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“Protect yourself” is often the advice you are given by loving family and friends. But how does an affluent Christian or business owner “protect themselves” at time of divorce and what do you need to protect yourself from? There are some really important issues to think about relative to protecting yourself

 

Traditionally, when you divorce, your case is a public matter. The public can come off the bus stop bench and sit in the courtroom and watch you on trial. That may not be desirable for anyone, especially, Christian small and family business owners and high net worth individuals at time of divorce. Most don’t want their finances and personal issues publicly paraded around. As a higher profile family, people see you. You may not want your customers, clients, employees, employer, even children having access to the content of your divorce. When we work with you, we are not the government, so we are not subject to “sunshine laws'' requiring public access to proceedings. Your case is private, and no one is there without your permission. The documents and records are not retained. The only output of your settlement that goes to the court is your settlement agreement itself, which you are asking the court to sign and make it an order of the court. The court will order what your settlement contains, and, in that way, your confidentiality and privacy is maintained in the process, while arriving at your fully enforceable settlement and order of divorce.

Protecting your finances can be multi-faceted. What exactly are the divisible assets, where are they located, what are they worth, how can I be confident? We understand these issues. We also understand that paying each side’s lawyers $500 per hour or more often means you, as a family, are paying $1,000 or more per hour combined. This starts immediately, not at trial. It will be $1,000 per hour to write up motions and orders, to respond to them, draft interrogatories, prepare for depositions, sit in depositions,  sit in hearings, status conference hearings, mediations, and ultimately protracted trials. We have had clients see this drag on for years prior to coming to us, having spent upwards of $50,000 to $100,000 each (one couple with a family business spent approximately $250,000 each), only to exhaust the family resources and have their lawyers say, ‘Hay, why don’t you try mediation now since you are out of money.” That is not a Biblical process, and it is not protecting your financial assets. We provide a better way to navigate a horrible situation when reconciliation has failed. 

 What if you or your spouse took some tax shortcuts, as most small business owners do? There is so much gray area and overlap between business and personal income and expenses. How do you protect yourself from additional personal tax liability especially if you are not familiar with the business and its finances?  

First, we are not the government and we do not report any of your personal, financial, or business information to any government or agency; especially and including, the Internal Revenue Service. Second, we will help craft a settlement with you that addresses all of your concerns including tax issues. We ask deep probing questions of the couple, and we require full financial disclosure, including the last three years business Balance Sheets, Income Statements, and Statements of Cash Flows, as well as personal and business tax returns for the last three years. Our Christian family business divorce legal mediators are well versed in understanding these financial statements and asking the right questions. Ultimately, any financial disclosures made for the court are made under penalty of perjury and subject to contempt of court. Contempt of court is subject to financial penalty and even time in jail. We will not take a case unless we believe a fair outcome can be had. 

How do you protect yourself and ensure fairness? It is important that you choose someone you are comfortable working with and who has expertise in mediation, family law, small business and high net worth Christian families. We believe we have that option, and we provide the only Biblically consistent dispute resolution process for Christian Family Businesses and High Net Worth individuals that we are aware of. So many Christian lawyers, Christian attorneys and Christian mediators will not assist a couple to resolve separation and divorce related issues even though 1 Cor 6:1-6 demands it. We understand that fairness is not just for some issues and not for others. Whether you are the one seeking divorce or are the innocent spouse, 1 Cor 6 does not say “do the following for some issues or when you feel like it.” Rather, it says, “do the following.” We do not divorce people, but we do provide a Bible based process for resolving the same issues that you would otherwise ask a secular court to impose a decision about onto you.  

How do you protect your children and retain control over how you raise them? As an affluent Christian family, there are so many ways to go wrong here. Even adult Christian children of divorce suffer damage from their parent’s divorce. We will bring a family focused process that puts God and children first. Please read more on this website about that. At all times, we strive to help you to minimize the damage done to children in the separation and divorce process. That child centered focus will help you protect them, especially from the one size fits all approaches to parenting that the secular courts seem to take. Anyone who says “children are resilient, they will get over it” is simply wrong. It may be their loving hope for your children, but the research says that is not correct. The only other alternative is that a secular court judge will issue an order on how you will raise your children, and chances are strong that it will not be Christian judge.

You are facing separation or divorce. How do you protect your witness? As a leader, others are watching you. Going through divorce is bad enough. Going through the typical divorce “war”, whether you intend to or not, destroys your witness. That war begins by lawyering up and entering the traditional litigation process. You have an opportunity to do things differently. You can achieve the same fair outcomes, but by using the Biblical dispute resolution process, rather than secular litigation. You have a chance to be a peacemaker for your family and to demonstrate to others God’s compassion, love, and forgiveness. You can’t do this while dragging your family through litigation and destroying it. A pastor once told us, “If you can’t honor God with your marriage, don’t disgrace him in how you divorce.” 

How do you protect your family’s business at time of divorce? Traditional divorce litigation puts your whole family business on the line. If you and your spouse do not agree on the value of your business the court can simply order it sold, the debts paid, and the proceeds then to be divided. Your customers and employees can see the ugly process and you may lose some or all of both. Do prospective clients want to sign up with you if the business may not be there down the road? Employees usually feel the tension even if they don’t know what is going on, and if they do know about the divorce, they may seek alternative employment because of the lack of confidence in their job security or simply to avoid the angst and inherent tension present in these situations.

Certainly, businesses can be valued, but a formal divorce business valuation typically costs between $5,000 and $10,000. Can you be confident that one spouse or the other has not exerted undue pressure on the business appraiser to value the business for the divorce settlement either higher or lower to benefit one spouse and disadvantage the other? What if one spouse obtains a valuation that you don’t have confidence in? Do you pay for another to seek a valuation more consistent with your view of the appropriate value? If so, will that cost another $5,000 to $10,000. What if both spouses disagree with the other’s expert valuation? What then? What if the court orders a third valuation to break the tie at another $10,000 cost? We have been helping to fairly resolve these types of issues for decades. Our fees are even tax deductible as a business expense to the extent the fees are related to resolving business related divorce issues. 

A divorce lawyer or a divorce attorney cannot work for the couple. It is an ethical violation that could impact their license. This is because they must “zealously advocate for their client” against the other spouse. It is impossible for a divorce lawyer to zealously advocate for the wife against the husband while concurrently zealously advocating for the husband against the wife. Beyond that, how would you know if the divorce attorney or divorce lawyer was actually acting in your best interest on any particular issue? We are different. As “third party neutrals” we work for your family for the best possible outcome, not against either spouse. The difference cannot be understated, and the outcome can be qualitatively and quantitatively better.  

Over the decades we have worked with Christians who have simple self-employment, some who work under contracts, those who have their own practices such as medical, optometry dental, financial planning, etc., investors, Christian family businesses up to eight figures, high net worth Christian individuals, corporate executives, and even diplomats and international United Nations officials. Please contact us to learn more by using our contact link

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