Being transparent feels unnatural to some and natural to others
Transparency is a funny thing and can become quite uncomfortable if one or both parties do not comply. People become less transparent for a number of reasons such as when they:
- Truly want to hide something
- See unexpected behavioral patterns in their spouse
- Fear their spouse is going to use the information against them
- Are unclear of the financial outcomes and related ramifications of the process
- Feel they are the rightful owners of a particular asset (e.g. an equity interest in a partnership, piece of real estate, etc.) or income stream
History proves divorce processes drag on when transparency does not exist. People fight over many issues. Yet one of the more prevalent issues is money. Designing a clear solution that works for everyone involved is critical to resolve the conflict that exists. The path of least resistance to accomplish this and limit going back to court in the future is to be more transparent than not. If you are in a state of mind where you prefer a path of least resistance and less aggravation then you might choose to be more transparent. If you are in a different state of mind, then you might choose to be less transparent. Some people believe they can “win” without being transparent. A lack of transparency has historically proven that you will pay:
- A lot more to your advisors
- In your personal and private memories as you could create more memories in your divorce process based on how you handle it
- Through the deterioration of the relationships you have built with your spouse which may no longer exist based on how you treat your spouse through your divorce
- Through your reputation that inadvertently (and potentially unintentionally) gets spread around the community from anyone that hears about your situation
- Through your children
You are the only person who can decide whether being “less transparent” is worth it.
Everyone shapes their decision differently. It all depends on the factors surrounding the situation and whether you know how to best maneuver through the unchartered waters using transparency as your friend or whether hiding information is your best bet.
Emotions can influence your desire to be transparent
When emotion (e.g. fear) overcomes logical thinking, people’s minds go in many directions and makes them do things you would not expect. Some fears are real and need to be managed. Others are simply manufactured in the mind as an “unrealistic expectation”. In either situation, someone’s perception is her or his reality. This creates internal conflict in the relationship even though it may be moving toward a new state. No matter how you look at it, the lack of a common mindset spells bad news for the parties involved in the divorce process. Why?
Many times the other party has information from a prior conversation or even documentation where they know something exists. With that limited knowledge they want to see the entire puzzle in a nicely organized structure. To arrive at a settlement they want and need to have all of the information on the table.
By hiding the information from your spouse you end up incurring significant fees that ultimately drain the marital estate leaving you, and potentially your children, with fewer assets for investment, college funding, etc. Your spouse will likely push and push and push again to see the information until you finally comply and your spouse receives what they have requested. If this is what will ultimately happen after all of the fighting (which by the way does happen many times in divorces) why engage in this process? Furthermore, if you or your spouse hold back information from the other party you will discover a judge will look unfavorably on your behaviors, lack of transparency and may rule against you. In the end, what was the point?
So, can transparency be a good thing?
In many situations the answer is yes. Why? The reason is transparency puts the pieces on the table. Divorce architects can analyze these pieces and ask questions such as:
- Does everything make sense?
- What data is missing?
- How is everything being defined?
- Is there another way to define the information provided?
- How do we design a financial solution that can truly work for both parties?
- How can this situation be brought to a close as quickly as possible?
The only way to arrive at a clear outcome is to be transparent. Otherwise both parties drain their assets, have memorable experiences from their divorce process and it is much more difficult to arrive at a clear and compelling solution that both parties can agree on to close the situation.
About the Author
Larry Smith is a Founding Partner of Divorce Outcomes, a specialized professional services firm that manages all of the financial aspects in a divorce process. Since 2003 he has worked as a trusted financial advisor, financial advocate, divorce architect and technical financial expert; he is not an attorney. He is an alumni of KPMG and Andersen with expertise in technical accounting, forensics, sophisticated taxation, management consulting, risk management, advanced process engineering, business combinations, divorce management, multi-party negotiations, advanced quality analytics and cognitive performance technologies. Since 1986 Larry has been advising individuals and organizations about innovative financial solutions to resolve complex financial challenges that arise in life and in business.
For both personal and business divorces, Larry is considered an expert in divorce strategies, divorce process management, financial divorce architecture, financial risk management, taxation for divorces, financial divorce forensics, advanced divorce analytics, financial divorce negotiations and mediation, business valuations and sophisticated equity structures. He helps clients shape complex financial decisions, manage communication risks and ever-changing negotiating positions to strategically preserve or grow wealth from these types of transactions.
If You Have a Question
If you have a question, feel free to contact me at [email protected] or 617-680-5222. The call is free. I will spend 30–60 minutes with you. I will provide you an honest assessment as to where I think you are positioned in your divorce process or answer any questions you have. I may provide you some guidance, insight or advice that you can take with you as you wish. There is no obligation to move forward. The phone call is designed to ease your fears, provide you some options to pursue and a potential road to run on that can lead you down a path to achieve a successful outcome.
About Divorce Outcomes
Divorce Outcomes is a specialty services firm that helps people both domestically and internationally manage all of the financial decisions that arise in their divorce process. We are not attorneys. We are financial experts who partner with our clients as their personal financial advocates. We help our clients manage their divorce process, uncover hidden financial risks, architect divorce solutions, manage ever-changing negotiating positions, communicate complex financial matters and close the divorce process as soon as possible with a goal to arrive at the best outcomes possible. Throughout the process we evaluate the current state of our clients’ financial lives with an objective to best reposition their future. We do not sell any products. We simply raise issues that are in our clients best interest. Our clients share with us we:
- unfold, analyze and repackage their financial life so they are well positioned after their divorce
- preserve the value of their business or marital estate
- continuously strive to provide a return on our services
- build balanced financial solutions grounded in evidence
- find ways to make our client, and at times both parties, money through the process
- design their divorce to work for them and their family’s life
- provide mental clarity to make decisions
- reduce the total process time from start to close
- minimize the stress and unpleasant memories that can last a lifetime
As we reach an agreed upon settlement structure, we help our clients identify a fitting attorney who can leverage the financial solution to draft and record the requisite legal documents. Where outcomes are at risk from a traditional process, we function as expert financial negotiators or financial mediators to turn around the situation and achieve our client’s desired outcomes.
This communication is for general informational purposes only which may or may not reflect the most current developments. It is not intended to constitute formal advice or a recommended course of action as every person’s situation is unique and different. The information here is not intended to be, and should not be, relied upon by the recipient to make a decision without professional guidance.