by Karen J. Levitt and Susan Miller
Part I of III – By Karen J Levitt
Why Consider Using a Financial Neutral in Mediation?
Financial neutrals can be the unsung heroes of divorce settlements in mediation, and are underutilized by clients and professionals alike. Not only can financial neutrals be critical to making reasoned decisions, but they also can be a pathway to clients being able to connect the dots between settlement negotiations and settlement agreement.
A financial neutral works for both parties, and does not take “sides.” Their goal is to analyze finances in an easy and cost-efficient way, to help the parties come up with equitable solutions for disentangling their finances. The work financial neutrals do in divorce mediation can take many forms: asset/liability spreadsheets to provide an easy reference guide for negotiations; settlement scenarios so that parties can visually see and understand potential outcomes for asset division or child support and alimony; tax analyses to address capital gains or other tax ramifications of divorce; considerations related to pre- and post-tax assets; or analyses that address retirement or other financial projections that can be helpful in decision making.
Sound complicated and expensive? Maybe. Is it? It doesn’t have to be – not if you have the right financial neutral.
In the wake of a 2022 Massachusetts case, Cavanagh v. Cavanagh, financial neutrals for asset division and support may become the norm in mediation rather than the exception. Not all financial neutrals work in the divorce space. Finding one who does makes a difference. Not only do they understand the context within which they are being asked to perform services, but they also can present the information in the most beneficial way to the parties.
Want to know more? Look for Part II of our series! In Part II, Susan Miller explains the role of the financial neutral in divorce mediation.
Susan Miller, CPA, CFP, CDFA is The Managing Director of Dispute Resolution and Senior Wealth Advisor with The Colony Group, Wellesley, MA, and is a well-respected financial neutral in mediation, Collaborative Law and litigation.