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.