They loved each other, they got married, they raised children, they worked hard, and their assets grew, creating substantial financial security for their families. Fifteen, twenty, thirty years later, they can no longer continue on that same road.
Many high-earning couples can afford to hire lawyers and start an adversarial process without really putting their lifestyle in jeopardy, but increasingly they are choosing mediation. Not that saving money in the process isn’t a good reason, but it is not the main reason. They want to work out their conflicts in a more peaceful and amicable way, and maintain as best they can a friendly relationship as they move into their separate lives.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Paul, who was “shopping” for a mediator for himself and his wife, Rosa. His first words were, “My wife and I would like to move forward with our divorce while keeping on good terms. Can you help us?”
Paul and Rosa have been married 30+ years. Their children are in their mid 20s, and “almost” independent, as they told me (with a ray of hope in their eyes). Both Paul and Rosa are very high earners: he has a top position in a large firm, while she runs her own business. Over the years together, they have worked hard and accumulated many assets:
- Deferred compensation plans
- Stock options in a growing company
- Family home
- Two vacation homes
Now they have to figure out how to sort through all of this, which will no doubt be overwhelming, and can create a lot of tension between the two of them.
The future they had planned is no longer the future they thought it would be. Separating many assets can be a source of conflict, as is separating few assets – but with high-earning couples, it requires many more decisions and hence, more complex divorce agreements.
With the input of other professionals, appraisers, business valuators, retirement asset specialists and their legal advisors, we helped Paul and Rosa create a plan where they both felt protected, and felt their children were protected as well. Now they could part ways feeling they had done their best with this difficult situation.
At their last mediation session, as they were going through the final review of their agreement, there was a sense of relief in the room. They had come through this process and were still connected to each other. As they parted ways, they gave each other a hug. I myself had to hold back a tear as I saw them leave – divided, but together.
Not all mediations result in an amicable relationship for the couple post-divorce, but there is a much higher chance of remaining friendly using mediation, than having two lawyers fight it out in court.
Do you have an amicable relationship with your ex? Please share your story with us in the “Leave a Reply” box below.
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 firstname.lastname@example.org connect on