The Value of a Financial Neutral (From a Collaborative Lawyer’s Perspective)

by: Courtney H. Smith | Website

The Value of a Financial Neutral (From a Collaborative Lawyer’s Perspective)

When I first began my collaborative practice, I wondered why a financial neutral was necessary. I routinely prepare spreadsheets detailing marital assets and liabilities for purposes of negotiating division of property. I also work with my clients to prepare budgets (or financial affidavits) detailing income and expenses for use in discussions of spousal support and child support. So why would I need a financial neutral to do those things?

After being involved in cases with and without a financial neutral, I am an advocate for involving a financial neutral in cases involving financial issues, particularly alimony. For one, involving a financial neutral can save both parties money. You may be surprised to hear that, but it’s true. Instead of having both lawyers inventory all documents in the case and each prepare their own version of the marital assets and debts spreadsheet, the financial neutral will be primarily responsible for that. Both sides of the case will have copies of all relevant documents, but the financial neutral will be responsible for creating one spreadsheet of the marital assets and debts for use by all involved in the case. It also helps to have someone who is a neutral in the case presenting financial data to the parties. My client’s spouse is much more likely to receive and trust financial information presented by a financial neutral not affiliated with either side than they are receiving that same information from me.

Involving a financial neutral may also help to make your discussions regarding spousal support more about the numbers and less about the emotion involved. Discussing spousal support is always challenging, so having financial data about each party’s income, needs, expenses, and the impact to each spouse of a hypothetical spousal support amount is incredibly helpful. If your collaborative attorney suggests you consider bringing on a financial neutral, hear him or her out because it may prove very helpful in your case.

Courtney Smith is an attorney at Hatcher Law Group who focuses on helping people accomplish their goals through the legal system by providing guidance and realistic expectations.