Involving a Financial Neutral can save money

It is always preferable to obtain expert guidance as early as possible.

This is true whatever the situation, but is very important within a Collaborative divorce. By having an expert on hand early they can assist in making sure that the discussions and negotiations are being held from a position of knowledge.

Take an example where an expert is not involved at the start of discussions, maybe due to the perceived added cost of including another professional.  Lawyers are not permitted to provide regulated financial advice and thus it is important that an appropriately qualified professional is introduced to provide support and ensure that negotiations are based on true values.

Say a divorcing couple have their home, cash savings, investments, pensions and an inherited property that is currently rented out.  There will be tax implications for some of these assets both on a transfer as part of the divorce and also selling them in order to provide liquidity, possibly for a further house purchase.

A Financial Neutral is a financial expert with a knowledge of the divorce process, especially Collaborative Law.  They will assist the parties in exploring their future options and suggest ways in which the assets could be split for each party to achieve their future objectives as closely as is possible.

Without this early input, discussions may take asset values at their face value and not account for any tax or inflexibility, thus the agreement may be flawed and whilst the intention may be to have an equal share of the assets the reality may be very different.

By having the neutral involved early they can assess the situation and if they feel they are not required they will step back and observe from a distance, they may be required again later in discussions and as they will already have an understanding of the parties needs will be able to assist as and when required.

The costs of having a neutral involved early in the process are likely to reduce the overall costs rather than increase them and also result in a fairer agreement.

Ian Hawkins is a director of Oculus Wealth Management (Wombourne)Ltd and Southdown Consultants Ltd.  He isboth a Financial Neutral and a PODE (Pension on Divorce Expert) and is thusideally suited to assist lawyers and divorcing couples.

An Advisers View

I have advised many clients going through a divorce, on occasion following the divorce I have continued to advise both husband and wife separately.  Whilst the outcomes of the divorce from a financial view have been varied and specific to each clients circumstances it has been the process that has had the biggest impact from an emotional and personal wellbeing perspective.  I am not really there to provide support at this level but one cannot help but be drawn in and sympathetic to the feelings of longstanding clients.

The clients that have fared better from an emotional standpoint have been those that have divorced through a collaborative process.  Through this route all the discussions have been carried out face to face with both individuals having the support of their legal advisers within the 4-way meetings.  There have been difficult discussions but they have never been in doubt as to what their aims were and where there was conflict it was in the open with a full and frank discussion.  Whilst this has an emotional price, once the agreement was reached they could move on with a continued respect for each other.

Whilst some who have divorced through the ‘traditional’ adversarial approach have come though relatively unscathed others have not fared as well.  The uncertainty as to what their former spouse is thinking or what they are going to ask for next weighs heavy on them.  The financial outcomes may be similar in the end but the respect has gone and there is very little chance of any ongoing civility in communications.  This causes further problems where children are adversely effected.

Any couple who have gone through a divorce will say it is not easy but there are definitely some ways that are easier than others in terms of the emotional price paid.  Collaborative may not be suitable for all but it is certainly worth a look.