced Parents Lost Their Rights” (September 7, 2014).

 

In his study of child-custody conflicts, Emery found a huge improvement in family relationships twelve years post divorce where the parents had used mediation, rather than litigation, to settle their disputes. Emery’s findings are not isolated. Indeed, they are consistent with a substantial body of research.

 

A judge will never know your family’s needs the way you and your spouse do. Litigation is a costly, vicious process. It is pure fantasy that a wise, impartial judge will hear you out and decide that you are right and your spouse is wrong. So don’t abdicate.

Child Custody

 

With mediation, although it is settlement-driven, there is only one lawyer in the room. So if you have different personalities, such as one of you is quiet and other is outspoken, or one partner has more business savvy than the other, one of you may be at a disadvantage.

 

In contrast, in Collaborative Divorce, each of you has your own experienced matrimonial attorney to advise you and help you settle all the issues of your divorce. To keep costs down and the process more efficient, there is communication among specialized team members. A financial professional will work on budgets, finances, valuations, net worth statements and report back to you and your attorneys. A family specialist will work on communication skills and parenting plans specifically suited to your family’s needs and your children’s developmental level. Lawyers are not billing for waiting time in court or drafting papers designed to attack and intimidate your spouse–something that breeds resentment for years after. They also do not spend time fighting purely emotional issues in court, which only creates obstacles, and is a main cause of lengthy and expensive divorce proceedings.

 

Emery recommends divorce processes such as collaborative law for the long-term emotional health of the family. How you go through your divorce now will affect your children in years to come. Improving communication skills and consideration of the needs of everyone in the family will reduce stress for your children and will enable them to remain connected to both their parents. The best process to achieve these goals is Collaborative Divorce.

 

Collaborative Divorce is a proven method of respectful conflict resolution, with more than twenty years of history in in the US and abroad. It keeps you in the driver’s seat by providing support, skills and sophisticated legal, financial and psychological advice.

The Grey Divorce: Baby Boomers ending marriages later in life than others

Survey says: Baby Boomers are ending their marriages later in life than other age groups, according to the Association of Divorce Financial Planning (ADFP).

The U.S. Census Bureau considers a Baby Boomer to be one of the 76 million American children born during the Post-World War II birth boom between 1946 and 1964.

For validation of the ADFP’s “Grey Divorce” findings, we need only look to Washington [D.C.], Hollywood and New York for a bevy of Boomers whose marriages hit the rocks decades after their optimistic “I do’s.”

On June 1, 2010, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and wife Tipper Gore, both born in 1948, called it quits after four decades together. Just one month after their 40th anniversary, they announced their decision to friends via email.

In 2009, CSI TV actress Marg Helgenberger, born in 1958, filed for divorce from her 58-year-old husband of nearly two decades, actor Alan Rosenberg. She was seeking spousal support while asking the court to deny him any.
New York City’s former first lady Donna Hanover, born in 1950, was divorced from Mayor Rudy Giuliani, six years her senior, after 18 years of marriage and two children. He filed in 2000, she counter-filed in 2002.
Surprised by this trend? Let’s examine the numbers:

Couples who have made it through decades of family rearing and career building now are 3 times more likely to divorce as their “Greatest Generation” parents.
Boomer women are far more motivated to dissolve their marital unions than their husbands are (Reference: “Calling it Quits: Late-Life Divorce and Starting Over” by Deirdre Bair)
A popular 2004 AARP study, which polled 1,147 respondents ages 40–79, found that women initiated 2 out of every 3 divorces in this age range.
The reasons behind this trend are not hard to identify.

The Baby Boomer generation has enjoyed the greatest prosperity of any group in our culture. After marrying early and having children, sacrificing their own careers to serve as full-time child-rearers and hubby-cheerleaders, many Boomer women feel wholly entitled to pursue their own dreams. With the fading of once-shared marital interests, some women choose to pursue their newly defined happiness alone, while others select a new partner. Of course, their financial independence provides a big boost to this newfound freedom.

As they live longer, Boomers are placing greater emphasis on accumulating sufficient assets to support their desired lifestyle into their 80s and, more commonly, 90s. Simply dividing assets between the divorcing parties may not be the best solution.

Divorcing Boomer couples may find it fairer and more acceptable to keep some financial interests between them, rather than completely ending their financial partnership with the divorce. Establishing a post-divorce Trust fund can grant the surviving former spouse the right to receive full or partial income from the decedent’s assets.

And at their stage in life, divorcing Boomers in a 30-year or longer marriage seldom face the same concerns as younger couples: child custody, child support and job-related relocation. In contrast, their issues include long-term care, post-retirement support and estate planning.

This is where Collaborative Divorce offers the most benefit for older couples.

Harriette M. Steinberg

Harriette M. Steinberg

In contrast to a litigated divorce where a judge’s rigid practices, timetables and rulings may ignore the aging soon-to-be-ex-spouses’ needs, Collaborative Divorce is designed to address their special primary concerns.