Life Spans – Bridge Divorce Strategies Newsletter

Trickier than it looks

I was going to, initially, write this article about deadlines. The story I’m about to unfold is all about them.

But then I realized that there’s a much bigger, much more important story here. Strap in.

In most of the cases I write about in these articles, it’s about a divorce involving a wealthy husband and a long-term stay-at-home wife. In this case, however, it’s the opposite: The divorcing wife is a very successful businesswoman.

How successful? We’re talking about investable assets which she brought to the marriage, valued at north of $2 million.

My job: Separate property tracing. Which at first seemed pretty simple: All I was tasked with doing, originally, was tracing a single bond investment. That shouldn’t take very long.

Here’s the “deadline” angle: When it comes to deadlines, mine are shorter than everyone else’s in the case. Makes sense: Every minute that something is sitting on my desk, robs you of negotiating time and power.

Anyway. In this case, the wealthy woman, over the course of a dozen-year marriage, had ended up with not one, but 20 different accounts. It gets better: Even though they were “investment” accounts, the couple also used them for banking. Yep, we’re talking check-writing and debit cards, against these accounts, to pay things like household bills.

Thus, my job went from tracing down a single bond to scrutinizing every single transaction, in 20 different accounts, over the course of a 12-year marriage, to determine which were “separate” versus “marital.” It was a property-tracing marathon: my final report ran to more than 175 pages! Needless to say, I didn’t do this in the usual five to ten hours, either.

Dig deeper—and earlier

The work was worth it for my client and her attorney. I was able to show that 90 percent of the property was separate… plus she’d be able to split the remaining ten percent of the marital assets. The court agreed.

But here’s the bigger point, the one that eclipses the whole “deadlines” issue: Too many attorneys assume that they can handle the financial side of divorce by flying solo, and only calling me in when they hit a detailed issue that’s out of their depth. But every single time, in an instance like that, I’ll find other things that should’ve been uncovered and addressed earlier. Way earlier. As in “at the time of the AFI.”

This “settlement” issue doubles as a “liability” issue for family law attorneys like you: The more time you spend dispensing what could be construed as financial advice, you’re sticking your neck further and further out.

Don’t. Contact me and let’s chat.