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There is divorce. And then there is divorce. The first preserves as much wealth as possible for the sake of the children: the second can be quite ugly, preserving nothing but bitter memories.
Then there is another kind of divorce. It’s called a Clean Break Order, and it occurs when mediation fails.
But first, what is mediation?
According to the Divorce Conference, mediation is the way to resolve the issues surrounding divorce, which can otherwise be both confusing and overwhelming, leaving participants (and their growing children) emotionally, mentally, physically and financially drained.
Divorce is hard on all of the above, emotions and finances most of all. Those of us who endured the process before mediation took center stage wish we had had someone there to virtually hold our hands during every step of the process.
If you are considering divorce, you can have that support, and having it may mean the difference between permanent alienation between parents and/or partners, and an ongoing relationship in which the primary focus is nurturing the children produced by that relationship.
What mediation can and can’t do
Successful mediation during a divorce can allow parents to achieve an emotionally healthy relationship as they transition to new stages in their lives and, potentially, new partners.
More important, mediation offers a private venue to work out differences, unlike litigation, which is very public and sometimes devastating to one parent or the other – or to the children involved.
However, mediation can’t resolve issues between two people who come to the table, virtually speaking, without knowing exactly what is needed for each to continue on a stable and fruitful path to the future.
Any decision made during mediation that leaves out essential financial or visitation details, or favors one partner as opposed to the other, is likely to be challenged in court as having been arrived at under duress. When this happens, all the time, effort and money spent is lost.
Even where mediation is successful …
Couples should consider the Clean Break Order, which means that each partner’s financial affairs are completely severed from each other.
This is useful in the event that one half of the former partnership becomes inordinately successful and wealthy, as happened with both Nigel Page and Dale Vince.
Both were sued, and successfully, as long as 30 years after their divorce, for a percentage of their fortunes. In Page’s case, the settlement of £2 million was the result of a lottery winning. Vince, who later made his fortune in wind turbines, paid his ex-wife out of his £100 million fortune, so likely was not severely hampered financially, but the back support for an ex-wife and child from that marriage no doubt stung emotionally.
Up until recently, such options as mediation and the Clean Break Order were not available to divorcing couples, who had to make do with parsing out annuities, pensions and retirement funds.
Today, finances can be cleanly separated, meaning under-age children will be supported until their majority, and homemakers provided with alimony, until such time as the children are no longer vulnerable members of society and the wife and mother off on a career of her own.
Sadly, at this point the Clean Break Order law applies only in the United Kingdom, where such orders allow the circumscribing of wealth. Hopefully, the United States will soon see the wisdom of this procedure, and institute similar laws.