We’ve launched a new podcast series: Divorce Explored - where we answer all your questions about the divorce process - through a financial lens.    

In this week’s Divorce Explored: Settlement Agreements, we give you all our insider information about Settlement Agreements and how to get prepared before putting anything on paper. 

In this episode we hear about:

  • What a Settlement Agreement is
  • Why you might need a Settlement Agreement
  • The legal role of a Settlement Agreement and its standard components
  • How to get prepared before you start a Settlement Agreement

You can find blogs, articles, and more information on the divorce process at mydivorcesolution.com. 

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Catherine Shanahan, Karen Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work.
 
WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Catherine Shanahan and Karen Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew.

WCD, CATHERINE SHANAHAN, AND KAREN CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL’S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST.

If you would like to obtain a typed transcript of this podcast episode, please email us at hello@mydivorcesolution.com. Please be sure to include the episode name in the transcript email request. Thank you!

 

This week we have Elise Buie, founder of Elise Buie Family Law Group, to give us her professional opinion on the best ways to approach a divorce in order to start a better life post divorce. 

In this episode we hear about:

  • How a divorce could be the start of a better life, not the end of your best life
  • Elise’s experience with her clients and how some have blossomed into millionaires
  • How to make the best long term decisions for your children
  • The difference in making objective decisions and avoiding fear based decisions

Elise Buie is the Founder Elise Buie Family Law Group, helping families live their best lives as they transition through divorce or other family changes. Her practice involves all aspects of family law: preparation of postnuptial and separation agreements, parenting plans, child support, simple and complex financial cases, relocation, and blended families.

 

Elise Buie, Esq. is a passionate, creative, problem-solving family law attorney who creates solutions, not obstacles. After evacuating her hometown of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and surviving a divorce, Elise landed in Seattle and founded her law firm. Elise's practice involves all aspects of family law, guided by a collaborative philosophy and her deep understanding of complex parenting issues. Elise opened her firm during a period of personal adversity. Now in a period of global adversity, Elise's firm has experienced its most significant growth yet, which she attributes primarily to her driving force and mantra: "I can do it."

To connect with Elise: 

Website: https://elisebuiefamilylaw.com/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elise-buie/

You can find blogs, articles, and more divorce resources on our website at mydivorcesolution.com!

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Catherine Shanahan, Karen Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work.

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Catherine Shanahan and Karen Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew.

WCD, CATHERINE SHANAHAN, AND KAREN CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL’S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST.

If you would like to obtain a typed transcript of this podcast episode, please email us at hello@mydivorcesolution.com. Please be sure to include the episode name in the transcript email request. Thank you!

This week, Michelle Dempsey-Multack, author of the upcoming book “Moms Moving On”  joins We Chat Divorce to discuss what it means to divorce peacefully and create a healthy environment for yourself and your child.

 

In this episode we hear about:

  • How being around an environment of divorce growing up affects your views of it
  • How divorce doesn’t always have to be a battle to make yourself better than the other person
  • How to create emotional boundaries to create a safe space for your children
  • How divorce is a journey and the situation today won’t be the same forever

 

Connect with Michelle: 

 

You can find blogs, articles, and more divorce resources on our website at mydivorcesolution.com! 

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Shanahan, Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work. 

 

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD. 

 

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Shanahan and Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Shanahan or Karen Chellew. 

 

WCD, SHANAHAN, AND CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL'S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST. 

On the newest episode of We Chat Divorce we’re joined by Erin Levine, Esq. to discuss DIY Divorce. Levine is a Certified Family Law Specialist, owner of Levine Family Law Group and Founder/CEO of Hello Divorce. Her innovative, disruptive approach to how Americans interact with the law makes her both a loved and feared force in the legal world. With her groundbreaking divorce navigator platform, she’s revolutionizing the broken divorce process, making it affordable and available to everyone. Erin’s access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, Forbes, Vice, and the American Bar Association.

  

Learn More >> https://hellodivorce.com/about/erin-levine/

 

Connect with Erin Levine, Esq. on LinkedIn >> @ErinLevine

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Shanahan, Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work. 

 

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD. 

 

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Shanahan and Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Shanahan or Karen Chellew. 

 

WCD, SHANAHAN, AND CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL'S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST. 

 

Karen:

Welcome to We Chat Divorce. Catherine and I are so happy today to welcome attorney and founder, Erin Levine to our podcast. Welcome Erin.

Erin Levine:

Thank you for having me. I always love talking and with both of you, I think it's going to be a great conversation today.

Karen:

I'm so excited. Thank you. Same for us. So in this episode, we're going to discuss insider tips on DIY Divorce. But first I'm going to take a couple minutes and introduce Erin. Erin Levine is a certified family law specialist. She's the owner of Levine Family Law Group and Founder, CEO of Hello Divorce. Erin's innovative, disruptive approach, I love that, to how Americans interact with the law makes her both a love and feared force in the legal world. With her groundbreaking divorce navigator platform, she's revolutionizing the broken divorce process, making it affordable and available to everyone.

 

Erin's access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond with awards and recognition from the likes of Women's Founder Network, Forbes, Vice, and the American Bar Association. I also want to add Erin, congratulations on all the work you and your team have accomplished at Hello Divorce. It's a lot of hard work. We often see your name front and center in legal justice conversations. It's not a secret that the court system of handling divorces in America is in a word broken, and we applaud you for all that you're doing.

Erin Levine:

Thank you. Thank you. That was a beautiful introduction. I appreciate it.

Karen:

Well deserved. We can end the podcast now. That was awesome. So Erin…

Catherine:

Not to cut you off, but all anyone wants to hear is divorce, affordable, fast through your process. Awesome.

Erin Levine:

I hope, yes. I hope that we are really making efforts all of us collectively to make the process friendlier and simple and cheaper and being able to help people figure out when they should be spending money and when they should be saving it and all that good stuff. So, yeah, let's get to it. Let's talk about these tips and I'm really excited.

Karen:

Okay, let's go. So before we dive into the tips, can you tell our listeners a little bit about your story and journey that created the passion for the work you do and how the divorce.

Erin Levine:

Yes, absolutely. The vast majority of people divorce without a lawyer and whether you divorce with a lawyer or without, once you file that initial paperwork, you learn just how broken and impossible the system is to navigate. It is wildly inefficient. And the worst part about it is it sets people up to fight. You are filing a lawsuit. It says in many states, X versus Y. You are instructed to resolve conflict by going in front of a judge and throwing your spouse under the bus.

Erin Levine:

And so that style or that way that we divorce in this country always bothered me and always frustrated me and caused me great concerns for my clients, because the goal of divorce should always be to reorganize your life and your family in a way that makes the most sense for you, where you are setting yourself up for a best next chapter, not destroying everything that ever existed, not focusing on revenge or everything that went wrong in your marriage because your marriage wasn't a failure until you got to that point. For many years, it was a success and a lot of wonderful things came out of it.

Erin Levine:

And so with that, I became a family law attorney because of the concern I had around the system being broken and my own experience navigating the system as a late teen. And I built a law firm, I scaled it, at one time, had 10, 12 attorneys. And we were really doing a lot of great work litigating and negotiating and mediating contested divorces. But what kept on coming back to me is that piece of every time we won, that means somebody lost and that can be so devastating for a family. And I just kept coming back to the point that divorce doesn't have to be a zero sum game. There has to be a better way. So that's when I scaled way back my law firm and started to think through what a new company could look like.

 

And I founded Hello Divorce to create a platform that transforms the divorce experience into a friendlier, simpler, and cheaper alternative to battling it out in court. What we are primarily focused on right now is legal because everyone who has to get a divorce or everyone who's getting a divorce, excuse me, has to go through the legal process. So we want to make sure that we are helping with that first and foremost, but where we are ultimately going is to help people with many other things that come up throughout divorce, because it's not an event, it is a process and there's issues and all sorts of things that people help with before, during, and after divorce. So we're just starting to explore how we can help in other ways. And that started with our divorce support series that we launched last week. Yeah. So super exciting.

Karen:

Yeah. Awesome.

Catherine:

It's really exciting. As you know, Karen and I have seen the same struggles with the system. Why is it being done this way? And why are families being put through this process? And hearing back that it's the process, it's the system, it's just not good enough for us anymore. And I think the people going through divorce are getting smarter and wiser. It doesn't have to be that way and you hit it head on when you said when an attorney has to file for divorce, the other person is getting sued. I'm suing you for, or I want full custody. Some of that language I understand attorneys have no way around because that's the language, but if you can avoid going that route first, that's the best way to avoid that language.

Erin Levine:

Yes, absolutely. There are a million really well-intentioned lovely lawyers, but once you get yourself into that system, it is really hard to get out and lawyers when they are representing a client, have to follow all the rules. And like you said, sometimes that means using language like you're being sued or we're taking you to court. So to the extent that you can opt out of the system or at the very least set some ground rules with your spouse, or if you guys are represented with the lawyers to try to focus on resolution first, it doesn't mean there won't be conflict because there will always be conflict. That's just the nature of divorce. You've been married for a very long time. You can't unravel that overnight, but to the extent that it is possible to opt out the system, set ground rules or negotiate outside of the court system, that's what we're here for.

Karen:

I love that because I feel a lot of people, maybe most people are either looking for emotional justice or a divorce decree, or they think the moment they hire an attorney is the moment they can hands-off somehow you're going to deliver to me everything I want. And so all three of those are missed. I was just speaking with someone last week and she was just so passionate, just need a divorce, my husband is sending money overseas and he's created all this debt. I just need a divorce. And I said to her you know if you get a divorce and you haven't covered all that territory, you're worse off than you are today. And I don't think she realized that. I think she was just so focused on that divorce decree, that she doesn't even understand that there is a process and it doesn't necessarily have to include the litigation piece of it, but she had to take some steps to help herself.

Erin Levine:

Yes. And no wonder why she's confused. We have been told over and over and over again that there's two ways to do divorce either with the lawyer full representation, balls to the wall, we're going to litigate the heck out of this case or DIY you're on your own good luck. And what we have now learned is that there are so many other options and getting a divorce and feeling successful and feeling that you have that peace of mind that, hey, this wasn't perfect, but I made it through and I'm ready to really embark on my next best chapter doesn't necessarily include legal help. It can include financial health if that's what you need most, it can mean wellness support. There's so many different things. So we want people to take a step back and think about what do I need most, what am I most concerned about? And then take a look and see what those options are. It might be legal. It might not be.

Karen:

I love that. So on that note, Hello Divorce is recognized for disrupting the divorce industry. So can you tell the listeners a little bit about what Hello Divorce is doing? What is it that Hello Divorce is doing to set itself apart in the divorce industry to make a difference?

Erin Levine:

Absolutely. So we created a platform that helps people navigate the legal aspects of divorce. So what that means is in every state, you have lots and lots and lots of procedures, lots of forms that have to get prepared, filed, delivered to the court at appropriate intervals, served on your spouse, just to be able to get divorced. So even if you have a full agreement, you have to follow this path. And so what we've done is make it really easy to be able to do that. So you can use our software to not only prepare the forms that need to be filed with the court, but then also you can level up to obtain any of the services that you feel like you need or want to help you through. So our most popular product/service is DIY Pro. What that is, is you complete all of these questionnaires at your own time.

Erin Levine:

Yeah. Basically on your own time. And when you are done and you've completed each step, there are three steps, a divorce manager jumps in to give you some encouragement, to make sure all the forms are complete, to file them with the court, to coordinate with your spouse and to give you instructions on what comes next. And ultimately that divorce manager is going to ensure that everything gets done timely and properly. And so you are divorced on the schedule that you want it to be.

Erin Levine:

But we also understand that in a lot of cases, people need additional help. So we offer other services that include access to a lawyer for legal advice in increments of 30 minutes or more, or our cooperative divorce program, which includes both spouses and an awesome mediator. So you use our software to travel through, disclose your finances, prepare your legal forms, but you have a mediator who jumps in and helps you resolve any of the issues that might come up that you're stuck on. So that might be some child support. It might be dividing property, but whatever it is, he or she is there to really help you guys come to an agreement so we can get it down on paper and filed with the court.

Karen:

Well, excellent. Yeah. So on that note and because Hello Divorce seems to be doing it really well, currently explain why does divorce costs so much in America? What's going on?

Erin Levine:

So the average cost of divorce in the United States, according to USA Today ranges from between 18 and $25,000 per person if you have children. You would think it would be exponentially less if you don't have kids, but it's still well over the $10-$12,000 mark. So divorce is insanely expensive. And it's a combination of a few things. I think the minute that you lawyer up in that traditional sense, you are sending your spouse a message, even if it's just to protect your own interests, that message, that cultural message is you are in it to win it. And so I always tell our customers that if their spouse has hired a lawyer, it doesn't necessarily mean that. It's okay. And it's healthy for you emotionally, legally, financially to have a lawyer help you through a divorce. But one reason why divorce is really expensive is because A, people lawyer up, and there's that immediate fear and fear has us do really irrational things like sometimes respond by lawyering up with the most aggressive lawyer in town.

Erin Levine:

The other reason is just the complete inefficiency of the legal system and how dated it is. So as an example, there are many courts across the country, even in big cities, that to file a document, you have to have a fax machine, or even if you have a full agreement, you have to do 20-30 forms, especially with the pandemic. Even with online hearings, we see that courts are backed up if there's not an emergency or what they believe is an emergency, it could take you 3, 4, 5, 6 months, even a year before you get into court to resolve something as simple as a temporary order for child support. And then of course, lawyers are taught for the most part to win, and that's what they're paid for. And that's what you expect when you put a lot of money in and any time that it becomes a win/lose situation, we're going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in court. So those are some of the really big reasons why divorce is incredibly expensive in this country.

Catherine:

And what's so frustrating about that is because that win is defined by what? So if you're the one going through divorce, your attorney may think they won, but did you really win in the end? And that's the [crosstalk 00:16:11] a lot of times we find that individuals do not understand the components of their marital estate and are not able to interpret that. So when it comes to making compromises and knowing what their options are, they can't do that. And so a win to them is not a win if they don't understand what they have and what they're going to do with it. So they're spending all this money on the system and then this process that isn't really working to their benefit, which is why people are so bitter after divorce, which is sad to me.

Erin Levine:

That's right. Unless there's an emergency, there's no reason why a lawyer should be jumping in and filing motions right off the gate. You cannot understand how to dissolve your marital contract, which really is a financial contract until you understand what you have. So the very first thing we should be doing preferably even before the divorce starts, but definitely early on is gathering data. Sometimes one spouse has far more access to that financial data than you do. And it doesn't necessarily mean that that spouse is bad. It could've just been the dynamics in your relationship, but one way or another, you have to have all that in front of you before you can make good decisions on what you're going to compromise on versus what is an absolute necessity for you.

Erin Levine:

And so that has to be the number one goal. What do we have, understanding what those assets are, understanding the ramifications around dividing them or transferring them or equalizing them. And then ultimately making a decision that comes from a place that is educated and informed. That's what I love about what you ladies are doing. It's just absolutely key. And I see a lot of spouses that are trying to rush their spouse to get things done. And ultimately that's just setting everyone up for failure.

Catherine:

Absolutely. If you take that pause and you're able to get that information, it's a matter of then just deciding where everything goes, instead of fighting over what everything is, then you can then hook into your system. And if you need that one-on-one with an attorney or if you need that mediation help, it's there for you. But then if you have all this data that you can make that decision, then you just need the paperwork to do it.

 

You don't need to sit in front of a judge. I can recall a client who came in, her husband was the judge. And so in finding out all the information and how he ran his financial household, I thought, hell if he was my judge and I was going through a divorce, I'd be mortified. He didn't know how to run his own household, let alone tell me what to do with my household. So there's a lot of that out there that you don't understand. So you're better off standing in your own estate here and figuring that out first.

Erin Levine:

Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think that that point it's going to resonate with a lot of people. And so I just want to expand on a little bit more. Earlier this week, we posted a quote from Adele that we found on E Entertainment news and it said something about how oftentimes when we see a woman get divorced, we picture them as spinning out of control. And she said, but I've never felt so peaceful in my life. And that is so powerful because I think we do that a lot, especially when women are divorcing in their 40's, 50's, or 60's. We as a culture look to them, oh, they're having a midlife crisis or oh something snapped, maybe it's menopause, but it's not okay. But really these women, because we're meeting them by the hundreds are more powerful and more clear than they've ever been in their life.

 

And they are choosing a path and it's so brave. And so for these women, I just want to remind you that wanting this information, wanting to be clear about what the finances are, wanting to make educated decisions is not being crazy. It's not being unreasonable. It's not being unfair. It's not being litigious. It's really making healthy, positive decisions for you and your family. And I say it because I've seen it a lot. I've done a lot of the mediation in our cooperative divorces. And I've seen it on both sides where one spouse is like, can't we just be done? What's the big deal? I told you how much is in that account. I told you what vested versus unvested means and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the spouse who's new to the financial picture. And it's not unreasonable to want to be clear. In fact, not being clear could mean destroying your financial wellbeing.

Catherine:

If you say being clear. Being clear is powerful. That's probably the most power that you can give yourself in divorce. If you're clear about a decision that needs to be made, you're making a really smart decision. I say it all the time. Attorneys get their backs against the wall if their clients ask them a lot of questions. If you have an aggressive spouse that handled the finances and you ask a lot of questions, they feel like you're questioning them and they become very defensive.

 

So I always say, ask as many questions as you want. It's your right. Asking a question doesn't mean you're questioning somebody else. It's your right to have that power. And it'll never go regretfully that you have it to your next chapter as you say.

Erin Levine:

Yes, absolutely.

Karen:

I agree with that. Shifting the power out of other people's hands into your own is so powerful so that when your spouse is saying, I told you all this, you get to decide if you have enough information to verify that, and when your attorney or your mediator or some other professional, it doesn't even matter who says with all this money, do you know how many people would want to be in your shoes?

 

Well, that's for you to decide. That's not for anybody to decide for you. And so to your point, it's not coming from a place of revenge or a litigiousness or whatever it may be. It comes from a place of knowing. And when you can stand in that truth, you can make super good decisions for yourself and all of that emotion that you may have attached to different assets or whatever it may be just dissipates.

Karen:

And then if you do have to go into litigation, or if you're with a mediator or however you're choosing to move ahead, they have the best information and they have a clear client that they can best help you. And so that's why I love this approach to divorce, because it really does empower people to know the truth and make decisions based on it. Doesn't mean that you have to fight for every last dollar. It just means that you know what it is, and you get to decide what the compromise is.

Erin Levine:

Right. Absolutely. And that's the thing, you get to decide what a win is. And it might not be to fight for that extra $20 or $30 a month in child support that might not be worth it for your peace of mind. It just might not.

Catherine:

What I like about your process also is I always say, yeah, we need attorneys or mediators to help us in the process. Very few cases that you don't need some kind of touch point, but when you go through your process, it's when we need them and for how much time do we need them? And I like that you're able to streamline that process. I know that when we send somebody through our process and they have that financial clarity, yes, now they can go through your process and just connect with the other professionals as needed and then to a completion, in a doable way.

Erin Levine:

I don't want the lawyer to be the center of your case ever. They have a huge caseload. They have so many things that are going on in their lives. Only you know, what's best for you. You should have a lawyer there. Now my caveat of course is if you were in active litigation, having a lawyer on retainer in a full representation capacity is key if you can afford it and make it happen. But for 90% plus of the rest of the world, having a lawyer there when you need one is great, but they cannot be the center of your case. You need to be the center of your case. And so that's why as part of whether you're using our DIY, do it with you, or even do it for you packages that I really want people to start by thinking of their strategy, which might change and putting some really good ground rules in place, if possible. Can I expand a little bit on that?

Erin Levine:

So, I think the conversation around ground rules is really, really tough, especially if one of you have been thinking about divorce forever, and then finally said, I want a divorce. And the other spouse, it's really new to you, like you're just learning about the divorce. It kind of already starts feeling really unfair. And so having that ground rules conversation is really tricky. And sometimes it might not happen right on day one. But if you can at some point sit down, whether it's talking to your spouse directly, talking to your spouse with a third party, like a therapist or a religious leader, or maybe even texts or email if that feels more appropriate, but being able to say, hey, look, I know this is not ideal. I know neither one of us are happy that we are leaving this marriage, but ultimately this is what is going to happen.

Erin Levine:

And so let's talk about what we want this divorce to look like. Do we agree that we will do whatever it takes to stay out of court? Do we agree that we are going to put our kids first? Do we agree that we together will talk to our kids about the divorce? Do we agree that we are going to be open and transparent about sharing finances and coming up with an agreement that works for us versus what the judge tells us is in our best interests? The best thing that happens is you come out of that conversation with some real ground rules that you can always go back to. You could always remind your spouse. Look, I know you hate me right now, I know you're mad at me, but remember, we both believe that the best thing to do is to keep the money with us as opposed to lawyers.

Erin Levine:

But if that conversation doesn't go that well, then at least you've learned more about what your divorce might look like. If your spouse says, you know what, screw you, I'm taking you to court, you're going down, which is the most extreme, but let's just say that happens because I'm sure it happens quite a bit, then you know, okay, I needed to get my ducks in a row. This is not going to be easy. Maybe using the DIY at Hello Divorce is not going to meet my needs. Maybe I need to talk to a lawyer. And at that point we have tons of resources on Hello Divorce that can help you choose the best legal help for you, the best financial help for you as well. So when you're thinking about DIY or you're thinking about how am I going to do this divorce? I always think it's a great idea to start with that initial conversation.

Catherine:

Well, those ground rules and those questions you ask, whether it comes out to be a good conversation or not, it's a realistic conversation. And what I see it as doing, bringing to the forefront of what some possible problems could be. So you're starting off with not a filing of I'm suing you, you're suing me. You're starting off with listen, we're going to agree to put the kids first. And even though you might be saying, shit, he's not going to put the kids first, he never put the kids first, but at least you're putting it out there. You're both saying we're going to agree to that. So you can have all those negative feelings going on in your mind, but you're actually agreeing to at least acknowledge that these issues are coming up. We see a lot in our platform and we provide that unbiased space to share financial data.

Catherine:

A lot of stuff happens in there. They're saying, I'm not giving you that data because he's not letting me have my kids for the weekend. So I'm not giving that data. You see a lot of this playing with the information, but at least I always feel like it's healthy because we give them that time to kind of blow off that steam rather than going to an attorney to start and say, I want to get them for everything that they have, I'm going after everything, when you don't even really know what everything is. So then they can go and do a DYI because they have all of this information and they blew off some of that steam and they're aware of that. So yeah, I think it's a great option and a much healthier option.

Erin Levine:

Yeah, absolutely. And not all the ground rules have to be really stressful and big questions. It could be as simple as one of us is going to have to carry this forward and do a lot of the paperwork or the heavy lifting, which one of us is better at doing that, which one's more committed to following through on things like that? And so it could be simple and other things like how are we going to communicate? When are we going to communicate about divorce-related issues? Because I don't know about you, but I don't want this divorce to take over my life. It's already a really big deal. So can we say that when we're with the kids and we're having dinner or whatever situation it is that we're not going to chat about divorce. We're going to leave that for X time or X day. But that can be really helpful too.

Karen:

Yeah. I love that. Love that so much. So last tip here, processing a divorce online. Am I frozen?

Catherine:

You're back.

Karen:

Okay. Erin, processing a divorce online can seem daunting to some individuals. How does Hello Divorce help their clients feel safe, secure and well-represented?

Erin Levine:

Well, part of what we do is really provide clarity, transparency into the process and a clear roadmap from how to get from point A to point B. So instead of using the legal terms or showing you the legal forms, we are explaining to you along the way, we are giving you questionnaires that ask questions in plain English that you can understand so that you're actually not even seeing the forms until they've already been populated. And you have gone through the analysis. So that's a little bit confusing and that it sounds like it's a long time between filling out the questionnaire and getting the forms. You actually get them instantaneously as soon as you're done, but not until you've already gone through the questionnaire and the process. The other thing that we really do is make ourselves available. We understand that software is super helpful.

Erin Levine:

Technology is incredibly amazing and we lack that big time in the legal profession. And so to have that available to consumers, people love that, but divorce is major. Major on a emotional, financial, and legal level. And so we make ourselves available to help, whether that's asking questions on our chat bot, if you're a DIY pro member above, you always have a divorce manager that you know you can go to and ask questions and connect with. And then also having lawyers and mediators available when necessary or when you think it will be helpful. We have loads of resources breaking down really big concepts into smaller, more digestible downloads. Everything from a list of all the settlement terms that you should consider negotiating to templates for co-parenting plans and a divorce worksheet to get yourself organized and make sure you're not missing anything when you ultimately go to negotiate that final agreement.

Erin Levine:

The other thing that we do is break divorce down into three steps. So the court might say there's a hundred steps or your lawyer might not have even organized the divorce into steps. But what we've done is we've broken it into three steps designed to help not just get through the legal process as quickly and easily as possible, but also to help with your morale and to help you feel like you're making progress. So step one and step two, really have to do with filing the divorce paperwork, especially if you're in a state with a waiting period, because we want you to get that waiting period going and getting your financials out. If you've been able to do those two things, then you're two-thirds done. You can look at your spouse and say, hey, we're getting close to the finish line.

Erin Levine:

And you have been able to cooperate to do what many believe is the hardest part. The last step is coming to an agreement and getting that agreement down in paper to file it with the court. And by the time people get to step three, it doesn't feel quite as emotional or scary. They've been able to get the resources that they need from the site. They've been able to use our software and get comfortable with it. So they're really set up to get through that final step and on with their life. So we're always changing, iterating on our product based on the data that we get from thousands and thousands of users, which is exciting too because we can then take that data and use it to our advantage to create an even better product for our consumer, our clients.

Karen:

That's fantastic.

Catherine:

Awesome.

Karen:

I'm inspired to say the least. So Erin, how can our listeners and viewers find you at Hello Divorce? I think it's fairly obvious, but it's good to just put it out there just in case it's not.

Erin Levine:

Yeah. So we're at hellodivorce.com. Our handle is @HelloDivorce. I would encourage anyone who's feeling like they need some extra motivation, community or tips to follow us on Instagram @HelloDivorce. You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter. My name is Erin Levine, L-E-V-I-N-E.

Karen:

This concludes our conversation with Erin Levine on DIY Divorce. We really valued our conversation with Erin and look forward to more conversations in the future. If you enjoyed this episode be sure to subscribe and leave a review. We love to hear your feedback!

On the newest episode of We Chat Divorce we’re speaking with Marianna Goldenberg, the Founder and CEO of Curo Wealth Management in Langhorne, PA. Marianna is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®). Marianna was just eighteen years old when she left behind the oppression and dangers of living in the Soviet Union, with a mere fifty dollars in her hand. Seeking a better life and a safe place to rebuild where opportunity was the reward for integrity and ambition, she and her immediate family left everything and everyone they knew in Russia for a fresh start in Pennsylvania. Hard work, big dreams, and an undeniable determination to succeed led Marianna to UPenn’s Wharton School of Business. At Wharton she earned degrees in mathematics and finance, thus kick-starting the financial career she is so passionate about today.

 

Learn More >> https://www.curowm.com/

Connect with Marianna Goldenberg on LinkedIn >> https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariannagoldenberg

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Shanahan, Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work. 

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD. 

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Shanahan and Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew. 

 

Karen Chellew:           Welcome to We Chat Divorce. Catherine and I are happy to welcome Marianna Goldenberg, CDFA®, to our podcast today. In this episode, we're going to discuss five critical considerations when dividing executive compensation in divorce. But, first, let me take a couple minutes to introduce Marianna. With thirty years of experience, Marianna is founder and CEO of Curo Wealth Management. Curo Wealth Management is a financial planning firm located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Curo in Latin means to take care, and this is exactly what they do for a select group of families, women, and busy executives. When it comes to her clients, Marianna takes care of everything relating to their finances. She loves teaching and empowering people to make important decisions for their financial future, helping to set them off on a better path than where they started. Marianna especially loves it when they bring their kids into the conversation so that they can learn, too, and she can help them save for their futures. Welcome, Marianna.

Marianna Golden...:    Thank you, Karen. Thank you, Catherine. Delighted to be part of your podcast today.

Catherine Shanah...:    Oh, we're so happy to have you. And boy, oh, boy, could we go on and on about this conversation because I don't think that there's a day that goes by that I don't get frustrated of what people overlook when it comes to executive compensation, so this will be a great conversation for people listening. So thanks for coming on board.

Marianna Golden...:    Of course.

Catherine Shanah...:    You are a wealth of knowledge and often a resource I go to when we're doing our financial portraits to get some more input from you because you really are an expert when it comes to executive compensation.

Marianna Golden...:    Thank you.

Catherine Shanah...:    It's my pleasure.

Karen Chellew:           I completely agree. What would we do without Marianna some days?

Catherine Shanah...:    The only thing I think was missing from your intro there, which was a nice long intro, Karen, thank you for that, was when you said, "She looks after families and teaching children." Where are the dogs? Marianna's always including her dog in something.

Marianna Golden...:    Absolutely.

Karen Chellew:           Lola.

Marianna Golden...:    It's a big part of our firm. The board of stress management.

Catherine Shanah...:    Oh, yeah. So let's jump into this, five things to consider. I know there's more than that, and we'll tackle five of them today. This is just such a topic that people are afraid of, their attorneys steer away from sometimes, and the individuals, the non-employees, in particular, and even the employees themselves sometimes, a little bit of it is over their heads on what's considered marital and what's not considered marital. So what's the first thing somebody should consider?

Marianna Golden...:    That's a great question, Catherine. What's really important to understand is, these days, a lot of companies change the way they reward their employees. They used to have lifetime pensions or cash bonuses, but the employers really tried to tie the success of the company to the compensation that they leave to their employees. Part of that is something that's called long-term incentives or executive compensation, and it's a really involved and very important concept. A lot of times, even the employees themselves don't understand how it works. Then you put divorce on top of that, and you have parties that are not privy to that, and it becomes a very complex issue that we always come across during the divorce and distribution of assets.

                                    There are various kinds of long-term care incentive or executive compensation, and the most common ones are restricted stock units, performance stock units, stock options, which are then divided into qualified and non-qualified, and restricted stock units or RSUs for short. Those are the kinds of executive compensation that we normally see.

Catherine Shanah...:    And how do you know if your spouse has that?

Marianna Golden...:    That's a great question. A lot of times, it's really overlooked because, as part of discovery, attorneys usually ask for tax returns or other documents that don't include this particular type of compensation. Really, if someone works for especially publicly-traded companies and they are of a senior management position, chances are a part of their compensation is executive comp or LTI. The best way to determine if someone has one is obviously to ask, but not everybody is going to be forthcoming in sharing that information. The best way I've found to understand if someone has this type of compensation is ask for a few documents. The first one is a total compensation package, and it's really a printout that the employee gets every year that shows everything that they receive as part of their overall compensation.

                                    The second one is to request their 1231 pay stub, and the reason I say 1231 is because different companies have different timing of when their executive compensation gets paid. Some do it in the beginning of the year, some do it in the middle, some do it quarterly, so it's really important. If you request 1231 pay stub, it will show up on that pay stub. It will not show up on W-2. It will not show on tax returns. So those are usually the two main documents that are requested, and if you just have those, you won't know. The other thing that's important, too, is to Google. We all know you can get any answer in Google these days. So part of discovery should be Googling the compensation for the company, and chances are you'll find out a lot about the plans by doing that in conjunction with the rest that I just mentioned.

Catherine Shanah...:    I want to just expand a little bit on that 1031, I mean, 1231 pay stub or pay statement or however you want to reference it. So often, Karen and I, when we're putting together the financial portraits for individuals, will hear, "No, I got this pay stub or I got that pay stub," and, "No, they said that we can look at a W-2 with it," or, "What's the big deal? I have this quarter's pay stub." It really is a big deal to get that last year-end statement. There's a lot of valuable information in there, you're saying.

Marianna Golden...:    Yep. There is additional bonus that was paid that wasn't outlined before this new project or patent or some kind of additional recognition, all going to show up there. It's such a great source for discovering compensation that wasn't disclosed.

Karen Chellew:           And I'm going just going to ask because this is really not my area of expertise, except I'm in the document collection piece a lot. You're identifying the existence of the executive compensation because I know a lot of the other party or the spouse with the executive compensation will say, "Well, it exists. Yes, I agree with that, and here is this spreadsheet defining what the it is." So, to your point, that compensation package is important as to how it plays out. I just wanted to make the differentiation there from the existence of it to the valuation of it that's two different perspectives.

Marianna Golden...:    So true, Karen, and it's a really valid point because a lot of people do just what you said, spreadsheets, and this is not a valid document from the company. Something that's called a stock or options ledger, which is the official document from the company, will identify... Once we know there is an existence of the executive compensation, it will be an official record that will identify what particular compensation we're talking about, all the particulars, the dates that they were awarded, the dates that they become available to the employee, and the taxes that will be taken. So it's really a wealth of information as well.

Catherine Shanah...:    Can you compare that to a screenshot of someone logging into their net benefits statement on the computer? Is that the actual ledger? Because, often, when we're... Karen, when you're collecting the documents, you'll see the screenshot or someone just logging into their net benefits on a certain date, and it'll show what's vested, what's not vested. Is that the same thing as asking for the company's ledger?

Marianna Golden...:    Depends on the screen and depends on the company, but I would say this is a good beginning because in order to be really fully disclosed, right, say, the screenshot is terrific. The other thing that's important is something that's called the summary plan description or SPD because that's going to really spell out the ins and outs of the specific plan. Also, if there are any historical vesting or exercise that happened before, we need those exercise invoice to determine if the actual shares were sold or kept after the vesting. So it'll show us if that happened, when it happened, what was the cost basis of those shares and the taxes withheld. The historical part of that, during marriage, during separation, and then the future are all important parts for the overall picture.

Karen Chellew:           I-

Catherine Shanah...:    That's great.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah. To your point there, too, Marianna, where you said that's a good beginning, I think sometimes it can stop there. As they're collecting documents, they get a couple pieces of paper and say, "Oh, this is a good beginning," whether it's the mediator or the attorney or whoever they're working with, and they assume that as they get closer to the agreement or to the trial or the master's conference or wherever they're going to be hashing out the logistics... No one has gone back to pull that ahead to get all the information. So I know when I'm working with clients, I'm saying, "Let's just get this out of the gate. It's easy to get. If you're getting one thing, you might as well get all of it," so that everybody has that fund of information from which to work. I think that's so important because, by the end of it, if you're not staying on top of it to collect all the relevant information, you've got a lot of information to collect and things get easily overlooked when you're trying to hash out a settlement.

Marianna Golden...:    I totally agree. I really believe in saying, "You don't know what you don't know." So in order to have the good understanding, you have to have all the documents and make the conclusions. But then you have the facts. That's what you need.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah.

Catherine Shanah...:    Yes. And it's much easier to get those facts, to Karen's point, when you're in the process of collecting and you're not getting fatigued by the whole process and just over it. By the time that you really need the facts, you just don't want ... You want to be done with it. So I totally agree with that. What's the next tip, number two, for you to consider?

Marianna Golden...:    So we just discussed how do you even know someone has that particular asset. The second one, once you determine if someone does have the executive compensation plan, you really have to understand what it is that you're looking at. As I mentioned, there is various types of executive compensation stock options, restricted stock units, performance stock units, long-term deferred comp. The important thing is to make sure you get a summary plan description for each document and really outline what it is that you're dealing with. If it's stock options, are they incentive stock options or they're non-qualified stock options? What are the terms? When do they vest? When you exercise, do you hold the stock or do you sell the stock?

                                    Each award is very different. And I see it a lot in the property settlement agreements where they use the word vested or exercise for the wrong time of the executive plan, so you really want to make sure if it's options, they're vesting and they're exercised. If these are restricted stock units you're talking about, they cannot be exercised. They can only vest, and you have no control with when, where with the stock options, you do have control when you can exercise. So it's very different terminology that gets often mixed up between different awards. So that's-

Catherine Shanah...:    Which seems like an easy thing, right? But now you've signed your agreement and you have to make sure that you're able to execute your agreement. So if the language is not properly written, how does that happen? So these are really good points, and I know if you're listening to this podcast right now, your head is probably doing a whole spin-around because you've mentioned a lot of big words like vesting and non-qualified and qualified. So it's really important, I'm hearing you say, to get that summary plan description so that you do not have to be a genius with this but you have to be able to have the document to actually outline what it is that you're doing with it.

Marianna Golden...:    That's exactly right because I often see the document that spells something out about the plan, something like let's divide this particular asset in half or the employee can do this or that, and it's really important to know that if your legal document says that you can do something but the document that the plan is based on doesn't allow for it, you can't do anything. The divorce document becomes obsolete if the plan document doesn't allow for a certain transaction. If you don't have the summary plan description that you incorporate into your divorce document, it's not going to work. It's just useless piece of paper at that point, and guess what? You have to go back and negotiate and pay additional fees to get it resolved.

Karen Chellew:           That's such a good point, Marianna. I know when we're compiling the MDS portrait for our clients and they have executive compensation, we'll put that in the table of recommendations and considerations. We'll say, "This is what you have, this is what you need, and this is who can help you," because a lot of attorneys frankly aren't financially trained. Of course, it takes a village. It takes a team when getting through any kind of difficult challenges. So even if your attorney may not understand how the executive compensation works or all the nuances of it or the complexities of it, you can take that to your financial planner, just like Marianna, who can help you know how that plays out so that your attorney has the information he or she needs then to get that agreement rock solid for you.

Marianna Golden...:    It's so true. I often work with couples where they do have their financial planners but these particular people are not specialized in the executive compensation. So they might say this is what they suggest, but it's not going to be really useful if that's not their specialty. I would highly recommend to talk to your financial professionals and see do you work with executive compensation, do you understand how it works, do you have specific companies and plans that you are really familiar with because although it's a common asset, but each plan might has its own specifics and you need to know those specifics.

Catherine Shanah...:    And let me piggyback off of what you were saying, Karen, because let's take a look at the downside to all of this, I guess. So let's just say I'm sitting here and I have this agreement and I'm listening to you guys speak and I say, "Okay, great, my language isn't saying what Karen just said." Now, Marianna, you're my financial planner and I bring you my agreement. Are you going to force me to go back to my ex-spouse to get this plan description because it was never requested before? How are you going to help me if I don't have that information?

Marianna Golden...:    That's a really unknown question. It really is because I did have situations where someone comes with a document and says, "Can you help me execute the terms?" It's really hard when the other spouse isn't open or amicable. It's really hard to put it for something that's not spelled out. So it might be case where you need to back and have the agreement rewritten if the other side is not cooperating with the terms. I often recommend for people even to have a separate agreement which is not part of the overall MSA that states how to exactly go about and execute the terms of the executive compensation.

                                    Also, a lot of times... And we might talk about it more. A lot of times, you have to understand that the executive compensation is only an asset when it becomes vested. So doing something beforehand, the employee even doesn't own that asset until it's vested, so it might take a couple years before it becomes a real asset. But then the considerations have to be made. Is it an asset subject to support, or is it an asset subject to equitable distribution? You can't double-dip, so that really has to be outlined as well in the property settlement agreement. So it really-

Catherine Shanah...:    Oh, boy, do we need to do a... We need another podcast just on that. I know that if you're listening, you might write in and give us some questions on that, and I'm sure Marianna will come back because that's such an important realization to make when you're negotiating. A lot of people don't really want to sit back in that seat and say no. They want to double-dip and the other party doesn't. And to round out what we just said a second ago, if you're listening, whether you're the employee spouse or the non-employee spouse, if you do not want to communicate after the fact, which is in most cases, make sure you give the documentation that's needed now and make sure you ask for the documentation needed now so that you can ensure that the proper language is in your agreement or that you have another agreement, which I love that idea, so that you do not have to communicate on these issues moving forward. Great point there.

Marianna Golden...:    Yep.

Karen Chellew:           And I'm just going to give a little case, I guess, summary of something that we experienced not too long ago, where the couple had an agreement and, for whatever reason, it said the spouse was supposed to give the other spouse a copy of the W-2. So that didn't happen, but the pay stub what was needed, Marianna, to your point.

Marianna Golden...:    Yes. Yes.

Karen Chellew:           And they only got the W-2. But the agreement didn't call for the W-2. I mean, the agreement did not call for the pay stub. It only called for the W-2. So that became a real issue because, now, the spouse was without the proper documentation for her accountant to work with.

Marianna Golden...:    Yep. And that's the thing. You need to know what to ask for because if you don't know what you don't know, the agreement will not be complete and filed properly.

Catherine Shanah...:    I totally agree. Can you all hear me? I thought I lost my audio there.

Karen Chellew:           Yes.

Catherine Shanah...:    Okay, great.

Marianna Golden...:    Nope.

Catherine Shanah...:    Sorry for the little delay.

Karen Chellew:           Can you hear me, by the way?

Catherine Shanah...:    A little low.

Karen Chellew:           Okay.

Marianna Golden...:    Yep.

Catherine Shanah...:    That's a little sidebar there if you're listening to us. It's technical day on Monday, right? So that brings us to your third consideration, which is really, really important, and, boy, I could go on forever about this one. A lot of times, you have an agreement written up or you're negotiating and your attorney or your mediator, they're leading that negotiation and they don't even realize if these awards are transferrable or even dividable. So how do you suggest somebody considers that?

Marianna Golden...:    Great question. I do see it quite a bit, where attorneys state in the property settlement agreement that here is options or issues or what have you, and they should be divided 50/50, 60/40, whatever that might be. As I said before, if the summary plan description or plan document does not allow for transferability, which is probably 90% of the time, you can't divide this. It doesn't matter what your document says. So the first thing, what's really important, is to, a., define what you're trying to divide. Don't just say stock option, which is a generic term. Put the stock options for restricted stock units. Attach the ledger that we discussed, which clearly indicates the numbers, what's the grant number, what's the date of the grant, the vesting schedule, and so forth so you have the exhibit outlining that. Then that exhibit should, and we didn't talk about it yet, but that should state what part of those options or issues are marital property and what are not. Because the ledger might show and will show all of them, you have to identify specific lots that are subject to division.

                                    Then, if you understand the plan document after you request it, you will know that it has to be done on the specific terms in order to be divided. So, as we mentioned, if they are non-transferrable, the only way you can give the non-employee spouse their portion is by non-employee spouse giving a written authorization to their ex-spouse of the action they wanted to complete. Is it an action of exercising their option after vesting? Do they want to keep the stock after they exercise? Do they want the employee spouse sell the stock and send them the proceeds and how much tax to withhold? So there is a lot of moving parts. They all make sense once you do it once, and they're a specific order. But that's the only way pretty much with few exceptions that transferability has to take place, and it has to be outlined very specifically in the document, which I, again, suggest to be a separate document aside from the property settlement agreement. Is that what you're asking?

Catherine Shanah...:    Boy. Again, we're throwing out a lot of terms. I know if you're listening to this and your head's spinning again, that's a lot to consider, right?

Marianna Golden...:    Yeah.

Catherine Shanah...:    So, again, we're going to go back to getting the documentation so you can absorb it all a little bit at a time, not when you're forced to go to a settlement hearing and not when you're forced to negotiate. If you can digest this information beforehand, you'll make smart decisions. So, really, the transferability and the division, because there's other things to consider and some of that money was taxed already, so now you don't want to be told that it's going to be taxed again, right? So it depends on the reward that's given. There's so much to consider.

Marianna Golden...:    Yeah, it's a very complex asset, if you will, but it could be used as a very rewarding asset if you know what you're doing because it's easily overlooked but it's also easily used improperly. Sometimes, it's by design. Sometimes, it's just because someone doesn't know or understand how it works. Even people that work for a company, they're busy executives. They keep running and building their corporate career, and they don't have, often, time to slow down and understand how it works. So they might not themselves understand what's involved, let alone someone who's not involved in the company.

Catherine Shanah...:    That's a really good point because often everyone takes the position that my spouse is lying to me about this or they're hiding this from me, and maybe we can look at it from a different point of view saying maybe they just don't understand it themselves, right? So, again, it goes back to really requiring the documentation so that everybody's working uniformly on the same information. Also, yes, this is such a complex asset, but, remember, a lot of wealth today was built off of this asset, so don't be afraid of it. Don't walk away from it and choose your home or something else because it's an easier solution. Take the time to understand what's on the table here before you make that decision.

Marianna Golden...:    And if you don't understand, work with professionals. That's really important because, just like you wouldn't want to make your healthcare decisions without going to different specialists and getting second opinions and really making an informative decision, it's the same thing in place here. If you don't know, ask. If you're not sure whoever you ask is giving you information that you can easily understand and process, go somewhere else. It's much easier and plus the fact that it's time-effective to do it all up-front than deal with it at the end.

                                    One of the reasons I became a CDFA fifty years ago was because someone came to me with this specific situation, where they gave up their rights to the executive compensation because it was something difficult and something they couldn't quite understand and decided to take their home as an asset and gave up the executive compensation. Guess what happened? 2007, 2008, when real estate market collapsed, they had an asset that they thought worth a lot of money that was not liquid. They couldn't refinance because they didn't have the income to get approved for a refinancing, and they couldn't really sell it because the prices dropped significantly. So they didn't have choices, and you always want to be in control of your financial situation. The only way you can, if you look at all the choices and then you make a decision that's based on data and your understanding, not because somebody said so.

Catherine Shanah...:    Exactly. If you ask a question once to your advisor... Marianna knows this for a fact. I must've asked 15 times the same question, just so I had complete understanding of something, and that's okay. That's really okay.

Marianna Golden...:    Yep.

Karen Chellew:           From the perspective of choosing your battles, this is one of them where you definitely want to lean in and make sure you have all of the documentation necessary so that you can make an informed decision. It is so important because it could be the difference of 100, 200, 300,000 dollars. It's to that level. I know a lot of people have a budget when it comes to divorce and they can only spend so much money, and I completely get that, and we respect that. But this is one of those assets that you definitely want to make sure you have the information and documentation you need to make that really good decision for yourself.

Marianna Golden...:    So true. So true. And another important consideration for that, if you already listened to us and you've done all the work and you've made the right decision, it's the follow-up or follow-through that I often see people overlook because once the proper documents are executed, then somebody actually needs to follow up and put them into work. If you are working with the incentive compensation that is going to stand over a number of years and you already moved on with your life, it's hard to remember, yes, you have to go back every year, and not only do you have to make sure that you give your ex-spouse instructions how to execute the share that you were rewarded, because it's done on the annual basis, you also have to make sure that the taxes or tax consequences are addressed, and that's on the annual basis as well. So who wants to be attached by the hip every year, which is true, but, also, if there is lots of money, like Karen said, involved, perhaps that's something you want to do.

Catherine Shanah...:    Well, that's one thing I love about you and your practice. You are diligent and almost sometimes probably a thorn in my side because you follow up so much on these kind of things, right? That's so important because time goes so quickly. Even myself personally, I can't believe I was divorced 11 years ago, I think it is, 11 years ago, or 10 year. You probably can't believe it, right? It goes so fast with the blink of an eye. So you can very easily let that vesting date or let that sales, if you had just sold the shares or whatever, and you're not following it... So if you don't have a good financial planner who's working on your team to keep you in line with this, then you can lose out. So, yes, I do think that's a great interview question when picking a financial planner. What is their expertise in this field, and how do you help me stay in line with this? Those are really good questions, and I know you really cover that quite well.

Karen Chellew:           Very true. Great question.

Catherine Shanah...:    So what is the timing and the tax consequences? I know that's another consideration and maybe the fifth consideration for handling these types of complex issues.

Marianna Golden...:    And yet another great question. So it's really important to go back to the beginning where we said, in 90% of the cases, the executive compensation is owned by the employee and it's not transferrable. What that means, that that employee will have to go through the steps of exercising or selling the asset or vesting, if it's related to restricted stock units. Any of those transactions mean the next step is taxes because when you are awarded executive compensation, they're not taxed at the time of the reward. They're taxed at the time of vesting when it's related to RSUs or at times of exercise as related to stock options. When those two events happen, that's when that taxation occurs.

                                    A lot of times, companies change their rules. They will do the mandatory tax withholdings on your behalf. When I say mandatory, that means federal tax, state tax, local tax, FICA, Medicare tax, Social Security tax. So all that is subtracted before the employee gets their net check. Some companies allow for the employee to increase their federal withholding if they already know they're in a higher tax bracket. Some companies are going to do it the same across the board. For example, I work with a lot of J&J employees. They're across the board. Federal withholdings is 22%. You can't increase it, you can't make it lower, so that's what it is. You have to remember that when you get that check, it's already net of taxes.

                                    Now, if they attached a 22% on the exercise or vesting, it's not necessarily means that what you pay at the end of the year or in the beginning of the following year when you do your taxes. If you are in a lower effective tax bracket, that means you're going to get some of the tax back when you file your taxes. If you're in a higher effective tax bracket, you're going to have to pay more. That's where the confusion comes in. The employee got taxed. They give the net proceeds to their ex-spouse, but it's on them to pay the tax. So the reconciliation has to be made every year where both parties should have their tax return side by side and they should see, okay, well, if the employee's spouse had paid 22% federal withholding but their actual effective tax rate or how much they've paid on their tax return is only 20%, they owe the difference of extra tax up-front to their non-employee spouse.

                                    I know it's really confusing, and I explain it to my clients every year, and I have to repeat it again. But it's so important because most people don't follow through with this. On the flip side, if the employee spouse paid 22% withholding but they are actually in the 35% effective tax rate because of other compensation or other income sources, the non-employee spouse now owes money to them. So some people, when they reconcile it, they sometimes split money in escrow so there is not much going back and forth. But it has to be all spelled out in the document because if it's not, who's going to enforce it?

Catherine Shanah...:    Exactly. And, really, it's important to use your own independent accountant to reconcile this from your spouse's accountant because numbers could be interpreted differently.

Marianna Golden...:    Yep. I've heard this phrase once and I really liked it. It made a lot of sense to me. Everybody's entitled their own opinion, but no one is entitled to their own facts. Facts are facts. So-

Catherine Shanah...:    I like that.

Marianna Golden...:    I really love it. So you're absolutely correct. Independent accountants because here's the fact, that's how you reconcile it. If you use the same accountant, in my opinion, it's a conflict of interest.

Catherine Shanah...:    And, in my opinion, don't be afraid that you might potentially owe back your spouse money because if your spouse is having that much more income that it's pushing their bracket up, it might be a reason for a support modification.

Marianna Golden...:    That is true.

Catherine Shanah...:    So they may not even ask you for that.

Marianna Golden...:    Very true.

Karen Chellew:           Good point. Good point. Well, this concludes our episode on five critical considerations when dividing executive compensation in divorce. Thank you, Marianna, for a great conversation.

Marianna Golden...:    Thank you, ladies, for having me. It's something that fascinates me. The more complex it is, the more excited I get. So I hope that I was able to communicate it properly so to give, at least, people a sense of if you don't understand, ask. You don't know what you don't know. So I hope I was able to convey that.

Catherine Shanah...:    And before we sign off, please tell us how our listeners can reach you.

Marianna Golden...:    Great question. So the best way to reach us is to go to our website. It's www.curowm.com, and Curo is spelt C-U-R-O. WM stands for Wealth Management. So it's www.curowm.com. Our email address, our phone number, all our social media platforms are there. So we'd be more than happy to hear from our listeners.

Karen Chellew:           Thank you.

Marianna Golden...:    Thank you.

Karen Chellew:           Okay. That's good.

Catherine Shanah...:    Okay.

Karen Chellew:           All right.

Catherine Shanah...:    Oh my gosh. It's so much information, and it's so... I know it's just so scary for a lot of people. Even when we had a case and the financial planner gave the recommendation that our joint client just negotiate away the LTIs and the RSUs just to keep the home, I was like, "What?" Sometimes, I feel like some financial planners do that because they know they're not going to invest that money for a long time so there's no income for them. They're not making any money off this advice or what have you, and that's so annoying to me.

Marianna Golden...:    It is so true. A lot of times, too, because they think it's complex, they don't understand it. They just want to give it away so they don't have to deal with it. It's really interesting because I had a case where they were dividing everything properly. I looked at the documents. Everything was properly executed. Then I said to both parties, because they were amicable, I said, "Look, it's really important for you guys to communicate and coordinate the timing of the exercise because the less taxes the employee will pay, the more it's going to go to your boss' pocket. Then that number will be higher, so it's in your best interest to communicate." What I suggested to do is, instead of exercising a lot in one year, split it over a three-year period. Their reaction was so interesting because the employee spouse said to me, "How come my advisor never suggested that? That makes all the sense in the world." I go, "Well, chances are he doesn't understand how it works."

Catherine Shanah...:    Right.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah.

Catherine Shanah...:    Right.

Karen Chellew:           I don't think it's that unusual, and I think, from my experience, because I'm typically over in the attorney's office with the clients, they're saying, "Well, we got this piece of paper from the other side, and so that's what we're using." That piece of paper can be completely missing a lot of documentation. It's routine that Catherine finds money that would've been just lost had we not dug in and said, "You really need this information to clarify the documentation that supports this data because that often is the missing piece."

Marianna Golden...:    Yep.

Catherine Shanah...:    Well, how about the client that we actually went to you for some advice on as well, your input? That attorney tells client, "Just go ahead and sell your RSUs and pay off your marital debt," and he ends up selling the non-marital portion to pay off the marital debt.

Marianna Golden...:    Yep.

Catherine Shanah...:    Crazy. Yeah.

Marianna Golden...:    So common.

Karen Chellew:           So, Marianna, do you see often where an employee spouse will work with their employer to change their compensation during divorce so that it's not on the table? Sometimes, I get that question, well, whether it's support or ED. I know we can cover that in another podcast. But, often, the non-employee spouse will say, "Well, can they change their compensation package so that this doesn't exist anymore or so that they're compensated in a different way that they don't have to share this with me?"

Marianna Golden...:    That's a good question. I feel that it would be really near impossible to do it for a publicly traded company. Obviously, if you're in a really high C-suite position, maybe. But, generally, you don't. This is how the company does this. They want to tie their performance with the compensation they give you, so they as well, your compensation. But I do believe that it can be easily structured if it's non-public, if it's a private company, and they still issue this form of communication. It's probably easily manipulated.

Karen Chellew:           Especially if they have a close relationship with their employer. Yeah.

Marianna Golden...:    Exactly.

Catherine Shanah...:    Right. Right.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah.

Marianna Golden...:    Yeah.

Karen Chellew:           Wow.

Marianna Golden...:    And that's why we need history. We need to see the pattern. Because it was never done before, then we know something's up, and so historical data is important just as the future data.

Karen Chellew:           Right. Okay.

Catherine Shanah...:    There's definitely a great follow-up podcast to this.

Marianna Golden...:    Yeah.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah. It's very complex. But it's complex for all parties involved, all professionals involved. It really takes a village to get to the bottom of a lot of these calculations and valuations. Yeah.

Marianna Golden...:    A lot of times, knowing that's my area of expertise, the more complex, the better. I thrive on that. I would get a call from an attorney or a client who's not even a client say, "Hey, I was told you understand this. Here's the document. Can you just make sure we didn't miss anything, or can you interpret this for me?" So it's just a piece of information that they wanted to make sure that they're properly handling.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah. Yeah. And-

Catherine Shanah...:    That's great. Keep at it.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah. All right.

Catherine Shanah...:    Yeah. It's so needed. You got to keep this as your thing because-

Marianna Golden...:    It's getting more and more popular.

Catherine Shanah...:    Yes.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Marianna Golden...:    More and more companies, instead of doing cash compensation, do the performance type compensation.

Catherine Shanah...:    Yeah, because it's lowering their turnover. It's so hard now to get employees and keep-

Marianna Golden...:    …

Catherine Shanah...:    Yeah. Yep.

Marianna Golden...:    Yeah, because you give someone something today which they can't touch or feel, but if they stay for three or five years, all of a sudden, it becomes quite a sizable asset.

Catherine Shanah...:    Yeah. Yeah. Yep.

Karen Chellew:           Yeah.

Catherine Shanah...:    All right. Well, we're going to have to chat again.

Marianna Golden...:    Of course.

Catherine Shanah...:    Thank you so much. This was great.

Marianna Golden...:    Always a pleasure, ladies.

Catherine Shanah...:    This is so good. You look fantastic. This is really good.

Marianna Golden...:    Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

 

On the newest episode of We Chat Divorce we’re speaking with Donna M. Cheswick. Donna has over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. She is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) and a Certified QDRO Specialist (CQS). She is the owner of Cheswick Divorce Solutions LLC, located in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where she helps individuals, couples, and family law attorneys with all the financial complexities that arise during divorce to ensure the most financial advantageous settlement possible. Education is the backbone of her business. She frequently teaches workshops on a wide variety of topics relating to finance and divorce, as well as authors numerous articles for local/national print and online publications. Donna also is a trained divorce mediator and a collaborative financial neutral. She has also been drafting QDROs and other like orders for the last ten years.

Learn More >>  http://cheswickdivorcesolutions.com/

Connect with Donna Cheswick on LinkedIn >>  https://www.linkedin.com/in/donnacheswick/

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Shanahan, Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work. 

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD. 

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Shanahan and Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew. 

 

Karen:

Welcome to We Chat Divorce, Catherine and I are so happy today to welcome Donna Cheswick, owner of Cheswick Divorce Solutions LLC. In this episode, we're going to discuss the nitty-gritty on issues with retirement plan division in divorce. But first, let me take a couple minutes to introduce Donna. Donna has over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry. She's a certified divorce financial analyst. You will also hear the term CDFA. She's also a certified QDRO specialist. That term is a CQS. You may have never heard that one. She is the owner of Cheswick Divorce Solutions located in southwestern Pennsylvania, where she helps individuals, couples, and family law attorneys with all the financial complexities that arise during divorce to ensure the most financial advantageous settlement possible.

Education is a backbone of her business and she frequently teaches workshops on a wide variety of topics relating to finance and divorce, as well as authors numerous articles for local national print and online publications. Donna also is a trained divorce mediator and a collaborative financial neutral. She's also been drafting QDROs and other like orders for the last 10 years. Welcome, Donna.

Donna:

Thank you so much. I'm glad to be with you both.

Catherine:

Oh, always love having a fellow CDFA here, which is how we met. So happy to have you here. And I'm really looking forward to getting to the nitty-gritty of retirement accounts with you. I know I'm burning with some questions and I'm sure Karen is as well.

Karen:

Absolutely. And you are a wealth of information to us and our clients. And we're so grateful that we have you on our team live. So Donna, let's just start out with how are retirement accounts split in divorce? Let's talk about that.

Donna:

Well, there are two main classifications as I'd call it of division. You have dividing employer retirement plans and then you have dividing IRAs and other types of qualified plans. And the employer plans require a special document. It's called a qualified domestic relations order. You'll hear the term QDRO or Q-DRO, depending on what part of the country you live in and they both mean the same thing. And that is needed to allow the employer to actually divide an employer plan to an alternate payee.

The other process is basically transfer incident to divorce. When you have say an IRA account, you just need special language in your marital settlement agreement detailing how that transfer is going to occur. Both of these methods are done as a tax-free transfer. Nobody's taking out money from their account, writing a check to their soon to be ex-spouse. Everything can be transferred in a tax-free transfer from one party to the other.

Catherine:

So let's give a couple of examples about that. So, an employer plan would be?

Donna:

PPG, Google, pensions, a municipality - anywhere where you are working for someone else.

Catherine:

But that would be a pension…I'm sorry, that would be a pension, a 401k.

Donna:

Yes.

Catherine:

A 403(b).

Donna:

Yes. 403(b).

Catherine:

Okay. And then the other plans that you're mentioning are just IRAs, Roth IRAs.

Donna:

Correct. Correct.

Karen:

I was just going to say how many times do we see IRAs and Roth IRAs designated in the marital settlement agreement that they need a QDRO? I see it more than I don't see it.

Donna:

They do not. Only employer plans require a QDRO. However, if you put language in your marital settlement agreement that says you're going to divide an IRA by a QDRO, many times the plan administrator will want one because you've put it in your marital settlement agreement because you have to send a copy of the marital settlement agreement along with some paperwork to that IRA custodian. So you need to be careful not to put language in that you don't need because then ultimately-

Karen:

Spending another $500…(laughter)

Catherine:

Yeah. Yeah. That's a really good point because actually I never knew that. So I have an IRA. If you're listening, you have an IRA, your attorney just throws the language in there because they think they should throw the language in there, that plan administrator may require you to execute a QDRO, which is costly.

Donna:

Correct. Correct. Now you can put kind of roundabout language in there that says if the custodian or financial institution requires it, one will be you know what I mean. But if you say this plan will be divided by qualified domestic relations order, likely that plan is going to or that IRA custodian, they're going to be looking then for qualified domestic relations workers. You said you were going to provide one.

Karen:

Right. And they have to follow the order. They have to follow the marital settlement agreements. They don't have a lot of options.

Catherine:

I know you can say this, but Karen, you may recall this, but Donna it's the truth. And really, I wish I made this stuff up, but I don't. We had an attorney that charged a client a couple of hours because he did all this research to find out that her IRA did not need a QDRO.

Karen:

We're not sure what the research was either.

Catherine:

We asked for the research just out of curiosity, but we never received it. But she did receive the bill for it, which is upsetting. You also bring up something else when you mention the pensions meaning defined benefits or defined contributions like your 401k's, you must hear this just as we hear this. A lot of people feel like, well, my employer won't let you have that money. So that money is mine.

Donna:

That is not true. Even if the employer, because there are some plans, some employer plans that cannot be divided with the qualified domestic relations order. They're few and far between but that does not mean they are not marital property. And should be attributed, maybe one party is going to keep that asset, but the other party is not. But yeah, I hear that a lot of times too, my spouse says that's my pension not yours. That's not true. That's marital property. It doesn't matter that it's only in one party's name. If it occurred during the course of the marriage, all or some of it, because maybe there's a premarital component or post-separation component, it's marital.

Catherine:

Mmm-hmm.

Karen:

Yeah. And that means you have a marital interest in it. So while the one spouse or the other may technically own it, the other spouse has an interest when dividing the asset and when dividing the marital property. I think a lot of people are challenged with that concept. Yeah.

Catherine:

Yeah. When we talked about the details you mentioned the marital component and the non-marital component, but it's also really important, isn't it? To have details on what happens if one of the spouse dies before the QDRO is actually approved?

Donna:

Well, that's one reason why you don't want to delay getting these orders done because that's just one possibility that can happen. Now you can do post-death QDROs.

Catherine:

Oh.

Donna:

They can be divided post, not every plan, but any ERISA plan can be, but again, not 20 years from now when they've already distributed the assets, that's the problem that you run into. Say you have a 401k, the party dies, the qualified domestic relations order hasn't been processed. And the plan makes a distribution to whomever those beneficiaries are that the employee has on file and they send the money out. Then what?

Catherine:

Right.

Donna:

Then you may have to go to the estate of the deceased and a whole bunch of other legal issues that can arise.

Catherine:

What happens if you get divorced and there is supposed to be a QDRO and neither party initiate or follows up on the QDRO being processed because they're in their 50s, let's say or 40s and now they want to retire. QDRO was never initiated. Will the company know that one is required?

Donna:

Well, the company doesn't know anything until they're told, right. If the company does not know unless they have that legal document, they may not know. But one can still be prepared. Because I get a lot of attorneys come to me, more recently one from 10 years ago. Nothing was ever prepared and it was a pension and wife or ex-wife knew ex-husband was going to be retiring soon. She calls the company and asks, when am I going to start getting my pension? Well, what did the company tell her? We have no paperwork on file, which they didn't. Nobody did a qualified domestic relations order. I mean you can lose benefits if you…

Karen:

And the surviving spouse could have been changed by then as well.

Donna:

Yes. That's another problem. The party could go into pay status and pick single life expectancy. Meaning it's only going to pay out on that employee's lifetime. God forbid if that employee dies an early death, there's no, even if you get a QDRO submitted, the former spouse payment will die when the employee spouse dies. And that could be problematic.

Catherine:

What if the ex-spouse remarried in that scenario?

Donna:

Pardon?

Catherine:

What if the ex-spouse remarried in that ten-year period but the attorney didn't call you.

Donna:

Well, depends on the plan. But what happens is they may have chosen a joint and survivor benefit with a new spouse. Now that's different while they're living than when they die. Right. So as long as the employee spouse is living, there can still be a division. The court order is submitted for a former spouse, but potentially if that employee spouse dies and they were able to name a second spouse that could be problematic.

Every plan is different, there's different rules. You definitely want check that information out. But I would encourage people do not wait to get these legal documents prepared. They should be done. Actually, they should be done at the point when you're signing your marital settlement agreement in a perfect world or very shortly after the divorce decree.

Karen:

Right. And even asking your council or your attorney to take the steps, to notify the plan administrator that a divorce is pending because usually that'll put a hold on the account until they have further instruction. I know it's only temporary but sometimes that will create a lockdown of sorts until the divorce is completed, especially in these really long divorce scenarios. Yeah, that can be helpful too.

Donna:

Not all plans that will. So be aware. And sometimes it's only for 18 months. So five years goes by, there's no hold put on after.

Karen:

Right. Right.

Catherine:

You've brought up something really great. Of course, I run with this kind of information. I love the client who just called the company where she knew her husband worked and said, "Hey, when is my pension kicking in?" Because that can also bring up an undisclosed asset. So if they say we don't have any information, I think it's really easy for people to overlook because they don't ask about it. And because there aren't as many anymore it's just something that's overlooked, but why not? If you're out there and you know that your ex spouse is retiring and you don't have a pension, but you think they do call the company. I love that, Donna. And say, "Hey, can I receive my benefits?"

Donna:

Well, but the problem is if it's not been addressed in the marital settlement agreement, there may be no award to the former spouse because depending on the language in the marital settlement agreement, it may have only addressed certain retirement accounts that were disclosed and said the other party keeps all other retirement accounts in their name.

So if you know your spouse has worked for a company for at least five years, even if it was years ago, you should be checking if there's any type of pension or 401k type benefits that are kind of out there. The pensions are more problematic. You're right. Because you don't get a statement in the mail every quarter like you do with your 401k. You might get one annually if you're lucky and…

Catherine:

And now they're digital a lot. So you don't even see them if you don't have access to that information. And that brings me to a really good thing. Why is it so important to get actual account statements?

Donna:

Oh, that's a huge issue. So you want to get a complete copy of any type of retirement statements, not just a screen print, where a lot of people will go in they'll just print out, "Hey, today, my 401k is worth X." Well, that's good to know and you don't just want the first page of the statement because there's a lot of data that is forthcoming in page two, three, four, five and six that may not be showing on page one.

Donna:

You need to know if the participant's spouse, that's the employee's spouse is vested. If it's a 401k plan, so all of those dollars that are showing belong to the employee? Obviously the employee's contributions are always theirs, no matter what, but if there's some type of match from the employer, some employers have what's called a vesting schedule. Maybe they only give them 20% a year of that dollar that they're matching.

They have to work there for a period of time to get that whole amount. Loans are another big issue. Most account statements do not show if there's a loan on page one, that would be important to know. The other thing that's important to know is the different buckets of money. Most people are familiar with pre-tax, you put a dollar into your 401k. You're not paying any tax on it. But some folks worked for a prior employer, maybe they rolled in their old 401k into their current employer’s plan. That's a different bucket of money.

The employer has to segment that separately. Maybe their after tax contributions like a Roth 401k. A dollar and a Roth is not equal to a dollar in the kind of traditional bucket. So all of those things show up later on in the statement and I hate to even bring this up but it happens. With the technology age, it's real easy to sort of forge a screen print and manipulate it to be something that it is not. And so it's harder to forge a 12-page account statement. But you want that full account statement. There's data on there that you're going to need to see.

Catherine:

Oh, amen to all that. We have clients saying, why is it so important to get the whole statement? Here's the value. And for everything that you just mentioned, page three and four are missing, it's one of 12, okay, we want every page in one of 12, and then if it's not there we say why it's not there. But yes, gosh, if you're listening so important to have the statements.

Karen:

Mmm-hmm. It is. And you touched on the fact that a lot of people have prior employers with 401k accounts still remaining there. We run into that a lot and then they get to their divorce and now there's one, undisclosed 401k accounts and two, they're missing or they're faced with what their attorneys put in the marital settlement agreement. Now you've got five QDROs, the need for five QDROs. Can you talk about that a little bit? How to identify other 401k accounts that you wouldn't otherwise know about?

Donna:

So again, if you know your spouse has worked for an employer in the past, you want to be asking what your attorney should be asking on your behalf for discovery if there are any plans with those prior employers. Sometimes you can do some digging on the internet. Any ERISA governed plan has to file what's called a 5500, it's a tax document and those are public.

And you can see, does the plan even have a defined contribution plan or a defined benefit plan? Sometimes you can call the company and ask. Does your PPG, do they have a 401k plan? Yes, we do. Do they have a defined benefit pension plan? Yes, they do. And at least you will know there is a plan that exists. Does not mean that the employee is eligible for it but you at least want to know first the existence.

Catherine:

Exactly.

Karen:

I want you to highlight that because that happens a lot and I just wanted to reiterate that. Thank you for doing that.

Donna:

Mmm-hmm.

Catherine:

And it's really the big general question about these defined benefit plans that individuals don't necessarily have the privy to the information so they don't understand it. So when they do get a partial statement or they do get a screenshot or what have you, it'll say what your monthly benefit is at retirement. Now you're still working in most cases and then I'll give you a lump sum option. Can you explain to our listeners what the differences and what are the things to consider when you see that on a statement?

Donna:

Sure. So not all pension plans will offer a lump sum option but if they do it oftentimes is disclosed on that statement and that gives the employee or alternate pay if there's going to be a division, the potential option to either take a chunk of money and no further payments stream out into the future. You're almost kind of buying out your pension. You're taking that lump sum amount, you're transferring it into another retirement account, an IRA and then there's no more pension.

There are some pension plans that'll do kind of a hybrid. You can take a partial lump sum and it reduces that monthly benefit payment. Say without the lump sum, you're going to get $2,000 a month but if you take out the lump sum, now you only get $1,000 a month. You have to weigh those options. A lot of times it is in the plans benefit to offer a lump sum. They want to get the employee off their books. They want to get the liability off of their plate and push it over onto the employee's plate.

But if you do the math on what your monthly income stream would be over a theoretical life expectancy and then what the growth rate on that lump sum would be over that same life expectancy, you have to kind of weigh whether it's better to take the monthly payment or whether it's better to take the lump sum. And everybody's needs are different and everyone's concerns are different, but you definitely want to know all those options and what they mean for you and if it's beneficial or not.

Catherine:

So just as a follow-up to that, let's just say I get divorced and my spouse and I split his pension and now it's gone through a QDRO, will I now have the benefit of choosing a lump sum or an annual payment or do I have to get what my ex-spouse chooses?

Donna:

Well, it depends when the qualified domestic relations order is prepared. If it's prepared before they go into pay status, there are more choices available potentially. Once an employee goes into pay status, they have to choose what they're going to do right there and then. And usually those choices are irrevocable, right. You can't go back and say, "Oops, I didn't want to do that." Or "I [inaudible 00:20:53] do that." So that is important to know.

If it is before the employee goes into pay status, potentially you have the option of what's called on a pension plan at least, a separate interest QDRO, where in theory the pension is sort of dividing the pension into two parts, one for the employee and their marital portion and also any premarital or post-separation amounts. And then kind of one part for the alternate payee who's the former spouse and each spouse once that plan is divided can kind of take their piece and do with it what they want.

Catherine:

Hmm. So that's called a special interest QDRO.

Donna:

It's called a separate interest. So think of it riding on a train. Prior to the employee retiring and taking their benefit, usually most plans will allow, it's not a municipal plan or a government plan, they will allow for what's called a separate interest. That kind of division into two parts. And each person's on their own train kind of going forward into retirement.

If it's what's called a shared interest, everything is dictated by the employee spouse. The alternate payee doesn't really get to make any choices. They are stuck, not stuck, but with whatever the employee chooses. That's why you need to be sure proper language is in your agreement because you want to protect as many of those rights as you can. You don't want the employee electing something that might not be in your favor because it's permanent.

Karen:

Right. And if they have that shared interest, what happens when the participant passes?

Donna:

If they have put in language for survivor benefits, which is very important then the alternate payee or former spouse interchangeable kind of terms can continue on either all or a portion of that pension for their life expectancy. But those benefits have to be elected when the participant retires. Can't go back and say, "Oh, I didn't do that. We need to fix it." So it's very important to make sure those documents get in and that they're worded properly to protect those benefits for the former spouse.

Catherine:

Donna being a QDRO administrator do you often see, and I already know what the answer is, but if you're listening, this might be one of you, is that it's such lazy language and everyone's marital settlement agreement that you're just going to divide this or hire this person to do your QDRO, but all of these little points that you're bringing up, and I know Karen has experienced this a lot as well are things that could be negotiated. They're expecting this divorced couple to agree to this after the divorce, they're barely talking going through the divorce and these are major life choices that should be discussed before you sign your agreement. Isn't it true?

Donna:

Absolutely. And you are so right. Usually what happens is there's negotiation going on, the settlement agreement gets signed and then and only then do people start to get information about the plans that are going to be divided. And what happens is if you don't have proper language in your agreement, you may either lose benefits that you probably should have been entitled to.

And Catherine, like you said, if they're not even discussed during the settlement process, how do you know what your option is and what you're potentially giving up or not giving up. When you have a vague agreement it's subject to interpretation. Well, I might interpret things one way. Someone else might interpret things another way.

Karen:

Mmm-hmm.

Catherine:

Definitely.

Karen:

And I know I have prepared some QDROs as well. I'm not as experienced as a QDRO administrator as you are Donna, but I know that when the elections come through it's do you want to include gains or losses? And all of these, is it shared or separate and all of these questions that hosts the divorce agreement that the QDRO administrator is either picking for the clients or asking the clients to pick. And probably they have no idea what anything means at that point and a lot of times even their attorneys don't know how to interpret that specific type of language.

Donna:

Well, and sometimes it's done purposely, right. Sometimes if you have a real savvy attorney and maybe an attorney that maybe not as familiar with retirement account divisions, sometimes what you don't put in your marital settlement agreement favors one person or the other. And so one or two words can make a big difference. Are we going to include gains and losses or are we going to exclude them?

That can be a huge thing especially if there's a block of time that goes by before that order gets prepared and sent into the plan administrator for them to divide that plan. If the market's going crazy on the upside, and you're just dividing a plan 50-50 as of a specific date in the past that other party, there's going to be a windfall for one and perhaps a loss for the other and kind of vice versa. The market can go the other way too.

Karen:

Are you going to include loans, exclude loans?

Donna:

Yup.

Karen:

Are you're going to divide by shares or dollars? There's a lot of components there that people really are not aware of when they're dividing retirement plans and that the paragraphs and the settlement agreement is parties agree to split.

Catherine:

There's also another caution. You hear a lot about the gray divorces and the people in their 50s and 60s, and now even a lot of in their 70s coming to get divorced, but the ones in their 50s and 60s, some are eligible for retirement in earlier ages, right? So no one is anticipating a divorce they can go ahead and go into payee status before their spouse would know this and then file for divorce and you can't do something about it. So if you're kind of in the cusp of that time, this is something that you need to consider or put out there if there's a pension.

Donna:

A lot of plans but not all of them, if there is a spouse, a married spouse, not a divorced spouse and the participant, the employee spouse tries to go into payee status and chooses an option that's not a joint survivor benefit, many times the plan will require the spouse to be notified or to have a notarized signature or something. Not all plans, not all plans. But again, yeah, you want to know all those things. At least while you're married, death benefits usually are in place, right.

Because it's only the divorce that kind of severs that marital relationship. So if you're the beneficiary or even if you're just the spouse and it might be assumed, God forbid, if your husband or wife dies, you may still be covered up until the time the divorce decree is issued. Every state's different. Again, we're making some general kind of assessments today but you need to know all these things because you don't want to lose valuable benefits to which you're entitled.

Karen:

That's so true. Donna, how important is it to get a summary plan description? And can you describe what that is?

Donna:

Sure. So a summary plan description is basically the rule book that the company puts out in regards to their retirement account, right. If they have a 401k plan, whatever type of retirement plan that they have, there's a rule book behind the scenes it's called that summary plan description. That summary plan description though be aware, it's usually written for a single individual or a happily married individual. There's usually one little blurb in it that talks about, oh, by the way, if you get divorced see our written divorce procedures.

So the summary plan description is important because it does tell you when normal retirement is for a pension plan, it really becomes important more so in my mind, for pensions than for 401k type plans. They are pretty easy to divide. The rules are generally the same. Pensions are where things get tricky. You want to know how they calculate the benefit formula. When is retirement or cost of living increases something that the plan pays. Are there any supplemental type benefits that might need to be divided provided that they exist? And things like that.

Catherine:

So much information about these plans and people often times they just don't want to get involved with it. There's so many stress factors, as we all know, going through a divorce, dividing your home, dividing every asset and then you get down to this pension and you're just like, "Okay, you keep yours. I'll keep mine." Thinking it's easier thing to do. Where five years later you say, "Holy crap, why did I do that?"

Donna:

Well, even if you have two pensions that look the same, meaning they're valued roughly at the same, the rule book at each company may be different. Maybe one plan has survivor benefits, one plan does not. A lot of municipality kind of and union type plans have some odd kind of rules about police and firefighter, things like that. So even two plans that look on the surface to be similar, may have vast differences that if you knew what some of those differences were, you may want the right to either share them or give that right up to the other spouse and let them keep that plan.

Catherine:

Mmm-hmm. Great points. Such a great point. You're not always comparing apples to apples just because it looks that way.

Karen:

Mmm-hmm. That's so true marital assets, right?

Donna:

The devil's in the details ladies, you know that.

Catherine:

Absolutely. But if you're afraid to ask these questions, what are the best questions to ask?

Donna:

You mean for a divorce and client?

Catherine:

Mmm-hmm. If you're listening right now and you say, "Oh my gosh, we think my spouse has that. Or he has it somewhere else." What are the best questions to ask? A lot of people are afraid to even ask for that summary plan description. We've heard attorneys say, "Okay, we know what they made every year. We have it." Or "We have the screenshot." Or "We have this." How do you stand in your own confidence to ask these questions?

Donna:

Well, first of all, as we talked about earlier, definitely complete account statement. Don't do anything without that. A lot of times people can call the employer themselves, even if they're not the employee, right. I call all the time. And I ask for copies of the summary plan description. Some companies have them write on their online website, go onto their website, Google summary plan description or put QDRO or put divorced and see what pops up there.

But you can try to call the employer, especially if you are a spouse, because often times you can get that information. And you want to ask for three things. If there's a pension, two things if there's a 401k type plan. So if there's a pension, yes, the summary plan description. Even maybe more important than that is the client's written divorce procedures. Every ERISA govern plan should have them where they're not in compliance, but there's a document that kind of specifically talks about if an employee is getting, what is the kind of rule book there?

And then most plans have what's called a model or a sample qualified domestic relations order. You should ask for a copy of that too. Now I caution you there, don't just use it as a fill in the blank. You've got to know exactly what that means because you eliminate a word or you eliminate a paragraph it could have a huge financial effect, a windfall for one, not so much for the other. With 401k type plans which are called defined contribution plans, I usually only get written divorce procedures and a model DRO, obviously again, a statement, but I don't really get the summary plan description because nine times out of 10, there's nothing in there that I'm not going to already know.

Catherine:

Or you need the full statement.

Donna:

Yes. Full statement, no matter what.

Catherine:

Mmm-hmm.

Donna:

And keep asking if you're not getting it.

Catherine:

Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And don't sign until you have it. Don't sign, take pause. You deserve it.

Karen:

And these plans most of the time, if not all of the time cannot be divided until the divorce decree is in place. Am I correct on that?

Donna:

That depends. Most defined contribution plans will allow for division because the ERISA rule states, you can divide to a spouse, a former spouse, a child or a dependent of the employee. So a spouse is someone who is still married, a former spouse to someone who's not. Different from some pension plans they will require a copy of the divorce decree. When I say they meaning the employer before they will finalize the qualified domestic relations order. And again, that's just something to find out in advance so that you know.

Catherine:

This is really great information. Before we sign off, I want to touch on a little bit, incident to divorce. Can you explain the one-time withdrawal you're allowed to have from a plan?

Donna:

Yes. And that applies only really to defined contribution plans. So kind of throw pensions off to the side. It does not apply to pension plans. But if you are going to be receiving an award from your spouse who is the employee, you have the ability, once that money is divided at the plan level into your name, that you can take a one-time distribution. It's only once, you can't call every month and say you need $1,000, and it waives the 10% penalty you are under 59 and a half. So if you roll that money over into an IRA and then take the money out, you've lost that one time ability and you're going to be stuck paying that early withdrawal penalty of 10%. If you're under 59 and a half.

Catherine:

So you still have to pay taxes on the amount that you receive, you don't have to pay the penalty if you're younger than 59 and a half.

Donna:

Correct. The employer is mandatorily going to withhold 20%. They don't really care what your tax bracket is. The rule is they withhold 20%. If they withhold too much, you'll get it back when you prepare your tax returns for the following year. And if they don't withhold enough. So if you're in a higher tax bracket than 20%, you may owe a little bit more if you physically take the money out and spend it.

We're not talking about rolling it over to another plan, we're talking about if a lot of times you'll see it in divorce, maybe there's debt that needs paid off. And maybe there's not a lot of liquid assets. So one party will maybe take more from the 401k to agree to pay that debt off. And that's one way of getting some money out, still taxable money, but you can avoid that 10% penalty if it's done properly.

Catherine:

And I really want to bring that up because if you're listening, a lot of times you're being told, okay, you get this asset and you have this one-time withdrawal. Or some people don't even know about the one-time withdrawal, but you're thinking you're getting this and okay, you're trading away something else that might not have the same tax consequence. And you really need to consider what your needs are. Like you mentioned, you might be paying off a debt or you might be using that money to purchase a new home. But before you make that decision thinking that you're going to use those monies, yes you might be exempt from the 10%, but it's still taxable. And is that really equitable compared to what your spouse received?

Donna:

Well, that's why you'll hear the word thrown around where we're going to tax effect assets so that we're going to look at the tax consequence and theoretically pretend that that asset was liquidated. And if so, what would that tax consequence be? So, if I have a dollar, let's just use a dollar because it's easy. If I'm awarded a dollar, how much of that dollar am I going to keep?

It's in a savings account I'm going to keep 100% of it. If it's in a retirement account and I have to spend it, I'm going to be subject to some tax. So that dollar that I get, maybe I'm only receiving 80 cents. If my spouse is keeping a dollar but I'm only keeping 80 cents, how fair of a division do we have? Multiply that out to any type of asset size you're talking about.

Catherine:

Yes. So important and if you didn't get that rewind then listen again because once you sign that agreement, there's devils in those details that we discussed. If those details aren't there about getting the tax back, you're shit out of luck as my dad would say. So it's very important. Again, rewind and listen to that because I hate hearing these stories years later that you just didn't know, you were so emotionally drained at that point that you wanted to be done with it. And now you're stuck with that scenario.

Donna:

It's surprising too that some people out there that they physically have to take money out of their retirement account and give their spouse a check. That is not true either.

Catherine:

In fact, that's good point. Absolutely.

Karen:

That could be disastrous.

Donna:

Mmm-hmm.

Catherine:

Yes.

Karen:

So Donna do you prepare QDROs across the United States? Are you limited to a specific area?

Donna:

I am not limited to a specific area. My practice is located in southwestern Pennsylvania. Probably 90% of the QDROs that I draft are for attorneys in that locale. But I do draft for a few other states. I have some connections elsewhere. For ERISA plans, it doesn't matter where the plan is. The rule book is the same. For pensions you need to sometimes know a specific state rules and regulations.

For instance, if you have a government employee that works for the state or you have a teacher, each state has different rules and regulations. And so whomever someone is using to draft that document they do need to understand those rules and regulations so that they can properly draft that document to the party's satisfaction and know all the things and bells and whistles that need to be in all the oops factors that could happen if not done properly.

Karen:

Mmm-hmm. That's great. So how can our listeners find you Donna?

Donna:

They can find me by Googling my website, cheswickdivorce solutions.com. They can probably Google my name as well. They can call me. My phone number is on my website as well and send an email.

Catherine:

Or call us. We had to find you for sure because we're always looking for you.

Karen:

You're on speed dial with us, Donna.

Donna:

Oh, that's nice. Thanks.

Karen:

So this concludes our discussion with Donna Cheswick on the nitty-gritty issues based in retirement plan division. So thank you so much, Donna for being here with us and we look forward to more conversations with you.

Donna:

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

 

 

On the newest episode of We Chat Divorce we’re joined by Renee Bauer, Esq. to discuss The Art of Re-Invention – Divorcing Without Shame. Renee Bauer is an award-winning divorce attorney, author, podcast host, and champion of finding your Happy Even After. She boldly educates and inspires women about divorce so they can move into their next chapter with confidence. She is the creator of The D Course, an online educational course designed to help save thousands of dollars in legal fees. Renee is regularly sought out by media to comment on trending family law issues. She is the Founder of Happy Even After Family Law located in Connecticut.

  

Learn More >> https://msreneebauer.com

 

Connect with Renee Bauer, Esq. on LinkedIn >> https://www.linkedin.com/in/rbauer1/

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Shanahan, Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work. 

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD. 

 

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Shanahan and Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew. 

 

WCD, SHANAHAN, AND CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL'S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST. 

  

Karen:

Welcome to We Chat Divorce with Karen Chellew, legal liaison and Catherine Shanahan CFA co-founders of my Divorce Solution, the company that delivers the quintessential financial blueprint to couples facing, or going through the divorce process. This blueprint, known as the MDS financial portrait, establishes the foundation and options and individual or couple would need to make clear financial decisions when considering divorce. Each podcast, Catherine and Karen, sit down with divorce professionals and other individuals who provide insight and Frank discussion about real people, real situations, and real divorce.

Welcome to We Chat Divorce, Catherine and I are so happy today to welcome Attorney Renee Bauer to our podcast. In this episode, we're going to discuss the Art of Re-invention - Divorcing Without Shame. But first let me take a couple minutes to introduce Renee. Renee Bauer is an award winning divorce attorney, a published author, and founder of the family law firm Bauer Law Group. Renee's insights are sought after by local, national, and international media outlets, podcasts, and conferences, where she speaks on co-parenting blended family dynamics, relationships, and the art of reinvention as an accomplished litigator. She boldly educates and inspires women to reclaim their right to happiness through her online course, The D Course, love that and her podcast Happy Even After. Welcome Renee.

Renee:

Good morning, Ladies. How are you?

Catherine:

Good. We're so happy to have you, not only because of your expertise, but for your enthusiasm that you bring to a very difficult topic basically. ou know, you've been a divorce attorney for so long, and now you found the courage to talk about your own experiences with divorce. What gave you that courage to do that?

Renee:

Yeah, so, you know, it was really, really difficult. And for most of my career, I showed off in the way I thought a lawyer was supposed to show up, you know, all buttoned up and I was putting on an act and I would go into court and represent my clients and do the job that I thought I was supposed to do. But when I got home from at night and I kind of stripped away the suit in, in the act, it was, I was like a broken version of myself because I never talked about not just one divorce, but two divorces that I've had. And because I was filled with so much shame and I really had no intention of talking about it. I thought this was just something I was going to keep to myself forever and kind of just live with it. And one day a good friend of mine had started a podcast and she said, “Hey, I want to have you on as a guest. And I'm going to bring some sushi over, we'll have a couple drinks. I'm going to ask you questions.” And at that point I didn't listen to podcasts. I was just like, okay, like, I'll answer some questions for sushi. I can do that. And then she came over, we ate a ton. She clipped the mic on me. And for the first time ever, I spoke about my divorce and she asked these questions and I actually answered them. And when that podcast episode dropped, I was inundated with messages and emails and DMS from other women who said, that was my story too. Thank you for sharing. One woman said she sat in her hotel room and just sobbed because she never, she felt so alone during her divorce. And here she was listening to someone else talk about what they were going through. And at that point I knew I needed to stop being the buttoned up version of myself and really strip away those filters and start sharing my real story and start being vulnerable, which is so hard to do as, you know, a type A perfectionist of just really showing up and saying, hey this is me. This is what I went through. And it's definitely been a process, but it has been so rewarding because I’ve  just connected with so many people that way. And I've heard so many incredible stories and was inspired to start my own podcast because of that.

 

Catherine:

You know, it's great that you say all of that because we talk about what it does for the other women, you know, the three of us developing through them or to the other side, right. So we know where they, where they are currently probably. But when you tell your own story and I've experienced this myself, you know, that vulnerability is very hard to do. But when you do it afterwards, you really you're healing yourself further. You know, you realize that there is still more healing. We all need to always improve. So when sharing your story, not only is that woman's sobbing in her room feeling a sense of relief because she realizes she's normal, but then I bet you went home too, and you probably shed your own tears saying, wow, I let that out. It's like something I was hiding from and it's okay. Right. Is that how you feel? Yeah. And, you know, especially the second divorce, like that was just such a moment of embarrassment and almost humiliation like the marriage was in, I was in and out of it so fast before like a season was up, but there was so much shame from that one and, you know, coming out the other side in inch and I, I you're right. You're completely right. I'd never really healed from that. Like I was still holding onto it and now I talk about it so much. And so frequently as just something that has just happened, there's no emotion attached to it. It's like, all right, it's just part of my story. And it allows me to do the work that I do now. It taught me to be a better partner and spouse for my current husband now, because I really learned from, from that. And, you know, if you, the more you talk about it, the, the more detached you are as if this is something that's so substantial and so impactful to who you are as a person. And it becomes so much less than that. And it's just, okay, this is just one chapter in my book is really, really thick. So I'm going to turn the next page, but you're completely right. The more we talk about our stories and share them there is just this healing process that happens for the person who's listening to that. And the person who's actually speaking it.

Karen:

Yeah. Renee, were you in the attorney during your divorces where you practicing family law attorney?

Renee:

Yeah. And you know what, there’s the embarrassment of having to go into court and go into the courtroom on the day that I was getting divorced and standing there amongst the judges that I regularly practice in front of and some colleagues you know, that was so much shame there, which is crazy because it's like, why. You know, I do this every single day. Why was I so attached to this? And you know, there's so many reasons for that - generational upbringing and you know all of the societal upbringing that what we're taught about divorce. So even though I can work in that space and help other people through it, when I was going through it myself, it was just, you know, I got brought back to those moments of being a child and, you know, learning about friends whose parents were getting divorced or hearing my own parents talk about divorce and, you know, just, just whatever relative said. And just those things that you brought up thinking and attaching to that word. So yeah, it was, it was really, really difficult. And there was such a a difference between what I was doing in my work every single day and my personal life. And it wasn't until those two blended that I really stepped into who I am, what I was meant to do. And just in complete alignment with my life. Like there was definitely a disconnect before that time.

Karen:

So did they blend, or did they collide? I'm just wondering.

Renee:

It's all semantics. You know, I think that it was a collision at first and now it blends. I think that, you know, there was some was so much resistance at the very beginning and even my current husband and I like had to sit down and have a conversation about me speaking and being so public about it in a way that I never had before, because it was so personal. Like I kept everything to myself and now I was thrusting our family kind of into the social media world and speaking about it and sharing things, never sharing things about the exes. Cause that's not what it was about, that doesn't help you heal, but just short of sharing about our life in my journey. And so there was some resistance at the beginning because that was something my, my husband was uncomfortable with. He was like, I don't know about this. And I'm like, I get it. It's hard, it's hard for me, but you know, this is going to happen and we're going to do it. And now it's going to get easier each day and now it's, you know, he's totally comfortable with it. So there's definitely the collision at the very beginning and now it's blended beautifully.

Catherine:

Oh, that's awesome. You know, and I think a lot of shame comes from a lot of guilt, you know, as our generation, we're all in the same generation or actually we might be a little older than you, but you know, we're, we're expected to play our role and play it perfectly. And we're expected to do so many different things perfectly. And not only are we expected by others, but we expect it of ourselves a lot of times. And so we feel so guilty about not being able to, you know, meet up with the expectations of staying married forever or the shame as you say, getting divorced the second time, because it just didn't work out. Why do we carry all that guilt and shame on ourselves? You know, it's not until you get into your fifties that you start releasing some of that where, you know, it just doesn't matter.

You know, the twenties and the thirties and the forties are just about sometimes almost everybody else, but yourself and that's what needs to change. You know, we don't need to be, feel shameful or guilty because our marriage didn't last as long as it was supposed to, by the guidelines that are put out there. You know, I don't say my marriage was a failure. You know, I was married 20 years. That's what the person, 23 years, I just say it lasts as long as it was supposed to, you know, and I think we need to change the mindset and the dialogue on how we treat others, you know? And when we look at somebody who's a divorcee, you know, so it's okay. You don't have to say, I'm so sorry for you. You know, you can say congratulations for moving forward with getting through that. Yeah.

Renee:

Yeah. And it's not contagious. It's like, you know, you say that you're divorced and you know, some reaction is like, oh, well, didn't, you want to try to make it work? Or, you know, oh, well, there's plenty of fish in the sea. And they kind of like, step back a little bit from you as if like they can catch it, but you're so right. And you know, what I think you said is so important is the guilt of walking away from something that just isn't good enough. Like it's okay to have to be married to someone who is a good person and not the right fit for you. And to be able to say, you know what, we're just not living in alignment. Maybe our values are different. Maybe would just adjust, it's come to completion and being able to walk away from that because there's something not something better that you're looking for, but it's just not the relationship that you want for yourself. And you walk away. Not because you're looking for there's someone waiting in the wings, but you walk away because you're choosing yourself. And I think that I, and I'm sure you guys hear it too, but there are so many women who will say, you know, my husband's a good person. He's a good father. And so what's wrong with me that I'm not fulfilled. And I think that that's, you know, there's so much work to be done there. And that's, you know, that was my first marriage. Like there was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't, it wasn't a good fit. And, you know, he went on to marry someone who was his perfect match in every sense of the word. And so did I and you know, and it's, it's kind of like breaks my heart to think of people who stay and they kind of jam themselves into our relationship because they think that if, if, unless it's abusive or unless it's like really bad, then there's no reason for them to be unhappy. And that's where that guilt comes in because they feel guilty about wanting something different than what they have.

Catherine:

Just sad because we all change. You know, we hear a lot of people say, oh, our spouse says you change. Not the same person I was married to. That's why I want a divorce. You know? Well, of course we all change. You know, hopefully I change every day. I pray that I become a better person tomorrow. Right. So it's okay to change. And as you're saying, if over those years 20, and we have a lot of 30 year marriage is coming to us 20 years or five years, whatever it is, if your outlook has changed in life, listen, let the spice goes by so fast. That's okay. You don't have to feel guilty about it. You know, it is your right to be happy. And we see that a lot on the financial side, because there's a lot of shame and a lot of confusion and sadness or fear that they're going to leave this marriage.

They don't have to take, they're not happy, but at least everything's taken care of because they don't understand it. And once they start getting the financial knowledge that they need, whether they have to go to work or not, it doesn't matter. But once they get that Renee, you should see their faces, you know, they just transform into, oh my gosh, I'm feeling a little bit more empowered. I'm embarrassed that I didn't know that information. You know, we always say, it's okay. You know, you did the best you could at the time you're doing it. But once you gain that kind of knowledge, some you get to move forward right. In the positive direction for yourself.

Renee:

Yeah. I have a client that I like to use as an example for exactly what you're talking about. And she was in a long-term marriage. Her husband did everything, paid the bills, took care of the house. And she had a really comfortable life. It was not a good marriage. It wasn't horribly bad, but it certainly was not good. And she would've stayed forever because she was afraid of what was going to happen on the other side. And so she was forced into this divorce situation. She knew she would have stayed married, had he wanted to. And she was so afraid of paying her own bills, taking care of the house and all of that. Having to go back to work full time. And it was about a year after her divorce that she reached out to me and said, I have never been so happy in my entire life.

And I didn't even know that I was so unhappy until I was forced into this situation. And she said, she bought her house. She was paying her own bills. She was financially responsible. She was saving money. And, you know, she was just so happy that she was forced into this situation. And I'm like, that's you know, that's the example. That's the success story of just because you don't know it now, does it mean you can't learn it? And there's so much power when you start to really understand what money looks like and, and the finances and you take control of it. You're no longer just sitting back, waiting for things to happen for you. You become the driver and that's, you know, that's amazing. That's incredible.

Catherine:

That is incredible. And if you're listening, you know, that that woman took on a very courageous journey, but it was not easy. So a lot of people look at us, probably the three of us and many others that we talked to is I want to get to where you are now, you know, I'm 10 years out, right? So I want to get to where you are now, but I had to do that work too. You know, I cried every day for years, you know, I went through my ex saying to me, who has a better marriage than ours, ours is fine. Who, whose other marriage do you want? And I always said, it's not about the other people's marriage. It's about what I want, you know, the happiness I want. But it it's a journey to get through that. So if you're listening, give yourself a time so that you can be the success story of that woman as well, which is so exciting to hear.

Renee:

Yeah. And, and I think that that's so important too, is just to have some grace and allow yourself to heal and not jump into something else. Don't try to quick fix your emotions by jumping into another relationship. Like really give yourself that space that you can, and it's okay to cry. It's okay to miss your kids on the weekends. You don't have them. We all have gone through that, but you just continue putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. And that's how you get out the other side.

 

Karen:

I love that. So I see a tip here is give yourself space. What's some more tips that you have to help people divorce without shame, because I'm going to guess it's a high percentage of people that do have a significant amount of shame navigating this challenging process.

Renee:

Yeah. And so, you know, there's so many bad things about social media, but I think there's so many good things too. And I think that there are so many communities of people going through something similar and so many resources out there. So I'd say find a community that you feel comfortable in enjoying that. There's so many really amazing people doing this work and in this space and surround yourself with some, with other people who know what it's like, and they get it and they can say, I see you. I felt all of that attend events. Like the one that you put together that's a great place to connect with other women and make lifelong friendships. In addition to being inspired and excited about your future. And then just give yourself time. And like I said, don't jump into anything like it's, I think it's your initial reaction is to want to get some attention, want to mask the pain that you're feeling and you start dating before you're ready. And now you're just, you're covering up without actually healing. And so really before you jumped back into the dating world to make sure you're ready to do that, and you're doing it because you, you are ready to date, not because you're trying to fill the void to fill the time when you missed your kids.

Catherine:

Yeah. Do you think that's what you did and the second time around?

Renee:

Well, I actually did that right after my first divorce, I jumped into dating and that didn't work. That was not my second husband. Then there was time in between that. So, you know, who knows, who knows how many, what mistakes I made the second time around. You know, I think that that was just not giving the relationship enough space to let everything reveal itself. I think that that was just jumping too quickly into something and ignoring the red flags you know.

Catherine:

Love that Renee, not giving yourself enough space to let everything reveal itself. That is so powerful. And I think that we need to write that down and take that away because it's so true. You know, men and women, nobody wants to be lonely and everyone, and as we get older, everyone says, I don't want to be alone. I hear it from both sides, the men and the women. Right. So I always remember saying, you know, just because to my friends, I'm sitting here alone by myself. I'm really not lonely. Like I enjoyed watching the TV by myself. I enjoyed not having to cook for my kids finally for a night. You know, I learned to like embrace that and it really is cathartic. And it is something that we need, I guess it's the self care, right? Which is the best care that we need to start embracing, especially as women, because we're all, we're big givers and we're always taking care of something. But to take that time, even when you're going through the divorce to pause and look at what you need, you know, and give yourself the time to see what it is that you need from a companion, if that's what it is that you want.

 

Renee:

And that's, that's exactly the takeaway that I have as to this day is because when I did create that time and really learned how to be by myself and do things that filled me up, it's something that I still crave. And even in a current relationship in married, it's still something that I make time for. And, you know, an example is I went to Vegas recently with my husband and he was traveling for work. And I spent the day kayaking down the Colorado river by myself. And it was, it was, you know, I don't need, I don't need someone else to be there with me. Like, this is something that just filled me up and it was that self-care. And it was being in nature and being by myself, it wasn't being lonely. It was doing something by myself. And you really, when you give yourself that space, you learn how to do that. And when you're comfortable being by yourself, you don't need to fit the type, fit someone in there. You will if you're with someone and it feels good and you're having fun and it's joyful, then that's fine. But when you start to see the red flags, you're able to walk away and say, you know what, this doesn't serve me. And I don't need you just to keep me company because I can keep myself company. Then I think that that's important is that you're really paying attention to those red flags. We all have had them in bad relationships. And when we've allowed them to linger a little too long, that's when you see the, the divorce or, you know, the relationship not work out. But it's taken some time to get there. So pay attention right at the beginning and you know, really dial into what those red flags feel like in your body and pay attention to them. And don't try to make excuses for them. It's, it's your gut instinct telling you that something just isn't right. And it's okay to walk away from that.

Catherine:

Yeah. I'd like to set up, I would like to set a challenge out there if you're listening to this podcast, because I do believe that with that self-care, you will release some of the shame and the guilt that you feel. So Renee, we heard that you just went kayaking in Vegas by yourself and really had a great time. So if you're listening, challenge yourself, what will you do this week today, this month to challenge yourself, to be by yourself and Karen, I think you and I will have to think of something too. I know Karen recently went out and I was so proud of her. I'm a little bit more of an extrovert. So I go out and do a lot of things, but Karen is more of an introvert, not in a negative way at all. I'm not saying that, but I said to her, go do pickleball by yourself. You don't need your friends all around you to go with ego due to a group that you don't know anyone. And she ended up doing that and she could talk about her experience. I'm not talking for her, but I will boast for her because she was the champion of a tournament that they had. And she would have never done that probably years ago, but found the courage to do it. And how did you feel after you did that for yourself? Like what kind of self-care was that?

Karen:

That was incredible because you are right. I am an introvert. And when I hear both of you talking about those things by yourself, I know for myself and for a lot of our clients, that's a really hard thing because, you know, for most of our lives, we're just around a lot of people. But I did take that challenge and I did sign up for a tournament. And so my first experience walking onto the courts was, oh, God, I don't know where to go. I don't know who to talk to. I don't even know if I'm in the right group here, cause you have to assign yourself a level to compete. So, you know, I just kept stepping up and asking questions and, you know, taking the next step and the worst case scenario I could walk away. But I never felt like doing that.

I met some really great people and I had a really good time. So it was a great experience. So I do encourage anyone to just take small steps if that's your first step. Because we do have to do really hard things in our lives. And that piece of it is important, especially when you're in a life-changing situation, which divorce is. And we have lots of them to really know who you are inside. And I love that you encourage your clients and the people that are around you to do that because it is important. Yeah.

So I have a question because you're challenging people to do hard things. That's can be a very hard thing from a self-care perspective, but when people are divorcing, they have to do really hard things from a tangible perspective, meaning make really good informed decisions for themselves and value themselves enough to make really clear financial and legal decisions. And sometimes it's really super hard because you're walking into a vortex of chaos. It seems sometime, and you don't know what's right and what's wrong and you're getting opinions from everybody. And sometimes you're you feel vulnerable and intimidated. So how much do you assign that as being as the art of reinvention, because going through divorce begins that art of reinvention. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Renee:

Sure. That's a great question. You know, I think that one of the mistakes that lawyers see clients make is the client comes in and says, okay, I hired the lawyer and now I don't have to do anything. And I'm going to let this lawyer do all of the work and speak for me. And I'm just going to follow the advice. And I think that that's a big mistake. There are lots of lawyers out there. Some of them do better jobs than others. Some have different value systems in terms of how they practice and whether they are pushing things to litigation or more settlement minded. And you really need to take control as a client of your own situation and become informed and ask the lawyer every step of the way, why things are being done or ask questions and not just allow or rely on the professional to tell you the way something is supposed to be done.

Because at the end of the day when you sign that divorce agreement, you have to live with it. And if there's something you don't understand, or there's something that you absolutely hate, that's in there, then you need to be sure that that's being addressed before your signature goes on that page. And you know, we say lawyers say all the time that no agreement is perfect. And usually both sides are a little bit unhappy with the agreement, which is true, but you also have to start to prioritize what's important and have your goal lists. And you know, like what's the number one thing that's so important to you that you don't want to negotiate on, or it's more important for that piece than something else. So you can give up something else in order to get that. And you have to be the one to set those goals and not yet let your lawyer or any of the professional set them for you.

So I think that the most important piece of it is educate yourself and ask, don't be intimidated or afraid to ask questions of the professionals and don't let any professional bully you into an agreement that you don't like. They're supposed to be working for you. They're supposed to be guiding you and counseling you and advising you of all of the, maybe the different variables if you pursue it in court or not, but you are allowed to ask questions and make sure you understand so that you're not just kind of being pushed into something that you don't like. So education and being a self advocate are the most important pieces.

Karen:

I love that you say that.

Catherine:

Sorry.

Karen:

Yeah, it is. I spend a lot of time with clients at the table with their attorney and other professionals and they do take that. It's almost a relief. Okay. It's in their hands. I'm good to go. And I'll say, well, now it's even more important that you're engaged because they're your advocate. They're not the boss. So they, they need to be directed by you. You come to the table and you, as an attorney, you need to know what do you want and why do you want it? And then you can do your job. And I think to your point, a lot of people don't understand that. And then they end up very confused and very frustrated.

Renee:

There's lots of lawyers that will just try to jam an agreement down their client's throat just to be done with it. And they, they won't listen to them or they won't recognize what their goals are in the hierarchy of those goals. And instead, they're just going to tell them that you need to do this because this is what's on the table and you're not going to get something better in court. And I think just having a better conversation, a more communication with your lawyer in order to head to, to get on the same page. So you both are working towards the same goal and a lot of times that doesn't happen.

Catherine:

Yeah. So even if you take pause and take on the challenge of doing something by yourself, for yourself, that might be the space that you need to get the courage to ask those really good questions or to listen to your gut. Women have a really good, strong gut reaction to things and look at the red flags and write those things down and take it to your attorney and ask those questions, you know, because you'll become more powerful by the more questions you ask.

Renee:

Absolutely. Couldn't agree more.

 

Catherine:

Yeah.

Karen:

So Renee, do you have a final tip for everyone? I'm sure it may relate to your Happy Even After podcast or The D course. What would you like to leave with everyone today?

Renee:

I would say that you have to start turning inward to find solutions to the things that are keeping you up at night. So, so often what happens is someone looks at their acts and says, they're the reason for all of my misery. They're the reason I don't have enough money, or they might look to their lawyer and say, they're the reason that I, you know, I didn't get enough. And they're looking constantly for external answers, things that are keeping them up and are causing them concern. And when you flip that switch and you say, okay, what can I do to fix this problem? Or what can I do to make sure I have enough money to pay my bills? Or what can I do when I'm missing my kids, you're starting to provide your, provide your own solutions. And I think that is the key to coming out the other side of divorce, to thrive in past divorce and to really finding your happy even after is to stop blaming and looking back, stop looking in the past and just look forward and have the courage to rely on yourself and the strength to say, I am all that I need in order to make it out the other end. And because you have all of the power and you have everything you need inside of you, you just have to tap into it, believe in it.

Karen:

I love that. Absolutely. Okay. Renee, where should people go if they want to connect with you or learn more about you? Sure. Instagram is my favorite place to hang out. So you can find me there at Ms. Renee Bauer. And then from there, you can link up to everything else I have going on. Wonderful. Okay. Well, this concludes our episode on the art of re-invention divorcing without shame. Thank you, Renee, for a great conversation.

 

Renee:

Thank you so much.

On the newest episode of We Chat Divorce we’re joined by Winter Wheeler, Esq. to discuss The Four Cornerstones of Mediation™. Wheeler, a graduate of Georgetown University and Tulane Law School, has always combined her interests in culture, diplomacy, and the law. She is especially passionate about changing the face of mediation and arbitration - by bringing compassion, listening to the forefront, and placing the litigant and emotions at the center of the conversation. Wheeler is a former top civil litigator who has made her niche as an expert mediator.  

Wheeler is the creator of The Four Cornerstones of Mediation™, which she introduced to the world in her first TEDx talk in March 2021. Wheeler, a married mom of four, gave her second TEDx talk “Confessions of a Working Mom Who Has It All” in June 2021. She is co-author of the bestselling book, #Networked. She is also the creator and host of The Mediate Now™ podcast.   

Our hosts, Karen and Catherine, sit down with Winter Wheeler, Esq. to discuss The Four Cornerstones of Mediation™. 

  

Learn More >> https://www.winterwheeler.com/ 

 

Connect with Winter Wheeler, Esq. on LinkedIn >> @Winter Wheeler 

 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Shanahan, Chellew, and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work. 

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD. 

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Shanahan and Chellew do not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third-party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Shanahan or Karen Chellew. 

WCD, SHANAHAN, AND CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL'S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST. 

  

Karen: 

Welcome to We Chat Divorce. Catherine and I are so happy today to welcome attorney mediator Winter Wheeler to our podcast today. In this episode, we're going to discuss The Four Cornerstones of Mediation™. 

Karen: 

Welcome, Winter. So glad you're here with us today. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here. I've been following y'all, and it's a privilege. 

Catherine: 

So fun to have you, and I want those flowers in your background. 

Winter Wheeler: 

They're fake, so I'll send you the link. 

Catherine: 

This is one of the things I love about you. 

Karen: 

So before we get into the conversation of the four cornerstones, I'm going to take a couple of minutes to introduce Winter. 

Karen: 

So, Winter is a former top civil litigator who has made her niche as an expert mediator. She is sought out for her unique, compassionate and successful style handling complex matters that involve a diverse range of cultures, including Spanish-speaking clients. 

Karen: 

Most recently, Winter was a senior attorney at a prominent law firm. And it's this extensive body of experience she brings into her current mediation practice that makes her work stand out. A graduate of Georgetown University and Tulane Law School, Winter has always combined her passions for culture, diplomacy and the law. 

Karen: 

Winter is the creator of the The Four Cornerstones of Mediation™, which she introduced to the world in her first TEDx talk in March of 2021. And Winter, you actually launched it yesterday, am I correct on that? 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yes, we launched a course based on the four cornerstones. 

Karen: 

I love that. 

Winter Wheeler: 

And that is available as a group or private classes. 

Karen: 

Awesome. She gave her second TEDx talk in June 2021, entitled “Confessions of a Working Mom Who Has It All.” I highly recommend that you listen to it. Catherine and I just got a little preview of it. Amazing! You have to listen to it. 

Catherine: 

Yeah. 

Karen: 

“Confessions of a Working Mom Who Has It All” 

Karen: 

Winter's also the co-author of the best-selling book #Networked. She's also creator and host of the Mediate Now podcast. Winter spends her free time volunteering in her community, enjoying her husband and four children, and traveling back to Miami, Florida, where she was raised, as much as possible. 

Karen: 

She's especially passionate about changing the face of mediation and arbitration by bringing compassion and listening to the forefront and placing the litigant and emotions at the center of the conversation. 

Karen: 

That is powerful, Winter. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Thank you. 

Karen: 

That's awesome. So, let's pop right into this and talk about the four cornerstones. I guess we'll start with number one. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Okay. 

Karen: 

Number one, what is it? 

Winter Wheeler: 

Number one. Number one is emotional intelligence. So, of course, emotional intelligence, we've all heard about it. It's one of the newest buzz phrases, right? It's how we relate to other people, how we understand ourselves. And it's about how we understand, how we relate to the world, and how our feelings, how our emotions interact with those around us. How do we react to those around us? How do our feelings affect how we interact with those around us? We typically don't think about that on a daily basis, on an interaction basis. And ... Go ahead, yeah. 

Karen: 

I was going to say, especially in the framework of mediation or negotiation, that I can see it play a really important part. 

Catherine: 

Well, yeah. Because everyone comes into mediation thinking it's their spouse, it's not them. Someone else's actions cause our reactions, so you're already geared up when you go into mediation thinking, "Okay, I'm ready to defend myself against anything he says," or vice versa. So you're not really thinking internally, "What am I actually bringing in here emotionally?" Other than my anger, or my hurtness, or the sadness, or what have you. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Exactly. 

Catherine: 

Is that what we're talking about here, how you walk into a mediation? 

Winter Wheeler: 

Exactly, exactly. It's about how what you do makes the other person respond. Now, you can go into it thinking "I'm going to respond to everything he says. I'm going to respond to everything that he's ever done to me. He's hurt me so badly and I have a list. I have that list of what he's done to me, and I know how I can counteract all of those things." 

Winter Wheeler: 

You can do that. That doesn't help you. It doesn't help you get what you want. Right? 

Winter Wheeler: 

So when you go into a mediation, what you need to focus on is how you can help yourself long-term. What is it that you need? What is it that you want long-term? 

Winter Wheeler: 

Short-term, it may make you feel good to say or have your mediator say something nasty to your ex, but that doesn't help you long-term. Right? 

Karen: 

Absolutely. 

Winter Wheeler: 

You know your soon-to-be-ex spouse. So what you need to do is think about how what you're about to say, the message you're about to deliver, is going to be received by them. 

Winter Wheeler: 

And one thing about this technique is, if you're the one using it, and likely you are the only one using it, you can project based on what you know about the other person, and decide what you're going to say, in such a way that you can control how they respond. 

Winter Wheeler: 

For example- 

Catherine: 

What about the individual, I'm sorry. 

Winter Wheeler: 

No, no. Go ahead. 

Catherine: 

A lot of times you hear people who jump mediators, I'm leaving this one because she's not listening to me. Or she's not defending me, or she's defending him too much, or she's agreeing with him and she's not seeing all the bad things he did to me. 

Catherine: 

I can see that plays into this as well. 

Winter Wheeler: 

It certainly does. And now, of course all mediators are not created the same. They're not all equal. We all have our quirks. We all try to be neutral. 

Winter Wheeler: 

I am now in the process of certifying mediators in this method, so you can look for mediators who are certified in this method. But if you inherently do not trust your mediator, trust your gut. Never forget to trust your gut. 

Winter Wheeler: 

But at the same time, your mediator is there to tell you the truth. And your mediator, if you're in a position where your mediator has separated the two of you because you should not be in the same room, your mediator knows what's happening in the other room. 

Winter Wheeler: 

So sometimes your mediator is telling you something about yourself that you need to hear and not necessarily saying the same thing to the other party. So when you are dealing with a mediator, I need you to be open and to be honest. And I tell people that at the start of the mediation. If I say something to you that you don't like, that makes you unhappy, that makes you upset, that makes you angry, my goal is never to make you upset. 

Winter Wheeler: 

It's to be honest with you. So you need to tell me if what I have done has made you angry. If it has made you trust me less, please tell me. Because there is always a reason for every single word that has come out of my mouth. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Mediators, good mediators, are calculated. Our goal is to get you what you need and some of what you want. We want everyone to go home satisfied. Satisfied is very different from happy, okay? Keep that in mind. It is very, very different from happy. But satisfied people go home with what they need. They go home feeling heard. They go home feeling whole. 

Catherine: 

I love what you just said and I think that we need to quote this out there. You go home with what you need and some of what you want. And I think that if you're listening and you're going to mediation and Karen and I always talk about compromise. Any divorce, there is going to be a compromise, whether you like it or not. At the end of the day, there's a compromise on both sides, but what's so rewarding is if you know what you want and know what you need, you'll realize that you'll get some of both of that basically. 

Catherine: 

And it allows you to have more of an open mind to the communication and be able to say, "Hey Winter, you pissed me off yesterday. You told me my ex was not such a bad guy and I think he's a horrible guy" or whatever it is. And then you always want to say, "Well, Catherine, let me tell you the truth here. I've seen worse or I've seen better" or whatever it is or "You're being unrealistic." I love that open communication. And I think it's so hard for a lot of people doing it and it basically stems down to the way we look at it. A lot of people don't know what they need and what they want financially speaking. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Absolutely, absolutely. 

Catherine: 

It leaves you so seriously scared through the process, which is why we're doing what we do. But this is great. 

Karen: 

Yeah. And I think you probably see Winter speaking about emotions, a lot of people coming to the table needing things or thinking they need things from a very emotional perspective. And you were going to make a comment a couple of minutes ago about for example. I'm hoping you were going to take something that somebody would say and reframe it into how they could have said it better. I think that would be cool. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yeah. I don't remember exactly. 

Karen: 

I'm very interested, but I think it would help our listeners to kind of have it for example, especially in the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, helping them understand what people typically want to say and then how you help them reframe it. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Right. So a lot of what I hear comes from a very emotional place. So a lot of states no longer have fault divorce. We have no-fault divorce. It doesn't matter that your spouse has cheated on you. It doesn't matter. Now here in Georgia, we do still have jury trials, so that's always fun, but most states don't have that. 

Winter Wheeler: 

So you can say to me all day long, "Well, he should owe me more money because I found out he was sleeping with Susie." And you can say, "I want you to tell him that I" ... dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. Okay. That's great. The way I'm going to tell that to him is going to be very different from the way that you said it to me. 

Winter Wheeler: 

I also called myself an interpreter because you can tell me whatever you want to tell me, what I'm going to say to him or the other party, which could be a her, is going to be something that they can hear. Emotional intelligence involves understanding how, what you think and feel can actually be heard and understood by the other party. 

Winter Wheeler: 

And if you have been yelling at your partner, because you likely have been, especially in a case where they've cheated on you, if you've been telling them the same thing over and over and over again, and it's not sinking in, then clearly I'm not going into the other room to say that. Right? 

Karen: 

Right. 

Winter Wheeler: 

So I will reframe it into something positive. And can I reframe absolutely anything and everything into something positive? Yes, I can. That's my job. So we take, "You were cheating on me and you owe me, blah, blah, blah," into "She raised three children with you for X years and so as a result, she feels that she deserves X." 

Winter Wheeler: 

We don't talk about what he did with Susie, because he knows what he did with Susie. I don't always have to talk about what he did with Susie. We changed that up. We changed that up a bit. We just changed the narrative, but you have to come in thinking about what the other person thinks, how do they feel? 

Winter Wheeler: 

And it's so hard. I understand it. It's so hard to think about how that person who has hurt you so badly feels. But if you want to come out with what you need, you have to do that. You've got to take a lot of that emotion out. 

Catherine: 

Absolutely. And I think that's just par for the course in divorce. A lot of people see emotional injustices have some kind of financial compensation and understanding to your point what you need or what you want, at the end of the day, maybe determining, we see this a lot, how much did husband spend on girlfriend with part of our money? That could be discussed, right? But in the framework of how do we come to a conclusion they're not, "I'm hurt." 

Catherine: 

And so I really appreciate that first cornerstone of yours with just the emotional intelligence piece of it, because that is a critical piece of being very successful in negotiations, I believe. Being able to parse out what parameters of discussion will be. That's awesome. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yes, definitely. 

Karen: 

All right. So let's move on to cornerstone number two is ... 

Winter Wheeler: 

Cornerstone number two is cultural knowledge. A lot of the time when I talked to people involved in divorce and divorce mediators, they will say, "Well, this doesn't matter. They've been married for so long. How could this possibly be a concern for them? They knew that going in." It's such a naive position to take. 

Winter Wheeler: 

When you talk about people engaging culturally, when you're in love and you get married, you think the cultural differences don't matter. And then you get married and you have children and they do matter. Now I'm in a multicultural, multiracial family here myself. So yes, they do matter. The extent to which they mattered, you don't even necessarily talk about while you're married, because it's easier a lot of the time to just gloss over it, or "I'm sick. We can't go to that event." 

Winter Wheeler: 

I pulled that this summer myself. 

Catherine: 

Darn headaches. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yeah. Darn headaches. My migraines are just crazy right now. Oh, COVID. COVID, my God. We can't fly. But once you're at the divorce table, those things mean a lot because this person is now going to have control of your children when you're not there. So what does that look like? Now suddenly Aunt Mary's graces tendencies will be visited upon your children when you're not there to shield them from them. And now it's a big problem. 

Catherine: 

Well, how do you come into your divorce now? I know we've seen this, it's just religious things. All of a sudden, they want custody during certain religious holidays, but never before did they exercise those holidays at all. But how do you change your mindset coming in when it was never established during your marriage? 

Winter Wheeler: 

Right. And so what I have seen and heard about is that it's more so an issue when the soon-to-be-ex spouse takes up with someone who is more culturally aligned with them. So now they've got someone who wants to celebrate those holidays. Those cultural corks are now part of the norm. They're a part of every day for them. So they're now going to be part of your child's everyday life. 

Winter Wheeler: 

So, oh, it didn't matter to me that you weren't Jewish, but now suddenly it does matter to this new person and so now we're doing it all the time. It didn't matter that you weren't Muslim. Well, now it does. And so, what you need to do as the non-religious, non-ethnic whatever it is, you need to figure out all of the things. Spend your time learning about what these new cultural issues are. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Now, should you have done it at the beginning? Of course, you should have. But when the other spouse tells you, "I don't care, honey, I don't care. I love you. We're going to do this. And we'll just do whatever you want" you probably didn't bother to go ahead and learn anyway, Love conquers all. 

Catherine: 

Yeah. Until it doesn't. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Right. Until it doesn't. Until it doesn't. 

Winter Wheeler: 

At that point, you need to spend your time learning a whole lot about what these cultures are doing. What are the norms? What are these holidays? What are they actually doing? What are they actually teaching and learn about it. Is it something that you can just simply live with? Can you ignore it? Can you just let it go? Find out are they simply acknowledging these holidays because these are a high holy holidays or are they deeply dug into this or are they actually relatively secular and just celebrate these holidays because they do, right? 

Catherine: 

I love that. So check your emotion- 

Winter Wheeler: 

Those are things you need to know. 

Catherine: 

So check emotional intelligence before you look into these cultural changes that you're about to have. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yes. Absolutely. 

Catherine: 

Because if I had little children and I don't right now, but if I did, and my ex-girlfriend now wanted to practice something, I would have to check myself because it becomes, I'm not doing it because of the girlfriend or what have you. And that's where you have to check yourself. And I love that. Learn about the religion, learn about the important holidays, and then say, "Think about the kids in the end." Would it hurt them to actually learn this? And let it go. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Right. Exactly. 

Karen: 

That is so difficult. That was my experience. My children were seven and five. And I tell people when I was going through my divorce, I wasn't just divorcing my husband. I was divorcing my lifestyle, everything I had been taught, which my children had been brought up and I can't do this anymore. So I had to go through the steps of not only allowing, but understanding that I can't change their lives to the extent I would like to because we had brought them up in that environment. So that was very difficult for me and I can understand the emotional, I don't want to say tragedy, but the upset that I had to experience, because I didn't understand that no one was going to follow my thoughts that this wasn't good for me then. I should've thought about that a long time ago. That was very difficult. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Right. And that is, I would call Grief. I talked about grief in one of my podcast episodes, Mediate Now, and grief is so many things, it manifests in so many different ways, but it's really the loss of anything that you believed was true or constant. It's the loss. It's the feeling that basically the ground has been taken from under you, something that you believed was going to be there for you is suddenly gone and you didn't want it gone. And there are ways to deal with that. 

Catherine: 

Also realizing that you thought you had something that you didn't, so you thought you had this lifestyle or this relationship because you created it and you tried so hard, but at the end of the day, you really didn't have what you were thinking you had. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yes. It is so hard for human beings to understand that everything we have is fleeting. It's not real. Nothing that we have is real. The things that we have are tangible for the most part. My home is tangible, but if it burned down, it's gone. It is gone. 

Winter Wheeler: 

The people that we love can die at any point. And it is hard for us to think of that. The people that we love and that we have committed to can leave us, they can hurt us because they have free will. But we don't like to think of it that way, because it is just too much to think of every day, but those things can happen. And when they do, we have to grieve. 

Winter Wheeler: 

When it happens, we go through grief and then we need to go through this process in order to bring our lives back to center and we need to get back to the place where we remember that we, I, I am what I have. I am enough. I will be okay. How do I take care of myself? And I take care of myself by remembering that I can deal with other people in such a way that I get what I need, by taking out a lot of the emotion, by addressing other people's emotions in a non emotional way. And that is what the four cornerstones do for people. 

Karen: 

Yeah. I love that you said that. You said, "I still deserve what I need." A lot of people are immersed in guilt and their response to that is, "I don't deserve it. Just take it all. I'll figure this out." I personally went through some of that myself because I felt so bad. We see a lot of clients coming through, "I feel bad. I feel guilty." He said, "If I take his pension, that's the last straw." You're not taking anything. So it's having that emotional, how would we say it, intelligent conversation and understanding. I love that you say that because I think so many people struggle through that when they're trying to reconcile all of the emotions. 

Winter Wheeler: 

This is why I'm an advocate for divorce coaches. Somebody to help you and remind you that the response you're having isn't emotional response, it is not a long-term intelligent response. Don't give up everything you have. Don't accept peanuts when you deserve more. 

Karen: 

Yeah. And know what you have and what the division is, because it helps you navigate through those very emotional conversations, because it's already in your knowledge bank and you don't have to wonder, you know every topic that comes up, you don't have to wonder how that works. 

Catherine: 

This is why I love our portrait because we'll lay out there what you have and what the considerations are for it. And I always say, "Listen, if your mediator gets you too much and you want to give it back, I'll help you write the check." And not one person has asked me to write a check to give it back to their spouse. So you need to know what your assets are, what your debts are, what are the considerations? And then it's your divorce. If you feel that badly after knowing everything and being in the know about everything, then go ahead, negotiate away, whatever you want. 

Catherine: 

But if you don't have that financial clarity do not feel bad because you deserve it. And listen, I didn't feel bad. And again, I never had somebody telling me they want to give their money back. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Right. I've never heard anyone say either. 

Catherine: 

Yeah. I have on the other hand, had people coming up and you all probably do as well saying, "Oh my gosh, Catherine, I wish I knew you five years ago. I just decided to walk away from it all and now I regret it" and their lifestyle drastically changed and "I don't know how I'm going to ever catch up." So that's what we don't like to hear. 

Karen: 

Yeah. They were lost in those emotions. So Winter, let's talk about cornerstone three. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yes. Cornerstone three. This will be a quicker one. Cultural immersion. So in this context, when we're talking about divorce and we know that we need to suddenly learn about another culture and we're making decisions for our family or for our children, we need to figure out what actually is happening. What may happen, what does this really look like for my kids going forward? 

Winter Wheeler: 

Try to get involved with the community. And if you're lucky enough to live somewhere where there's a large pocket of that community, go, see that community, go out there, try to make friends. It could be as simple as going to a restaurant and chatting up the waiter, signing up for language classes, if that applies, and really just putting yourself in a position in which you are no longer just a stranger, you're not kind of just on the periphery. 

Winter Wheeler: 

You don't want your soon-to-be ex-spouse being the only one who actually understands the nuances of this culture. You need to understand yourself so that there are no longer any surprises. Get out there and understand and immerse yourself. I know immerse immersion. It's not a trick. Immerse yourself in that culture and get involved. 

Winter Wheeler: 

I heard, I think yesterday or the day before when the new census data came out, the number of people who consider themselves to be multicultural, went up like 125%. So this is happening to a lot of people all over this country. We all need to be concerned about the cultures that we are engaging in and not concerned in a negative way, but interested. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Listen. And let's just back this up. Before you marry someone, learn about them. Stop marrying people because you, "Oh, I love him. He gives me butterflies." Honey, they all do. They all do. Okay? That's just how it works. Those are called hormones. That wears off. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Spend some time and learn. Is this really what you can live with if you had to be part of this culture without the spouse? Because that could definitely happen. At this point, what is it? Are we still at 50% divorce rate? I don't even know- 

Karen: 

Higher now. 

Catherine: 

Higher now. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Is it higher now? The odds are you could be part of this culture by yourself, right? This new culture, all by yourself. You have to understand it. Your children could be very interested in this new culture. They're half of that culture, 

Catherine: 

I know that people are listening right down there saying, "Shit, I'm not doing that. I'm not doing that because he never wanted to do that." But I think that if you can change the way that you're looking at this, the situation will really change. You're not doing it for your ex, you're doing it so that you can experience what your children are going through and you can have intelligent, supportive conversations with them when they come back, because you're coming from a place of knowing rather than just shutting off, which we should never just shut anything off in life. 

Catherine: 

But you're doing it for you and your children because a lot of times, and I can attest to that, when you divorce, your spouse may be in a better financial situation so they take them on trips and that you've never been there and they come back and your kids tell you all about it, and you're sitting there feeling so sad that you didn't get to go on that trip with them, not necessarily your ex, but with your kids. And they've now experienced something that you have nothing to do with anymore. 

Catherine: 

This process, number three of the cultural immersion, is really for the benefit of yourself and your children, and always feeling connected to them. If they ended up not liking it, the culture, what they're now exposed to, you can have a conversation with them about it. It is part of their life. I love that. I love that thought process. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Not to be completely stereotypical, but when you're talking about a man who is moving on to a woman with a new culture, they are often very likely to just immerse themselves in that woman's new culture. They are. That becomes his new normal. 

Winter Wheeler: 

My personal experience as a second wife, my husband, he was very much immersed in his first wife's culture. I don't think he could tell you anything about it today. All he knows is mine, that's it. He's made attempts to learn my secondary language and learn about the country my family came from and that's it. So these things happen and we need to be aware, we need to be ready. And it's for the benefit of the children. It really, really is. It's also for your sanity, but it's also for the benefit of your children. We have to keep that in mind. 

Karen: 

Yeah. And when you broaden that out a little bit, when you're co-parenting, it helps to be able to support decisions one parent makes or the other based on their culture. Sometimes it's not an intentional response, or it definitely comes from a place of, "This is what I believe is right, because this is what I was taught" and so forth and so on. And so it kind of minimizes the emotional disparity there when you can come at it from a place of, "This is what they believe, and this is how it works" and things like that. I love that you said that. Yeah, that's excellent. 

Winter Wheeler: 

And that's actually the perfect segue into the last cornerstone, which is genuine empathy. If you can truly empathize with how the other person is having to move on, because we all have to move on and we don't always move on in the same way, but if you can understand that this is how they have to do it, then you're going to be more likely to be supportive and kind, and you'll understand it in a much easier, more sympathetic manner. 

Winter Wheeler: 

If what they need is to be with some new person or even get more in touch with their own background absent any other third party, then you need to let them do that because we all grieve a divorce in a different way, but you do need to be able to understand what they're going through and how it's happening. 

Winter Wheeler: 

And the more supportive we can be of the other person, the better it is for our children, because we don't want our ex-spouse to be a shell of a human being. Now, as much as we may personally want to see that that is not good for our children. Not at all, not at all. We have to have compassion for them and that compassion for someone that you did love at some point means you need to continue to love them. Is it a different type of love? Of course it is. But you need to keep in mind, you did love them enough to marry them and have children with them. You have to remember that. 

Catherine: 

That sounds great. And that sounds so much more difficult. I don't know if you're listening. So how do you recommend someone shows empathy to a spouse who you feel like has no empathy towards you? 

Winter Wheeler: 

It's not even showing them empathy. They don't need to know that you have the empathy. It's really for you. 

Catherine: 

That's a better way to look at it. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yeah. In this scenario with the four cornerstones ... and it's different. This particular cornerstone, this fourth cornerstone is different when we apply it to different situations. It's about having that mindset for yourself. It's about reminding yourself that having some compassion and allowing that person the space they need is going to be what's best for you. 

Catherine: 

Which is much better to swallow, right? And so that again comes from being informed of where we go back to your other quotes is that you'll get what you need and a little bit of what you want. And so if you can keep that mindset, the empathy can set in for yourself rather than being an outpouring of stuff you're trying to take. 

Winter Wheeler: 

And truly, at the root of this, especially in a divorce context, the four cornerstones are self-centered. They are absolutely self-centered. They are designed to get you what you want. They have nothing to do with the other person. They are about setting yourself up to get what you need because the other person likely has no ability to communicate on such a high mature level. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Sometimes you have to be the adult in the room and the way you can be the adult in the room is to follow these four cornerstones. If you can follow all four and they all work together, got to do all four simultaneously, they will work you will be the adult, and the other person will likely not know that they are being somewhat manipulated. 

Karen: 

I'm just clarifying what I'm hearing from you. This has nothing to do with restoring relationship or repairing relationships and everything to do with negotiating to an end result to the benefit of you, yourself financially, and from a parenting perspective to the benefit of the children. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Sometimes that's the case. It depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to restore a relationship, you can use these four cornerstones and you can repair a relationship. However, if you have no intention of repairing a relationship, you can use these to give the appearance of wanting to restore a relationship. 

Winter Wheeler: 

It's all about civility. Truly. Being civil long enough to make sure you have what you need. You have to not focus on revenge. Revenge is not yours. It's not yours to seek. You have to not focus on getting your point across. The other person knows what your point is. You're mad. They don't care. They've told you they don't care. They've made that clear. So stop worrying about making sure they know you're mad. They know. What you need to focus on is getting what you want. What can you do to get what you want in a way that makes sense, in a way that makes the other person feel whole and complete, in a way that they don't feel that they're being taken advantage of, in a way that makes them feel that their needs, their rights are being respected? 

Winter Wheeler: 

And if you can follow these cornerstones, you can do that. Now, ideally, in my mediator-loving I love everybody little heart, you would actually mean these things, but you don't have to, and they still work. 

Catherine: 

And they allow you to move forward in a positive direction, which is what we truly believe in. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yes. You can move forward. 

Karen: 

And hopefully ... Go ahead, Winter. 

Winter Wheeler: 

No. You can move forward positively for yourself, for the other person. And I think that's the beauty here is that you can move forward positively for everyone, whether you actually mean it or not. Everyone gets to move forward in a positive direction. You, your ex, your children. Your children will feel that everyone is getting along, everyone is trying to make this work, everyone wants the group dynamic to succeed. Everyone. 

Karen: 

I love it. And then, what if everyone could incorporate these four cornerstones into every relationship, how different our world would be? 

Winter Wheeler: 

Yes. I firmly believe that this can be applied to every single relationship that we have. Every single one. 

Karen: 

It's amazing. 

Winter Wheeler: 

I use it everywhere. 

Karen: 

I love it. 

Catherine: 

Who is this available to and how do you get it? 

Winter Wheeler: 

This is available to absolutely everyone. It is not only available to attorneys or to mediators. I encourage everyone to get involved here. You can watch my TEDx talk. You can just go onto YouTube and search my name. Winter Wheeler TEDx. Be careful. There are two, This one is called Mastering the Art of the Uncomfortable Conversation. But you can also go to my website, WinterWheeler.com. 

Winter Wheeler: 

I am offering a course in this. It is a 14-hour intensive course in which you can be certified in this method. You can have group classes, private classes, everything is there available to you. 

Winter Wheeler: 

I encourage people to reach out because this method can revolutionize the way you communicate with people. 

Karen: 

Oh, I love it. That's extraordinary, Winter. Thank you so much. This concludes this episode on getting clear on the four cornerstones of mediation. Thank you so much, Winter, for a great conversation. 

Winter Wheeler: 

Thank you for having me. 

 

In this episode of We Chat Divorce, we’re joined by Susan Guthrie to discuss the topic: Divorce Attorney Secrets to Thriving BEYOND Your Divorce. Here’s an overview of Susan's experience:

 

Susan Guthrie, nationally recognized as one of the Top Family Law and Mediation Attorneys in the United States, has been helping individuals and families navigate separation and divorce for 30 years. Susan provides exclusively online divorce mediation and legal coaching services to select clients around the world through her business Divorce in a Better Way. Susan has also recently partnered with mediation legend, Forrest “Woody” Mosten, to create the Mosten Guthrie Academy to provide cutting edge gold-standard training for attorneys, mediators and other professionals. 

As a leading dispute resolution professional, Susan is honored to serve on the Executive Council of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Section of Dispute Resolution as the Membership Officer and to be a Co Chair of the Mediation Committee and Annual Advanced Mediation Skills Institute. 

Susan is also an internationally well-regarded expert in online mediation and has been training colleagues and other professionals in the practical and ethical considerations of conducting their mediations online with her innovative programs and webinars and has helped more than 18,000 colleagues transition to an online practice. 

In addition to her other professional endeavors, Susan is an award-winning podcast host. Having reached a podcast listening audience of almost 4 million in the past two years, Susan is the creator and host of the hit podcast, The Divorce and Beyond Podcast with Susan Guthrie, Esq. which debuted on iTunes “Top Podcasts for Self-Help” List. She recently launched The Learn to Mediate Online Podcast with Susan Guthrie, Esq. to bring current information, updates and news on ODR to her thousands of followers. 

Susan has been featured in and on media outlets such as CNBC, Market Watch, Forbes, Eye on Chicago, WGN, the ABA’s Just Resolutions Magazine, Thrive Global, The Nook Online among others. 

 

Hosts, Karen, and Catherine sit down with Susan Guthrie to discuss Divorce Attorney Secrets to Thriving BEYOND Your Divorce.

 

Learn More >> https://www.divorceandbeyondpod.com 

Connect with Susan on LinkedIn >> @Susan Guthrie

 

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In this episode of We Chat Divorce, we’re joined by Shawna Woods to discuss the topic: Prenuptial and Post Nuptial Agreements. Here’s an overview of Shawna's experience:

 

Shawna Woods is the Managing Partner of the Atlanta Divorce Law Group. She has been practicing exclusively in Family Law for 18 years. She is the host of the soon to be launched Happily Ever After Divorce Podcasts and regularly appears as a guest on the firm’s Facebook Live.   

 

Hosts, Karen, and Catherine sit down with Shawna Woods to discuss Prenup, Do They Help or Hurt?

Learn More >>www.atlantadivorcelawgroup.com

Connect with Shawna on LinkedIn >> @Shawna Woods

 

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