When a married couple chooses to split up, high-octane emotions may cause them to rush into the divorce process without considering ways they can minimize the pain and suffering for all involved. Though litigation is an option, Adrienne Roach, Partner at Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL (KMK Law®) says a collaborative process may be a better fit.
“A lot of people think they have to hire a pit bull lawyer in an effort to punish their spouse,” says Roach. “All that does is increase fees, create unnecessary conflict and drag out the case.”
Litigation is more time consuming, expensive and emotionally draining, and since Ohio law requires an equitable division of assets, which generally means a 50/50 split, it’s best to stay at the table and negotiate an agreement.
Clients can misuse their lawyer, calling on them to act as financial advisor or therapist. In addition, family and friends can serve to fuel the fire of emotions, thereby influencing decisions that perhaps are not in the best interest of either party.
“While it’s good to have a support system, it’s best to keep decision making at the table with your spouse,” says Roach, who recommends that clients introduce family relations specialists to help the parties and attorneys communicate more effectively. She also advises the use of neutral financial experts to help clients understand the tax, budget and financial implications of a divorce settlement as well as financial projections for the future.
“It can be disastrous if you leave these people out of the analysis because divorce is not just a legal issue,” said Tiffany Evans Of Counsel at KMK Law. “Financial, parenting and emotional decisions will impact your life for a long time.”
It is vital to keep your priorities in check. Sometimes spouses get stuck in the weeds fighting over a $20 frying pan simply because they want to gain control. While it’s human nature to be positional (e.g., “I want the house.” “Well, then I want the house!”), it really serves no one in the end.
“The collaborative process is focused on interests rather than positions,” says Roach.
In complicated, high net worth divorce cases — such as family business cases — it’s important to determine the value of the business as well as what portion of the business is marital and pre-marital.
“You need a clear understanding of what the marital estate really consists of because that’s the lynchpin in every case,” says KMK Law Partner Mary Ellen Malas. Accountants, forensic accountants and financial specialists can streamline the work to make the valuing and accumulation of assets easier and more efficient.
As for choosing an attorney, it’s best to hire one who tries to minimize conflict.
“Divorce is one of the worst things a family can go through,” states Malas. “As an attorney, you should not be making the situation worse. You should be making it better.”
Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL is located at One East Fourth St., Suite 1400, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, call 513.579.6400 or visit kmklaw.com.