With Stan Corey, CFP®, CPWA®, Certified Financial Planner, Author of The Divorce Dance: Protect Your Money, Manage Your Emotions & Understand the Legal Issues
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After many years of working with divorcing couples, Certified Financial Planner Stan Corey has written a novel called The Divorce Dance, where his characters Jim and Natalie take the reader on a sort of fictional journey through the entire process of divorce. Conceding that women are genetically more amenable to the idea of a self-help book, Stan has Natalie be the teacher, the one who does the research and drives the story along.
Early on in the story, Natalie interviews several attorneys, and judging by their strengths and weaknesses (which are described in the book) decides which is best for her situation. The reader, in turn, can learn which would be in their favor, often depending upon whether or not children are involved, the presence or absence of animosity, financial needs, etc.
In addition, Natalie learns that often the best course of action involves more than simply the selection of a lawyer, but is greatly enhanced by incorporating litigation, mediation, and collaboration.
Stan emphasizes the importance of knowing the divorce laws in your state. Although child support is mandated by statute, alimony and marital settlements are not, so determining the assets and worth of each couple is where a financial planner comes into the dance.
In those states which are called equitable distribution states, Florida and Virginia are two examples, a detailed look at all assets and earnings precedes the allocation of finances, which is usually done on a percentage basis. The financial implications, particularly for the woman if she is the lower wage earner, are not always clear during the emotional period of the divorce process, so having that expert advice can be critical.
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Steve Pomeranz: Stan Corey is a Certified Financial Planner. We’re here to discuss his book The Divorce Dance which takes you through a step-by-step analysis of almost every aspect of divorce, through the eyes of a fictional divorcing couple as they experience the truth about divorce.
I want to welcome Stan Corey to the show. Hey, Stan. Welcome.
Stan Corey: Well, hello. Happy to be here.
Steve Pomeranz: You know, this is a very readable book. It’s a far cry from the dry types of books we see on divorce. Tell us a little bit about the fictional characters of Jim and Natalie.
Stan Corey: Well, it’s sort of a culmination of about twenty-five to thirty years of working with cases and divorce as a specialty. What I’ve found over the years that most of the clients I deal with in my normal planning practice …dealing with stories… or telling stories of how to incorporate concepts and ideas has always been a powerful tool. And in teaching, when I’ve done that as well, and researching all the different things that are out there, when I’d had this book in my head for quite a while, and decided to finally do it.
The decision was to make this more of a novel and make it readable. And then for someone going through the process of divorce, then they could dig into the weeds as much as they would like to, depending on what the situation was.
Steve Pomeranz: What about these two characters, Jim and Natalie? What did you say about them that made them interesting and a good tool for you to help readers?
Stan Corey: I think that it’s a more classic tool. One of the other parts of research shows the reality is that men have a defective genetic marker on our chromosome, which is that we don’t like to read help books, so mostly women read help books.
Steve Pomeranz: That’s true.
Stan Corey: As a result, I end up having Natalie be the teacher to the reader.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay.
Stan Corey: Jim is the one that comes home, does one of the classic moves that he’s been preparing for a while, and makes the announcement. She is a smart person, a teacher, but she goes on her own pathway of learning. As she learns and gains understanding, researching things, she’s been teaching the reader through that process of divorce.
Steve Pomeranz: All right. Let’s talk about some of the processes that she discovers, and I guess then passes on to Jim.
I don’t think there’s a lot of new information for divorce lawyers here, but I think probably divorce lawyers could learn from this book. What about the idea of choosing an attorney? How do Jim and Natalie … what do they learn about that process?
Stan Corey: Basically there’s two things. One is, you’re correct, lawyers themselves reading this …the main thing lawyers will gain from this is recognition… that they can incorporate more than one methodology for divorces. It’s not just about litigation or mediation or collaboration, there is a hybrid way to do it.
As far as choosing types of lawyers, again Natalie’s the one. Jim, in this case, doesn’t think he needs one when he starts out.
He’s in line to do mediation and wants to do it as least expensively as possible. Natalie, on the other hand, is advised to seek an attorney. She goes on this process of interviewing several attorneys and trying to determine which one would be most suitable for her. And then the book presents different ideas from each of these attorneys.
Steve Pomeranz: I see.
Stan Corey: Depending on their strengths or weaknesses as far as dealing with mediation, or collaborative experience, or they’re litigators only, or how that represent their clients. Whether they are more aggressive, or less aggressive, or they were looking to reach a solution through compromise, or how they dealt with children in the program.
These are all things that become very important to you when you choose an attorney, because this attorney’s going to represent your best interests. And especially when there are children involved, my goal was that he would try to develop working with someone that would give you a more respectable divorce…
Steve Pomeranz: Yes.
Stan Corey: … recognizing you’re going to be involved with your ex for the rest of your life, so why not do something a little bit more respectful when, especially, children are involved?
Steve Pomeranz: The book is The Divorce Dance, Stan Corey is the author, and he’s with me here today. You know, in marriage the experience is a complex mix of personal issues and family systems, and intimacy, sex, and communication. Is there a business aspect to marriage that is often ignored, but should not be?
Stan Corey: I think that the business aspect should be that it’s as difficult to get married as it is to get divorced. It could be a huge business right there. I think that really a lot of the things you learn through the behavioral aspects of a relationship really is the key, and that all of us have our biases in how we deal with those things. And what we bring to our marriage is the same thing, so understanding those biases within the married couple is an important aspect of things.
Steve Pomeranz: All right. Give me some ideas when it comes to negotiating alimony or support or child support. What do these characters learn, and what can we learn from this book, about negotiating for support?
Stan Corey: Well, support is, in most cases, a negotiable type of thing. It’s not mandated by a statute, whereas child support is typically by statute.
Stan Corey: There are child support guidelines; there’s not a lot of negotiations done for child support. Child support is determined after the fact of determining if, in fact, there will be spousal support or alimony. In most states they are called equitable states—and I think Florida is one, as well as Virginia—is that you go through the process of identifying all the assets and all of the income from assets and earnings. Once you identify the assets and income that’s been derived, then you can allocate what’s the percentage of each …
Steve Pomeranz: Right.
Stan Corey: … and you go through a process of trying to determine what the needs of each spouse is for the post-divorce period. There are some basic starting formulas that start out to be what we call “temporary support guidelines”, but generally it’s about thirty-percent of the higher income earner less about fifty-percent of the lower income earner, but those are just starting points.
Steve Pomeranz: Yes.
Stan Corey: The actual ending point may be somewhat different than that, but that gives at least an initial foray into it to give someone an idea. If someone’s making a hundred thousand dollars and the partner’s making fifty-thousand, is there an amount of support that would be involved?
Steve Pomeranz: So there is a degree to which there is non-negotiable items set by statute, but there is a certain amount that is negotiable like you’ve just described. Is that right?
Stan Corey: Yes. There can be other extenuating circumstances: someone’s capability of working, have they worked in a long time, is it a long-term marriage or a short-term marriage. So a lot of extenuating circumstances that have to be applied, and that’s why they call these equitable distribution states.
Steve Pomeranz: Yes.
Stan Corey:Basically it can be determined by these other outside influences.
Steve Pomeranz: Where are you located, Stan? What state?
Stan Corey: We’re in Great Falls, Virginia.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, and is it similar in Virginia as it is in Florida?
Stan Corey: Yes, I believe so. Florida is also an equitable state.
Steve Pomeranz: What role can a financial planner play in the process of divorce? I know that accountants can play a role in terms of determining the assets, and where they are and how much they’re worth, but what role can a financial planner play?
Stan Corey: I think the really key role a financial planner can play … and this also is very true with collaborative divorce, where the financial planner is the only true neutral in the group setting of collaborative … basically to be able to take what someone thinks they’re about to agree to, and take that information and putting it into an analysis of looking down the road at how this is going to play out for them. What does this mean to them? My goal with many of the clients is to help them understand and interpret the meaning of what they’re about to agree to. Until they do understand it, they really shouldn’t sign anything or agree to it. A lot of times people have woken up a year or so later trying to figure out what the heck they did.
Steve Pomeranz: Yes.
Stan Corey: And if they don’t have the resources …and they find out, they can’t go back and redo it.
Steve Pomeranz: Right.
Stan Corey: I think it’s critical, the financial planner’s role is to help advise someone to the consequences of their decisions.
Steve Pomeranz: The determination of whether to go to mediation or whether to use an attorney. Very quickly, we’re light on time here. What would be one thing I would look at in order for me to make the correct decision?
Stan Corey: The issues of whether or not you’re having a contentious divorce or not. Most mediations are designed so that they could help you resolve matters of where you have conflict, and so forth, but they’re not when you’re battling each other or trying to beat each other up, and hiring an attorney, and having a lot of other more towards litigation issues. Mostly a mediator works with the attorney. We usually recommend someone to have an attorney as well, if you’re going through the mediation process.
Steve Pomeranz: Yes.
Stan Corey: A mediator is usually a kinder, gentler way of going through the process of divorce than just having lawyers go back and forth with each other …
Steve Pomeranz: Right.
Stan Corey: … representing your interests, without having the ability to sit down in a common room and having the conversation and trying to work together on finding a best solution.
Steve Pomeranz: I guess financially, it’s less onerous to the couple.
Stan Corey: Yes. For the most part, mediation is less expensive. Some people think it is low-end cost divorce, but it’s not always that case. But for the most part, it tends to be less expensive.
Steve Pomeranz: The book is The Divorce Dance and the author is Stan Corey. I thank you so much for taking the time to join us and tell us about your great book. Thank you, Stan.
Stan Corey: Thank you. I greatly appreciate the opportunity. Have a great day.