Douglas Noll, JD, MA
Lawyer, professional mediator and professor at Pepperdine University
Begin the process by finding a good therapist for support.
Preparing for divorce must take place at many levels. The deepest level is emotional. I advise people to find a therapist for support and help with the strong emotions that will arise during the process.
The next level is process. The natural reaction is to hire a junkyard lawyer to punish the ex. A better process assessment is:
- Can we mediate our financial and parenting issues with a professional mediator?
- If mediation is not possible, can we use a collaborative law process instead of litigation?
- Do we have to go through litigation and have a judge decide all of the issues?
Collaborative divorces are quite different in that the lawyers work cooperatively with accountants, financial planners, etc. Either party can stop the process at any time, but that means all of the lawyers and experts are fired and the couple has to start all over again from scratch in litigation mode.
When a process is chosen, then all of the financial information has to be gathered. This is a thorough marshaling of all assets and valuing them, identifying all debt, and identifying all parenting issues if children are involved.
Once the financial information is gathered, accountants and financial planners may have to weigh in on tax and retirement account issues.
Finally, the couple must prepare for the negotiation of how to divide everything up and deal with the parenting plan.