Any Maryland divorce attorney will tell you that divorces are, on average, far more complicated now than they were in previous decades. Much of this complexity can be attributed to overall shifts in societal norms as well as the ever-changing definition of “family.” Where at one time, the typical divorce involved a man and a woman in a nuclear family with a house and two kids, the typical divorce now could involve a same-sex couple, adoptions, existing step-children, assets from a previous divorce, existing child support and alimony, among other things. In this modern divorce environment, attorneys are routinely inundated with the administrative affairs involved in a divorce, diverting their attention from the hard legal issues.
It is in this environment that there has emerged a growing trend toward divorcing parties utilizing so-called “divorce coaches.” In almost every case, divorce coaches are not attorneys themselves, nor are they supposed to offer legal advice. What they do offer advice about are the administrative affairs of a divorce. Let us be clear what is meant by the “administrative” affairs. Attorneys, on one hand, will offer their services on matters such as child custody, assignment of fault to the divorcing parties, alimony, and child support. Divorce coaches merely help the parties iron out the details themselves.
For example, an attorney may help a client win a certain child custody arrangement. If the child custody arrangement is some type of shared arrangement – which is common – the divorce coach will help facilitate the parties’ understanding of their weekly obligations regarding the child’s schedule. If attorneys help each party with their entitlement to certain portions of the marital property, a divorce coach would help tabulate the assets and assign values to them, then work out exactly how they would be split. It is easy for a judge to issue a ruling as to how things will be split. What people do not realize is that the actual mechanics of the asset division can be very complicated, involving the sale of tangible property and manipulation of things like retirement accounts, pensions, and the division of small business interests.
Many divorce coaches are also licensed mediators, meaning they can help the parties come to their own agreements and avoid costly litigation on those issues. Anything the parties work out themselves in a mediation session can be reduced to writing and submitted to each party’s attorneys so that the attorney can inform the court of what is not in dispute.
Many Maryland family lawyers actually value very much the contributions that a divorce coach can bring to the table. Most lawyers would rather not spend time and resources hashing out the non-legal issues if someone more attuned to those needs is available. As a result, it is very common – and less expensive – for divorcing parties to hire a divorce coach for certain aspects of the divorce and to utilize an attorney for the actual litigation and filing process. Many suspect that this practice will continue its upward trend in the coming years.
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