What Are The Options If You Are Considering Divorce?


Divorce is never a good situation.  All emotions and stressors that are common during even a healthy marriage are amplified during times of separation.   Children, financial constraints and many other issues can add to the difficulty of decision making and the divorce process.


Marriage rates have been on a decline since the 1990s which has led to a much lower divorce rate.  The modern day marriage is different from marriages in the 1950s and 1960s generally because women have more economic power and reproductive choices and marry as equal partners for love and shared passions.  The average age for marriage has risen from 23 for men and 20 for women in the 1950’s to 27 for men and 26 for women in 2004.  Choosing to get married later in life has resulted in more mature marriages with better financial foundations.      


Even though divorces are on the decline, they are still prevalent.  There are many different ways to handle a divorce.  Here are some traditional and new options for handling a divorce:


  • Kitchen Table Negotiations are the least complicated and least costly method.  This method is most appropriate when the two parties have equal knowledge and are agreeable.  A lawyer would only be needed to prepare settlement documents.  This is generally the quickest method and is usually the least expensive option.  This route can be tilted inappropriately if one spouse has more understanding of the family’s finances than the other. 


  • In Mediation, an unbiased professional is hired by both parties to assist the splitting couple reach a mutually acceptable agreement.  The mediator’s goals are to keep the lines of communication open, brainstorm ideas, teach empathy and assist couples in their decision making processes.  The mediator is neutral and does not offer any legal advice.  For an agreement to be reached using mediation, both parties must agree on the final action.  Mediation can often times be disrupted by the available threat of litigation from either party during the process.


  • The trial/litigation process is the most common method to handle divorces.  This is the most adversarial method and involves legal representation for each party.  Trial preparation is a formal process and outcomes are limited by law.  Even though this process is intended to be decided by a judge, many cases are settled without a trial.  This method generally takes the longest time to reach resolution and can quickly become an expensive option.  There are many attorneys that specialize in divorce law.  If you feel that this method of divorce settlement is right for you, it is important to choose a lawyer that you trust for representation. 


  • The newest method for handling a divorce is the Collaborative Process.  In the Collaborative Process the participants agree from the onset that they will work toward a shared goal of resolution.  Each party is represented by legal counsel and supported by mental health and financial consultants.  All professional representatives are committed to an amicable resolution by signing an agreement that they will not be involved in any litigation or work with the parties once the Collaborative Process is concluded.  The couple must commit to maintaining civil and respectful communications.  If children are involved, they commit to placing the children’s interests first.  Frances Ross Nolan is a pioneer in Collaborative Divorce in Alabama.In addition to representing parties in the Collaborative Divorce process she was the key leader in bringing Collaborative Divorce to Alabama.As Frances says, “We shepherd people through a very stressful and difficult time in their lives.”She adds, “That ought to be how lawyers see themselves: as shepherds and problem solvers instead of only as gladiators and warriors.”Her mission is to handle each case individually and personally.


Money and financial behavior is usually considered a top reason for divorce and a key issue during a divorce.  It is not necessarily the lack of money that causes the divorce, but rather the lack of compatibility in financial decision making.  When spouses are not in sync with each other in the financial arena, problems arise.


Many times, a person who has not handled family finances quickly moves into a financial role.  This is not an easy adjustment and it can lead to further stress, especially to a single parent.  Here are a few questions we get asked in divorce situations:


  • How do I create a comprehensive budget?
  • What do I do with lump sum payment(s)?
  • Am I going to be able to retire by a certain age?


It is important to have the right team on your side during a divorce.  A trustworthy financial advisor can play an integral role during a divorce by providing financial solutions and analysis to promote options that de-escalate conflict and provide solutions to create a forward looking outcome that supports the new family dynamics.

-Sandra Cleveland-


Marshall Rathmell

Marshall Rathmell

Marshall Rathmell CFP®, CPA/PFS is the CEO, Shareholder and Financial Planner with BCR Wealth Strategies.