We get it. Here at DCLG, we are all professional women, and mothers, and active members of our communities. We’ve helped countless women professionals successfully transition through the divorce process. We know your plate is full and no matter how fabulous you are at multitasking – adding the stress and complexity of a divorce to your plate can feel like it’s about to put you over the top.
If you are like most women professionals, you simply don’t have time to attend countless meetings with lawyers. You need information provided to you efficiently. And you need a legal team that understands the demands on your time and can be available when you need them (and that includes after hours and weekends!).
Here’s what you need to know:
1. If you own a business, you’ll definitely need a business valuation expert.
If your business is creating revenue over and above what one might receive as a professional in your area of expertise, it may have value, and a business valuation will likely be necessary. Or perhaps you have an excellent reputation in your community and have an expectation of continued public patronage. That too may necessitate a business valuation.
The most important thing to know if you find yourself facing a business valuation is to be sure you have a lawyer who has experience in representing business owners. You want to be sure that your lawyer has a close relationship with that expert, so your case will be treated as a high priority. And the next most important thing is to find someone you have chemistry with, someone who you feel you can relate to, and who is readily available to you. Business valuations are intense and often scary. You need a highly organized legal team who has your back.
2. If you are a senior executive, you have benefit packages that must be analyzed.
You’ll also have stock options or awards that have to be considered in your divorce – and there should always be a determination early in the process as to whether the stock is a separate or community asset.
3. You have a demanding lifestyle.
When you gather your legal team, you’ll want a law firm that understands what it took to attain your position, and a clear understanding that you must continue to be available to handle the demands of your career even though you are going through a divorce. Prompt and efficient communication is a must.
4. Your lawyer should be experienced in high asset cases and have the relationships that prove it.
You need a lawyer with solid access to business lawyers who have significant expertise in drafting the legal agreements you will likely need to split businesses or to go forward in your own business as a non-married owner. Property division in high asset businesses is complex and typically requires business lawyers with specific expertise in this area.
5. Your forensic accounting team should work hard for you.
Forensic accountants will analyze and present your financial data to help determine the tax consequences of various settlement possibilities. You may also need a financial analysis in the event that there is a lower wage earning spouse that will need to be taken care of for some period of time after the divorce.
6. Your divorce attorney should have a vocational expert available.
If you have a lower wage earning spouse, you and your attorney will need to determine the best way to transition him or her back into the job market if possible. These analyses are very helpful to the judge should your case end up in trial and you want to make an argument about future employment of the opposing party, or even yourself, if you are the lower wage earner.
7. You may be faced with having to pay spousal maintenance.
In Washington State, there is no formula for maintenance – there are legal factors that the court must follow, and these factors are used to negotiate settlements. The factors include the financial resources of your spouse, the time it might take for him or her to become financially self-sufficient, your standard of living, the length of your marriage, your spouse’s age and health, and your ability to pay maintenance.
The challenge facing most professional women is this: You are accustomed to being your own boss and running your own show. And you’re not used to asking for the kind of help that you’ll need during your divorce. You’ll need a strong creative legal team who is there to support you in staying clear-headed as the divorce process twists and turns in several dizzying directions at once making you feel like your life is going off the rails. And this happens while you are trying to navigate the most important decisions of your life: your kids and your financial future. You really need a team you can trust. You are not used to asking for help, so you need to be vulnerable and let your legal team educate and support you.
In addition to a well-oiled and compassionate legal team, you should also lean on valued friends who can remind you who you are and that you can do this. You probably need a therapist.
There are times when the whole system just doesn’t feel fair. For example, when “traditional” (whatever that means) families go through the divorce process, the husband is likely the primary wage earner, and the wife is typically responsible for the parenting duties. The breadwinner has to let go of money and the primary parent has to let go of the kids. But it’s different for women breadwinners in the divorce process. Most women are also the primary parent. So… that parent finds herself not just having to give up money to the other spouse, but also access to the children. You need the best possible strategy to minimize your risk in this area – or someone who will tell it like it is so you can wrap your brain around this eventuality.
With proper education and support from an experienced, efficient, and compassionate legal team, this is all doable. It takes time, grit, and resolve, but if you are a business owner, you already have those qualities, or you wouldn’t be where you are today. And when your case is resolved, and you find yourself free of a loveless or difficult marriage, you’ll be able to move on, to love again, and to live the life you deserve.
The lawyers at DCLG have the experience and compassion to stand by your side, providing education, legal advice, and the expertise you need not only to survive your divorce, but to thrive in your new life. Give us a call if you are a woman professional heading into a divorce. We’d love to help.