Four Early Divorce Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

  March 24, 2021

On this special bonus episode of We Chat Divorce, we are welcoming not just one but TWO AMAZING guests, Casey Shevin and Sonia Queralt, Co-founders of Divorceify

Sonia is a divorce litigator, divorce coach, and divorce survivor. She now dedicates her career to helping people going through divorce focus on building their future. She became a programmer and co-founded Divorceify to help people demystify the complexities of the divorce process.

Casey is also a divorce litigator turned divorce mediator turned divorce innovator. Casey earned her bachelor’s degree at Smith College and studied law at Georgetown University, where she was recognized for excellence in clinical fieldwork in family law. Casey is admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

So, let’s get to it….

Today we are chatting about Four Early Divorce Mistakes and How to Avoid Them –

  • Failing to Confront Indecision
  • Failing to Get Organized
  • Choosing the Wrong Divorce Process
  • Hiring the Wrong Help

As companies founded by divorce professionals, My Divorce Solution, and Divorceify have quite a bit in common, beginning with our commitment to the people we serve. This partnership combines an innovative flat-rate financial foundation – The MDS Financial Portrait – with Divorceify’s roadmap that includes a customized action plan, an education, access to reliable resources, and vetted local professionals selected specifically for you. Together, we will make the divorce experience clearer and more manageable.

We are thrilled to partner with Divorceify and support all the amazing work they’re doing to positively impact how people get divorced. 

Learn More >>

If you have questions for us or a topic you’d like us to cover, contact us at hello@mydivorcesolution.com or visit MyDivorceSolution.com 

The We Chat Divorce podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “WCD”) represents the opinions of Catherine Shanahan, Karen Chellew and their guests to the show. WCD should not be considered professional or legal advice. The content here is for informational purposes only. Views and opinions expressed on WCD are our own and do not represent that of our places of work.

WCD should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever.  Listeners should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No listener should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on WCD without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on WCD.

Unless specifically stated otherwise, Catherine Shanahan and Karen Chellew does not endorse, approve, recommend, or certify any information, product, process, service, or organization presented or mentioned on WCD, and information from this podcast should not be referenced in any way to imply such approval or endorsement. The third-party materials or content of any third party site referenced on WCD do not necessarily reflect the opinions, standards or policies of Catherine Shanahan or Karen Chellew.

WCD, CATHERINE SHANAHAN AND KAREN CHELLEW EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR OTHER DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL’S USE OF, REFERENCE TO, RELIANCE ON, OR INABILITY TO USE, THIS PODCAST OR THE INFORMATION PRESENTED IN THIS PODCAST

Karen Chellew:

Welcome to We Chat Divorce, Catherine and I are so excited to introduce you to Sonia and Casey, two of the founding partners of Divorceify. Today we’re going to talk about the four early divorce mistakes and how to avoid them. But first, let me introduce you to our guests. Sonia is a divorce litigator, a divorce coach, and a divorce survivor. She now dedicated her career to helping people going through divorce, focus on building their future. She became a programmer and co-founded Divorceify to help people demystify the complexities of the divorce process. Casey is also a divorce litigator, turned divorce mediator, turned divorce innovator. Casey earned her bachelor’s degree at Smith College and studied law at Georgetown University, where she was recognized for her excellence in clinical field work and family law. Casey is admitted to practice law in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Thanks for being here, Sonia and Casey were so excited had this conversation with you.

 

Casey Shevin:

Thank you for having us.

 

Karen Chellew:

Of course. Casey, do you want to start off by telling us a little bit about Divorceify?

 

Casey Shevin:

I would love to. So as we just mentioned Karen, I started out my career in family law as a litigator, which mean for those people who are listening and are not totally sure what litigation means, that basically means that you take your divorce to court. So you ask a judge to set a schedule where you’re making regular court appearances, and although most people assume that ends in a full-blown trial, 95% of cases actually settle. So most of the time I was helping people try to settle out of court. But with the watchful eye of a judge setting the schedule for every step of the process. What I found in litigation was that that wasn’t the best fit for me as a way to serve my clients. And so, I was always trying to get people to settle rather than fight for every penny they could get, because I felt like there was a real value in shortening the duration of the divorce and kind of salvaging whatever co-parenting relationship my client had to their soon to be ex spouse going forward.

 

Casey Shevin:

So I ended up leaving litigation and forming my own practice in mediation. And around that time, I was looking for other people who were finding themselves unsatisfied with the divorce status quo. And that’s when I met Sonia and our third co-founder Tali. All three of us are attorneys and working moms, and we all wanted to find a way to help people avoid some of the earliest divorce mistakes. So what I found in mediation is that people would start in litigation, they’d spend tens of thousands of dollars, they’d have tons of headache. Their stress level would be through the roof, and they would find that they were fighting over things that really either didn’t matter to them. They felt like their money was being spent inefficiently, or it was just ratcheting up the conflict level in their household to like an unsustainable point.

 

Casey Shevin:

And they felt like there was no end in sight for the litigation. So when they found out about mediation they would come to my office, they would have a couple sessions, they would really get down to the root of whatever was left in front of them to decide. And they’d be like, if we had known about mediation earlier, we could have saved ourselves so much time, so much money and so much conflict in our household. So that was a real light bulb moment for me in terms of thinking, wow, people need a place to go for divorce orientation and education. So that they can really get their divorce started on the right foot. And Sonia was at the time… And I’m going to let her speak for herself in a second, but Sonia was actually thinking the same thing. She was seeing it from a different perspective which I’m sure she’ll share, but she was out there thinking the same thing, which is that people need a one-stop shop for orientation and education. And that’s where Divorceify was really born.

 

Casey Shevin:

So when you come to Divorceify’s site, you do a pretty simple intake as a client. We ask you natural language questions, you answer them, it takes five to 10 minutes. And then at the end, we spit out what we call DivorceGPS, which kind of directs you to what we think are the best process options for you, because there’s more than one way to get a divorce agreement. And we also direct you to the types of professional help that can help you get to the finish line efficiently and holistically. And so it’s not just attorneys, it’s also financial advisors and mental health professionals and parenting coaches and mediators, et cetera. So we’re really excited about it. We think it’s a great place for people to start their divorce process and really learn about the options out there and really figure out what’s the best fit for them.

 

Karen Chellew:

Love that. Sonia do you want to add… Oh, go ahead, Catherine.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

Sorry. It is exciting because I want to hear Sonia side first before I say anything more, I guess, but it’s exciting for people to have a place to go because there are so many options and a lot of times the only options available to you are the options of your friends and family members who have gone through the process and everyone’s financial situation is different. But before we expand on that I didn’t mean to interject there Sonia. So tell us a little bit about you and how you jumped into the Divorceify process?

 

Sonia Q:

Thank you, and that’s okay. So I also was a divorce litigator. I litigated divorces in Boston, Massachusetts. I did a lot of high-end, high-conflict divorces, I was in court a ton. And really also in my own personal life my marriage was imploding. So I was able to advocate for my clients, I couldn’t advocate for myself. And so, what really solidified that I needed to sort of help people through the divorce process in a different way was I was involved in a three year divorce trial. So two high-end executives spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, liquidated assets, children went into regression behaviors. And basically we ended up having to settle because in Massachusetts there’s a mandatory retirement age for judges. So the judge was about to retire and he looked at us after three and said “You guys are either going to have to settle or you’re going to have to start over.” Well, what ended up happening was we ended up settling with the very first proposal that I had drafted to the other side three years prior.

 

Sonia Q:

Done, no more, no thank you. So with that my personal life was kind of crazy, and I decided that I needed to walk away from litigation. And part of that was based on what Casey said, that education orientation piece, I kept finding that clients were coming to me and they were making three critical mistakes. Number one, starting off on the wrong process. Why, exactly Karen and Catherine, what you said that they’re responding to their divorce and their marriage, how their best friend did their neighbor. Everybody’s got a divorce war story, but that’s a problem, it’s their own, it’s not yours. And number two, that clients really don’t realize divorce is much more than a legal problem. So if you don’t address all of the pieces of your divorce with the right experts and professionals, you’re not able to get through the process in the healthiest way possible.

 

Sonia Q:

Number three, which we’re going to talk about is clients really felt disempowered. They didn’t realize that during the waiting period there are things you can do to empower yourself and prepare. All of those things together with my own thing going on, I decided to walk away from litigation. I packed up my car with only my belongings, and I left the marital home. Before doing that as a divorce litigator, everybody kind of looked at me and said, “You do this all the time. You know exactly how to do this. It’s going to be nice and easy or divorce is simple.” And I thought, yikes, it a lot different. [crosstalk 00:08:45] And it became really critical for me to surround myself with the right team of professionals that really understood what I needed, what my non-negotiables were, and to educate me on what I was choosing to walk away from.

 

Sonia Q:

Only then could I make a well-informed decision? And so my decision became my non-negotiable, my happiness, I was stuck in a miserable marriage for way too many years. And the other thing that I did was I walked away from everything. I left equity on the table. I left a lot of things, but I didn’t knowingly and having brought in the right professionals to help me understand what that meant for my future and for next steps. So with all of that Divorceify was born.

 

Karen Chellew:

I love it. And your third partner Tali, she’s also an attorney. Do you want to just give a little bit about her?

 

Casey Shevin:

Sure. At the time we met Tali, she was working with judges for the court system. So she really saw the burden of over litigated two cases on the court system. Part of the reason litigation moves so slowly is the court system is overwhelmed by the number of people coming to it for help, when realistically a lot of those cases don’t need to be in active litigation. It’s very common to feel like you need the help of a lawyer. You shouldn’t necessarily expect that you’re going to understand the legal ins and outs of your case, but hiring a lawyer doesn’t mean you’re going to go to litigation. So Tali really saw that from the court’s perspective of how beneficial it would be to head people off before they really even stepped foot in the courtroom and get them to other alternatives. So Tali actually took some time off from the law to learn to code, and so she’s like our tech co-founder. And she’s just been really awesome in coordinating all the various tech aspects.

 

Casey Shevin:

And like really what Divorceify is. It’s a multidisciplinary marketplace of services where you can come and we all love a curated shopping experience these days. I don’t want to sort through every option on Amazon. I don’t want to sort through every option on Netflix, I want them to already know what’s the best fit for me. So that’s really what Divorceify offers like a tech and innovation enabled way to get your divorce started on the right foot.

 

Sonia Q:

That makes me think of TJ Maxx. Maxx seems always fine to say deal. But for me, I have to walk in and only see their front circular, whatever you call them through all the whole deals going on there.

 

Casey Shevin:

[crosstalk 00:11:35] multiples of options. I just want to know like what’s in my style, directing me to the things I know I like.

 

Karen Chellew:

Right.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

So if you’re listening to this, the big takeaway I’m hearing right now is three litigating attorneys ran for the hills. They knew that there was a better way to do this. Then they set out to set up Divorceify a great marketplace for people to find a better way to do it. So I’m really glad that we met you all and that we’re partnering to make it even stronger.

 

Casey Shevin:

Yes.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

For people gaining financial clarity so that they know where to turn and where to go.

 

Karen Chellew:

Absolutely. So let’s talk about some early mistakes people make when entering the divorce process or even thinking the divorce process. So the first one is failing to confront and decision.

 

Casey Shevin: 

Yeah. So Sonia mentioned a few things that like we do focus on Divorceify, but what we think are like the four earliest mistakes that you can make is, like you said, the first one is failing to confront indecision. The second one is failing to get organized. The third one is choosing the wrong divorce process, and the fourth one is hiring the wrong help. So we’ll start with the confronting indecision. So you don’t wake up one morning and know for sure that you need to get a divorce. It’s not like a light bulb moment that happens for most people. Most people it’s a gradual thing. You’re like, “Is this marriage working? I don’t think it is. Is there a way to make it better? Maybe we’ll try that. Am I done? What would divorce be like? Is that what I want?”

 

Casey Shevin:

The period of indecision lasts a really long time for most people. And it’s a huge decision to make, so that makes perfect sense. I want to normalize that because that makes perfect sense. That being said, the longer you spend mired in indecision and without doing anything to help yourself get past it, the more likely you are to make a mistake that costs you money. So how can you confront indecision and why does starting your divorce before you’ve really made a decision cost you money? Sonia and I have both dealt with clients who started their divorce, not really sure that they wanted a divorce, and that costs you money because you’re just ping ponging back and forth between, do I want to do this or do I want to stay in my marriage? And you’re spending money with attorneys, maybe you’re shopping around, maybe you’ve picked one. And this attorney is like, “Can I send that first letter? And can we put together a financial statement? Like, what are we doing?” And every time they’re contacting you to try to prod you along, they’re charging you legal fees.

 

Karen Chellew:

I’m going to add to that, Casey.

 

Casey Shevin:

Yeah.

 

Karen Chellew 

Because I just had a situation this week where we had clients who I guess were in indecision. And they didn’t realize that once you hire an attorney and once you filed that complaint, and once someone sends over that discovery, all of a sudden you’re mandated by court deadlines. I think that a lot of people have no idea about that. They think, okay, I’m going to file, then I can think some more. Well, now, you’re in the midst of deadlines that your attorney has no choice, but which to respond to. Or their license is at risk, or you’re going to get a sanctions motion against you. So I think to that point a lot of people are unsure, but they don’t even know that filing a divorce actually is a commitment. It’s not an exploratory decision.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

Well, you say that people don’t just wake up and want to get a divorce the next day. But I know that there’s a lot of people out there myself included, who said once my youngest kid graduates from high school, I’m getting out. So there was all those years of waiting, but then the time comes and now you’re sitting there thinking, well, do I want to do this or do I not want to do this? And it’s because they don’t have financial clarity they’re afraid to be alone. Or they just don’t know what their life will look like after divorce. So when you Karen and I worked really hard on our process of the Financial Portraits, because how do we know what attorney to send them to, or what therapists that they need? If they don’t know what their financial situation looks like.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

So it always amazes me when somebody comes in and they start doing their portrait and they realize that their inheritance is not marital because they never co-mingled it. And they say, “Oh my gosh, I only stayed because my mom would have died if my husband got any of that money. So I just stayed. If I know he’s not going to get it, then I’m going.” And the other women who say, I’m going to say mostly women, but there’s certainly men also that say the same thing. “Wait, the pension is marital, I get half of that. He always told me, I’ll never get that, what will I live on?” So it’s really transforming when we’re working with our clients and they realize that this is a marital asset, this is not a marital asset. And here’s what your life will look like after working on their budgeting. Because then they can make the smart decision whether they stay or go.

 

Karen Chellew:

And Sonia, I think you make the point often that you, while you knew the litigation process, you needed support in the emotional process. And we fully believe that physically, financially and emotionally, all of those areas need to be in alignment for you to make really good, clear decisions for yourself. And some people are going to have strengths in places other people do not. But to your point of having a team and that fund of resources where they’re all committed to the same cause, which is you is extraordinarily beneficial.

 

Sonia Q:

It is, and I think that you just addressed another piece of it. One of the things that… Casey and I are attorneys, our focus was on substantive legal issues. That is where we had our highest value for our clients. So then as a professional in the divorce field, you also have to learn to stay in your lane and respect it. That’s what you do. That’s what you know, that’s a wonderful thing, but then you pull in your colleagues. Then you pull in the other professionals to help that client through, so there’s that piece of it. And the other piece is exactly what you said, Karen, most all divorces have the divorce aspect legal issues, whether it’s a settlement or you are in the court system or whatever that process is, and the financial piece. Most of them also have a parenting. The finances and the legal process and making it happen are two parts of every divorce.

 

Sonia Q:

And if you don’t have the right information about the types of ways that you can get divorced, and what your Financial Portrait picture looks like now, what it will look like. And if you don’t have that information, there’s no way that you can make the best decision for your family. So you need the two pieces, which is why Casey and I are so pumped to be partnering up with My Divorce Solution. Because you guys have the financial piece and we are not financial professionals, but we know it’s important and clients need it. I needed it. Divorce is much more than a legal problem.

 

Karen Chellew:

And so is mediation.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

And what’s really great about your process is that yes, you need an attorney we can say, or yes, you have these financial concerns, but when we can vet them… No not vet them, but send them back to you, you can vet out the professionals. So it’s really nice bet that we can transition our clients through your process to find the attorney when they need the attorney. Because sometimes in the middle of doing their Financial Portrait, they need an attorney. We’re not attorneys, we don’t give legal advice, we give financial opinions and financial advice, but to be able to say, go to Divorceify, here’s the scenario. And here’s the type of professional you need, you’ve done the hard work for them by vetting out that professional. So that’s really so empowering that many people don’t have. They just don’t know how to find someone for them. Even though they could find the process, they can’t find the right professional for them. And you often do that.

 

Casey Shevin:

What I wanted to point out is that the vast majority of people who come to our website and use our predictive technology to get recommendations, it’s like over 75% of them are just thinking about divorce. Of those people many of them know they want to get a divorce, but they don’t know how to get started. And then about a third of those people are just not even totally sure they’re ready. They’re still in this exploratory phase. What Karen mentioned earlier, I just want to go back to that quickly, which is that when you file something with the court to say that, I think I want to get a divorce. Yeah, it’s true. You can withdraw that, you can take that off the table. Of course, you’ve spent money preparing it. You’ve now notified your spouse, you want to get a divorce? The ball is rolling. So you’ve started something by doing that.

 

Casey Shevin:

But it also does give you financial protection, like filing something with the court. So the time you spend before you file anything with the court can be a time in which financial stuff goes down that you learn about later. If you and your spouse are actively talking about divorce, the word divorce is going back and forth all the time, people start doing what attorneys called divorce planning. They start moving money around, they start thinking about what would come after this marriage. And there’s many cases that came to our office where we would finally be doing financial discovery, we have started the divorce, we’re pulling finances, we’re putting together what the marital estate looks like. And we find out that the other spouse pulled $50,000 out of retirement in six months before the divorce was filed.

 

Casey Shevin:

And you can’t get that money back that money’s gone now. So you may be can recoup it through a judge. You might not be able to, it depends on the state you’re in. And that’s a really important thing to think about, like the longer you spend spinning your wheels on, are we going to get a divorce, are we not? Things might be happening that you don’t know about. So how can you move past that period of indecision? And like we said, it’s not just a legal decision, it’s a financial decision, it’s an emotional decision. So we have number of professionals in our network that can help you make those decisions. So one way to do it is a type of therapy called discernment counseling. And it’s something that you do with your partner. And many people are resistant to couples counseling, especially when they’re on the edge of a divorce.

 

Casey Shevin:

I don’t want to be brought into this room and beat up by a counselor, we never tried marital counseling before. Now when we’re like, at the very end, we’re going to try it like that doesn’t make any sense. But the truth is discernment. Counseling is different. It’s a goal oriented process with a set number of sessions. And the goal of the process is to decide, are we in or are we out? And once you make that decision together and you’re on the same page about whether you want the divorce or not, you can move forward really efficiently and with a lot of honesty and with like a lot of resolution on the emotional piece. You can also just have an initial consultation with an attorney where you’re asking them a lot of really important legal questions and like, what would happen if I decided to file, would we have to go to court right away? What could be happening if I choose not to file? What might it look like for my kids, if I got a divorce?

 

Casey Shevin:

You can get some of those initial questions answered without really committing to that attorney or to filing something. So getting an initial consultation is a great way to move past indecision. And then finally the financial piece, a lot of are just really terrified. They can’t afford to get divorced, not just the legal fees, but like what does splitting our assets look like? What does splitting our debts look like? Can we refinance this house? Can we afford it to buy two new houses? Were our kids live? So getting the financial piece together and, or understanding what your finances might look like after divorce is a really important way to move past indecision. And that’s something we love about My Divorce Solution is that you guys really help people understand what the various outcomes might look like.

 

Karen Chellew:

Absolutely, to your point a lot of times when you said they’re exploring, and they’re in indecision, couples want to work it out more than they want to fight. So they’re more willing to engage in honest or more honest financial discussions, than they will be willing to engage once they’ve engaged with attorneys. Because as an attorney, it’s your job to protect your client. So by default it becomes a little-

 

Sonia Q:

I like that honest or more honest. So if you are listening ask yourself will you be honest or more honest?

 

Karen Chellew:

How much honesty will I get here.

 

Casey Shevin:

Right. Totally.

 

Sonia Q:

Love that go ahead.

 

Karen Chellew:

I thought that you would like that. But what trying to express is as an attorney, it is your job or an attorney’s job to protect the client. So in doing so there’s some level of adversity created by default. And then I also help people try to understand that even in mediation, mediators, they don’t give advice or that’s not their role. So I think a lot of people going into mediation saying the mediator is going to help me understand, well, only to a point. Because again, their role is to facilitate conversation. So having the financial clarity of knowing what you have, what’s going to look at like what your options are, how much money do I spend a month now and how much money will I have later. Generically speaking, it’s such good foundational information to help you make a decision. Do I stay, or do I go?

 

Casey Shevin:

Yes. And I think that what we’re starting to get into is the second mistake that people make, which is failing to get organized. So there is a huge value to getting organized before you hit the starting line of your divorce. So before you’re filing something in court or before you’re like really starting to pay attorneys, large sums of money every month to start negotiating for you. The most valuable thing you can do for yourself is to prepare, and what does that mean? So part of that is getting emotionally ready and like, Sonia can speak to that probably even better than I can. But I would say that a big part of it is getting your financial documents organized because really divorce is ultimately the dissolution of a business partnership. When you get married, the state gives you certain rights and responsibilities and that’s the contract of marriage.

 

Casey Shevin:

And when you get divorced, the state has to go in and look at what rights and how do those rights and responsibilities get dealt with during the marriage. So what did they accumulate together that they’re not both now legally entitled to, and what are their responsibilities to each other now that they’re getting divorced? Is somebody expected by the States to support the other person financially, for a period of time to help them get back on their feet as a single person. That’s like spousal support. You have children together, there’s a lot of financial responsibility there through child support. So before you ask the state to go in and make decisions about your rights and responsibilities, dissolving your finances, splitting things up, you need to really have all your ducks in a row as to what are the assets and debts that we’re going to be asking the court to divide.

 

Casey Shevin:

If you’re prepped well for that, then that process that when the court says here’s all the different pieces of paperwork you need to produce, or if you’re in an out of court divorce process, your attorneys are still going to say, you can’t get the court to approve a divorce settlement, unless you have had full financial disclosure. And you’re willing to sign a contract that says I have received full financial disclosure, and I’m confident that I understand every asset and debt in this marriage. And I’m confident that it’s getting split up in a fair way that I can agree to. My Divorce Solution, financial prep, and the reason we’re partnering with you guys to send clients to you is that we really feel like it is the comprehensive preparation that clients need. Right?

 

Karen Chellew:

Absolutely.

 

Catherine Shanahan 

Well, before even knowing what you want and what you have, if you’re out there and you’re thinking, how the hell do I do that? All you need to do is don’t overlook an opportunity to gather some information that you may not have access to after it’s announced that you want a divorce. So if you’re out there and you see a statement, but you have no idea what it is, it’s okay, you don’t need to know what anything means at this point. If it has numbers on it, you gather it. Don’t make the mistake of missing the opportunity to gather some information. Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard someone say, “Oh my gosh, I left the house, and I had my hands on the document and now I don’t and he won’t give them to me.

 

Catherine Shanahan: 

So make a copy of anything that you have so that we can organize you. We will let you know what’s missing. We’ll make sure you have the financial clarity when you go through our process, but right now, take the opportunity to gather as much information as you can, whether you understand it or not. It doesn’t matter to us.

 

Karen Chellew:

If it has numbers on it, make a copy.

 

Casey Shevin:

That’s very good advice.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

Exactly.

 

Karen Chellew:

Just to elaborate a little bit on that there have been some couples or some people who come through the process and when they get financially organized and clear, they understand that their relationship issues were more financial. And once they had the clarity, they were willing to work on their marriage again. Now that percentage is very small, but it definitely exists. And so, again, making sure what you’re doing so that you don’t have regrets later. It’s just really important.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

That reminds me of something Karen with a client not too long ago. And it was actually the male. He is getting his Financial Portrait and they’re going to therapy at the same time. And he said, “I don’t know if I want a divorce or not.” And I said to him in his review, “It’s great, you’re taking care of this because you’ll know what it will look like if you stay married or if you stay divorced. But the most important piece to this is you’re really giving yourself and your wife, the opportunity for you to emotionally work on your marriage because you already have it settled.” So the financial piece is not coming into your therapy session. It’s just staying on should we stay connected and together because we really do love each other emotionally not, we don’t love each other financially because some people can’t overcome that in therapy. And that’s why therapy sometimes probably doesn’t work.

 

Karen Chellew:

Yeah. Sonia, you were going to say something.

 

Sonia Q:

Yeah. I think one of the other things not to overlook is preparation saves you time and money. So walking into your attorney’s office, well-prepared with the Financial Portrait, with documents that you have captured and sitting down there will save money because the attorneys not having to talk to you for a… Usually it’s for several sessions about what documents to start to collect, and we don’t have to do that. You’re coming in and you’re ready. And then we can focus on what we need to focus on. Whether it’s a pickle, the right process, looking at all of the options, et cetera, children, custody, whatever that looks like, but it really does save time and money. And I think that’s something that at least what I would tell clients all the time is coming to me with a stack of papers and documents and just throwing them down at my desk and being like, “I know there’s suspicious behavior here. My spouse is hiding money in an account.” It’s like speaking Chinese. And this is why, one, I don’t know your family.

 

Karen Chellew:

Two you don’t speak Chinese.

 

Sonia Q:

Yes, I don’t. And number one, they don’t know your family. Number two, I have no idea the patterns of behavior that your spouse has or does not have when it comes to money, taking out money for a certain ATMs et cetera. I would always say to clients, pull the documents, and when you have a moment of clarity in your mind, because that’s also something, the emotional piece is heavy. And some days you can’t either look at or think anything divorced and that’s okay. But those moments you can sit down look through it, flag things for your attorney. So that when you’re sitting down, it’s not just this massive pile of just statements. We were looking at hundreds of thousands of pages of statements all the time. You’ve actually created your story, what you think that is. And really that is powerful because that’s also empowering for you as you’re getting through it. And every little step of preparation is a drop in the sort of empowerment bucket. So that’s a big piece. Get prepared, get organized, it’ll save you money and your attorney will love you. [inaudible 00:33:51]

 

Karen Chellew:

That’s so awesome. And you always have the spouse that has the spreadsheet. Usually one or the other has to spreadsheet [inaudible 00:34:01] And they for sure know what it is and it’s a no brainer. And I can’t think of any time that spreadsheet has really laid out the marital assets and the components of the marital assets and what it’s going to mean to divide those marital assets. So while from like a straight line of… That’s probably the wrong math word, Catherine, but from just a very linear perspective, the spreadsheet may be a good place to start. But it’s only a drop in the bucket to the information that you need to know and understand how it plays into dividing assets, in family law situations.

 

Casey Shevin:

I mean, look, getting a divorce, like really sucks. It is one of the most stressful things you can go through in your entire life. 85% of the clients who come to our website say that the stress of their divorce is interrupting their day to day functioning. You might be at work, but your head might be somewhere totally different, most days that you’re at work because you are so crushed by the stress of what is about to happen to your life. So at Divorceify we’re thinking about how do we get people to start their divorce on the right foot and have the best divorce possible. But what we’re thinking about is the cost of your divorce, the tone of your divorce and how long it takes to get a divorce. So look, you can have millions of dollars, but do you want to give that money to your divorce attorney? Or do you want to spend it and leave it for your children? Spend it on yourself, leave it for your children. We would so much rather have you do that.

 

Casey Shevin:

Even if you have the means to litigate your divorce for years and payer your payer attorneys, hundreds of thousands of dollars. But that’s not true for most people. Most people don’t have that kind of money, and they really are worried about how much their divorce is going to cost. So in either situation, you want to be thinking about how to be efficient. There’s no reason to fork all that money over to your divorce attorneys.

 

Karen Chellew:

Right.

 

Casey Shevin:

The second thing is the tone of your divorce really sets the tone for your family going forward. Most people who are getting a divorce have kids together, whether or not those kids are adults or young children, you are going to have to be in the same room with your ex at some point in the future. Whether it’s a college graduation, a wedding your kid’s kindergarten performance at the end of the year, whatever it is, you’re probably going to have to be in a room with this person, and you don’t want that to be toxic for everybody in your family. So we think about how do we keep the conflict level as low as possible without making you a doormat.

 

Karen Chellew:

Right.

 

Casey Shevin:

The other thing is the duration of your divorce. Like it is very common for people to spend six months to a year, debating back and forth, do I even want a divorce? That alone is painful. Once you’ve decided that you want to get one, you don’t want to spend another one to three years getting divorced. You want that to be as short, a duration as possible without it feeling like you’re on some like hyper speed stress train. So we really think about how do we keep the cost down? How do we keep the tone controlled? How do we shorten the duration of your divorce? And good preparation will influence all three of those things. And I think part of it is knowing you want a divorce, and that this is the right decision for you. And taking the steps that you can take to get past in decision. Be sure about it when you start it. And then getting really well-organized and prepped and having some vision of what it might look like after divorce, that really will help you go into it in a calmer mindset, spend less money with your professionals.

 

Casey Shevin:

And some people might think like, well is getting a Financial Portrait really necessary. Isn’t that something my attorney’s going to help me with anyway? Sure, it might feel like an additional cost at the beginning, but trust me, when I tell you that paying for good financial analysis at the beginning is going to save you money throughout. And you’re much likelier to be happy with your settlement at the end of it. So, I mean, I think that that’s a huge cost saver and time saver and conflict saver, because also your attorney who your spouse will probably hate is not going to be the one being like, “Well, what we have to do with this asset is X,” they’re going to already have an analysis that was done by financial professionals. That tax affects everything that shows why this is a great scenario for everybody, that’s really what you want.

 

Karen Chellew: 

And so, I think that goes into our next segment of choosing the wrong divorce process. The third early mistake.

 

Casey Shevin:

Yeah. So we think there are basically four main ways to get divorced, there’s a few outliers otherwise, but we’ve talked about litigation. So using the court to set your schedule and going for a judge the other option is really out of court negotiation. So you hire attorneys and you tell your attorneys before we file something at court, we really want to keep this out of court as much as possible. And you have-

 

Catherine Shanahan:

Wait a minute, can I stop you there for a second, Sonia? I just can’t even imagine going through what you went through. And then the judge tells you “I’m out of here. You need to decide this.” So when you mentioned the litigation process, I mean, I never think a judge should decide what the fate of your family is. I just can’t get that out of my head, going through all that money, all that time, you being a professional, knowing the process, and then it’s out of your hands. And the judge says, “Sorry, see you later.” I mean, so if you’re listening to this, we all know that litigation, if voidable which it is for 85 or 90% of the cases avoid it, that must’ve been so traumatic that process.

 

Sonia Q:

 And I think the other piece is, speaking of the emotional piece, if you want to punish your spouse, you for sure need to get in touch with a mental health professional because using the court system to punish your spouse is the biggest mistake that you can make for your family, for your finances and for your children. And so, I’m going to say it again, if you’re thinking that way now is the time to start doing your homework on a mental health professional that you can afford that you enjoy talking to because you need to talk yourself out of that.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

That’s great a great point. That’s another way of doing that.

 

Karen Chellew:

It’s a great way to punish yourself.

 

Sonia Q:

Exactly, and at the end of the day, what Casey was saying is that if you’re going to do that through the court system, you’re setting the stage for an adversarial hostile co-parenting relationship, which by the way is for life, so good luck. It is absolutely unnecessary. And I can very much understand those moments of absolute rage because your spouse is pushing the right buttons because you’ve been married, they know which buttons to push, to get the best reaction out of you. I understand, take a breath, whatever you need to do, but do not use the court system to punish the other spouse.

 

Karen Chellew:

Right.

 

Casey Shevin:

The other thing to think about with courts is judges are there to protect people when they need to be protected. So if there’s abuse in your marriage, whether it’s financial abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, that’s a great case to take to litigation because the court will see through that bullshit, and they will do what they have to do to protect you and your family. But that being said, because the court is really designed for those cases. And really those are the pieces that the judge and their staff want to focus on. If you’re arguing over accounts and who gets this account and who gets that account and who gets this vacation house and who gets that vacation house and who gets this collection of collectibles versus that collection of collectibles. The judge’s not super excited about your case and being the ones who decide what they think to rational people with the help of attorneys should be able to decide on their own.

 

Casey Shevin:

And so, we have seen that number of cases that get all the way up to the line where they have two or three assets or two or three maybe items or debt that they can’t figure out, who’s going to be responsible for. Who’s going to take. And there’s like maybe a difference of some amount of money between what this side will accept and what that side will accept. We have seen a number of times where the judges called their attorneys back into their back room, and they’re like, “Look, this is probably what I’m going to decide. So you need to just go out there and save the court’s time and tell your clients that because you don’t want to have a three-day trial on this. And when we could be helping families that like really need our help.”

 

Casey Shevin:

That’s very disheartening as an attorney too, is like, you’ve been fighting for your client for however many months or years. They’ve paid you thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars for their day in court. And then the judge is like, “Yeah, I’m just going to save you guys a lot of time and tell you that this is what’s probably going to happen. So go settle this.” And then hour later, your attorneys have hand written a settlement and sent it back to the judge to approve.

 

Sonia Q: 

[crosstalk 00:43:36] That’s a whole other podcast that I love, but let’s go on to the other way, even getting divorced because that’s a great topic, I could go on a whole day [crosstalk 00:43:50]

 

Casey Shevin:

That litigation is to be avoided if you can. And the next way to get divorced is, you both hire attorneys or financial advisors and whomever else you want, but you tell these professionals, we want to settle out of court and you let them do the heavy lifting on going back and forth and trading proposals, but really like their job is to settle it out of court. The third way is mediation, and usually that’s the two of you, you and your spouse, and a neutral third party in a room that person might be an attorney, they might be a mental health professional, they might have a financial background, but their job is not to decide what’s going to happen there. They’re helping the two of you reach a decision by providing information along the way and helping you guys reach, a compromise.

 

Casey Shevin:

And then the fourth way is like a do it yourself process. And there’s a few different ways to do a do it yourself process, but there are some companies that are now offering online divorces, where they have the forms available, you and your spouse just really fill in what you want the court to do. That’s becoming more popular. And it’s understandable why like the cost is a lot lower, the timeframe can be much shorter. And it’s empowering to do something on your own. That being said, there’s a very narrow window of families where they get the outcome that feels fair at the end of that process. And part of that is like divorce is really complex. It’s a complex legal problem, it’s a complex financial problem, it’s a complex emotional problem. The idea that you could do it all on your own, probably not fair to most people.

 

Casey Shevin:

So what we say is that’s like a good fit for divorces where the conflict is very low, there aren’t any children, you haven’t been married that long, and you really don’t have that much to divide between you. Sometimes attorneys call those divorces like a walk away. You’re both just walk away what’s within your name, you split down the middle of whatever’s in your joint names. And there are young couples that are totally willing to do that. And if you’re one of those, then do it yourself process might be right for you. Otherwise, you probably are going to need some help.

 

Karen Chellew:

Yeah.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

So in any of these processes, Divorceify I can help direct the client to the right process and the right professional, correct?

 

Casey Shevin:

Exactly.

 

Sonia Q:

And what Divorceify also does is it also highlights the pros and cons to each process because there’s also the collaborative process. And there’s been a big collaborative movement. And the reality is that many clients do not know that in the collaborative movement, there are several professionals that sit down at a table for a certain set of sessions to get you to a settlement. However, you do sign a contract in the beginning that if you do not settle the case, or both parties come to an agreement you’re starting again, so-

 

Karen Chellew:

New professionals.

 

Sonia Q:

Correct. So in order to pick the right process you also need to understand what does this process entail? What makes sense, what doesn’t. And what the pros and cons to each are. And so Divorceify does that in our DivorceGPS, you will not just get the recommendation, but you will also understand the other ways to get divorced and the pros and cons to each. Because there’s a little FYI. So you might think, oh, things are bad right now. We just have to litigate. We can’t communicate, I don’t trust him or her et cetera. And you think, all right, this is the only way, well, next week when the temperature’s been turned down a little bit, you never know, and perhaps then the lines of communication open. So wait a second. Suddenly mediation can be on the table. There’s other options. So things can change, but you need know what each decision entails.

 

Karen Chellew:

Yeah. I liked my little tour through Divorceify, I did the test tour. And I really appreciated the fact that it did a great job of explaining the different types of how you can approach the divorce process, but specific to whatever scenario, I set my situation out to be, it told me the pros and cons of because you have this, or you have these assets, you’re going to need this. And because of this, you’re a candidate for this, but you could consider this, but it may or may not work for you. And I found that to be very helpful and I can see how that could be extremely helpful for someone to have all of these considerations as it relates to their divorce journey. It was good.

 

Casey Shevin:

Yeah. And, I think that there’s ways to overdo it, like to go to litigation when you don’t really need litigation, but there’s also ways to under do it. So doing a DIY divorce and then getting your settlements approved by the court and then finding out years later that you could have been entitled to more money. That’s one of the ways people really underdo it. Another way is like I just want this to be over. I just want this to be better for my kids. I’ll do whatever it takes to get to the finish line because I’m so stressed out by this. So I’ll do mediation because that’s what my spouse wants to do. So I’m just going to do it. And then you get in the mediation room and your spouse’s like steamrolling you. And you’re like, well whatever, like, it’s fine.

 

Casey Shevin:

Sonia is somebody who has said, like I left money on the table and I walked away and that was the right choice for her. But it was a totally informed decision that she made. And I think the key is just make sure you’re confident in the process that you’re using. Make sure you’re confident that you’re getting all the information that you understand, the decisions being reached. And that you feel confident, you understand how it will affect your financial future, because you can do mediation, you can reach agreements on almost everything and then have some things that you don’t agree to, that you then take to attorneys to resolve. You can do a hybrid model between different processes, you don’t have to just choose one and stick with it.

 

Casey Shevin:

And it’s really important if you feel like you’re in the middle of mediation or in the middle of litigation or trying to do DIY and you’re muddling through, and you’re just not confident. Like you can go back to us, use our predictive technology and get a new recommendation, or just look back at the options that we recommended in the beginning. And think maybe I could default to a different process and end it in a better way.

 

Karen Chellew:

I so agree. And I do not want to close out this podcast without addressing the concierge service, which I believe is kind of the glue that holds your divorce together, going through the Divorceify process. So Sonia, do you want to talk a little bit about that as we close out you?

 

Sonia Q:

So I think that people going through divorce, you need somebody in your corner. You need somebody to be able to meet you wherever you are in the process, whatever that day holds for you. There were days I couldn’t get up and shower and that was all right, just let yourself be. So in order to really help people wherever they are in the process or in the beginning stages, we have a concierge service. What do we do? Well, it depends on what you need. So it’s very easy, you get to talk right now, the concierge service is myself and Casey. You get to talk to one of us, you get to tell us, or you get referred by your team of professionals that feel that you need a little extra, either hand-holding support orientation, strategy sessions.

 

Sonia Q:

So what we really do is you would come in, you would talk to Casey or myself for 30 minutes. We would get an idea of what your situation is, what you need. And then we put the steps in place to get you there. Whether it means more education, whether it’s helping to get prepared, whether it’s starting to have conversations that you need to have with professionals, let’s say a parenting coordinator, and you’re thinking, I don’t even know where to start with the parenting plan we’ll help you. If you need to be connected to the right professionals, we’ll help you. If you need a venting session, because things are heavy and you have nowhere else to turn, we’re listening. So whatever that person needs, we help them get there. And we give homework. Not tough homework, we’re not bringing you back to school.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

I just wanted to say you lost me at homework.

 

Sonia Q:

I know. Listen we all need a little bit of homework [inaudible 00:52:36] therapist on the phone. That’s what it is, a little bit of possibility that you can really count on. And Casey and I offer a level of experience that not many other services provide, because we’ve been there. We’re attorneys, we get it, we’ve seen it, I had felt it. So our goal is to really get that person through the concierge service to their next step. In the easiest, most efficient way possible for them.

 

Karen Chellew:

I love it.

 

Casey Shevin:

Our partnership with My Divorce Solution, the way that that kind of works is you might be a client of My Divorce Solution already. And then you get your Financial Portrait and your to do’s and it’s like, oh great, now I know where I’m at, but I have all these to do’s to do. And now I have to figure out how I’m going to get divorced and who I’m going to hire to help me with that. That’s a point at which you might be referred to our service by Karen and Catherine, and we can help pick up where they left off. Another way that you might find our partnership working together is you might through a process. Do DivorceGPS, get our predictions, and then get an email from us where we are kind of nudging you to go get a Financial Portrait done, because we think that that’s a really important step in the preparation process.

 

Casey Shevin:

And so you might start with MDS and come to us, or you might start with us and then go to be referred to MDS and just know that like we are working in partnership with them to really get clients prepared as best they can. And then our concierge service can really layer on top of the Financial Portrait to really help you get in the right hands to take you to the finish line. So hiring the right help whether it’s a therapist, a parenting expert, a attorney, a mediator, or whatever you decide is the process that you want to be using. And we can help you make that decision as well, we’ll help you get the right help to get you to the finish line.

 

Casey Shevin:

And when you’re hiring an attorney, it’s not just where they went to school, how many years they’ve been in practice and how much they cost that matters. It’s also, are you comfortable talking to this person? Do you feel like they understand your goals? Are they really going to support your process the best you can? So we think about personality fit as well, not just like the credentials on paper, and that’s a way that we can be helpful is help you really think through holistically, who do you need to be working with? So at that point, we’ve got our concierge can really be helpful.

 

Sonia Q:

I just wish I go through my divorce again, to have a concierge service.

 

Karen Chellew:

I know. [inaudible 00:55:16] Go ahead

 

Sonia Q:

Really quickly for anyone listening, because I don’t know if we’ve made this clear. To use the divorce certified DivorceGPS it is free.

 

Karen Chellew:

Totally free.

 

Sonia Q:

Absolutely free. You can come back like Casey was talking about. If things have changed in your process or things have changed in general. You can come back and do another one and it’s still free, 15 more and they’re all free. Everything always has strings attached. There are no strings attached here. So just come in and just walk away with something that is completely free and gives you a starting point that you can trust.

 

Catherine Shanahan:

Yeah. So if you’re hearing anything and you’re sitting at home and you feel like you have no place to go and no one to talk to, you don’t have to make the decision to get divorced today. You don’t have to decide what’s going to happen for your rest of your life, but you can go on to Divorceify’s website and get a free GPS or some options and that are available to you. So don’t sit there and be sad because that really makes me sad, do something for yourself. And if it’s just getting information, then good for you get that information that you need.

 

Karen Chellew:

Absolutely. And so on that note, while we could continue talking for hours, I’m sure. This concludes this episode of the four early mistakes and how to avoid them in the divorce process. Thank you Sonia and Casey for a great conversation, and we look forward to the next one.

 

Casey Shevin:

Thank you. And for your listeners, thank you for joining and we wish you the best next chapter possible.

 

Sonia Q:

That’s right.