This article is from Richard D. Soat, a San Antonio-based financial professional with BDO (a professional services firm providing assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting services) and a board member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas. The opinions expressed on this site are Rick Soat’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of BDO USA, LLP.
When it comes to divorce, many people lead with their hearts and not their heads, and it’s easy to see why. Divorce is often a highly emotional and highly stressful process, and it can be challenging to make rational, logical decisions when in the midst of a divorce.
In collaborative law, the attorneys are there to help their clients through the decision-making process, and to create a decree that aims to meet both parties’ objectives. The mental health professional is there to help everyone with their emotions, especially if there are children involved. The financial neutral is there to make sure that both parties disclose and agree to the assets and debts the couple shares, along with helping them determine a fair way to distribute those relative assets and liabilities.
But I feel that the financial neutral does something important that isn’t quite so obvious. When I’m working on a case and I’m assessing what assets and debts exist, I’m also looking at what possible options a couple have in dividing a marital estate. I do what I can to give clients plenty of information and multiple options for what direction to go moving forward.
I like to say that in a collaborative case, “Reasonable minds rule the day.” While people going through divorce have difficulty maintaining an even keel no matter what method they’re going through, collaborative law’s structure allows for a financial neutral to present an array of options to a couple. More importantly, it allows that couple to choose for itself what the best option is before signing off on the divorce.
People comparing collaborative law to litigation see collaborative law as a better way to divorce, and I think that’s generally true. I’d take it one step further, though; when you divorce collaboratively and have a financial neutral on your team, you’re divorcing smarter as well as better.