Being Ethical In Divorce. Is That an Oxymoron? Of course not! It’s Essential.

by | Sep 1, 2021

You may be facing a crisis in your marriage, so you decide to divorce. Now with that decision, will you keep things ethical as you move forward? Can you find a process and path that’s works best for you and your family?

While only 5% of litigated divorce cases today are ultimately decided by a Judge, that whole process is rooted in placing guilt and finding fault. It really got me to thinking, what is the role of ethics in divorce and how does it show up in my interactions with clients?

When you think about ethics, interesting images may come to mind; the snake oil salesman of the 1920s, Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, or the typical caricature of the Attorney who could care less about their clients and instead is only interested in the fees that will line their own pockets.

In my divorce financial planning practice, ethics show up in the times I comfort an emotional client, reassuring them that everything will be ok and that divorce does not necessarily mean economic demise.

financial analysis concept

I may make a recommendation telling couples the best long-term financial decision is to sell their home, despite their emotional attachment and desire to stay. As a financial professional who digs into every minute detail of a client’s finances, I often am the only person who realizes that keeping the house could lead to financial devastation. While this is difficult news to deliver, it is better than the foreclosure or bankruptcy that some face when trying to hold on. My concern is for the ultimate stability and relationship between both parties in the divorce, along with their children.

Regardless of who the client is, my goal is to help them become the best divorced family they can be because they’re still a family! I want to assist them through a non-litigated out-of-court process (hopefully). Court just isn’t a great place to settle family differences.

Because of the way divorce is treated in the U.S., I’ve seen couples embark on the litigation process only to end up feeling punished, angry, financially devastated, and anything but a winner. After having gone through divorce myself, I have concluded that we’ve got it all wrong.

It is a major miscalculation to think of divorce as a legal dispute that can only be handled in a courtroom. The more stressful litigated processes neglect to understand divorce is not primarily a business dispute, it’s a family situation that needs ironing out.

My experience has been that differences in opinion around the division of assets and debts can become disputes when fueled by the misguided advising of combative attorneys, or maybe even from well-intentioned family members and friends.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many very ethical attorneys out there. But unfortunately, the language of the law is very confrontational. So even with good intentions, it may appear that someone is picking a fight. The reality is, the legal system was not created for family situations, but for criminal ones.

With the recent growth of the Collaborative Process and other “stay out of Court” options like Mediation, we are moving towards more ethical processes. The beauty of being human is that we have the ability to change. We can decide that something doesn’t work and can do it differently, often much better.

When it comes to making the choice of which divorce process, choose one that promotes ethical behavior and open communication, values privacy, provides full transparency, educates and empowers you with information, and respects the decisions that you make for your own family.


The Most Important Priorities In Your Divorce

Identify Your Priorities, Before Having Any Discussion With Your Spouse

Knowing your priorities will help you be confident in what to ask for, and what you can live without.

Worksheet My Priorities