Ethics In Divorce – What if one side doesn’t play fair


So, you find yourself facing a crisis in your marriage. You land on the side of divorce. Now that its decided, can you keep things ethical? Can you find a way to do what’s best for both of you? While only a small fraction of divorce cases today are actually litigated, that process is rooted in finding out where to place guilt and fault.

It really got me to thinking, what is the role of ethics in divorce? The answer lies partially in why I love collaborative divorce as a way to end a marriage.

With the business of divorce, ethics may show up in the many times an attorney may comfort a crying client, reassuring them that everything will be ok. Letting them know that divorce does not mean economic demise. One may think about the recommendations made to couples telling them the very best thing for them to do is sell their house, despite their emotional attachment and desire to stay.

As a financial advisor and CDFA® (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) who digs into every minute detail of their finances, I am often the only person who realizes that keeping the house would lead to financial devastation. While this is difficult news to deliver, it is better than the news of a looming foreclosure or bankruptcy that some face when trying to keep a marital house. The truth is that concern should be for the ultimate stability and welfare of both parties in the divorce, regardless of who the client is and especially if there are children involved.

Perhaps that's the real difference. Regardless of who the client is, the goal is to help this couple become the best divorced family they can be, because they're still a family! The goal being to get the couple through the process without either of them feeling like a criminal. Because of the way we treat divorce in the U.S., I've seen couples embark on the litigation process only to end up feeling punished, angry, financially devastated, and anything but a winner.

Collaborative divorce takes a different approach. One in which the collaboratively trained attorneys work with the couple to move forward through the process without attacking each other. They work together, as part of a team, to make sure everyone plays fair. Essentially working to preserve the family unit, especially when young children are involved.

It is also the only divorce process that specifically employs a CDFA® to take a clear-headed look at the numbers. The CDFA® is usually the first to notice discrepancies. It is what they are trained to do. Again, to make sure everyone plays fair.

The reality is the legal system is not created for family situations. It's created for crime. And almost without exception every couple I have known that has gone through the litigation process for their divorce has ended up feeling like a criminal. That's what the system is for!

But with the recent growth of Collaborative divorce the process it’s moving towards a more ethical for everyone involved. The beauty of being human is we can change. We can decide that something doesn’t work and do it differently, better. We can help families that have decided that the best answer for their family is two households not one, to make that situation work with love, understanding and a system that supports them.

This article was contributed by Donald Morris. Mr. Morris is a financial advisor and CDFA®. He currently serves as president or