Saving $$$$ Divorcing — Financial Statements

By Guest Blogger, Anthony C. Adamopoulos

In my over 25 years of helping people facing divorce, I have seen, in almost every divorce, a reoccurring client decision that results in wasting hundreds, and sometimes, thousands of dollars.

What is that decision? The decision not to read and follow the court’s instructions on how to complete the court’s Financial Statement.

In all divorce cases, the most important document is the Probate and Family Court Financial Statement.

In an “uncontested” divorce, the judge reads the Financial Statement to help her or him decide if she or he will approve the parties’ Separation Agreement. I have seen judges, or their clerks, refuse to let uncontested divorce cases be approved because Financial Statements did not conform to the court’s instructions.

In contested cases, the Financial Statement helps the judge determine many issues, for example, the standard of living of a party, the needs of a party, and the honesty of a party.

In my office, and the offices of many attorneys I know, we do not complete client Financial Statements. No client of mine can ever say, “I do not know where that number came from, my attorney completed the Financial Statement.” Clients must complete their own Financial Statements.

The Probate and Family Court Instructions for Financial Statements can be found by going to my web site DivorcingOptions.com, then to RESOURCES, then to Long Form Instructions or Short Form Instructions.

There are about 13 to 15 paragraphs of instruction.

The instructions for both forms are accompanied by a self-calculating form for the user’s convenience.

Here is a list of the most ignored instructions:

  1. Fill in your name and address;
  2. Answer every question;
  3. If an answer to a question is 0 or none, enter 0 or none;
  4. All income and expenses are to be reported in weekly amounts with monthly figures being divided by 4.3;
  5. List all assets and present value.

5.Since the Family Court wants its instructions followed, my paralegal or I must point out what needs to be changed, in a client’s draft Statement, to comply with the court’s instructions.

Because clients are paying for time, the amount of errors and the amount of resistance (Yes, some clients resist the court’s instructions under the misbelief that the court will make an exception in their case.) can result in legal fees that are avoidable.

The take away:

The court’s instructions are few and clear. Taking the time to follow them can save you $$$$.

Please click the link to navigate to Anthony C. Adamopoulos’s website.

Divorce Decree Can’t Compel Mediation

In a recent ruling on Ventrice v. Ventrice, a husband and wife could not be compelled to engage in mediation at their own expense as a condition of their being permitted to file actions in the future to enforce or modify the terms of their divorce. The husband argued that his right to free access to the courts was violated by a clause in his divorce decree requiring the parties to engage in, and pay for, court-directed mediation before either could file any subsequent action in court. Ultimately, the Court agreed. And so do we. In fact, one of our Divorce Mediation experts, C. Michele Dorsey, Esq. writes, “For mediation to be truly effective, it must be voluntary. There have been noble efforts by courts and other administrative agencies to work around this by establishing rules that attempt to address the concerns that arise when court-connected mediation is mandated.” Current Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c.233, aec.23c) provides limited direction and protection for people who choose to participate in private mediation. Ventrice v. Ventrice refers to the direction given by the court in Bower v. Bournay-Bower, a decision that addressed issues regarding the authority of parenting coordinators, but also mentioned mediators and other ADR professionals. It’s high time to enact a comprehensive statute that provides protection to people who choose to engage in private mediation as well as guidance for private mediators.

Mediation is a valuable service which should be available without having to compromise constitutional rights.” Another of our Divorce Mediation experts, Patricia D. Watson, Esq. further notes, “The reference in the decision to Gustin v. Gustin, which held that a judge cannot order the parties to binding arbitration unless they agree to do so, suggests that this decision limits what a judge can order, but does not limit the ability of the parties to agree otherwise.” This indicates that the decision in Ventrice v. Ventrice may be more narrow than it first appears. What does all this mean to those seeking Alternative Dispute Resolution? Mediation and arbitration still remain available to divorce litigants who both agree to employ a process that will provide a faster, less expensive, and less stressful resolution of their conflict then going to court.

Our experts in divorce mediation can help you and your clients resolve even the most contentious of conflicts. Visit us at www.mdrs.com or call us at (800) 536-5520 to learn more about how we can help you achieve the results you need.