Prenuptial Agreements and Collaborative Practice

You’ve fallen in love, your intended is a wonderful person and you’ve decided to get married! But . . . it’s complicated. He has children from a prior marriage and she makes a lot more money and has many more assets.  You both want to protect your assets for yourselves if the marriage does not work out, or for your children, if you are the first to die.  So, you’ve agreed you need a prenuptial agreement.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is also called an antenuptial agreement.  It describes who gets what in the event of divorce or death. It’s simple, right?  Unfortunately no.  When you start talking about it, things get complicated.  What if I sell my house to marry you and then we get divorced – where and how will I live? What if I think I will need alimony (“maintenance” in Missouri) if we get divorced and you say you won’t pay it?  What if we both invest in a house and I die – will my children get any benefit from the house?  What if we have children together?  How will we provide for our children and children from a prior relationship? These are just some of the questions you may need to think about and resolve. Better to do so prior to your marriage and get a written agreement so that there are no misunderstandings.

Working Through the Prenuptial Agreement

But, is there a way to resolve these issues without compromising (or ruining!) your relationship with your intended?

Collaborative practice is ideal for discussion about and negotiation of prenuptial agreements which can be lengthy and complex documents. In Missouri, a prenuptial agreement may be significantly weakened if one party is not represented by an attorney. In the collaborative practice setting, each party will have an attorney trained in the collaborative process who can help both of you identify and understand what terms you should consider for the agreement and why.  There will also be one or two mental health professionals present throughout the process to provide, not therapy, but support for each of you. There will also be a financial professional who will provide information about budgets, taxes, cash flow and other pertinent and important information about your respective financial positions and how they might be affected by the terms under consideration.  This team will be dedicated to helping you think about and resolve tough questions and will assist you and your intended in reaching the best agreement for both of you and for your children.

Benefits: Prenuptual Agreements in Collaborative Process

Collaborative practice can strengthen your prenuptial agreement in that the terms will have been fully explored, explained and considered by both parties.  In addition, it can make the negotiation of the terms of the agreement much more comfortable and less tense as the collaborative team assists both parties to reach an agreement they understand and believe they can live with.

Discussing and deciding on your financial future together in a supportive environment with trained professionals is a great way to set the stage for your new life together.  After all, a successful marriage is, in great part, a collaboration!

Learn More About the Collaborative Process

If your goal is to have a positive prenuptial conversation the key is to find the best process for having that conversation.  The most supportive process for working through the complicated "what if" scenarios.  A step you can take today is to review the St. Louis Collaborative Family Law website for more information, and a list of collaborative law professionals, trained in the collaborative process.  Many professionals in the St. Louis Collaborative Family Law Association offer an initial consultation at no charge, so you will have an opportunity to determine the best fit for you in the prenuptial agreement process.

Missouri Divorce and Child Support

Parents naturally are most concerned about their children at the time of divorce. One of the most important issues to be decided is how and in what amounts the children will be financially provided for.

Missouri Form 14

The Missouri Supreme Court has developed a way of calculating the amounts needed for support of children: it is called the Form 14 and it is readily available on the internet. The Form 14 child support amount is based on the gross (before tax deductions) income of each parent, the number of children of the marriage and various adjustments to income, including (among others) the cost of work-related child care and health insurance for the children.

Calculating Missouri Child Support

The Form 14 seems deceptively simple. It might appear that all one needs to do is plug in the gross income of each party, along with some other expenses like day care, and then out comes a child support number. Calculating child support is not, however, as easy as it might first appear. For instance:

These and many other questions can cause distress and conflict when trying to come up with the “right” amount of Form 14 child support. Fighting this issue in court can turn into a bitter and expensive battle with your spouse.

Collaborative Divorce and Child Support

In the collaborative divorce process you and your spouse can look at your individual circumstances and come to creative solutions that meet the interests of each of you and, most importantly, your children. With the help of your collaborative attorneys, your coach, and your financial professional, you and your spouse can discuss what your actual expenses are for your children and then come to decisions about how you want to pay those expenses. Maybe you will decide that no child support money will flow from one parent to the other parent and that you and your spouse will each pay certain expenses or certain percentages of all of the expenses for your child. Or, maybe you will decide that it is right that one parent pay child support to the other and agree on the correct amount for your family. Or, you might conclude that an agreed upon support amount will be paid less than 12 months per year.

The options available to you in collaborative divorce for making decisions about what is best for financial support of your children are limitless. Using the collaborative divorce process to analyze financial support of your children allows you, with the support and help of your collaborative team, to take a deeper dive into thinking about what your children need and what you and your spouse will be able to afford after the divorce. Once you are armed with the facts, you and your spouse can make informed decisions about how best to provide for your children in your unique family situation.

How Do I Get A Simple Divorce?


 I often hear this from prospective clients, usually in relation to the anticipated cost of getting divorced.  As in, “how much will it cost me for a simple divorce?”  My answer is normally, “it depends,” and that begins a rather lengthy conversation about what, exactly it depends on.

In my experience, there are several things that can contribute to making a “simple” divorce complicated.  At times, we’re dealing with complex issues, like sorting out the value of a business, separating marital assets from non-marital assets, or spousal support.  In other situations, the issues may be rather straightforward, but one party may not be emotionally ready to get divorced.  It’s not at all unusual for parties in a divorce to be at different stages of readiness in relation to the divorce.  Often, one party may have been ready to leave the marriage six months, or even a year ago.  Sometimes even longer than that.  So, it can take the other spouse a bit of time to get up to speed.

If one spouse is still grieving the loss of the marriage, he or she may not be anxious to get to the finish line.  The reluctant spouse may, wittingly or unwittingly, create obstacles that make it more difficult to finish the process, and that can frustrate the spouse who was ready to be divorced on Day 1.


Let’s look at the constants first:  You can’t change the situation itself.  It is what it is.  You can’t change the issues that need to be resolved.   The same issues must be dealt with, one way or the other.  You can’t change your spouse, although you certainly may have tried.  Let’s face it, if you could change your spouse, you probably wouldn’t be looking for a divorce attorney.


You can determine how you will conduct yourself during the divorce proceedings and how you will interact with your spouse.    Making a good faith effort to act according to your own values and integrity can go a long way in keeping matters simple and minimizing the stress and drama that can often accompany a divorce.

You also have the ability to select the divorce process you would prefer to use to resolve the issues in your divorce.  In some cases, when the issues are simple and both parties are emotionally ready to do so, parties are able to sit down together and discuss the issues in a reasonable, rational way.  That is usually called the kitchen table process.  Most divorcing couples need a bit more support than that, however, so many couples elect to use mediation or the collaborative process. 

In mediation, the parties use the services of a neutral mediator to guide them through their negotiations to reach a settlement.  The parties have attorneys to give them legal advice, but the attorneys aren’t usually directly involved in the settlement negotiations.  In the collaborative process, each party works with their own collaboratively-trained attorney, and other team members, including a neutral mental health coach to assist the couple in their communication during the settlement negotiations.  If one party is angry or sad about their spouse’s decision to leave the marriage, the involvement of a coach can be invaluable in helping the reluctant party deal with his or her emotions sensitively and therapeutically.  That can pave the way for more focused and productive settlement negotiations.   Many collaborative teams also include a neutral financial specialist to assist them in negotiating the financial settlement including the division of property, spousal support, child support, valuation of separate and marital property, and other complex financial issues.


If your goal is to have a “simple divorce,” the key is to find the best fit, for you and your spouse, in terms of the process you choose, and in the divorce professionals you select.  Review the St. Louis Collaborative Family Law website for more information, and a list of family law attorneys trained in mediation and the collaborative processMany attorneys in the St. Louis Collaborative Family Law Association offer an initial consultation at no charge, so you will have an opportunity to determine the best fit for you, in the divorce process and in your choice of an attorney.

About The Author: Marjorie Carter

Marjorie is an attorney and former member of CFLA.

Parenting Plans and Collaborative Divorce

If you are getting divorced and have children 18 years old or under, you will have a parenting plan as part of your divorce judgment. A parenting plan establishes the schedule for the children’s care, the manner in which decisions regarding the children’s health and welfare will be made, and the support arrangements for the children.  It is essential to develop good parenting plans and collaborative divorce is a process that provides a great deal of support.

You Still Need a Parenting Plan

Even parents who are able to cooperate in sharing the children’s time will need a parenting plan. Your ability to agree with the other parent today doesn’t guarantee that level of cooperation in the future, particularly as the parents recouple, move, or experience other changes in their lives. The parenting plan establishes the fallback arrangements if the parents are unable to agree.

Parenting Plans and Collaborative Divorce Process

The collaborative divorce process provides parents with substantial support and expertise to assist them in establishing a parenting plan. Each collaborative professional team includes a mental health professional whose job includes giving the parents guidance regarding children’s developmental needs, and who can offer hints and suggestions on crafting a workable parenting schedule that takes into account the children’s ages and unique circumstances, along with the parents’ work and travel schedules and other potentially challenging issues that make fashioning a parenting plan more difficult.

For cases in which the issues surrounding the children are more complex, the collaborative team can be expanded to include a Child Specialist who can delve more deeply into the parenting issues by interviewing the children as well as counselors, child care workers, medical personnel, and others having knowledge about the children’s needs. The Child Specialist brings this information to the parents and assists them in coming up with a plan suited to the family’s unique needs.

Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor; no single plan suits all families. The children’s ages, health, and mental and physical conditions and limitations all need to be taken into account. Both parents’ needs and desires are also factors that must be dealt with. The Collaborative Process provides a forum for discussing these issues and the professional support, based upon experience and training, that will assist parents in coming up with an effective and practical plan.

Review the Collaborative Family Law Association's website for more information and to locate a list of mental health professionals and child specialists, trained in the collaborative divorce processMany professionals in the Collaborative Family Law Association offer an initial consultation at no charge, so you will have an opportunity to determine how parenting plans and collaborative divorce can help you in the divorce process.

Divorce and Disappointment

Unfortunately, we all face disappointment at some point.  It is a part of life.  How you choose to deal with disappointment is what often matters most.  You will face many feelings during a divorce and disappointment is a common feeling that many people face.

The Disappointment

When you focus on the negative parts of a disappointing situation, you cannot see the opportunities you have.  Being angry may cause you to take your feelings out on someone who does not deserve it.  Feeling sorry for yourself causes you to be too busy thinking about yourself.  It is tempting to strike out at the person or persons you identify as the cause of your disappointment.  Anger, self-pity, and revenge will only make matters worse.

Focusing on the Future

While life is full of disappointments, it is good to remember that life is also filled with opportunities.  To move past the disappointment in a positive way, first express your feelings appropriately.  Talk to a friend.  Write down, for yourself, what happened, perhaps in a letter.  Then, destroy the writing.  The writing is meant for you, and no one else.  Put your upset in perspective.  Few disappointments continue indefinitely.  Stop and think about all the things that are good in your life.

Implement Helpful Tactics

You might need to change your plans.  You might need to adjust your thinking.  You do not have to allow someone, or something, to control your future.  Remember, each of us is in charge of our own future, not someone or something else.  Recognizing the disappointment, focusing on the future and implementing helpful tactics will allow you to move forward in a positive way.

The collaborative divorce process often engages a divorce coach. A divorce coach is trained in the emotions of divorce.  To learn more about the collaborative divorce process or the skills of a divorce coach visit the St. Louis Collaborative Law Association's website for helpful resources and information.

About the Author : Gary Soule

Gary is an attorney and former member of CFLA.

Why do we need a divorce coach? I already have a therapist.

Divorce is one of the most challenging and difficult times of one’s life – and in the midst of this emotional turmoil, people are required to make decisions that will permanently affect their future (and their children’s future). Trying to sort through all of the logistical, legal, financial, and parenting decisions that have to be made is overwhelming. Clear-headed guidance and perspective is tough to find. The person who used to be a partner is now an opponent, family and friends blindly pick sides, lawyers advocate only for their client, and therapists provide good support but don’t have complete information and generally know little about the divorce process.

Using a collaborative approach goes a long way towards addressing these problems – but it is the Collaborative Divorce Coach whose job it is to keep focus on the big picture and the long-term goals (i.e., after everything is over), to make sure that the best interests of the whole family are kept constantly in mind, and that the collaborative team works together to accomplish this objective.

Role of the Divorce Coach

Collaborative divorce coaches are experienced, licensed mental health professionals. The term “Coach” is used to make it clear that coaches in the collaborative process are not acting as therapists. They don’t explore feelings or to try to change who people are. An analogy is that a therapist is someone you bring your luggage to and s/he helps you open it up and examine the contents; a collaborative divorce coach is someone you bring your luggage to and, without opening it, s/he helps you carry it across the street.

Because collaborative divorce coaches are familiar with the divorce process, they can provide a road map of what’s ahead, and help to anticipate and avoid pitfalls. In addition to providing support and guidance, Coaches help families get through through divorce in a reasoned and respectful way, minimizing damage to everyone in the family.

Coaches help to manage feelings, to minimize conflict, and to avoid non-productive issues. Since emotions filter what we see and hear, coaches diffuse ‘hot buttons’ and provide a reality check on negative stories / attributions that spouses have about each other.

Help for Spouses

Because they work with both spouses, coaches are able to facilitate and establish constructive communication. They model healthier ways of talking and listening, which helps to keep lines of communication open and facilitates civil discussions and negotiations. Coaches also help to offset any power imbalances that might exist between spouses as a result of differences in temperament, financial security, emotional stability, social support, knowledge, etc.

A major task of the Collaborative Divorce Coach is to help parents shift from a partner relationship to a co-parenting relationship. Establishing a healthy co-parenting relationship means helping parents develop new family rules, expectations, communications, beliefs, and ways of parenting. It means helping parents focus on averting future problems rather than assigning blame for past problems.

Help for Children

Collaborative Divorce Coaches understand the developmental needs of children, what parents can do to help them, and how to minimize the adverse impact of the divorce. In addition to helping parents maintain emotional stability and communicate effectively, the coach can provide insight into parenting issues not yet experienced by the parents since they haven’t yet had children any older than the ones they have now. Coaches work with the parents to create a Parenting Plan that best meets the needs of the family now and in the future, while fulfilling the document requirements of the court.

Help for the Collaborative Team

As well as assisting parents with emotional issues, the Coach manages the emotional content of the entire collaborative process. This means facilitating communications during meetings and between meetings, for the other professionals in the process as well as parents. During meetings, Coaches often manage the agenda, and, in addition to keeping everyone’s feelings in check, ask questions that a client might feel unable to ask. After every collaborative team meeting with clients, the coaches facilitate a short debrief with the professionals to review how effectively the team functioned in the meeting and to process any difficult situations or personal triggers. This procedure helps to prevent inadvertent alignments or imbalances among team members, contributes to team stability, and assures a reality-based assessment of how the divorce is going and the best plan forward.

The coach also contacts any ‘outside’ therapists involved with a family to inform them about the collaborative process and to clarify the difference in roles between the therapist and the collaborative coach. And if particularly difficult situation arises, the coach can alert the therapist about it so that the therapist can provide additional support.


Collaborative Divorce Coaches, in many ways, are the glue that hold the entire collaborative process together. They help to provide and maintain the communication skills, emotional management, long-range perspective of each spouse, both spouses together, the family as whole, and the professional team. Coaches are an essential part of the collaborative team and are necessary to achieve a “good” divorce. You can contact a Collaborative Divorce Coach to find out more about this divorce option.

About the Author: John Borders

John is an mental health professional and former member of CFLA.

Well Done Divorce and the Financial Advisor

In Napoleon Hill's great book, "Think and Grow Rich", the story of Henry Ford's success includes a passage describing how Mr. Ford became one of the wealthiest men in America by surrounding himself with people who could supply him with all the knowledge he needed to succeed.

In a collaborative divorce setting, clients and attorneys understand that in order to reach the best possible resolution of the problem of dividing assets it may be necessary to bring in a professional for the job.  This is where a financial Advisor or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is required.

We count on lawyers to know the law in a family law setting.  And while they may be highly accomplished, they do not always have the skill set to parse out complex divisions of assets in a divorce dispute.  The Financial Advisor on your collaborative divorce team is experienced at seeing the entire financial picture, including tax issues, present values of pensions and 401k savings plans, mortgages and the short and long term outcomes related to splitting family finances.

As a neutral advisor, the financial professional on the team represents both husband and wife, gathering and analyzing data, then educating the couple as to the potential outcomes of settlement suggestions.  As with all members of a collaborative divorce team, the goal is to provide you with information that you can use to make solid, lasting, reasonable agreements -- agreements that may help keep you from having to go back to court later fo modifications.

Creating a good outcome from what could be the most difficult event in your lifetime requires the ability to do something incredibly difficult -- separate your finances from your emotions.  The task of splitting assets in the cause of many horrible divorces.  The Financial Advisor's job is to educate you and help you.  In the end you will sleep better in the knowledge that you made good choices and the empowerment of having taken proper care of your family.  At the end of the day, following Henry Ford's lead and surrounding yourself with the right team may well pay you back with a more positive experience at what could be a really bad time.

About the Author : Laura Boedges

Laura is a financial professional and former member of CFLA.