A comparison of two divorces
Below is a comparison of two divorces for high net worth individuals. One couple chose to use the collaborative divorce process. The other divorce was a litigated (i.e. legal/court-based) divorce. In both of these cases, I happened to represent the husband, but the pros and cons of each process hold true for both spouses. The difference in the divorce costs is staggering. Coincidentally, the lawyer on the other side in both cases was the same attorney. In both cases, the other attorney and I were cordial and respectful of each other at all times
Collaborative Divorce Process
The client came to me stating that both he and his wife wanted to pursue a collaborative divorce. His wife had already hired a collaborative attorney.
The client and I met for an initial consultation during which he gave me the facts and background. I explained Collaborative Law to him.
The wife, her attorney, my client, and I met for a first four-way settlement conference.
Divorce Financial “Discovery” — During our 2nd and 3rd four-way meetings, both attorneys & the neutral financial specialist requested & received financial information & documentation.
Statements of net worth were exchanged and discovery was completed in 2 months.
Step 4, 5, 6, etc.
6 four-way settlement conferences (meetings always finished in under 2 hours). Then the settlement agreement was prepared and signed. By mutual agreement, the couple postponed obtaining an uncontested divorce so the wife could remain on the husband’s health insurance policy; this is what they both wanted.
POSITIVE. Both spouses complied with the settlement agreement that they had shaped with the support of their attorneys and other collaborative professionals.
A win-win result for both parties.
Litigated Divorce Process
Husband was served with a summons. He had been attempting to represent himself in his divorce. His efforts to negotiate with his wife’s attorney got nowhere.
He had an initial consultation with me when I got the facts and status of the case from the client.
I prepared and served a “Notice of Appearance” & subsequently a Verified Answer & Counterclaim, which were filed with the court.
Preliminary Conference — The court-attorney-referee (acts on behalf of the judge) met with both spouses and both attorneys. The purpose of the conference is to schedule Steps 4 and 5 below.
Financial “Discovery.” The other attorney and I each began formal discovery proceedings:
• Separate statements of net worth for each spouse
• Notices for Discovery and Inspection
• Each attorney questions other spouse who is under oath.
• Court reporter hired to take minutes & transcribe testimony.
The above formal discovery proceedings took 9 months.
“Compliance Conferences” — Attorneys and both spouses went to court three more times to obtain financial information from the other side.
Preparation of the “Trial Notebooks” — The Westchester County Court System requires each attorney in a divorce to prepare expensive and lengthy notebooks laying out all relevant documents for the judge.
Settlement conference with the judge (about 30 days before trial)
3 marathon four-way meetings (4-6 hours each). Settlement agreement was prepared and finally signed in court during the first day of trial.
TROUBLESOME. After the settlement was reached, the other side made fruitless efforts — costing each ex-spouse thousands of dollars more in legal fees — trying to change the settlement that had been arrived at through adversarial negotiations.
Even though my client (the husband) “won,” the result and its after-effects left both parties feeling that they had lost.