Many people choose to finalize their parenting rights in their divorce before opening up discussions around their financial issues. This may sound very logical on the surface. Yet, if you dug deeper and focused on the entire “negotiation” of your divorce you would discover resolving parenting rights in isolation can be a risky approach. 

Why do people focus on parenting rights early on in the divorce process?

Most parents want to make sure they maintain a strong relationship with their kids. They also want to nurture and shape their children into the adults they want them to become later in life. At times spouses disagree on how to raise their children. Each parent wants to ensure their children obtain the appropriate value system. Yet certain parents are not aligned in their value systems which can create conflict around who should maintain primary custody and how to design visiting rights.

When parents have different value systems or parenting styles the topic of parenting rights pushes its way to the forefront of divorce discussions. Our children are of utmost importance to us. The value system they develop impacts how they will:

  • view the world
  • take an interest in certain activities
  • develop relationships
  • stand up for themselves during conflict
  • conduct themselves in public
  • among so many other aspects of life that are so precious and important to get right

Your kids will remember who loved them, who provided them guidance, who listened to them, among many other sensitive issues that exist in the complex world we live in.

Another reason why parenting rights are discussed early on is it’s “easier” to talk about these issues than discuss the financial matters that have to be addressed during a divorce. Not everyone understands the financial complexities that may exist in their marriage. People are usually unclear how to arrive at a clear and logical settlement that will achieve their desired financial outcomes.

People often ask:

  • What is the process to get from where I am today to where I need to be? 
  • How do I manage all of the changes that arise in a divorce process?
  • Do I truly have to “self manage” this process and ensure every financial decision brings me to the right financial outcome?
  • How will my divorce process impact me, financially and emotionally? 
  • How will my divorce process impact my children, financially and emotionally?

It is common for confusion to set in when you start thinking about the financial issues. Numerous questions arise which can be difficult to untangle. People struggle to figure out how to best navigate their situations.

As a result, each spouse usually wants to resolve issues around parenting rights early on in their divorce. Once this piece of the puzzle is in place they feel they can resolve everything else. Yet, that is not always the way things work in divorces. In fact it can be quite risky to resolve parenting rights in isolation without also focusing on the financial settlement aspects at the same time. Below, we outline some risks that arise if you focus on parenting rights in isolation.

6 major risks that arise when negotiating parenting rights in isolation

If your spouse does not come close to arriving at her or his desired outcomes you can expect your spouse to change future negotiating stances even after everything is settled. Some of the risks you might experience are outlined below.

  1. Unwanted negotiating positions throughout your divorce process

You will find it very difficult to get anything else you want in your divorce process. For most parents their children mean everything to them. If a parent loses out on this aspect of life you can expect the parent to fight tooth and nail for everything else throughout the divorce process. No matter what you say or how you try to position your negotiations it appears you are pushing a rock up a large hill. There are ways to manage this as long as you choose the right approach and the right process too.

  1. Rehashing unwanted memories that do not truly yield a benefit to anyone

Although you may not agree with how things were handled in the past many times rehashing old memories has no connection to your desired financial outcomes or relationships with your children. You have to ask yourself why spend money on these issues if they will not translate to any positive outcomes.

In fact rehashing unwanted memories could create more harm than good. If you provide unwanted exposure to your children about a topic that should not have been shared the remainder of your divorce process can go down a very sour path. Even worse the thoughts you planted inside your children’s minds might stay with them forever.

  1. Co-parenting challenges, post-divorce

If your spouse doesn’t gain something in return for losing out on her or his desired parenting rights you can expect the remainder of life to be even more challenging.

If you negotiate your parenting rights in isolation there is truly nothing else to “give away” during that discussion. If you discuss your financial settlement later on the parent who did not gain what she or he wanted will view the financial settlement as a separate negotiation. Feelings of intense bitterness will settle in and create significant challenges to co-parent later in life.

  1. Your spouse may seek “financial revenge”

One would think decisions you make early on would provide you momentum to resolve other issues that arise later in the process. Yet, the fact you were awarded certain parenting rights (and your spouse was not) can hurt you when it comes to financial negotiations that follow. If someone feels they did not get as much as they wanted around parenting rights they will dig in deeper to win everything else, especially when it comes to financial matters.

How you negotiate parenting rights can become a very sensitive topic. It has to be delicately managed so you do not lose everything else in the process. Some people share they do not care about anything else besides their kids. We understand. Yet, parenting rights come with much financial responsibility. As a result, this process needs to be handled delicately so you can obtain the financial outcomes you need too.

  1. Your kids discover early on how their lives will be mapped out

Kids can unintentionally create more pressure on the situation if the parenting rights do not work out the way they wanted. They will start to talk about issues which leads to even more pressure for you and your spouse to work things out throughout the remainder of your divorce process. How and when you discuss these matters with your children is very sensitive and should be discussed with a professional who focuses on these matters.

  1. You spend lots of money on legal documentation where a trigger event will not arise

People find their divorce process is an opportunity to vent. Through this venting process your advisor may recommend certain protections as she or he looks out for your best interests. Yet, you may discover in hindsight that you spent a lot of money on issues that will never transpire. An example is where your spouse did something inappropriate years ago. Yet, you and your spouse have reconciled that behavior and you do not perceive that as a current or future concern.

History shows that divorces are complex negotiations and involve a lot of moving parts that have to work in concert with one another.

It is worthy to note if the parents live in different towns where they have underaged children then parenting rights may need to be negotiated in isolation. Why? There may be different school districts that have certain deadlines to apply for schooling. In these situations where the parent wants the child to live with her or him and go to school in her or his school district then custody may have to be awarded ahead of time at least temporarily. It may be wise to consider an interim solution to get through the schooling requirements. Then, after you and your spouse come to an agreement on the parenting rights, you can negotiate everything else in context to your desired financial outcomes too.

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.

Learn more about us at or review our blogs to gain a clearer understanding about our approach and how we maximize the financial outcomes for our clients.


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.

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