Team approach can streamline clients’ steps if they're separating before school restarts
Marital breakdowns may have spiked during the first year of the pandemic, and returned to more normal levels, but many struggling couples may be dealing with family mediators now as they try to settle their living arrangements before their children return to school.
The best thing financial advisors can do to assist their clients is work with the legal, and other, professionals supporting them, so they get consistent advice, Nathalie Boutet, owner of Boutet Family Law and Mediation, told WP.
“I'm a big fan of having a call with all the advisors, so that everyone can understand the context,” she said, noting there are many kinds of mediators, but it often helps to have all the clients’ professional advisors meet with the client. “It's more advisable for the client to hear a united front.”
Boutet said that team approach helps clients navigate through all the differing advice. That could mean bringing the lawyer, financial advisor, accountant, family business lawyer or advisor, will and estate lawyer, and even the social worker dealing with the children’s matters, together.
“I’m a collaboratively-trained lawyer,” said Boutet, “and we learned in our training that there are very important pieces of the puzzle that we don’t have. So, we have a mindset of honoring the work that other professionals do and saving money for the client by going to the source. So, it’s very helpful for me if someone helps me understand the client’s financial situation if the client is not savvy.”
The financial advisor can contribute knowledge about the clients’ goals, risk tolerance, and ways of negotiating about family money matters, such as do they fight or give in too easily? Advisors can help to define clients’ assets and budgets, which can aid discussions about support payments or whether the family can “nest” while settling the separation. Nesting means keeping the children in one residence while the parents rotate in and out, which could mean buying, or renting, a second place for the alternating parents or staying with family or friends. Advisors can also help the mediator understand the clients’ funds to address things like property settlements and advise whether the client should buy another place or invest that sum.
“The biggest caution I have,” said Boutet, “is don't state things to the client if you're not sure because clients come to me and say, ‘Well, my advisor told me that I shouldn't do this or that’, and the advisor doesn't have the full context of why the lawyer is making those recommendations. Sometimes the points get very confused when a client has two or three trusted advisors who say different things.”
How often the advisors should meet depends on the situation. Boutet said the advisor or lawyer could also just call the other, but the advisor can also help the clients see that the financial aspects of the marriage break-down is a business, rather than emotional, transaction.
“You’re an entity that’s splitting, and then you can feel what you feel about it,” Boutet advised, “and then your therapist, rather than your lawyer, can deal with that because it gets really expensive otherwise.”