In a family that goes to court, it is generally over when the Judge’s rulings have been put in place, the court stamps the final decree, your various assets have been retitled, and the Qualified Domestic Relations Order has been accepted by your employers. Of course, there may be appeals from the court order and requests for modification, but let’s leave those for another time.
In the Collaborative Practice model, there can be another dimension: thinking about the long-term effects of a divorce on a family.
Let’s say that Harry and Wilma have assets with a combined net worth of $5 million dollars. When still married, they had an estate plan that left everything to the survivor of them and whatever remained after the death of the survivor would go to the two children of their marriage. We recognize that by the time you get to the point in the process that your agreement has been stamped “final” by the court and the other items outlined above have been checked off, you will be completely wrung out emotionally and financially and you won’t want to deal with these future “what-ifs” anymore. Even dating, let alone remarriage seem like just something else your team is pushing to keep you involved.
Preparing an estate plan now could never be more important. Consider this: After his divorce from Wilma, Harry then marries Karen who has two children of her own. If Harry and Karen adopt the same kind of plan he had with Wilma, when Harry dies Karen will receive all their combined property, including the property that might have otherwise gone to Harry’s children with Wilma. Karen may then create a new plan that benefits only her children and not her stepchildren. (Also, if Karen dies first, Harry could create a new plan that only benefits his children.) So, the $2.5 million you might have seen passed on to your children may go somewhere else.
We suggest that your divorce is not over until all these aspects of conflict within your family have been subject of discussion with your Collaborative team.
especially if the divorcing family has already been “blended” with stepchildren on both sides. This means thinking about an estate plan that takes into consideration the hopes of the parents as to their legacy (emotional and financial) as it relates to their respective children, both in the near and long term.
You believe the scenario above is either too far-fetched or far into the future as to be beyond consideration at this stage of your life. We can’t say we blame you. BUT we have seen too many cases where these details are overlooked or not considered, let alone acted upon, to not say “Your divorce is not over until the new estate plan is in place.” Ask your team for help with your plan. There are many ways to secure your legacy of positive conflict resolution and create security for your family. You won’t be sorry.