In advance of the inaugural “Transitions: Positive Living for Boomers” conference to be held this Saturday at Bucks County Community College, the college has shared with Newtown Patch previews of some of the workshops that will take place there. This is the last of three articles.
By Tracy A. Timby
It’s never an easy decision to end a marriage. But if you find you’ve made the tough choice to divorce, it’s important to do so collaboratively, rather than go through litigation, especially if you are a Baby Boomer over age 50.
Here are the top five reasons to do so:
Privacy. Divorce files are public record and all court appearances are open to the public. In a typical litigated divorce, the court file will contain details about income, retirement funds, investments, value of your home, mortgage balance, all debt, names and ages of your children, your age, health status, documentation of any drug or alcohol issues, allegations about your parenting, marital misconduct, credit worthiness, and much more.
In a collaborative divorce, all of the above is shared only with the people directly involved in the case and only upon agreement of both parties. The paperwork filed is what is necessary to process the divorce and document the agreement of the parties.
Control. Nothing is out of the clients’ control in a collaborative divorce. Each party sets goals. Ways to meet those goals are discussed and professionals who can help are added as needed, but only with consent of the client.
At age 50 or older, most clients have significant retirement assets. In a collaborative divorce, clients can get an idea of what the future looks like as a result of a division of retirement or investment funds through the use of a financial advisor. Couples are not forced by a court order to sell their home in a dismal real estate market.
Rational – not emotional – decision-making. People going through divorce are usually suffering emotionally. Anger, bitterness, grief and guilt are all common, natural and expected emotions seen in divorcing parties. In a litigated divorce, these emotions are ignored (or lead to increased billing) and the attorneys plow through the legal process based upon often irrational direction from the client which is rooted in emotion. Invariably, decisions made from emotion turn out to be a person’s biggest regret.
In a collaborative divorce, a divorce coach can assist the parties in managing the stress and emotion that come with divorce. This allows parties to make clear-headed, forward thinking decisions instead of critical financial or personal decisions based on the heat of the moment.
Less emotional trauma to children. Many couples in their 50s have children for whom divorce can be a very scary thing, leading to anxiety and worry. Research has shown that how a couple conducts themselves during a divorce has a far greater impact on their children than the actual divorce. The all-out battle approach to custody, asset distribution and support often leaves couples in financial and emotional shambles. Children are put in the middle and family friends are forced to pick a side. None of this is good for children.
In a collaborative divorce, there is a sense of integrity and mutual respect that benefits children. Parenting decisions are made by the parents with the advice of a child specialist and not a judge. Couples should be able to cooperate with each other, and look for opportunities for resolution instead of revenge, which is what is good for children.
Cost effective. Inevitably, divorcing couples need their money – there will be two households and two sets of expenses. Traditional divorce attorneys don’t focus on preserving the client’s cash, but on getting the “best” result at whatever the cost. But a collaborative divorce, focusing on conflict resolution with direct communication between the parties and attorneys, makes the process go smoother and faster, and since legal fees are billed hourly the cost is lower.
About the Author: Tracy A. Timby, JD,MS, is a founding member of the Bucks County Collaborative Law Group, a Certified Mediator for the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas, and a trained Family Law Mediator. She’s also the director of the paralegal program at Bucks County Community College. She will speak Saturday at the Transitions conference.
Transitions will be held from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the college's Newtown campus, 275 Swamp Rd. Register today to receive a discount on registration. Tickets are $25. To learn more, http://www.bucks.edu/transitions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-968-8409.