Divorce as a Business Transaction?

How Thinking of Your Divorce This Way, and Having a Team, Can Help

It’s often said a divorce is like a death, and that you go through the stages of grief as you would a death. It IS the death—the end—of a marriage.  Divorcing couples go through varying degrees of the stages of grief:  denial and isolation (“I’m fine, it’s his/her loss,” or “he/she will come to her senses soon, they are just mad right now,” or isolating themselves from situations and persons reminding them of their marriage or with whom they would need to discuss the divorce), anger (even when and if they don’t think they are or will get angry), bargaining (“If I had maybe gone on that vacation with him/her…” or “If he had just been willing to do this…”), depression (in varying degrees and various manifestations), and acceptance (with the new reality of the divorcing spouse, with life as a single person, with the new family unit, etc.).

But, a divorce is also a “business transaction.”  It may sound odd to hear something so personal to be stated so callously, but think about this:  at its most basic level, a divorce is the dissolution of one contract, and formation of another.  It is determining how “profits” (assets) and “losses” (debts) will be allocated.  Therefore, it is important to assemble a team to help you work through this difficult time. The team members may include people such as a lawyer, an accountant, a business valuation expert, a financial planner, a realtor, an appraiser, and more.

 If you are going through a divorce in Connecticut, there are some tips you may want to consider:

  • Make a list of the known jointly and solely held assets and liabilities of you and your spouse.
  • Determine what issues may arise in your divorce:  do you own a business?  If you own a home, what will happen to it during the divorce?  How do you file your taxes – single? Married filing jointly? Married filing separately?
  • Identify what types of professionals may become relevant during your divorce:  In the above scenario, a business valuation expert and/or forensic accountant will likely be on your list, as will a realtor, and an accountant.
  • Begin to gather all of your documents relating to your assets and liabilities over several years so that you can readily and quickly provide these to any professional.

Having that information readily available is one of the most important things that you, as the central member of your divorce team, can do to prepare.

Assembling Your Divorce Team

During your life you may have engaged a variety of professionals to assist you with varying life transactions – a professional tax preparer to do your taxes each year, a lawyer to draft your estate planning documents, a realtor to help you buy and sell a home, a financial planner to help you with investments, a therapist to help you discuss emotions involved in a major life event, etc.  More than likely, each of those events took place independent of the others, so professionals were also engaged independently and as needed. However, in a divorce, it’s possible – and likely – that the need will arise for some of these professionals to work collaboratively.  When that happens, positioning yourself for success in your divorce may well depend on your ability to coordinate that team of professionals quickly and smoothly. A qualified and experienced divorce attorney will be able to help you identify the members you may need for your team. Being proactive, instead of reactive, is always advantageous.

If you are considering filing for a divorce, or if you are already involved in a divorce, it is important that you seek legal advice to know your rights and protect your interests.  Every case is different and the needs of the parties in each case vary.  An attorney experienced in divorce and family law can help you to not only identify issues in your divorce and determine the best course of action, but also to select members needed for your team, based on his or her professional knowledge and experience.