Give Yourself Options
David Dunkel and his ex-wife, Maureen Daly, were in court fighting over how much stock Mr. Dunkel must transfer to his ex-wife. According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, there were three possible outcomes to this courtroom drama: the judge could have entered one of three orders against Mr. Dunkel in which it “awarded a money judgment to his ex-wife, levied monetary fines against him or put him in jail.”
The Tampa Bay Business Journal Is Wrong
However, the Dunkels didn’t have to choose between the lesser of the two evils. The Dunkels could have resolved their divorce issues using the collaborative process, which would have given them a plethora of possible outcomes. The collaborative divorce process engages a team of professionals, e.g., lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals, to guide the parties to a settlement of their issues.
The prime principle behind the collaborative divorce process is interest-based negotiation. First, the parties define their goals and interests, i.e., why they want what they want. After goals and interests are defined, then the team brainstorms possible means to achieve those goals. The possible solutions elicited during the brainstorming session are then evaluated. Finally, the spouses agree on a solution and put it into action.
In the case of Mr. Dunkel and Ms. Daly, Ms. Daly wanted Mr. Dunkel to transfer the rest of the shares of K-Force, which she was owed according to the judge’s ruling. However, if her collaborative team had asked her why she wants the stock, they would have discovered other solutions that solved her interests besides the actual stock. For example, she didn’t want revenge against her husband. However, she did want control of the company. She also needed more money to fund her lifestyle. The collaborative team would have found that there were jobs within the company, which would fit the bill. They also might have found that there were other assets to transfer. In sum, there were other options besides transferring a certain amount of stock.
Asking The Court May Take Too Long
If Ms. Daly filed a contempt motion to enforce the stock transfer, it would not just be a motion with the court. There is also an unintended emotional component. A motion for contempt often causes contempt for each other.
In Florida, most post-judgment matters are immediately referred to mediation. Right now, it takes almost three months to get a mediation date. If there is a sudden influx of divorces, as there is during COVID-19, it could take another three months to get your motion heard by a judge. During all that time, while the Dunkels are angry but interacting because of their children, matters between them just get worse and worse.
If Ms. Daly had a time-sensitive concern, such as an analyst projecting that the stock would skyrocket after an earnings report is released, she would have needed a swift resolution. If she had undergone the collaborative divorce process, they could have scheduled their meetings within a week, rather than waiting months for a court date.
The Court Does Not Have Specialized Professionals
The collaborative professionals would have worked with Ms. Daly to track upcoming deadlines. If she decided that transferring the stock was the best solution to help her meet her financial needs, then the financial professional could have ensured that Mr. Dunkel transferred her shares of the stock in time for Ms. Daly to benefit from the earnings report. He could also track the stock’s ex-dividend date and ensure that an agreement was reached before that date passed.
Choosing a collaborative divorce would have given the Dunkels options that they did not have in court. Instead, they ended up going through a process that tends to incite contempt rather than respect for one another.
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About this week’s author, Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, two of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed in the United States Supreme Court upon those who have provided exceptional leadership in the American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.