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Forms of Texas Divorce

Per Stirling has always been a strong advocate of both the financial planning process, and the financial professionals who provide this valuable service.  As such, we have sponsored the Financial Planning Association of Austin (FPA-Austin) for well over a decade, and are proud to also now serve as a Platinum Sponsor for the Financial Planning Association of Dallas and Fort Worth (FPA-DFW).

In support of this new relationship, one of Per Stirling’s Advisors, Tasha Rock, CFP®, CDFA®, recently presented at an FPA-DFW Chapter Meeting on Forms of Texas Divorce. We have asked Tasha to write a brief overview of this topic for our readers who are faced with the challenging prospect of either going through or contemplating a potential divorce. Tasha’s comments come from someone who is both an expert on the topic, and someone who speaks from personal experience, to wit:

“I didn’t anticipate what you might call brain fog around the revision of my plans and division of my marital estate. I’d worked in personal finance since 1998 and knew my financial world as well as possible. The peace-of-mind I received from having guidance from a clear-headed, unemotional, mentally available, experienced team is the best gift I’ve probably ever given myself.”

Are you or is someone you care about contemplating divorce?

Divorce is likely an event regarding which you do not have much, if any, hands-on experience. Working with a respectful team can prepare you with education, knowledge, and forward-looking counsel to help ease the fear, hurt, anger, regret, guilt or whatever emotions with which you and your loved ones might personally struggle.

Carefully envision your post-divorce life and the relationship you hope to have with finances, family, and friends. Try not to work on this from a place of negative emotions but of hope and grace, at least for yourself.  Every divorce is different. Some are mutually beneficial and amicable, while others, unfortunately, can be the exact opposite.

In fact, in Texas, we have different types of divorce, which include, but is not limited to:

  • Kitchen Table: the unrepresented couple reaches an agreement between themselves.
  • Third party option: a neutral party helps facilitate the settlement discussion. The neutral can be a financial person, lay person, mediator, clergy, etc. Lawyer(s) may draft and review documents.
  • Mediation: a trained mediator is the third party described above. Lawyer(s) draft and review documents.
  • Traditional: two lawyers file, send discovery, set for trial, and try to settle then go to court if necessary.
  • Arbitration: pay for a private judge to decide.
  • Collaborative: Two lawyers and a team. A transparent process that focuses on new goals and needs of parties and children. Spreads cost to specialists.

When you are ready, contact your advisor for assistance in determining the style that will best fit your specific situation, and ask for referrals to those who specialize in that specific area of divorce.  It’s common to feel negatively about the first person you interview. This first step can be alarming. Understand you are not alone, and the right person is available for you. It’s important to hire someone who listens and treats you with respect.

Your first team member does not have to be a lawyer. Consider professionals who might be necessary on your team, including:

  • Financial neutral or advocate – a professional who specializes in the financial aspects of divorce; including property division, support, budgets, taxes and much more.
  • Mental health professional (MHP) / Coach – to assist you and/or the team through your divorce.
  • Child specialist – a MHP whose focus is uncovering how the kids feel and what they want to educate parents when children are not able.
  • Mediator

Divorce is a process that, when done in the spouses’ and families’ best interest, can take some time as well as effort, not to mention a good support system. Your balanced team will provide a much needed “gravity check” when you are knocked off balance through the twists and turns of your divorce. The satisfaction of knowing that you understood the benefits, risks, limitations, and/or alternatives for the choices you made will likely be an enormous aid in beginning your future with some self-assurance and tranquility.

Written by: Tasha Rock, CFP®