If there were ever a “right way” to prepare for divorce, look no further than Bill and Melinda Gates. Like many couples with wealth and assets at stake, they most likely relied not only on matrimonial attorneys, but also, the expertise of business lawyers and financial advisors. By having the experts work together, divorce can be planned out and assets protected. In this episode, our guest is Sandra Radna, a leading attorney specializing in divorce and family law in Long Island, and author of You’re Getting Divorced…Now What? She has been featured in The New York Times, Newsday, WABC News, and News 12 Long Island, and recognized by the Long Island Business News as a Top 50 Women in Business in 2018.
Listen in as Sandra shares her expertise in what you need to know about divorce and your finances. For instance, do you live in an equitable distribution or community property state? If you’re engaged, what is the best way to discuss with your partner a prenuptial agreement? How can you protect your inherited assets? Is your business considered a marital asset, and how can you determine the value of your business? How can estate planning help safeguard your property? Join us as we delve into what you need to know about the divorce process and how to protect your assets.
Click to read transcript of this episode below.
Welcome to the Biz Money Podcast hosted by Lee Korn. Lee is a financial advisor and principal at Opal Wealth Advisors. Each month Lee and his guests share their path of success and how they broke through to get to the next level. This podcast is available on our website at opalwealthadvisors.com/bizmoney. To receive updates on new show releases, you can subscribe on our podcast page. Now, here’s your host, Lee Korn.
Lee Korn 0:29
Welcome to the Biz Money Podcast. I’m your host Lee Korn. On behalf of my colleagues here at Opal Wealth Advisors, we’re excited that you’re able to join us.
Sandra Radna 0:43
When you are a business owner, and so much is depending on what you do, when you throw in a divorce, that puts a lot of stress on you. Because now you have to concentrate on what’s happening in your divorce while you’re trying to put on a happy face for all of your clients and make sure the business is running well when you’re probably distracted by what’s going on.
Lee Korn 1:04
Welcome. Our guest today is Sandra Radna, a leading attorney specializing in divorce and family law in Long Island, and the author of You’re Getting Divorced…Now What? She’s been featured in The New York Times, Newsday, WABC News, and News 12 Long Island. Additionally, the Long Island Business News honored her as a Top 50 Women in Business in 2018. Welcome, Sandra.
Sandra Radna 1:28
Thank you, Lee. Thanks for having me here.
Lee Korn 1:30
It’s my pleasure. It’s not too long ago, just over two years that we were in this room all together for our grand opening—the time certainly does fly.
Sandra Radna 1:38
Lots changed since then.
Lee Korn 1:40
It certainly has. Before we even get into the scheduled content, current events. So Bill and Melinda Gates announced last night that they were getting divorced. Couldn’t have planned it. We didn’t know that this was gonna happen. But since it did, and we’re here, I’d love to talk about it. So it was announced they did not have a prenuptial agreement, did not have a postnuptial agreement, had a settlement agreement. And I’m curious, what is that?
Sandra Radna 2:11
Well, from what I understand they had a separation agreement. So the difference between those three different types of agreements: a prenuptial agreement is something that you enter into prior to getting married. It’s an enforceable contract. And it says, here’s what happens in the event that we separate or get divorced. A postnuptial agreement is similar except for that happens after the marriage. So it’s also a binding contract. It says, here’s what happens if we decide to separate or get divorced. A separation agreement or settlement agreement takes into account the fact that you’ve already made that decision to separate or get divorce, and is also a binding contract, but it sets forth here’s how we’re dividing all of our marital assets and and how we’re going to resolve this dissolution of our marriage.
Lee Korn 3:01
Certainly, certainly lots of moving parts in in their relationship. You have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, you have business ownership, you have land ownership. It’s I guess, like the paella of divorce. So we’ll see that play out.
Sandra Radna 3:16
Well, the interesting thing about people that have that type of wealth and those assets is there’s a number of things that are working together. And they would have their business attorney for their businesses, they would have their planning attorneys for the trust and estates, whatever trusts that they had, or business formations they had would be their business attorney. And those attorneys would work with the matrimonial attorneys, because the matrimonial attorneys aren’t the experts in the business and they wouldn’t have all that information. They would all work together in order to dissolve this marriage. So it sounds like from what’s been played so far in the news, that they’ve already decided that, for example, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they’re going to continue in the current roles that they have. So that’s something that’s already been decided. And you would only assume that the business attorney had something to do with that. And if everybody works together, and there’s all this planning what could have potentially been a very complicated convoluted divorce, possibly litigated, looks like it’ll resolve pretty amicably, and pretty clearly, and simply because they already had all the planning in place. So that’s really the perfect situation that everybody wants, like you do the planning so that when something happens, you don’t have a mess that everybody’s seeing and suffering through. And it sounds like that’s what they did, very similar to the Bezos divorce where they had everything planned out as well.
Lee Korn 4:44
Right. Yeah, we can only wish that everyone did that. And I guess time will tell as we see it play out on the front page of the newspaper.
Sandra Radna 4:52
Lee Korn 4:52
So we’re now on the tail end of Covid. We’ve had our last year podcasts; we’ve talked about the financial and the political aspects of it. But one area that I hear popping up all the time, they talk about divorce rates. There’s conflicting reports, there are some reports that say, you know, in the beginning part of the year everyone’s home, husbands and wives together, they’re forced to spend time and you go, who is this person? I married this person? Look how he talks to his employees or his employer. So there were reports that divorce rates skyrocketed, and then tail end of the year, I read similar reports, but contrary reports that divorce rates were slowing down. But marriage rates had plummeted, people weren’t weren’t getting married, and people who were scheduled to get divorce, were saying hold off—whether it’s financial, probably financially related. I’ve read articles that the top two reasons divorce—infidelity and mone—and we can kind of talk about money. You know, you think about an environment where we’re in a pandemic, the economy shuts down, you know, certainly financial stress, sprinkle on that everything else that’s going, spending time together. And that could lead to an interesting environment. What have you seen? Have you seen more people knocking on your door? Have you seen people that originally came to you for counsel and said, Hey, I’m interested in getting a divorce and said, No, no, no, hold on, not yet?
Sandra Radna 6:24
Well, I think you hit every single thing that happened during the pandemic in the world of divorce. In the beginning, when everybody was at home together, I think that the people that were already not happy, and were maybe contemplating divorce, decided I’m definitely doing this. But the thing that slowed them down, which could be the downturn you’re talking about, is a lot of people lost their jobs. Or even if they didn’t lose their jobs, they were concerned about how is their business, their particular business going to fare. Like there was a lot of uncertainty in the beginning, you didn’t know how it was going to go. So people held off a little bit. when things started opening up again, and people started doing better or they were more secure in their income, the divorces definitely there was a surge of a lot of people saying, I’m done and I’m getting divorced. The people that didn’t get married, a lot of that was because a lot of reception halls in places closed down, people couldn’t get married, they decided to wait, some people decided to do backyard weddings, but a lot of people sid let’s wait a couple of years. And sometimes that waiting period is a good cooling off period if it maybe wasn’t the right thing. So that could be where the marriage rates dropped. I think as of right now we’re about a little over a year later, things have kind of evened out, although in my particular practice is the last month has been very busy. So I don’t know what the reason for that is, but it had kind of leveled off after the initial surge when everything opened, started opening back up and people started feeling that they were more secure in their income. So definitely it goes up and down.
Lee Korn 8:00
I guess the next three to six months will be very telling. So we’re a podcast focused mostly on entrepreneurs. It’s called Biz Money. A lot of our clients are entrepreneurs. You know, we talked just a few minutes ago how stress and financial and certainly being an entrepreneur, business owner, you have the traditional stress, you know, paying the bills money coming in. But then you have the ebbs and flows of actually being responsible for other people’s livelihood and cash flows, right, which is again like sprinkling, putting lighter fluid on fire sometimes, unfortunately. I’ve known a couple of friends, clients that are currently going through divorce, right? And when you think of divorce, you think of, Okay, I’ve got all these assets, and there’s like the myth, right? So I’ve got $100 dollars, $1 million dollars, $10 million dollars, we’re just gonna take an axe, cut it through, you take half, I take half. And as we were talking earlier, that’s not necessarily the case. Now, throw in a business that doesn’t necessarily have a price tag, right? So that you can open the newspaper, what we used to open the newspaper in the New York Newsday and get stock quotes, right? So you said you can’t go on the computer and say, How much is this business worth? So how do you determine what a business is worth? And what is that process? And then furthermore, you know, is there an impact on the business itself?
Sandra Radna 9:21
Well, there are a lot of questions there, and I’m going to try to address all of them. So the first part that you address is so important that when you are a business owner, and so much is depending on what you do, and you’re doing your job well and you taking care of your employees, because you are the business a lot of times you are the brand of your business. When you throw in a divorce, especially a divorce that’s litigated, one that’s not resolved easily like Bill and Melinda Gates. We’ll see what happens. But that puts a lot of stress on you because now you have to concentrate on what’s happening in your divorce, while you’re trying to put on a happy face for all of your clients. And make sure the business is running well, when you’re probably distracted by what’s going on. A lot of times, if you have small children, it makes it even more emotional. Because maybe you weren’t home as much. But now you want to be home more, because you do have the children. And maybe there’s an issue about custody or how much time you’re going to be able to spend with your children because of the divorce. So that’s a lot of different factors that are going into an entrepreneur who’s trying to run their business, because as we know, it can be very stressful without all those other things.
Sandra Radna 10:32
So with regards to your question about how do you value a business, it really depends on the type of business. So if you’re a business where you’re, say, a smaller business, and I’ll just use an example, say you’re a carwash, okay. And you’re the owner of the carwash, you make a nice living, but you you know, you’re really your brand, and you go out and you’re the one that does the networking to get all your business, and maybe you have a sign up there, but you’re really out there doing everything. If you’re not in the business, maybe the business doesn’t survive, because you’re the one that knows how to do everything. So that evaluation might be done based on if you were going to go someplace, or if somebody was going to buy that business with your goodwill, what would it be worth? What would it be worth with you as an employee? What would you have to be paid? Or what would it be worth without you? Then you have things that are more unique say that you have a boating store, and the equipment becomes obsolete almost every year. So you have to have inventory, but you have to go out to boat shows to find out all the new things that are coming out. And keeping on top of that. So maybe you’re the only one that’s going out and doing that. Without you going out to the boat shows and getting all the business for the seasonal business, remember, boating in New York is not all year round, right? Without you maybe there’s no business. So that’s evaluated differently also, then you go into a traditional business say that you’re an owner of a strip mall, you know, well, that might be more easy, just because of the type of business that it is to be able to just look at a balance sheet and see like, here’s what the value is. So forensic accountant, which I don’t know if people are familiar with that term, but they’re accountants that are specifically tasked with this is what they do. They look at businesses, and they have all different methods of valuing the businesses and determining what they’re worth. Medical practice, for example, might be looked at a little bit differently than a financial practice, service industry, and attorneys practice might be looked at differently if it’s a large firm as opposed to a sole practitioner. So they have methods and and criteria that they use in order to figure out what’s going on and what the value is of the business. Now as far as splitting everything 50-50 that’s not necessarily the case, at least not New York. New York is what’s called an equitable distribution state. And we always say in New York, it’s equitable, not equal, which means that in New York, a spouse only gets 50% of the marital portion of any asset. So if you lived in California, for example, it’s a community property state. And I’m not saying that I’m a California attorney, but I know this, what you own at the time of your divorce does get divided 50-50. And I don’t know if anybody remembers Eddie Murphy from back in the day talking about Johnny Carson getting his divorce. So I’m on the front of the Enquirer, Johnny’s wife gets half, you know, that was because whatever he owned at that time, wife got half. In New York, it’s only whatever you acquired during the marriage, that gets split in half, unless you have a prenup or postnup. So if you were working at a job for 15 years before you got married, and you had a pension, and then you were married, and you had a 10 year marriage, your spouse would only get 50% of the amount that it grew during that 10 years of the marriage, they wouldn’t get anything.
Lee Korn 13:55
So it sounds like it’s complicated. You have to get qualified experts. And it’s not as easy as like a house getting three appraisals from the local real estate brokers and picking the one that makes the most sense. Right?
Sandra Radna 14:10
You do work with experts, and really the best matrimonial attorneys are, We know what we know, and we don’t know what we don’t know. So the way that it works best is to have the other people, the financial people, the actuaries. If it’s talking about a pension, business attorney, or a trust, and estate attorney, all of those people would really be doing their part in order to make sure that everything was properly divided and evaluated. A financial person, for example, might say that even if you’re going to divide things 50-50, you should make sure that you get these certain assets because it’s going to be taxed, impacted differently. And you might not have access to something because it’s not liquid. So even though you’re getting all these retirement accounts, which equals 50% of the marital estate, you’re not able to use it because you’re only 38 years old, and it’s going to be problem. So that’s why it’s important to have these other professionals in house.
Lee Korn 15:03
So it sounds like the process is disruptive, emotional, financially impactful. What advice do you give to people that come to you who are on the precipice of getting married? They’re not married yet. Or maybe they’re even newly married. And hopefully, they’re never going to end up on your doorstep. But they want to do the planning. You know, maybe some of the planning that Bill and Melinda Gates did, although they didn’t do all the planning. But so what advice do you have for those individuals?
Sandra Radna 15:31
It’s a few different things. And it depends on what stage of their life they’re getting married. If you’re someone who’s getting married after you’ve already established a business, if you already have your own business, if you already have assets, if you own real estate or any other type of asset, it’s really a good idea to get a prenuptial agreement And your run of the mill cookie cutter prenuptial agreement, which should never be cookie cutter, but the main things that are always in a prenuptial is that whatever we own separately prior to the marriage would remain separate. Whatever we own together during the marriage, we accumulate during the marriage, would be marital property that gets divided evenly. But the other thing you could add to that is anything that is purchased from the income from that separate property would also remain separate. So if you didn’t have a prenuptial agreement, even though you could prove your separate property was separate, any money that you got during the marriage, that was what we call commingled. And I’m not trying to get too technical, but if you put that separate property into a joint account, it would now become marital property, which would be divided 50-50. If you have a prenuptial agreement that says that separate property stays separate, the agreement could say even if it’s put into a joint account, it remains separate money. So you’d be able to get that money back even if you put it into a joint account. So that’s one type of planning you can do. Another type of planning could be after you’re already married, getting a postnuptial agreement. So say that you decided to get a prenuptial agreement, but the wedding was coming up and you really didn’t want to feel pressured into signing it too quickly, you can enter into the same agreement after you get married if you’re both agreeing to do that.
Lee Korn 17:13
Is that common? Do you see that happen often?
Sandra Radna 17:15
Yes, I’ve seen people run out of time. And we do a postnup and I always say, Don’t worry, we could do a postnup because you never want someone to feel that they were pressured into signing it too quickly. It’s actually grounds that invalidate the prenuptial agreement, that one person felt that they were coerced. And they weren’t given time to review it or to review it with an attorney or to really understand what was happening. So you want to make sure that it’s enforceable, because otherwise, what’s the point? And if it feels too rushed, if somebody comes to right before, and there’s not enough time, we can do the same agreement and just get signed after the marriage, after the wedding. And it’s called the postnuptial agreement instead.
Lee Korn 17:55
Got it. I would imagine it’s a tough conversation and emotional conversation. You know, we have a number of clients of ours whose children are involved in the business and they’re getting married. And sometimes it’s dictated by the parent, you know, I want you to have a prenuptial agreement. If something goes south, sometimes it’s dictated by the child, when someone comes to you, and you’re guiding them, recommending that they have a prenuptial agreement done. Tell me about that conversation. It’s a tough conversation, do you give any guidance to them on how to have it?
Sandra Radna 18:28
It can be a tough conversation. It really depends on how it’s presented. If you present it to somebody right before you get married, after you’re already engaged, everything’s planned, and you say, hey, sign this prenup. It’s a very tough, I would say very tough conversation. But if you’re the dating stage, and you say, you know what, my family has this business. And it’s really important that whoever I married, I know that we’re not engaged yet. But if we do get married, a prenuptial agreement’s going to be necessary, because that’s what my family requires. And the person knows that that’s coming, it’s not as bad because it’s not just sprung on them without any warning. So it’s easier if you have a talk about it ahead of time. If you don’t have that talk ahead of time, then it’s really easy to blame the attorney. I spoke with my attorney and they said, This is what I need to do for my business, or I have business partners. So in order to protect them, there’s all ways to present it. So it’s more palatable and it doesn’t look like you’re trying to hide something that you’re just trying to protect everything. And when you explain that whatever we accumulate during the marriage is still marital. It’s just this other thing that I already had before because of my family, because of my business partners that we’ve established years before that’s being protected. And when it’s presented that way, it’s usually a lot easier. The people that have a problem with it are really the people that right before the marriage they’re being asked to sign a prenuptial agreement and they feel like it’s being shoved down their throat and you never want to be in that situation.
Lee Korn 20:07
You brought up an interesting point. You talked about businesses and partners, right? So I would imagine you’re running a business, you have partners, one of the partners is now going through a divorce. And certainly above and beyond the emotional, you know, emotional impact they’re possibly distracted. Is there possibly an impact to the business itself? Let’s say you have a business, that’s worth $10 million. And you have three partners, and they own a third. But there is no liquidity, right? The owner has a business, the owner has assets outside of the business, but they’re not significant. Right? Often we hear from business owners, their single largest asset, highly concentrated, highly illiquid is their business. Right? But you can’t take one brick, I can’t take that table, I can’t sell that table. I can’t sell a third of Opal, right, and give me the money. So is there an impact? Or could there be an impact on the business? And how do people deal with it?
Sandra Radna 21:03
Well, there’s all different types of businesses. So if it’s a publicly traded business, you could have shares of stock, which would be one way to do it, if there wasn’t…
Lee Korn 21:11
Sandra, you’re looking into the future, maybe five or 10 years, maybe we’re a publicly traded company.
Sandra Radna 21:16
Alright, okay. But if it’s not, if there are stock options, you know, in the event that it becomes something else, that can be a marital asset. But most often, what happens is that there is a value placed on that. So if you have a 1/3 share in a business, your spouse is only entitled to a portion of your shared, you wouldn’t be entitled, or he wouldn’t be entitled to an entire share of the whole business. And the other thing that the courts look at in New York is whether the spouse ever played any kind of an active role in the business, if they did it. If you’re just looking at it from a marital asset type of thing, the percentage that they get is much lower, it wouldn’t be a 50-50 share of the spouse’s part of the business, partner’s ownership of the business. With regard to your question about if it’s there’s no liquidity, like, how do they pay it? Once you determine what the value of that share is, there’s all other marital assets that can be used. So say, for example, a spouse might be able to stay in the marital residence, and their buyout would be waiving the business and they get to keep the house, for example. So there’s all different ways to fashion the agreement to make it work.
Lee Korn 22:27
Could partners of the business end up having a fourth partner, ie the spouse, that they didn’t expect? And want?
Sandra Radna 22:36
If the agreement was shareholder, you know, giving shares to the business, yes, the shareholders are the owners of the business, as you know. So if they do that, yes, they could end up having that. But usually what happens is they would have non-voting shares of the business. So they really wouldn’t impact the business in any way other than the one spouse by maybe giving income. So there’s ways to protect the shareholders.
Lee Korn 23:01
Got it. So it sounds like make sure you look at your shareholders agreement and have a conversation with your with your attorney.
Sandra Radna 23:07
I would say the way it impacts businesses the most, just to keep on this topic for a short amount of time, is if there is a forensic accountant who wants to look at all the books and the partners might feel like you know what, why are we having to show everything for the entire business, it’s not our divorce. And that I think is the most uncomfortable for the person going through a divorce.
Lee Korn 23:27
Is that common?
Sandra Radna 23:27
It happens if the parties can’t come to an agreement. Usually what happens, right before that happens, maybe we can work out some type of an agreement. Because there’s usually an idea based on income tax returns, depending on the type of business, on what the value of the business or what the amount that’s flowing through in profit or distributions to the spouses getting divorces. And they can usually work out an agreement, but that’s very uncomfortable for the other partners or shareholders in the agreement.
Lee Korn 23:58
Got it, great. A couple other questions. So we talked about like busting myths. We talked, you touched on the 50-50, right, it’s not 50-50. What about inherited assets? Marital property?
Sandra Radna 24:12
Inherited assets in New York remain separate property unless you commingle that. So meaning that you take that inherited property, that inherited money, and you put it into a joint account, it will become joint. If you keep it separate throughout the marriage, even if you were married for 20 years, and he got that inheritance 20 years ago, and he kept it in a separate account in your name, it remain separate. It never becomes marital. You really just have to be careful with what you do with the money.
Lee Korn 24:41
Interesting. We have a number of conversations with clients when we’re talking about estate planning and the parents. Many, many parents now, rather than leaving money outright to their children, are leaving it in trust for their children and naming their child as their own trustee, ensuring that the assets are kept separate. It’s actually easier conversation. Mom and Dad set this up for me. I didn’t set up the trust. If we want to buy a vacation home, the trust can buy the vacation home. We can use it as a family, but it will never be part of marital assets.
Sandra Radna 25:08
Exactly. That’s where planning comes into place. And there’s very sophisticated trust and estate planning that can be done for all different types of financial situations to protect assets, protect family members, protect real estate, protect, almost anything that you can think of, and also dictate how the money is used. So there’s a trust and estate attorney, depending on the type of business, can really make a huge difference and also a difference in how your tax is impacted as well.
Lee Korn 25:38
Right. So same thing with gifts. If your mother or father while they’re alive, gifts you money. As long as you keep it separate, not part of marital assets?
Sandra Radna 25:47
Right. Yes, that’s true to anything that you get separate, as long as you keep it separate during the marriage, will remain separate. And same thing as proceeds from a lawsuit or personal injury lawsuit, for example, that’s a common thing that happens. So you have proceeds from a personal injury lawsuit, that’s your separate property unless you commingle it, put it in a joint account or use it to buy expenses, marital expenses, things for the children, you pay your mortgage with it, then you’re making it marital.
Lee Korn 26:15
Interesting. You have to be careful. Great. There are different types of marital law. Right? So there is only recently here, there’s Collaborative Law, there’s mediation, there is litigation. Could you just touch on the differences and what each one of those are?
Sandra Radna 26:33
Absolutely. So mediation is where you have one person, a mediator, who is non-adversarial, so they don’t represent either party. They’re there to speak with both parties together to discuss how you could resolve the dissolution of your marriage. Who’s going to have custody? What are you willing to pay for child support, and so forth. How do you want to divide up the marital assets? So that’s when you’re mostly agreeing to everything. Maybe you have one or two issues that you’re not agreeing on. Or maybe you just need specifics that you’re not sure about. That’s what everybody wants—a nice, easy mediated divorce. Collaborative divorce is a little bit different, because each party has their own attorney. And they also have other professionals that work with them. It could be financial, it could be an accountant, it could be a therapist, if there’s children, and they all work together. But they agree that the purpose of it is to settle the divorce case. If it falls apart, and it becomes a litigated divorce, those professionals cannot be part of the divorce anymore. They sign an agreement. So that’s true collaborative divorces. Now, does everybody do it exactly the right way? Not always, but that’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s relatively new in New York, not a lot of people that are practicing it correctly. And then there’s your litigated divorce. Litigated divorce is when the parties are not agreeing to anything. And that’s really what my practice area is. Those are the people that they can’t agree to anything. They can’t agree that, you know, the sky is blue. They can’t agree on who’s going to have custody. They can’t agree on who’s going to have, what we call exclusive use and occupancy of the marital residence. They can’t agree who’s going to drive what car, you know. And you would think that some of these things are easy to agree to, but they’re not. They can’t agree about anything. We had a case where the husband and wife we went almost all the way to trial because they were arguing over who was gonna keep the extension ladder. This is true. The wife didn’t need the extension ladder. The husband needed it for his job. We resolved every other issue. We got to the judge and she said, Well, what is it that you don’t have resolved? And we told them the extension ladder. She said, How much does a ladder cost? My client said $300. She goes, Give her the extension ladder. You’re spending way more money on attorney.
Lee Korn 28:55
Sandra, if the walls of your conference room could talk. We could be here for another few hours.
Sandra Radna 29:01
So yeah, that’s a true litigated divorce, that they couldn’t even agree about the extension ladder.
Lee Korn 29:06
It’s certainly an emotional process. I have a friend of mine, who’s at the tail end, hopefully, he’s finalized soon. And it’s been four years to forensic accountants, a million dollars in legal fees. He went and talked to a mediator to start. And the gentleman had a lot of wisdom and said, If you go that route of litigation, you’re going to be sitting right here with me again, and four years, probably with x outcome. And sure enough, four years later, they’re sitting with that gentleman, and you know, they could have saved a million dollars. But it’s emotional, it’s emotional.
Sandra Radna 29:38
And usually, you’re hitting the nail right on the head, because it’s emotional. So it was never about the extension ladder, right? It was about that, He said, you know, I already gave in to her for other things. I’m not giving in on this ladder. And it’s about whatever happened or other during the years of the marriage that they’re angry about. They just feel that now I’m not going to agree to something.
Lee Korn 30:03
And if they gave in to the ladder, it might have been something else. It might have been the cat or the hot tub, who knows.
Sandra Radna 30:06
Absolutely. I think the hardest thing for people to understand is that even if one person wants to agree, and they want to resolve everything, if the other person doesn’t want to agree, you don’t have an agreement. Like you both have to agree.
Lee Korn 30:09
And it can take years. This is not fly to the Cayman Islands, sign a document posted in the newspaper, and you’re divorced.
Sandra Radna 30:31
That’s right. I always say the wheels of justice move slow, turn slowly. And it’s a long game, not a short game. If you’re going into a litigated divorce, and eventually you’ll get close to what you want. Maybe not 100%, but you’re gonna have to go through the whole procedural rigmarole.
Lee Korn 30:48
I’m hoping to never find out. Personally, my wife and I are coming up on our 30 year anniversary—not married 30 years together—30 years we started senior year of high school. Married 19.
Sandra Radna 31:00
Lee Korn 31:01
Yeah, and I’m hoping never to be at your doorstep or any other divorce attorney’s doorstep. Last question. We’re gonna play a little Monday night quarterback, right. So a lot of people show up on your doorstep or when they show up on your doorstep, they’re either looking for a divorce attorney in the process of divorce, they’re there, the decision has been made. For the most part, some are early in doing planning. But a lot of people show up on your door, knock, knock, knock, I need a divorce attorney, this thing has gone south. Right now, if the goal is to have happy marriages and not to get divorced, and sometimes divorce is inevitable, right? Certain people get together and then they change, and that’s fine. No one should live in an unhappy relationship for eternity, right? But if the goal is happy marriage, and you’ve probably seen it all. They show up on your doorstep, if you could go back in time, 10 years, they’re getting married, maybe they’re they’re on the precipice of getting married, or they’re just married, or they’re in a happy marriage. And the goal is to keep them married, you’re not a therapist, but with the knowledge that you have of why things broke down. What advice would you give that couple?
Sandra Radna 32:14
The number one thing I would say is be interested in what your spouse is doing. Be interested in, if they have a job, and you’re the one staying at home, be interested in what they do at work, listen to what they’re doing during the day and be interested. Because if you’re interested, you usually know what’s going on. If you know what’s going on, you’re involved with each other, there’s usually not this disconnect that happens, which is usually the first sign of a breakdown. If you’re interested, you’re probably going to work towards a common goal. If you’re interested, you’ll be able to talk about things about what that common goal is and what your plans are. A lot of marriages break down because they have completely different goals. So one spouse, for example, might be a spender. While the other spouse might be a saver. Well, if you’re interested, he could have talked about that, and the pros and cons of each and maybe have a happy medium. The other big thing is just the transparency that comes with being interested, if you’re talking to each other all the time, it becomes easy to say, here’s the problem that I’m having, because you’ve already been talking and you’re involved. If you’ve never spoken to each other about here’s what I did during the day, then the problems that you have it might feel like they’re insignificant, or the other person isn’t going to care or they’re not going to be interested in hearing what you have to say. So you don’t talk about that, and it festers. So I think being interested kind of covers a lot. It helps you to really continue having an open relationship during your marriage and communication because we all change. I’m sure you’re a different person than you were 30 years ago. But you and your wife being interested in what the other person is doing allows you to grow together. If you weren’t interested, then you’d be growing in different directions because we all change and you wouldn’t know who that person was because you’re not who you are in high school.
Lee Korn 34:09
They all tell me, my wife tells me I look exactly, I’m the same guy that she met when I was 17. Now that’s great advice, Sandra. Certainly be interested. There are a lot of couples, friends that I have, their kids when they’re grown up and they’re out of the house and the husband and wife look at each other say, Who are you? Right? Because they weren’t interested. They didn’t have communication. So that is great advice.
Lee Korn 34:33
Well, Sandra, I’m sitting here and I have your book in my hand. It’s called, You’re Getting Divorced…Now What? My favorite part of your book is your book marker. It says, Your journey from BD to AD. I’m assuming that’s before divorce to after divorce. I’d be curious what inspired you to write the book? Tell me a little bit about it.
Sandra Radna 34:51
Well, the book is strictly about what happens when you’re going to court for a divorce. So it’s not about the other things of mediation or how to move on after your divorce. And when I would go to court with my clients, it’s very stressful, they don’t know what to expect. And I would explain things to them and I will give them strategies. And I had four or five clients that said to me repeatedly, you really should put this all in a book, people need to know this, they don’t understand what to expect. For example, when you go to court, a lot of times people feel that once the judge hears that I was a PTA mom for three years, or I coach my kid’s baseball team, I’m like, the best dad in the world, I’m so involved, that they’re gonna know that my spouse is the one that’s wrong and I’m the one that’s right. And, of course it’s not like that at all. If your spouse was this horrible person in your eyes, and you were superstar mom or dad, the court still looks at both of you on an even playing field, which is very shocking and hard for people to believe. So the book takes you through everything. The first chapter is called Fear, Shame, Guilt, Sadness.
Lee Korn 35:56
I just love that. I love that one. I’m gonna read it, I’m gonna read that chapter.
Sandra Radna 36:01
It’s just about the emotions you experience, when you first realize that you’re getting divorced, you know, it’s shocking. It’s like you have a deer in the headlights moment like, oh, my goodness, this is really happening. So I have 12 copyrighted forms that go along with the book that help people plan and help them get ready from everything on how to choose an attorney, to what to expect at your first court appearance, what information to give your attorney so that they’re prepared to strongly advocate for you and be able to really express to the judge what your objectives are, so that you can get there. What should be in your divorce agreement, how you should tell the children, what you should and should not say to the children. So I go through, and I even tell you what to do after the divorce in order to enforce your agreement. So it’s really meant to be a resource. I have links for every bar association in the country, every domestic violence agency in the country, every child protective service agency in the country, so that people can really use it as a resource for what they need. I talked about if you have a spouse that has mental illness, or has substance abuse issues, or if you have a child with special needs, these are all things that people need to know about how to protect themselves, how to be ready. And I’ve actually had people who read my book called me up and say that after using my forms, that they actually were able to work out their divorce. So here it was meant to be a litigated book, but they helped it because it clarified the issues. So it’s not as complicated as a spreadsheet, or maybe something a financial person would do. But it’s these fillable forms that help you decide things like who’s gonna stay in the house, who’s gonna have residential custody of the children, like, initial things that you need to do when you’re planning. And then the forms get a little more complex. So I have an initial plan form, an interim plan form, a final plan form.
Lee Korn 37:54
Awesome, sounds like it’s a must read. For anyone that’s looking to contemplate we’re going to change this bookmark is going to be from BD to AD to ND, never divorce. You’re gonna be known as the attorney that coaches people and some of them never get divorced.
Sandra Radna 38:10
Thank you for asking me about the book.
Lee Korn 38:12
Of course, thank you very much. I’m going to get you to sign a copy. And then we’re gonna wrap up. So thank you again, Sandra, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Lee Korn 38:22
Thank you for listening. If you have any questions about the divorce process and how it might affect your personal or business situation, feel free to call me at 516-388-7980 or drop me a note at Lee dot Korn at opalwealthadvisors.com. We’d love to hear your comments and answer any of your questions. I also encourage you to subscribe to our podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. Sign up at opalwealthadvisors.com/bizmoney to be kept in the know on what’s coming up in our series. Thanks again for joining us and we’ll see you next time on Biz Money.