The Remote Divorce

July 20, 2020

Life turned upside down for many in March when COVID 19 hit us. Most of us were sent home to figure out quickly how to do our job remotely.

As divorce financial planners, our goal is to help your client navigate a difficult process and make sound financial decisions. We’ve been able to do this very successfully even when we are not able to meet the client in person.

All financial data and documents can be sent electronically. We use a secure web portal, ShareFile, to send and receive client documents. There is very little effort needed from the client to make this work; either we set the client up in ShareFile so they can log in and upload or download documents, or we simply send them an email with a link that takes them into the site where their documents await.

Conversations with clients, and meetings with attorneys, are either completed by phone or via a video conferencing service such as Zoom. Our company had been using Zoom for several years before the virus hit so we were already comfortable using this platform. We hold meetings and share documents with ease. In addition to a group meeting, Zoom has breakout rooms where selected members of the group can talk privately, and attendees can even have private side chats while a meeting is going on. Other than giving the client a handshake on the way out, nothing about our meetings is lost.

But is there something missing when we see a client only on our computer screen? In our experience as financial planners we know that money is often a sensitive issue and it is important to engage clients in conversations about their history, their life stories and their goals in order to help them make good financial decisions. This is no less important in a divorce, when underlying emotions including anger, fear and sadness can get in the way of sound decisions. Clients need our help to separate out some of the emotion and focus on the future. Fortunately, we have found that even over the phone or the web we’re able to have these discussions. They may not be as robust as they might be if we were face-to-face, but they can be effective.

If there is one upside to the virus it is that we have learned one no longer has to think geographically about whose expertise to utilize in a divorce. It doesn’t matter if the client lives 2 hours from your office or our office because they are meeting all of us from their kitchen table. We are all, out of necessity, becoming comfortable with the remote engagement.  

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