One of the greatest challenges I have as a divorce mediator is to divide a couple’s marital estate so that both parties are able to move forward financially as separate individuals. Not only is it important to allocate the parties’ respective assets and debts according to the law, but it is also essential as a divorce mediator to ensure that each individual will be able to afford his or her financial obligations once the decisions have been made.
Something that we’ve seen more often recently in this down economy has been a marital estate with minimal or negative net worth. When the divorcing couple’s assets and debts are tallied, the net value of their current assets and debts can be barely adequate or they owe creditors more than they own in assets. The reason for this recent trend has been the challenged economy. How do they sell their marital residence and walk away with funds sufficient to support two households?
The good news is that the economy appears to be turning around and the economic indicators support this positive outlook. Couples who’ve been holding off on getting divorced are now finding that they can afford to move forward with their plans. Take a look at this recent article from NPR. According to this article, several factors are contributing to this turn around from the loosening of credit markets to the stock market “nearly doubling from its darkest days.” The housing market is recovering so that a couple can afford to sell their marital residence and the value of a business asset is rebounding. All a couple needs to do then if they’ve been holding off for financial reasons is to find their way through the divorce process without giving away their cushion. I would certainly recommend mediation as the path that would allow these couples the opportunity to retain their assets as they move on with their lives.