RECAP: Preserving the Family-Business: The Collaborative Process Alternative

Panel on the Collaborative Process

Is there a way to keep the family business in tact even during a divorce?  Our March 4th broadcast on Family Business Radio, hosted by Meredith Moore and Pat Romboletti, tackled this subject with the help of our experts.  Our guest included Amy Waggoner, Partner with Waggoner Hastings, LLC, Robert Bordett, CFP and SVP of Consolidated Planning Corporation, and Marsha Schechtman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and divorce coach.

Our panel gave us an insiders’ tour of a relatively new process called collaborative practice, an avenue that can be used in cases of divorce in a family-owned business to ensure that the divorce does not destroy the family business.

The Collaborative Divorce Process is a way of practicing law where the attorneys for both of the parties in a divorce agree to assist them in resolving conflict or legal issues using cooperative strategies rather than adversarial techniques and court proceedings.

Collaborative practice uses specially-trained professionals from several disciplines—such as law, financial planning and social work—to create a team to help arrive at solutions that minimize the destructiveness that a divorce can wreak on individuals, family systems and businesses.

Amy explained that the collaborative process starts with an appointment with the attorney to make sure collaboration is appropriate for the situation. If it is agreed that the case is appropriate, both sides work with an attorney and team committed to the collaborative process.  From there, the case is triaged: referrals made, documents signed, teams formed. According to Bob, the next stage involves meeting with the neutral team members (in “four-way meetings”) to further understanding, including such sticky matters as the emotions attached to finances.

And speaking of finances, here’s something that will get everyone’s attention. Bob shared research showing that the average collaborative case in Atlanta takes about 7-8 months and costs roughly $24,000-$26,000. In contrast, Amy said—disclaiming from the top that there is no such thing as a typical litigated case—that in Atlanta in a jury trial of a divorce with medium complexity, the average cost is about $100,000. Per party. Just for the litigators.

Take that financial cost and now tack on the emotional cost (and who in today’s society doesn’t know someone who has been scarred by divorce?).  Marsha highlighted the children-centered aspect of the collaborative process. She said that the aim of the process is to have the adults see that they are “un-coupled, but still co-parents.”  The collaborative practice is all about mitigating the damage on all family members.

Other not-to-be-missed topics discussed in the hour-long conversation included:

• Some examples of how to handle the structure of the business when one non-working party to the divorce wants a piece of the company.

• The special problems presented by multi-generational family members in the business when a divorce occurs.

• How to best help non-family members who work in the business during a divorce.

• Personal reflections from the panel members on why they choose to work in a collaborative practice.

• Ways to use collaborative practice in areas other than divorce.

• A discussion of resources available to help you get educated on collaborative practice.

Be sure to download the Podcast to hear all the powerful concepts our panel shared.

And for more information on the Collaborative Process visit the following site:  Atlanta Collaborative Divorce Alliance

You can also contact our guests directly:  Robert D. Bordett, CFP, CDFA, Consolidated Planning Corporation-Telephone: 404-892-1995-Email: bob@u2agree.com//Marsha Schechtman, LCSW-Telephone: 770-753-4911-Email: marshaschechtman@atlantanpc.com//Amy Waggoner, Waggoner Hastings, LLC-Telephone: 770641-8200-Email: awaggoner@atlanta-familylaw.com

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