Jackie Ramler is a financial specialist. She helps clients who are going through a separation or divorce resolve the financial issues. We have used her many times and find she does excellent work, saving our clients thousands of dollars in fees and helping them attain a resolution in a timely manner.
She is the owner of Divorce Choices Inc.
She also works with me and Sue Cook in our business called The Divorce Team. We teach financial specialists, lawyers, parenting coaches and divorce coaches how to work together in the Collaborative Team Process.
Jackie is very good.
Here is my interview with her.
Q: What do you do as a Financial Specialist?
As a Financial Specialist, I work with the couple as the neutral, and provide 6 distinct services.
1) I collect the financial information and documentation to prepare a report which can be used by the couple to review the Net Family Property Settlement as well as by the lawyers for the sworn financial statement.
2) I collect income information that can be reviewed to prepare Income Sharing options for income equalization.
3) I use that same information to run Child support figures as well as can prepare education projections for their children so they can negotiate how they will handle that future expense
4) I collect financial information from the family and prepare a report for the lawyers so that they can assist negotiations by both knowing what the primary financial issues for the couple are.
5) I educate the couple on what the various financial areas of the report are and how to read and understand the report. This gives them more confidence going into the negotiations.
6) I assist both individuals in better understanding how various settlement options will impact them now and in the future.
Q. Don’t lawyers perform the same role? Isn’t there overlap?
Often it is the lawyers and their Assistants who collect this information and enter it into the court forms. Unfortunately, this does not catch misinformation or mistakes until the forms have been swapped by the sides. Instead of catching this misinformation early and in the spirit of it just being a simple mistake by working with me as the neutral, in the court documents it can be seen as being devious or deceitful. It then takes considerable effort and time to get the two sides to agree on the facts of the file. In this respect I believe I am more efficient with my time and the cost to the family, as there is just one document being prepared. Working with the couple during this information gathering process, we can often resolve small issues very quickly. As well, in the environment of working with a neutral, in my opinion it sets the stage for the clients to work together on the other aspects of the process.
Q. Do you offer advice to the clients?
In reviewing the financial options available to the clients, I will make suggestions regarding the use of the various assets for equalization. When it comes to investments, I make no recommendations and give no advice- this is not appropriate in this environment. My financial advice is centered around budget and expenses, equalization options and helping them to better understand the financial components of their situation. Of course, I don’t offer legal advice either. They have lawyers for that purpose.
Q. What about clients that really hate each other. Can you help them?
The challenging files are in cases of betrayal or infidelity. Ensuring that both parties have trust in the information being collected is paramount and I am particularly diligent in assisting the couple to ensure that both have confidence that all information is on the table. Because the Collaborative Practice agreement stresses full disclosure and transparency, if any of the professionals believe this is not being followed through with then the file is discontinued. I feel much more efficient working in the collaborative environment.
Q. What happens when clients get stuck? What do you do?
Drawing on my mediation training, I have been finding it easier to assist clients in getting to agreement. In our first meeting, I address the issue of getting stuck and run through the options they have to find agreement. Often, when an issue presents itself and the couple begins to position, I go back to that initial conversation and they often quickly choose one of the options to find agreement. I really appreciate that for the big issues, especially when there is a difference of legal options, the couple can go forward with the four way meeting with their legal counsel. If we cannot negotiate an agreement, the clients can also use arbitration as part of the collaborative process.
Q. How do your costs compare to other processes?
I would venture that the costs to the family in working with one neutral Financial Specialist, in contrast to two lawyers and their Assistants, that I am more cost efficient. Not only from the amount of time and money spent but also in reducing the arguing over simple mistakes. In my opinion, the biggest advantage I have in the process is in laying the foundation of getting the clients to cooperate and work together early in the process so that they are better prepared to find agreement on bigger issues.
Thanks Jackie. We appreciate you taking the time to explain the role of the Financial Specialist.
More information about the process can be found on the website for the International Association of Collaborative Professionals