Sometimes you need a reminder of why you do what you do. This week brought one of those lessons to me.
I generally work with divorcing people in the mediation and collaborative law space. Everyone involved in the process is working toward finding a solution for the couple which will work for everyone. No one is lobbing bombs at each other. Don’t get me wrong – this is hard work. The people getting divorced are under a lot of emotional stress and problems that were not dealt with during the marriage are now on the table and need to be addressed. I frequently find that people don’t really hear what I say due to the level of stress they are feeling. Patience and empathy are keys to a successful outcome.
Every once in a while, I am asked to do some financial work on a case that is being litigated. I was asked to do an analysis of the marital versus non-marital portion of an account for a client. The non-marital portion is the value of the account on the wedding day along with growth that can be attributed to that value. The marital portion is everything that was added to the account during the marriage and the growth attributed to those amounts.
One of the parties had an expert do an analysis, but the other party (the one who hired me) didn’t think that analysis was accurate. They had not even been provided with all of the documents necessary for an analysis. During the process of requesting those documents, I was subjected to an unprofessional attack from the other side’s attorney. I was taken aback by the viciousness and smug dismissal of my request. I was told that the analysis was correct and this expert had been used for years without any problems. Further, I was told it was too late for my client to question the numbers. Even though I am not an attorney, this was obviously incorrect. Even to me.
Once I had the documents, I saw immediately the analysis was wrong. Because I laid out my thinking clearly in my analysis, the other side ended up using my figures which resulted in my client being awarded tens of thousands of dollars more than they would have otherwise.
It highlighted for me why I am so committed to mediation and collaborative law as alternatives to litigation. No one deserves to be treated the way our side was treated. Not all litigators are as nasty as this one was, but the process is unnecessarily adversarial. I recognize that some cases have to be litigated. Any case that isn’t, though, is a win for everyone.