The Long and Short of It…

The Cost of Divorce

I often hear clients and friends comment on “what their lawyer got them” – for instance, somebody’s neighbor’s lawyer got her $500 a week in child support; or my sister’s best friend’s cousin’s lawyer got him the house, the car, and all his retirement. We’ve all heard this or are even guilty of saying this at one point or another. It’s human nature to seek out friends and family for advice when facing a difficult situation, particularly in a divorce. I certainly encourage this but it can be dangerous to rely on this information when setting your expectations in divorce. No two divorces are ever the same.

It is a misconception that you get out of your divorce what your lawyer “gets” you. A lawyer is there to advocate for you, sure, and zealous advocacy reaps reward, yes, but not all divorces are tailored for a battle to see who “gets” the most. Your lawyer should be an ally to help define your priorities, advocate for your needs, and reduce the cost of your divorce, both financially and emotionally.

While there are certainly several divorces where one spouse seems to “win,” the cost at which that victory came may harbor its own bitterness. It is not inconceivable, in fact its very realistic, that half, if not all, of the value you seek to “win” may be spent on the fight itself. And that cost is notwithstanding the emotional toll of the battle, which lingers on much longer than the financial impact. Divorce is often driven by emotion; once that emotion subsides, it may be replaced with anger and resentment – is what you are fighting for worth it? Before you compare what your friend “got” in a divorce, ask what it cost, not just in dollars.

Our adversarial system has created a divorce machine, churning out divorces at an alarming rate. The family law industry is a $50 billion a year industry in the U.S. – that seems illustrative to me of a divorce process that is unduly expensive and acrimonious. Your divorce does not have to be; choose to preserve your financial and emotional well-being whenever and wherever possible. Write your own divorce story.

Tips for Hiring the Right Business Attorney

There is a venn diagram on the back of my door.  One circle has “what lawyers put in their biographies.”  The other has “what clients look for in lawyer biographies.”  In the intersecting area are only two things:  email address and phone number.

Below are some considerations for hiring an attorney for your business, based on my experience as an entrepreneur and attorney.

1. Just the Facts.  There are a lot of “slam dunk” situations.  Most of them appear as such in the initial interview.  Meaning sometimes solutions are positioned as a “slam dunk” and sometimes the facts indicate the matter is a “slam dunk.”  Accurately portray your situation and carefully consider solutions that are unqualified.  Simple transactions can become complicated; hard cases can resolve easily.

2. Specializations & Scope.  Sometimes hiring an attorney with a specialization in a particular area is preferred or necessary.  On the other hand, a generalist (in my practice I call it “outsourced general counsel”) that understands your business and whom you trust can help you with everyday matters and to spot issues that require specialized engagement.  With more complex matters, however, that generalist should help you select specialized counsel, direct their services and manage the engagement to an efficient end.

Some owners need attorneys that help them do legally what they want to do.  Others want advice and help setting that course.  Your attorney can help in non-legal areas too, applying business experience, helping source capital, and making introductions to CPA’s and other advisors a successful enterprise needs, among other things.

3. Rates, Retainers and Second Opinions. No attorneys I know are afraid to discuss their rates, but some are apprehensive being the first one to raise the topic.  You should not be afraid to ask what they charge, whether (and if so) what payment terms are available, or if your matter is suitable for an alternative fee arrangement.  Some engagements do not require a retainer, in others, some payment photo copyup front is necessary.  Ask about the basis for the retainer, how it is paid in, and how it will be paid out.

Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion.  If you’re going to get one be sure to include all the facts.  When I provide them in my practice, we often simply provide peace of mind to the client.  Sometimes a second opinion can offer an additional tactic, deal structure, or strategy.  Regardless, retainers should be in line with the complexity or time involved with the work.  And we recommend that all fee agreements be in writing.

4. Don’t Hire A Jerk.  Unless you Want to.  Ebert & Friss point out that “professional chemistry” is important.  Think about how you make decisions.  Do you build consensus?  Do you want a counterpoint?  Are you searching for better solutions?  Are you outgoing, or reserved?  Who are you negotiating with, or up against?  Your attorney should compliment or match your style.

 5.  When to Hire.  Sometimes that issue we try to handle on our own gets out of control and we need to call someone that spends a lot of time in that area.  Other times we can handle it just as well on our own.  There is little risk in seeking counsel early as its usually more expensive to engage counsel later in the game, when facts have matured, evidence lost, or positions galvanized.  In some situations, you can obtain legal advice behind the scenes, and manage the situation and interaction on your own.  In others, like litigated matters, direct involvement is necessary from the outset.  Early consultation, even if you keep them inactive, is preferred.

 6.  Don’t Count BigLaw Out.  Experienced, well trained lawyers at big firms with (generally) more expensive rates can solve problems efficiently given firm resources and can be appropriate depending on the complexity of the transaction, parties involved, what is at stake, etc.  They can also become expensive quickly where multiple resources are deployed to address singular issues.  Defining the scope of work, setting economic parameters, and managing the process are important.

The Long and Short of It…

What’s Next?

Divorce is inevitably accompanied by change. Oftentimes, it seems as though divorce changes every aspect of life. Some of these changes are welcomed while others may cause fear. But the forced opportunity to make these changes can be liberating.

Any season of change, overwhelming as it may be, offers a great opportunity for self-reflection. It can be scary to face a future with so many uncertainties but what better time to redefine your priorities and goals? Perhaps you are having to change jobs to meet increasing financial demands, or even go back into the workforce after staying home – what a great time to pursue the career you’ve recently discovered you may love. Or maybe you’ve always wanted your kitchen to be bright yellow; maybe running a marathon is on your bucket list. It is empowering to map your future from a new perspective. Change is inevitable, take control and use it to your advantage. Consider using a divorce coach to help with this transition.

If children are part of your divorce, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the thought of not seeing your children everyday as you may be accustomed to. Having that time while they are with their other parent is a great opportunity to attack your to-do list so that the time you do spend with your children is focused on creating memories. How many times have you had to say “I don’t have the time” in the past? Now you can refocus your time – train for that marathon; read a book; take up a new hobby; or just relax and enjoy some time for yourself.

Divorce isn’t just an end; it’s a beginning.

6 Tips: Youth and Entrepreneurial Success

A birthday card from my in-laws (thanks Jan & Russ—Russ owns A+ Handyman of Noblesville) included three tips for staying young:

  1. Exercise Regularly;
  2. Maintain a Balanced Diet; and
  3. Lie About Your Age
The card provided a good chuckle and an opportunity for some morning reflection.  So, I grabbed my MacBook Air and some local Brunchies Blend brew and sat down to pen some “brilliance.”  Or step back and see how things are going.My Christmas list included three things.  One, to get back to my triathlon training weight.  This is and is not overly aggressive, something attainable by simply increasing training time and adding variety.  My daughter is rehabbing from an injury so we added time together at the gym, doing some swimming, cross training, weights and spinning.  But last month, bronchitis and the flu slowed things down; recovery and base building are on the menu this month.

Item two was eating healthier.  I seem to be a groundhog in a family of squirrels.  I eat a cookie and gain a pound, they eat a box of cookies and lose one.  Even so, Ive noticed how much processed stuff I eat.  So for Christmas I decided that this year, I was going to eat stuff that comes from the earth (for the most part) for thirty days.  This will be a challenge in a family that includes 5 outings for soccer a week, 2 for basketball, 3-4 for cheerleading, 1 for tennis, all on top of piano, homework, church related events, etc.  That means I haven’t started yet; check back this summer!

I started my first business after getting a regular paycheck for less than 9 months.  My second company came after being on the payroll for less than 24 months.  And there have been others along the line as well, short and long runs, successes and failures.  It can be said a million ways, but the benefits of entrepreneurship hinge on belief, hope and love.  Belief in yourself, and why you do what you do; hope in the success of the venture (or adventure); and love of what you’re doing, and those you’re doing it for.

Without those, it can feel like just hard work.

Hamilton County Scam Alert

I received this from a couple folks, and thought it might be of interest –Chris

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Deputy Bryant Orem, PIO

2014-008 (317) 776-4104

January 29, 2014 Bryant.Orem@hamiltoncounty.in.gov

New Variation of Old Scam in Hamilton County

Last year, con artists attempted to scam Hamilton County residents by calling and threatening arrest, claiming

victims were delinquent in paying taxes. A new variation of this scam has popped up in Hamilton County

with thieves now calling and threatening arrest because victims did not appear for jury duty. In an even more

interesting twist, the callers may be using names of courthouse employees to lend credence to their calls.

The scam works like this: A victim answers the telephone and the caller says a warrant is being issued for not

appearing for jury duty (or paying taxes or another offense). The caller may give the name of a courthouse

employee or a name similar to an employee. Caller ID may even show the call originating from a local number

as these ID’s are easy to fake with current technology. The caller then states that the victim can avoid the arrest

by paying a fine submitted by wire transfer or pre-paid credit card. Pressure is put on the victim to pay quickly

in order to avoid jail time since once paperwork is submitted the arrest is imminent. The caller may even

provide another telephone number to call to verify the offense and pending arrest.

As a reminder, arrest warrants in Hamilton County are not served over the telephone. If you are ever in doubt

that you are speaking with an official county employee, hang up the telephone, research the appropriate number,

and contact the agency directly. Do not call a number given by the person on the telephone as it probably is

not a correct number. If you owe money to the county or to any government agency, contact the office directly

to determine how the money should be paid. Most government agencies do not use wire transfers or pre-paid

credit cards. It is almost impossible to track or recover money if the victim falls for the fraud.

If you receive one of these scam phone calls, or one similar to it, please report it to the appropriate law

enforcement jurisdiction. Hamilton County Communications at 317-773-1282 can direct you to the appropriate

agency to determine if a report should be filed.

Help for New Year’s Resolutions…

Here are “10 Signs You Won’t Reach Your Resolutions This Year” by Ellen Goldman.  I expected that it would be a list,which would be a downer to this would be optimist, but to my surprise the article includes some good tips to turn the signs around.  For example if you don’t have a tracking system, she recommends getting a journal or some other means of tracking your results.  She also makes recommendations for what to do if you lack support or if you make the same resolution every year.

Here is my by no means certified take, that I picked up on through Tune Consulting, which is owned by my pal, Chip McLean.  He has a lot of great tools on the site for planning and tracking goals, but they simply scratches the surface.  Since our beliefs drive our behaviors, in order to meet our resolutions (that is, to change) we need to examine the beliefs that drive our behaviors.  This can be challenging, time consuming, yet worthwhile stuff, like the success those Biggest Loser contestants experience after Jillian yells at them and they cry.
If you see signs of your resolutions failing, as 85% of us do, then you may consider moving beyond the action and behaviors, and trying to discover potentially hidden assumptions about your beliefs that impact how you see the world, and yourself in it.  This burns new paths in the brain, and takes change or resolutions to a deeper level.  And change, from the inside out, is the key to success.
What is your resolution?  Are you on track?  If not, do you know why?
Enjoy the rest of your week.
Chris

‘Tis the Season to be Merry…and get Married

Christmas EngagementThe holiday season is the most popular time of year to get engaged, with three of the four most common holidays for proposing falling in November and December.  And what a beautiful time for it, with the romantic backdrop of the season and all the brilliant lights, how does a sparkly diamond not fit perfectly?  But once the glow of that holiday proposal wears off, its time to consider the unromantic aspects of getting married.  Perhaps the least romantic consideration of all is a prenuptial agreement.  What a buzzkill right?!

Although couples are increasingly executing prenuptial agreements, the fact remains that the majority of couples avoid even discussing the prospect of one.  A prenuptial agreement is important for a number of reasons though.  And they are no longer just for the rich and famous.

A common misconception about prenuptial agreements is that they only protect substantial assets that one party, or both, bring to the marriage.  Not true.  In fact, prenuptial agreements can protect current assets, future assets, inheritance, and even debt.  Are you currently a student racking up more in the debt column than income?  I suspect that you intend to put that debt to good use and obtain a well-paying job with the degree it is buying.  If so, you can protect that future income (think retirement here) and protect your future spouse from having to assume any of your student debt with a prenuptial agreement.  See, not so self-serving after all!  Does your family own a business or a lake house that you may have an interest in one day?  If you want that to remain in your family, protect it with a prenuptial agreement.  Prenuptial agreements can also insulate you from “secret” credit card debt that your spouse may incur unbeknownst to you.  In Indiana, as a married person, you may be liable for any and all of your spouse’s debt even if it is obtained through no effort of your own, without your knowledge, or in your spouse’s sole name.  While I certainly hope you never divorce, having pre-defined the terms of a split while you are still basking in the romantic glow of the engagement is a good idea and is likely to save you time, money, and heartache down the road (of course in the unlikely event you divorce).  You’ve all heard of or witnessed those terrible, drawn-out, mud-slinging divorce cases – why not prevent that from ever happening to you?

We’re all in the hustle and bustle mode this time of year, with holiday preparations and celebrations, wearing the ugliest Christmas sweater you can find, the search for the perfect gift, and generally just wrapping up another year gone by.  An utterly unromantic prenuptial agreement sounds like such a drag on such fun, but if you are getting engaged or married during this idyllic time of year, adding a prenuptial agreement to your list of New Year’s resolutions is a wise investment in your emotional and financial future.