Divorce Without Court - because you have a lot to lose, financially and emotionally.
For most divorcing clients, “Winning” isn’t about getting everything you can out of your ex-spouse, but it’s hard to realize that reality, when you’re dealing with all of hurt, stress and heartache of litigating the end of a significant relationship. It feels impossible to stay clear-minded, balanced, and focused on reaching a settlement that keeps you in control of the things that matter. Here’s where the need for personal attention plays its important role – to help you figure out what’s worth fighting for.
The doctor changed everything.
He was a smart, accomplished, highly respected surgeon, as well as a fantastic businessman who owned a medical practice and other complex business interests. I had worked with him on various corporate, transactional and tax matters. But now he’d come in to speak about his impending divorce. After listening to his story for a while, I formulated a strategic game plan and was ready to move forward – full speed ahead. My client was going to get it all!
And the war began.
Document discovery – Depositions
Strategic maneuvering – Hearings
Legal Briefs/Motions – Judge’s Rulings
More Depositions – Experts
Lawyers talking to Lawyers – Lawyers to clients
More — More — More
And the battles raged on
But this doctor – this brilliant doctor – was a wreck. The stress of the divorce was so intense he could barely function, let alone make decisions that would affect the rest of his life.
After 100s of hours, and thousands in legal fees, we were to headed into mediation – our last chance to settle before the following weeks trial.
The Doctor came to me wanting to fight, but in the middle of our mediation preparation session – the Doctor stopped abruptly – and with a sullen look on his face he confessed – he was most concerned about hurting his children. He worried that he would irreparably damage them and his relationship with them by aggressively battling their mother into a lopsided settlement; or worse an ugly public court battle.
That’s what kept him up at night more than anything; hurting his children was his biggest fear.
I really could have messed up his life with my winning strategy. I got a sick feeling in my stomach realizing that my win, could have resulted in the Doctor’s loss – his childrens’ loss.
It was a harsh reality to admit to myself that my aggressive (win-it-all for my client) approach isn’t always the right approach. The Doctor always knew he would make more money in the future and a big financial win wouldn’t make up for a damaged relationship with his children – I missed it.
What he really wanted was a fair settlement, so he could move on with his life, make more money and enjoy his children – quick, painless and private.
And that’s really what most divorcing couples want for themselves:
A fair – painless – private – quick end to the marriage – so everyone can move on with their lives.
With that understanding in mind, we went to mediation with a different attitude. Let’s be fair – still tough, but also fair. Let’s get it done, so everyone can move on with their lives – with dignity. It worked – after 8 hours of mediation, the Doctor and I negotiated a great settlement with his ex – a settlement agreement both spouses could live with. I was so happy for the Doctor.
I learned alot from working with the Doctor. So, consistent with my commitment to lifetime learning, and my desire to further understand the inner workings of people, I studied for another graduate degree, an MS in Psychology (Individual and Business Performance).
Over the years, as I continued to grow as a person and a lawyer, my strategy options also grew. Mediation became a much more useful tool going forward, even though some cases do need to be litigated in court.
But still – There’s got to be a Better Way
I was in the middle of a raging legal battle – a small business break-up (divorce) case. Two long-time friends and business partners wanted a business divorce. After my client uncovered what his partner was doing behind his back, it broke the trust – the relationship.
Mediation was scheduled – the last chance to settle before trial which was scheduled to begin in 3 days at 9:00 AM. Six hours into an all-day mediation session – and I got that sick feeling in my stomach again. My client was stressed, miserable and worn out. Litigation had dragged on for over two years. His friendship was lost, and the business they both loved was being destroyed.
During our 3rd coffee break I started thinking – There’s got to be a better way?
If this litigation didn’t end soon there would be no business left to fight over. No one really wanted the additional pain and cost of a trial.
We were winning – but the costs to my client were so high.
I became silent, as I remembered the Doctor – the Doctor’s pain – his fear of damaging and losing his children.
At 8:33 PM the case finally settled – the litigation was over – but the costs (financial and emotional) had taken their toll. Business damaged – Time Wasted – Money Spent ($500,000+) – Relationships Lost.
My client achieved a better settlement than he had expected, but my stomach was still upset – I remember myself thinking – There’s got to be a better way? Again I remembered the pain of the Doctor, and then I remembered the cost to John (and his ex-spouse) during their heated divorce trial, the bankruptcy filing that followed Susan’s business divorce litigation and the litigation damage experienced by other former clients. Even winning came with a high cost.
But why does it have to be that way?
Do people really need to spend years battling in litigation – in court, to get to the settlement that they’ll eventually achieve in mediation? That’s usually the way it happens with litigation – the 11th hour settlement on the courthouse steps that lawyers tell their war stories about. That explains why well over 90% of Georgia divorce cases settle before trial.
Continuing to resolve disputes the usual way, in litigation – is insane.
To preserve my sanity (and that of both spouses), I shut down I my divorce litigation practice and IPennLaw – Divorce Mediation (my mediation only practice) was born.
Divorce Without Court:
With your sanity, your future, your business, and your reputation intact
“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.”
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Small – Selective – Personal
When I chose to be a one-lawyer divorce litigation practice in 2014, and in 2019 to be a one-lawyer mediation practice, I did it with a good reason: to be fully and personally involved with each and every client.
Your experience working with me will be quite different from how you’d work with a typical solo or multi-lawyer firm. I chose to keep my practice small – selective – personal. As a result, my clients’ experience working with me will be quite different from how clients work with a typical solo or multi-lawyer firm. While every client travels through divorce – they deserve personal attention.
I’ve been a lawyer and accountant for over 30 years – representing and counseling individuals, families and businesses. My professional career began after business school (MBA in Accounting and Taxation) and law school, by working for two of the “Big Four” accounting firms, PriceWaterhouse & Co (now PwC) and Ernst & Young, and a large downtown Atlanta law firm, Hansel & Post (now Jones Day). More Details: Education and Career Path.
These prestigious firms provide exceptional sophisticated services to their clients and I learned and grew personally and professionally while working there. But most professional firms, especially large ones, are not designed to provide personal attention to their clients.
This may (or may not) seem obvious, but lawyers aren’t trained to understand the psychology, the needs or the personal objectives of individual people, and rarely have the desire to engage deeply enough with their clients to effectively and compassionately help them during extreme emotional times.
We lawyers are trained to understand the law, provide legal services and win-win-win for our clients. Always about winning – without really listening deeply enough to clients to help them uncover what winning means to them – for the present, and for their future. To be Warriors.
Why was is surprised that, given the way I was trained, it took me 30 years to realize there was a better way: Divorce Without Court. It was time to take a page out of Dan Millman’s book; The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.
Although I’m a one-lawyer/mediator firm – I’m not working alone. Marilyn is my indispensable partner – in both business and marriage. Before joining me at IPennLaw, Marilyn was the Accounting Manager at a multi-unit restaurant company (where I was formerly Chief Legal Counsel/CFO). She handled all the accounting work and payroll for eight separate companies and its 200+ employees.
And while I’m a Damn Yankee (def. northern (NYC) visitor who came south and stayed), Marilyn has genuine Atlanta street cred. Her maternal grandfather was one of the original owners of the Highland Bakery in Atlanta (back when bread was still delivered by horse-drawn truck). The Louisiana (paternal) side of her family’s southern roots are also deep: she’s also a third-generation Vanderbilt University graduate.
Marilyn will guide, support and help you as you gather together the mounds (and mounds) of financial records required in every divorce case – and if your case requires, she’ll then work with me to organize, build the databases and analyze all the financial data.
And when it’s time to help you create and formalize a parenting plan for your children, Marilyn has years of experience in organizing and scheduling and is here to help you. And if there’s anything else you need to keep your divorce as stress-free as possible, Marilyn and I will both be there to help, step-by-step.
“The best victory is … before there are any actual hostilities…It is best to win without fighting.”
-Sun Tzu, The Art of War