February 11, 2015

Don’t Spare the Financial Neutral

157773260Recently, I had an initial interview with a prospective client who was considering using the services of a Collaborative attorney for his divorce. He and his wife had already done the adversarial “thing” on their own – thus the divorce – and now they were ready to dissolve their marriage in a more cooperative fashion. They had agreed on a rough division of assets. Their children, at 17 and 19, were practically adults, so divisive conflict over custody and parenting time was unlikely. He was prepared to cede all of his assets to his wife in exchange for his freedom, which to him meant no spousal maintenance. She, according to him, was on board with the “no spousal maintenance” provision, even though she was disabled and could not work. In short, they seemed to agree on everything – although I was healthily skeptical of that appearance. Interestingly, one member of the Collaborative team that this prospective client felt was unnecessary was the financial neutral. He reasoned that, since the financial issues had largely been decided between the parties, there was no need for a paid professional to analyze the couple’s financial situation and present possible scenarios for settlement. While I saw his point, privately I thought that this assessment was excessively optimistic and liable to introduce conflict into the process, especially around the spousal maintenance issue. Because, even if his disabled wife had agreed in principal to waive maintenance, I could not imagine that her attorney, Collaborative or not, would advise her to do so without knowing what her options were.

As it happened, my prospective client did not choose me to represent him. And although I regretted the loss of a potential client and the opportunity to work on a Collaborative case, I did not relish the prospect of having to convince him that the use of a financial neutral would be key to the successful resolution of his case.


Joshua Gitelson comes to the practice of law via a first career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, as a film editor and writer for motion pictures and television. The son of a lawyer on the one hand and a clinical psychologist on the other, Josh has gravitated toward family law as an amalgam of these two “family businesses.” His parents’ amicable divorce inspired him to help others through the divorce process with as little rancor and conflict as possible. As a result, Josh has embraced the collaborative divorce model as a technique to complement his work on divorce in the traditional litigation mode. Learn more at https://www.lindawray.com/CM/AttorneyBios/JoshuaGitelson.asp.

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