What Do I Do Now? Divorcing Options with Jennifer Beckman | RU018

When you hear the words mediation, litigation, collaboration, are you clear about what is involved with each process? Jennifer explains the different options available to you during divorce, helps clarify the pros and cons of each option, and clearly explains how they move you through the divorce process.

About the Guest:

Jennifer A. Beckman has practiced family law for 27 years, and has been selected as a “Superlawyer” for many years. Jennifer guides her clients to work toward a cooperative resolution while educating them as to the intricacies of the law, yet if there is an issue that needs court involvement she will discuss that option as well. Jennifer is compassionate toward her client’s financial needs and emotional struggles, and assists them to leave the process with their dignity intact and as a whole person rather than in fragmented pieces.

https://beckman-steen.com

https://www.facebook.com/beckmansteen/

https://twitter.com/beckmansteen

About the Host:

Divorced after many years of marriage, Barb Greenberg founded Rediscovering U, a company that provides education, support, and resources for women transitioning through divorce and into a new life. She and her company have been recognized for “…creating equality, justice and self-determination for women…” She is an award winning author of 3 books, Hope Grew Round Me, After the Ball: A Woman’s Tale of Happily Ever After, and The Seasons of Divorce: Insights for Women in Transition. Her books are available at a special price for you at https://rediscoveringu.com/divorce-sponsors/books/ Barb would like to thank Joey Greenberg for his technical expertise and creativity. Without him, she’d still be thinking about starting podcast!

Visit https://rediscoveringu.com to learn more!

You can also find Barb at:

https://www.facebook.com/rediscoveringu

https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbgreenberg/

https://twitter.com/rediscovering_u 

https://www.instagram.com/rediscoveringu/

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Transcript
Barb Greenberg:

Hello, and welcome to rediscovering you where you will find valuable insights, support and education to help you move through the difficult and often painful process of divorce with grace and courage and hope and find the ultimate gift of rediscovering yourself. I'm your host, Barb Greenberg, award winning author and founder of rediscovering you. If I'd had access to a resource like this during my divorce, I would have not felt so isolated, I would have made much better decisions. I still would have breathed for that for so hard for so long. And I wouldn't have eaten so many boxes of macaroni and cheese. When women heal. Families heal when families heal communities heal. When communities heal. The possibilities are endless. Let's get started.

Barb Greenberg:

I'm really excited to introduce you to Jennifer Beckman. She's been on our show before and she's back with more fabulous family law information. She has been a family law attorney for what did we say Jennifer

Jennifer Beckman:over:Barb Greenberg:

35 years, she has been considered a super lawyer in the state of Minnesota for like a zillion of those years. Can I say that? A gazillion. gazillion. She's just wonderful. She is really involved with their clients. She wants to resolve their issues, whether it's mediation, collaborative practice negotiation litigation, she can work with you one on one, she could work in the courtroom, she can work in mediation, which she's going to share more about. She does a lot of volunteer work with volunteer lawyers network through Hennepin County, as well as Tubman, which is a nonprofit in the Twin Cities that supports families that are going through difficult transitions. She's very involved in the collaborative law practice, which she's going to share a little bit about. She's just she's, Oh, I love this part. Her dog comes with her to the office. So if you're really scared and nervous going to your attorney, wouldn't it be nice to know there's a sweet little dog that will curl up on your lap? Because I love that. So I'm just really excited to get her talking because she has so much information to share. And today she's going to talk about divorce options, because I didn't I had no idea there were all these options of what you could or couldn't do in the divorce process moving forward how to how to move through the divorce process all. So I'm just gonna let you but first can you share again, I love this for people who didn't hear the first episode about how you ended up as a family law attorney because it's so cute. So cute.

Jennifer Beckman:

Absolutely. Thanks, Barb. And I'm glad to be here with you today. I went to school, back in my college years to become a marriage and family therapist. And when I graduated, that's what I started doing. And when I was doing my therapy work, my supervisor at the time, told me I was a little bit too opinionated. And if you can imagine that I've practiced a very long time. This was back in the Oh, let's see early 80s And I was maybe giving people more of my opinion than maybe I should have so my supervisor back then said You know, I suggest maybe you should go to law school you really have a passion for what you're, you know, helping people and maybe that would be the way to help because then you can help you know the husband the wife whatever if they need to go through some kind of divorce and so that's is what I am. What I did went to law school and went into of course because my family therapy background family law. And so now I practice only in that area. And here you are, and here I am you do today

Barb Greenberg:

so lots of divorce options again, which I had no idea there were because and I was like a deer in headlights. So I just did what people told me to do. And I had no idea that I could choose different things to do. So why don't I let you start which like maybe first option or your first favorite options or sir most effective options

Jennifer Beckman:

or whatever. Yeah, I think by when you probably got divorce, it was pretty much people were you know, obviously there was always the option to settle a case. But there wasn't, there weren't as many options. And most people ended up in court at some point, whether they were arguing, you know, a temporary hearing on temporary issues like temporary maintenance, or who was still leaving live in the house on a temporary basis, it, you just didn't have a lot of options. So you felt kind of like you were between a rock and a hard spot as far as how to approach your divorce? Well, since then, especially in the past many, several years, people have not everybody, of course, there's still lots of cases that go through the courts. But most cases settle, and people want to go through what's called an amicable divorce, they don't want and that doesn't mean you're, you know, skipping through the daisy fields holding hands after your divorce, it just means that you don't want to fight it out, you want to be able to, to reach some kind of resolution in your divorce. So there are different options. And I'm not going to really go through the first option because it doesn't work for most people. It's called Do It Yourself divorce where you download the the online forms and do your own divorce, it's extremely rare that it works out well for people, unless you don't have any children don't have any property and have been married a very short amount of time, even then it's overwhelming, the forms are just massive, a lot of stuff to fill out. So people become overwhelmed. But I'm not going to talk about that. What I am going to talk about are the the other three options that people can use. There are other options, you know, these aren't the only three, but these are the more popular ones, or at least the ones I deal with. I practice in all three of these areas. So the first I'll kind of go over with people is mediation. The next one will be collaborative law. And the last we'll talk about the litigation arena. The first mediation most people have heard about mediation, I'm assuming you have to Barb right.

Barb Greenberg:

Yes. i We each had hired attorneys, and the attorneys said, You need to go to mediation first. Okay, and come there with us if we need it. But to try to do it by yourself, just go ourselves first. There is backup. And it wasn't effective for us.

Jennifer Beckman:

Yeah. And it isn't for everybody. And I think one of the problems is, and that's right. In mediation, people think it's it's, I can go by myself. I can you know the mediators there to walk us through it. And I don't need attorneys and not I know that isn't what happened in your case. But really, that is not beneficial to the mediation process to go through. Without attorneys mediation is a tool in the divorce process, it won't completely get you divorced, because the mediator isn't the one who should be drafting or really isn't the one who would draft your initial documents, which are called your summons and petition or your petition. And they aren't the ones the mediator is not the one who would be doing your divorce decree, which is called a judgment and decree. So it's typically you will need an attorney anyhow, to put those documents together. But one of the things we find in the mediation processes, people certainly can go to the first mediation session alone, which is where the mediators gathering the information and gathering, you know, what do you have and give children all those things, they're gathering information and documentation often. But when it comes down to making decisions, that's when it's always a good idea to have your attorney there because a mediator doesn't represent either of you. They cannot it's it's unethical. So the mediator is there to try to help the two of you get to a middle point, some kind of compromise. Well, how do you know what the compromise is? If you don't know what the law is? So if you don't know your legal rights are your the what the law is telling about the different elements of something? How are you going to know what decision to make. And while mediation is amazing, and a lot of cases settle? I often find the mediators I use really encouraged people to have attorneys there, because the attorneys also kind of keep you off that emotional. I call it a cliff that you're on the emotional cliff. And while everybody understands that there's an emotional aspect of a divorce, bringing it into the mediation when you're already paying a mediator to try to help you come to middle grounds, bringing all those emotions in in the anger that the tears or the upset can actually cause Do more money because now you might need two or three sessions because that first session or second session ended up in a lot of a lot of arguing or tears or emotions. And the attorneys are typically there to bring you back on track. And to say, Okay, let's take a moment and talk about this. This is what the law says these are, what the different factors are. Now, let's get to your case and your issues, and see if we can come to some compromise here. So again, the mediator does not, cannot give you legal advice, that's what your attorneys are for. And if both of you are at a different power point, so if somebody has made all the financial decisions, written all the bills, taken care of all the money is the one who works, then oftentimes, the other person is like, Oh, I don't know what to decide. And they, they sometimes get kind of drawn into a decision they maybe shouldn't have gotten pulled into or drawn into. So your attorney can help you with that, um, I always say the pros of mediation are can be less, it's certainly less expensive than going to court. And when I say less expensive, I mean, financially and emotionally, because going to court is very hard on people, financially and emotionally. And also, you keep some control, that's a tremendous Pro, that you have some say, in how your divorce gets resolved. There's other pros, obviously, these are just a few to highlight. The cons can be that somebody has, we have a power struggle. And somebody is kind of talking somebody or guilting somebody into making a decision that they, they maybe don't want to, but they don't know how to stand up to that person. Or the other con would be that, that you just can't make finalize the decision, you can't get there, because you don't know the law. So I love mediation, a lot of my cases get resolved that way. There are very effective mediators out there. But again, you know, talk to your attorney about that and figure out if that's the right option for you to follow.

Barb Greenberg:

I really appreciated that I had an attorney to go back and go, ah, help me. And I'll throw this in now, because it's funny now it wasn't funny then. But and a mediation. I know it works for a ton of people, it just it was not going to be effective for us. And I had. So we had a court date, which you said it's very emotional, very emotional. And I had a friend who said, I'm going to bet you money that you'll settle before you walk into the courtroom doors. And sure enough, the attorneys were, I was on one bench, there was a potted plant and other benches and the attorneys were running back and forth. And we settled before we walked in the door was a huge relief. But it that's how far for me it got it. That doesn't happen to most people. I'm sure it doesn't happen to most people. But looking back, it was kind of funny. But then it wasn't funny.

Jennifer Beckman:

Oh, you know what, Barb, it's actually funny that you say that. Because we find that does happen. And you're right. It's not a whole lot of people that happens to but sometimes mediation doesn't work, it just doesn't work for whatever the reason is, and then we still see we attorneys still see that most cases still will settle before you end up with a judge making your decisions. And we call it at the courtroom door or the eve of the trial. That's the most often time that things settle, you know, right, the night before or the day before, or literally, you're at the courthouse and and you say to the judge, could we just take you know, just a few more minutes and the judges like yeah, you know, please, please settle your case. So often that happens. People are really afraid of going into a courtroom and testifying and having a judge make decisions, you lose all control then completely. So but like you said, most cases do settle in one of these. They're called Alternative Dispute Resolution. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution. And the next one I'm going to talk about which is collaborative law. That is also a form of ADR. Collaborative Law is not an area of practice that most people a lot of people just don't know about it. And it's unfortunate because it's very, very effective for a lot of cases. And why is it different than mediation in? People like me, I do litigation. I go to clients for mediation, but I'm also trained in collaborative law. A collaborative attorney is somebody who has trained through the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota. And you go through lots of different training sessions there. And a big part of it is on how to negotiate how to how to look at different kinds of high conflict marriages, how to deal with the conflict, how to de escalate a case, that's really ramping up all of those things, you go through many different sessions of training to, to figure it out to learn how to deal with different kinds of divorces that are in front of you. Collaborative Law also means you have to each, each spouse has to hire a collaboratively trained attorney, that means somebody who has been trained and is licensed through the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota, you each sign an agreement at the beginning of your entire divorce, you sign an agreement saying that as long as we're in the collaborative process with our divorce, we cannot go to court means you are not going to go on the courtroom door, you are not going to have a judge making decision in any way during your divorce is all kept out of the courtroom. So you end up doing what's called Remember when I said mediation was a tool, the collaborative processes the entire process. So that means you're starting with your attorney, you're signing the initial petition together. You each have your attorneys there with you, then you're working out the whole part of the divorce is working out how you're going to go through and determine I don't know if anybody's listened to my prior podcast, but the big three, how you're going to decide what you're going to do with the children. What you're going to do with spousal maintenance or child support, how you're going to divide up the assets and debts, all of that is decided through the collaborative process as well. And we often use people, if you and your spouse are very high conflict, if there's just a lot of emotion involved in the divorce, there are coaches that are therapists who help you in the process of the divorce if need be. There's also child specialists who can help in the parenting plans and in the parenting decisions. And then we also utilize financial experts. They're called CD FAS, certified divorce financial advisors who are not just financial advisors. They're trained in divorce. So they can help with that cash flow part that the child support spousal maintenance, they can also help in the division of assets and debts. You don't have to utilize all these people I've said you can just utilize your two attorneys. But know that there's the options to bring in these people who are also trained through the collaborative process. And it really can make a difference. Barb, I don't know if I can use the example. Can I give my lemon example. As part of this?

Barb Greenberg:

I don't see why not. I can't remember the limiting.

Jennifer Beckman:

Well, here we go. Always remember the lemon story. So I always kind of compare we often do we collaborative attorneys say imagine you and your husband are fighting for you and your wife or you and your spouse are fighting over a lemon. It sounds ridiculous. But I'll kind of compare it to something after I'm done explaining the lemon in court, if you're going to end up in front of a judge and sometimes in mediation, what are you going to do with that lemon? Remember its peace property, what are you going to do, you're typically going to divide it in half each, you're going to walk with half that lemon. You might say in your divorce. I don't want half the lemon that is completely defeats why I wanted the lemon. Your spouse might say I don't want half the lemon. So what happens is, somebody might say I want the zest of the lemon to make lemon bread. And the other person's like, well, I don't want the zest, I want the juice because I'm making lemonade. In Collaborative Law. We're being creative. We're looking at how you each can walk away with the part of the lemon that you need, or that you want. And so it's a hugely different way of looking at divorce. And if you kind of take that silly example, and compare it to a house, somebody might say, well, I want the house and then the other person says no, because you want the house I want the house. And what do you think a judge is often going to do? The judge might very well say we're going to sell that house. And you might be like, Well, I really wanted that house. Well then in the collaborative divorce we're going to figure out why do you want the house Why are you both saying you want that house? One party often says I want the house because I want to live there. I nest it. I did the eyes design the house. I love that house. I really want to stay living in that House means I love the neighborhood of all the neighbors are my friends. The other men might say, that's not what I want the house, I want the money out of the house. So I want to get paid, you know, my portion equity so I can go buy something else. So in the collaborative process now, we've just figured out why you both want the house. And then we sit down and figure out how do we get there. So you both can get what you want out of that house. And that is a very different way of looking at a divorce trying to figure out how to meet both of your needs, both of you're going to have to move both of you are going to have to adjust your needs and what you want, but how we're going to look at it as kind of, like we call it goal inspired. What's your goal? And can we reach that goal, as you can imagine, there are certain goals, you're just not going to be able to meet. But every effort is made to see if we can meet those goals. The collaborative process then gets you all the way through the divorce. And once you've signed the final divorce decree, same divorce decree, as you'd sign in any other kind of divorce, then it goes to the judge, and the judge still has to sign it to get you divorced, but you are never going to the courtroom. So it's a really nice way of getting a divorce done. Outside of the parameters of the court, nobody. So the pro of it is nobody can threaten, we're going to go to court, I'm going to go to court, I'm going to I'm going to go to the judge, the judge is going to order this can't threaten that because you know, you're not going to court. The other pro of it is that you get the whole process done, your whole divorce is done. You also get to have the benefit of maybe using one of the collaboratively trained financial experts that can help with some of the difficult, let's say tax implications of things. Also, you end up with the divorce, that you both aren't literally hating each other because you both have been hurt. And you're both trying to figure out how do we get to that point, that middle ground where we can walk away with dignity. And I think dignity is a word you don't use often in divorce. But in the collaborative process, it it's it's a really important part that you try to do it in a professional, dignified way. Plus, your attorneys aren't attacking each other. You know, we're not going after each other, because we're all trying to figure out how to make the family whole when you're done. When the divorce is over. Or leave, I guess the family hole? The cons of it is well, I'm not going to say it's going to be inexpensive. It depends on how many sessions you have how much you have to work out, it could be expensive. Typically, obviously, it's less expensive than going to a trial in most cases. Con could also be it might it probably wouldn't work. If there's chemical dependency issues that are really paramount in a case wouldn't work in a domestic abuse type environment and

Jennifer Beckman:

may or may not work in a situation where there's some kind of other abuse, like verbal or emotional abuse going on. But again, you're always having your attorney there. So, you know, it depends on very much the issues of your case for your attorney to figure out whether or not collaborative divorce would work in your

Barb Greenberg:

case. And I do have to tell you, I will not forget the lemon story. That's a great story. Story, right. Yeah.

Jennifer Beckman:

And when you think of the analogy, how it would really affect so many different aspects of a divorce. It really hits home as to why what's going on in the collaborative process that we're trying to figure out how to make that lemon work for both you.

Barb Greenberg:

Wonderful. I can Oh, you love it. I can just tell you love.

Jennifer Beckman:

Yeah, I love collaborative divorce. I've practice a long time. And I still go to court on many cases. But the collaborative process really, the attorneys who are trained in it and everything are so professional have practiced often a very long time. And it's just a really great process. But it doesn't work for everybody. Unfortunately. The other kind of divorce that we're going to just briefly kind of go over here is litigation and litigation is where the case in in Minnesota what starts a case is somebody being served, and after somebody is served, then you determine whether or not you file the case. minute you hear people say I'm filing for divorce, you're not filing for divorce. You're serving somebody for a divorce in Minnesota, but once you file it, the courts involved and that's what we call litigation. Litigation can be the most expensive area that you know if you have a judge going all the way to trial and the judge is making decisions For you, it is very expensive. And I keep repeating this, but it's expensive emotionally and financially. You also have a judge making the decisions, if you end up all the way in trial, which means that you lose control. But there are some pros to going to court. Like I said, if there's domestic abuse, if there's a horrible power struggle between the two of you, sometimes you need to have a judge make a decision, if you're worried that the other side's not going to cooperate at all, not going to give documents not going to turn over information that's needed to get your divorce, then you might have to file the case, the case might have to go into litigation, so that your attorney can get the documents needed to get you divorced. So you know, there are there are times you have to go to court. Or there might be an emergency issue that comes up, somebody takes off with one of the children and doesn't come back, then you know, your doesn't happen too often. But if it did happen, they you know, they're holed up in their cabin or something and are coming home, you might have to go to court, you would go to court for that. And that's when courts very essential, very necessary. Going or filing the case and ending up in litigation does not mean that a judge is going to make a decision because courts now do an alternative dispute resolution process, also called any Early Neutral Evaluation. It's where the courts say, you meet with your judge once the case is filed, or your referee. And the referee or judge says hey, how are you going to get the case settle and go to mediation? Remember, we've already talked about that, that's one option. The other is the Early Neutral Evaluation. That is where you can do it on the children called the Social Early Neutral Evaluation or on the finances, financial early, Neutral Evaluation. And that's where you typically have a man and a woman. Often attorney could be an accountant, if you're on the financial part, it could be a therapist if you're on the child's part. But typically, there's a male and female professional, who, then you talk about your issues, each of you, each spouse does talk about the issues, your concerns, what it is you'd like to see. And then in the end process, the evaluators who are listening can give recommendations of what they think could happen if you end up in court. So they can say, hey, I think for the kids, this is what I think the parenting should look like, or financial. I think for spousal maintenance, this is kind of what I think I'm going to recommend, doesn't mean you have to abide by it, just like in mediation, like you BB one through you doesn't mean that, that you're going to settle the case. But you get in the end process, you get these experts, professionals telling you what they think could happen if you end up in court. So again, it's another really pivotal part of settlement and getting the case so that you don't end up in that trial in the litigation where a judge is making a decision. So it's, I've talked about a lot, there are a lot of other options, you know, little myriads of other ways of getting a case done but these are the big ones that I deal with at least that

Barb Greenberg:

was wonderful. Again, so much information. I just you guys listen to this again and again if you need to, because there's a lot in there. And before I let you go, I want to have you again, share your contact information if people want to reach out to you and we will put that contact information in the Episode Notes as well.

Jennifer Beckman:-:Barb Greenberg:

Thank you. I really appreciate you taking the time. I really appreciate all the information you shared. I you just you just I appreciate your friendship. That's I just appreciate who you are. And anybody that works with you would just feel that from you.

Jennifer Beckman:

Barb, you do such a wonderful service and I love rediscovering you. It's so necessary For women out there that because it's so often the woman that feels kind of lost, I don't know what to do now. So it's a great service you provide. And I think we've known each other for I don't even know how long it seems forever. But, you know, keep on keep on doing what you do. And thank you for the time you spent with me today.

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