Ethics In Divorce: It Really Can Exist!
By Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC
IRMO, SC –So you find yourself facing a crossroads in your marriage and you land on the side of divorce. Now that it is decided, can you keep things ethical? Can you find a way to do what’s best for both parties? While only five percent of divorce cases today actually end up in court, that process is rooted in finding out where to place guilt and fault. It really got me to thinking, what is the role of ethics in divorce? And how does it show up?
When you think about ethics, interesting images may come to mind: the snake oil salesman of the 1920s, Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, or the typical caricature of the Lawyer who doesn’t care about his clients and is only interested in the fees that will line his own pockets.
With the business of divorce, ethics may show up in the many times you comfort an emotional client, reassuring them that everything will be ok. Letting them know that divorce does not mean economic ruin is a big part of the process. You may think about the recommendations made to couples to sell their house, despite their emotional attachment and desire to stay, because it’s the best thing for their futures. As a financial advisor who digs into every minute detail of their finances, I am often the only person who realizes that keeping the house would lead to a financial mess down the road. While this is difficult news to deliver, it is better than the news of a looming foreclosure or bankruptcy that some face when trying to keep the marital home. The truth is, concern should be for the ultimate stability and welfare of both parties in the divorce, regardless of who the client is … especially if there are children involved.
Perhaps that’s the real difference. Regardless of who the client is, the goal is to help this couple become the best divorced family they can be, because they’re still a family! The goal is to get the couple through the process without either of them feeling like a criminal. Afterall, the way we treat divorce in this country, I’ve seen couple after couple embark on the litigation process only to end up feeling punished, angry, financially devastated, and anything but a winner. We’ve got it all wrong.
It is a major miscalculation to think of divorce as a legal dispute that can only be handled in a courtroom. Our process neglects to understand that this is not primarily a business dispute. Rather, it’s a family situation. Notice I didn’t say dispute. My experience has been that differences in opinion around the division of assets only become disputes when fueled by the misguided advising of combative attorneys or family and friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are very ethical attorneys out there. But unfortunately, the language of the law is very confrontational and combative. Even with good intentions, it appears that someone is picking a fight.
The reality is the legal system is not created for family situations. It’s created for crime. And almost without exception, every couple I have known that has gone through the litigation process for their divorce, has ended up feeling like a criminal. Well, of course they do! That’s what the system is for! However, with the recent growth of the Collaborative process and options like mediation, it’s moving towards a more ethical process.
The beauty of being human is we can change. We can decide something doesn’t work and do it differently and better. We can help families that have decided that the best answer for their family is two households, not one, and help make that situation work with love, understanding and a system that supports them.
If you feel like a criminal during the divorce process, give us a call.
We’re here to help you through it.
Duncan E. White is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) and has been a licensed financial advisor since 2010. He leads a Second Saturday Divorce Workshop each month for the benefit of those seeking information about the divorce process.
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Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. LPL Financial and Inkpointe Divorce Solutions do not offer tax, legal or mortgage lending services or advice.