Divorce is a monumental event that has implications for nearly every facet of life — most notably in the areas of finances, parenting, and personal health (both physical and mental). As divorce attorneys and mediators, we often alternate between wearing different hats in an attempt to serve our clients in as many of these areas as possible. This morning, I exchanged emails with a client trying to understand their spouse's pattern of non-communication during the divorce. At lunch, I attended a practice group meeting about refinancing the marital home. In the afternoon, I spoke with both another attorney and a financial analyst about process options and potential sticking points in a case we're all working on. In a very real sense, being a divorce practitioner is a bit like being a "renaissance man," or in more politically correct terms, a polymath. To be of meaningful assistance to clients, it is not enough to simply know the law and be a skilled communicator (although both of those things are certainly fundamental requirements of the job).
I suggest that we must take it one step further. To be as helpful to our clients as possible and maximize our value to them, we must outsource much of the work we might be tempted to do ourselves. Here are just a few of the professionals with whom we should have strong working relationships:
- Certified Divorce Financial Analysts to help clients understand and plan for their financial futures after divorce.
- Child therapists for situations where clients are concerned about the emotional impact of divorce on their children.
- Local small business attorneys to help answer questions about how divorce might affect clients with business interests.
- Estate planning attorneys — including one or two who specialize in high net-worth situations — to help clients update their wills and trusts as needed after divorce.
- Real estate agents — both buyer-side and seller-side.
- Parenting coordinators for long-term assistance in challenging parenting situations.
- QDRO attorneys who can provide cost-effective assistance to ex-spouses transferring retirement assets.
- Business valuation experts, ideally with experience acting as financial neutrals.
There are many more professionals who can be added to this list. The bottom line is that we are in the business of helping clients transition from one life stage to the next, and that's not a job we should be trying to do alone. By forging strong working relationships with other professionals — and calling on those professionals as needed — we can offer our clients a true full service experience that provides them with the guidance they need, far beyond simply explaning the law and negotiating a settlement agreement.
How would you add to the list above? Which outside professionals have you found most valuable in helping your clients through the challenges of divorce?