The Gray Divorce Podcast: Episode 20 What is Amicable Divorce? with Tracy Moore-Grant, Founder, The Amicable Divorce Network
Announcement: Welcome to The Gray Divorce Podcast, hosted by divorce financial analyst and retirement planning counselor Andrew Hatherley. Join Andrew and guest experts as they help late life divorcees build the financial and mental foundation for a meaningful future. There is life after divorce. Now onto the show.
Andrew Hatherley: Hello everybody. Welcome to episode 20 of The Gray Divorce Podcast. I'm very happy to have today my guest, Tracy Moore Grant. Tracy has practiced exclusively in the area of family law in the North Georgia area since 20. Since 2002. In 2019, she founded the Amicable Divorce Network, a network of legal, financial, and other professionals dedicated to working together to achieve a respectful divorce for their clients.
Amicable divorce is a non-adversarial approach to divorce with the goal of avoiding the financial and emotional stress of litigated divorce. Regular listeners of the Gray Divorce Podcast will know that we are big fans of avoiding nasty, long, drawn out, litigated expensive divorce. I hope I've included enough nasty adjectives there for the process.
Listeners may remember episode five of the podcast where we discussed alternatives to litigation such as mediation and collaborative divorce. I look forward to discussing with Tracy how amicable divorce compares to these processes and gives people another alternative, not only to stay out of court, but also perhaps a better alternative than do-it-yourself divorce.
Full disclosure, I've known Tracy for a couple of months now. I did some research on the Amicable Divorce Network and was impressed by what I saw and the people involved and recently signed up as a founding member for the State of Nevada. So Tracy, welcome to the Gray Divorce Podcast.
Tracy Moore-Grant: Thank you so much for having me.
Andrew Hatherley: Very happy you could be here with us today. So in my introduction, I mentioned that you started the practice of law in 2002. I'm guessing something probably happened between 2002 in 2019. I can't imagine what would inspire you to create the Amicable divorce Network. So perhaps you could give us a little bit of background.
Tracy Moore-Grant: I think there are probably so many little things that happened that really built up to when I decided in 2019 to really take a step back from litigation and as a family law attorney. That is not normal. That was something I definitely had to run by my law partners. And so I really just decided that I wasn't going to sell my anger anymore because I felt like that's what people were buying in a divorce process.
And so I wanted to create a better situation for myself and my clients. I would often (in every single consult, really, and it's a very normal question)- I would have a new client ask me, how long is this process going to take? And how expensive is it going to be? And I was unable to answer those questions for them because it depended so heavily on who the other spouse would hire.
Were they a high conflict attorney, and what was the other spouse's attitude? How were they approaching the process? And so, I felt those were two really reasonable questions that I wanted to be able to answer for my clients with much certainty.
Andrew Hatherley: So, you know what? I'm intrigued by that term sell your anger.
I know when I was going through my divorce at age 52, it was anger, it was frustration, it was all the emotions. But I guess I needed that attorney to metaphorically put his arms around me and say, yeah, your wife's crazy. We're going to sort this out.
Tracy Moore-Grant: That could have gone a couple of different ways, and one is to say, Andrew, I don't think that's a good use of our resources.
Let's focus on getting you a good result. And that type of attorney, that's the one we want in the Amicable divorce network. The other type of attorney would simply take your anger and say, oh yeah, Andrew. I agree with you, let's really stick it to 'em. Let's set a court hearing. Let's set a deposition. Let’s do this discovery.
And for a moment, you might feel really good because you've just stuck it to the other spouse that maybe has hurt you, but it actually doesn't get you anywhere. When you're buying anger you are just basically burning your money. And so the attorneys. All attorneys know this. This is not new information.
Attorneys make money on conflict. So the attorneys that are really fanning the flame and really creating more conflict as opposed to simmering it down that is something that people should always be really aware of in their divorce case is how their attorney is treating conflict,
Andrew Hatherley: I came across the term divorce industrial complex, or maybe I made, I like to think I made it up, but I don't think I did.
I think I came across the term, but it really is, you can have attorneys who do fan the flames and that just makes everything (that makes everything) worse and more drawn out and protracted. In my particular case, it ended up being drawn out and protracted anyway, and that's largely because I wasn't aware of- I was uneducated. And the purpose of this podcast and the purpose of the great work you're doing is to educate people about alternatives. And when you talk about amicable divorce, just to play devil's advocate, for some people listening in the audience, they're probably wondering amicable and divorce don't really go together.
Isn't it a contradiction in terms, I'm sure you have an answer to that.
Tracy Moore-Grant: I do. Here's the funny thing is the parties going through divorce are not the amicable ones. We vet professionals. We are the only organization in the world that vets divorce industry professionals for being experienced.
You have to have a minimum of five years of experience for being resolution focused, and you are vetted by your peers and your colleagues. And for engaging in fair billing practices. So when you have resolution focused and amicable professionals who can solve a problem, that resolve, that comes up in your case with a phone call between two reasonable people as opposed to motions and depositions and angry letters.
You are saving money. So parties going through a divorce are still going to have hurt feelings. They are still going to have all of the same emotions that anybody does. All of the same issues, all of the same problems. They can be complex, they can be simple. Any divorce can be handled this way, but we vet the professionals for being reasonable people that can get along with one another, and that saves clients heartache and money.
Andrew Hatherley: That's so important, the vetting process. And we can talk a little bit more about the formal process in a minute, but I've known collaborative attorneys who haven't been particularly collaborative, really. They have the designation, maybe they've decided, “Hey, I'm going to get designation”, but they haven't been particularly collaborative.
So I think it's important that the extra onus is put on the process that you do that early on to say, Hey, we're going to do this right.
Tracy Moore-Grant: I think that's really important. Collaborative. Anybody can sign up for the training. You just sign up for the class. It doesn't mean you have an actual collaborative mindset.
Although we hope people do. But with amicable, we vet you first and then you're allowed to take our training. So it, really, I think, puts the most important factors for the public at the front of membership.
Andrew Hatherley: You talk about. The professionals being amicable, and there's a couple of different roads we can take from that.
But the first thing I want to focus on is that, the process itself, because the typical litigated, I don't want to say typical because divorce has been done so many ways, but the litigated divorce, which can be unpleasant, often brings out the worst in people. And I think there's a saying in the legal community that, the criminal justice system may see bad people on their best behavior.
Like the gangsters who go into court with a suit and tie and they're “Yes, your honor. No, your Honor”. But the divorce world sees good people or normal people. Regular people. Yeah. At their worst behavior. And I think what the amicable divorce process and mediation and collaborative, if it's done right, these processes in themselves, I think, can encourage people just to be better versions of themselves because of just the way that they're, that the processes work.
Tracy Moore-Grant: I think so. And I think when you have a resolution focused professional, you usually have somebody who got into the family law space because they wanted to help people.
And for me personally, I found that I… it was a little bit… it was definitely at odds with my ethics that I felt like I wasn't helping people. I got stuck in this reaction mode. I had to react to what opposing counsel was doing, and I wanted to change that. But now, if I have a client that comes to me and they're struggling with a particular issue, we have a vast network of professionals.
Many of them are authors or coaches, or, financial professionals or mental health professionals, whatever it is. So if somebody's struggling with something, I promise you they're not the first person to struggle with that thing. And that's one of the reasons why we have experienced professionals so that they can identify issues if they're accustomed to doing family law and point somebody in the right direction for a resource whether it's a book or an article or a group, whatever it is that they might need in that moment.
Somebody is filtering that problem outside of the court system to find the exact solution to that problem, because rarely are these emotional problems and struggles ever healed or handled in the court system. That's the improper tool for the problem.
Andrew Hatherley: No, it's precisely the wrong way. Yeah.
Tracy Moore-Grant: You couldn't get more wrong than expecting emotional justice.
Andrew Hatherley: So, Exactly. No. You make a good point and some people listening may be a little cynical towards attorneys or financial advisors currently. We're not always held in the highest esteem, but I think it's important what you say about our backgrounds. You've experienced the family law world and you've seen that there's a better way of doing it.
Personally I went through an expensive nine month divorce and a lot of divorce financial analysts such as myself. I come from having gone through the process and just wanting to tell people because we feel so helpless and ignorant when we're going through it because we don't, we're not educated about it.
And so we come out of it thinking, my God, as helping professionals, as advisors or attorneys, we've gotta spread the word about this. So I think that gut feeling that attracts people to a network such as yours should go to alleviate some of the skepticism people might have about, how are you making money out of this?
Or, you know what?
Tracy Moore-Grant: Yeah. And I can answer that. So I don't go to court anymore, so I am a non-litigation attorney, and so I am not at the court’s whimsy anymore as far as when they're going to call me into court. And I am able to really manage my time and get to know my clients and get to know their cases and really help with them to work on solutions because my time isn't being wasted by the court system.
It is true. I probably make less and I definitely do. I can tell you I make less per case than I used to in litigation. But I have a waiting list now for clients. In many situations I offer a flat fee. They pay one cost to get through their divorce, and that's because the process is manageable, there aren't surprises.
We know how this is going to be handled. And so it is a very economical choice for people. The way that we can really design the process for what the parties need trims off. All of that fat and excess waste that you see in litigated cases.
Andrew Hatherley: You mentioned something important there about cost, because we've talked about the terrible expense of litigated cases, months and months of paying attorneys retainers.
But so many divorces are d i y, do-it-yourself divorces. Yeah. And that's not a good thing either. No. And these people are doing it. Correct me if I'm wrong, they're doing it to save money, but ultimately, what can happen?
Tracy Moore-Grant: Mistakes. Yeah. So I'll just throw some information out there, I've been doing this 21 years, the worst case of a DIY divorce I ever saw was a client that came to me about a year after the divorce was final. They did it themselves, filled out some forms, the clerk handed them and she was like, I'd never got my equity out of the home. I'm due a hundred thousand dollars.
I want to buy this new house and he won't give me his money. So typically we would deal with this as a contempt action. That is not how their agreement was worded. She was not entitled to those funds. Her husband had. Wink, nudge, nudge, that's what's in here. But there was nothing I could enforce to get her money.
And in talking with people who often come to me because they can't complete the process online because of the tricky court forms and everything, I ask them why. And they're afraid of the cost of an attorney and the conflict that the attorney might bring into their family. And so that's why we vet for these things in our network.
So those are what's most important to people going through a divorce. They want somebody that knows what they're doing that's experienced, that is not going to create conflict where there wasn't any. And who engages in fair billing practices so that their money is being handled wisely. So whether somebody has a divorce that could be DIY. That's very simple and I always say never DIY if you have a house or a child or a 401k or anything. So don't but you could trust our professionals to help you in a reasonable way to get that sorted out.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have dealt with multi-million dollar cases with business valuations and psychological custody issues and very complex issues because our process is also private and efficient and people who want to keep matters private and efficient, value that. So there are just lots of pluses by choosing to handle your case with the Amicable divorce network.
Andrew Hatherley: Okay, so what's the process, Tracy? How does it work? How does a person find out more about how the process works?
It's not a formal process. Is it formal? Is it not formal compared to, say, something like collaborative divorce? How does it work? I.
Tracy Moore-Grant: So if you are somebody looking for a divorce attorney and we always say to start with an attorney, sometimes somebody has started with a coach or a financial professional in our network.
But if you don't have any of those, I would suggest an attorney. You can go to amicable divorce network.com and look in our membership directory for someone and reach out to anybody that you see there that you want to meet with in your area. And the attorney will advise you on the process. We have literature that you get.
You can also read this on our website. And once your spouse also gets an amicable attorney, and you both do have to hire attorneys in the network because they're the only ones who are trained on our out of court process and who have access to our technology platform. And they will design the process for you.
They might say, let's go to a mediation quickly, or we need to get a business valuation, or we need to get these stock options valued by somebody, or a client needs to work on a budget, or we need whatever the steps are, whatever the problems are. We triage that case and say we need to bring in this certified divorce lending professional to see what our options are with the house, and then we can try to reach a resolution and make it as efficient as possible.
We bring in the professionals the couple needs. Give them a timeline for when these things are going to happen. The clients get a copy of this and then they get access to our technology platform, which helps them with marital balance sheets and budgeting. It syncs all your records, creates this information for you.
It's very easy to use. And then we work on how are we going to get this case settled?
Andrew Hatherley: There's a couple of things there. First of all, you mentioned the professionals, and I'm allowed to get to that first because a lot of people think. ‘Oh, bringing other professionals in. This is just going to ring up the cash register here.
This is going to be expensive.’ No, a lot of professionals won't get paid to offer the advice. They would only get paid, for instance, you mentioned certified divorce lending professionals. Perhaps you could explain how they work in their fee.
Tracy Moore-Grant: Yeah. So you would meet with them and they could say and they often write us a memo that says, This person needs to have this particular financial settlement in order to qualify to refinance the mortgage.
This would be their new payment. Maybe they can only do an equity buyout of the house of a certain amount because what is appropriate legally is very different than what's allowed financially. And so you need to use the right tool to solve that problem. So we have a whole network of people. So whatever the problem is, we have that tool to help you solve the problem.
But yes, many of our professionals give free advice like the Certified Divorce Lending Professionals. And they're people that you might use. Anyway a financial advisor or others in order to assist you. But because they're vetted by our network, they're part of our team and process and all share the same goals of helping people divorce better.
Andrew Hatherley: And in so far as you mentioned financial advisors I've found some very good working relationships with attorneys in Las Vegas who bring me on to work on the financial aspects of the case.
And, we tell the clients, look, Andrew's rate is half of what the attorney's rate is. So if I'm doing the financial work it's ultimately they're getting two for less than the price of one because it's saving. And that's important because I am not a financial expert.
Tracy Moore-Grant: Yeah. I'm not a financial expert. I'm an attorney, so that's what my skillset is. So you want to use the appropriate person for the issue that you have and Work with them and take their advice. But particularly with gray divorces, I would say almost a hundred percent of the time we have a financial professional.
Because a lot of times they've used the same person for 30 years, they've been married and so now they're getting a divorce and it's appropriate for both people to now get new advice. What does this new life look like for you? What's your budget? What are your financial goals? Because now they're separate from how you've been planning.
And so that is an important aspect for Gray divorce in our network.
Andrew Hatherley: Nice segue, Tracy, because this is the Gray Divorce Podcast, and I would think that amicable divorce and non-litigated divorce is extremely important for the gray divorcee because they simply just do not have (and for new newcomers to the podcast, that's people mid to late life, typically over the age of 50) they don't have the time to recover financially that somebody maybe getting divorced in their twenties or thirties does, and they've typically got a lot more assets saved over time.
Their recovery financially is of prime importance and they don't want to spend a lot of money going through the process and they want to be well-educated about building the foundation for the rest of their life. After the divorce. I'm wondering, are you seeing a lot of gray divorce cases in your practice?
Tracy Moore-Grant: Easily. For me personally, 50% I would say of the amicable divorces that I have done have been gray divorces. Wow. I think that this population is a large population of divorcing couples at this point. I think it's the highest, is my understanding from a recent article of divorcing couples. It's the fastest growing.
Andrew Hatherley: It's not the most people fastest growing. Ok. Yes. Yeah. It's often confused. They're not, most people getting divorced are not older, but it's the fastest growing divorce rate with people actually over 65.
Tracy Moore-Grant: Yeah, so there, there's several aspects about this that really work well with the amicable divorce network.
One is what you've touched on, preserving assets. There's not going to be an asset recapture or a long period to do that after the divorce, and people need to understand that and know what they could live off of and budget. And tax consequences of the accounts that they do get and understand all of that very complex information and parties are savvy and parties are wanting to do that.
Like I said earlier, a litigated divorce is basically just setting your money on fire. And gray divorcing couples simply don't have money, extra money to be setting on fire. They're looking at retirement and preserving those assets. They've also probably been married for a very long period of time. They might have grandkids and they want to preserve a certain amount of relationship between them for their adult children, for these grandchildren, and just because they've been married for so long. So it's also a process that doesn't have mud slinging and you don't need to say nasty things about the other person to get divorced like you do in the court system. And I think these different aspects are very attractive to couples who are going through a gray divorce.
And we've seen a very high population in the network.
Andrew Hatherley: We chatted about other professionals, I think with gray divorcees. The mortgage professional is along with the financial professional I think keys to have in the process because typically there's more equity in the home. And there are tools available to- to people in their sixties in order to use the equity in the home to reestablish themselves after divorce. And as we mentioned, the divorce lending professionals Yeah. Don't charge during the process.
Tracy Moore-Grant: Exactly. And there's a situation I see in almost all of my cases, which is I have, traditionally, a female client that's been a stay-at-home mother that doesn't have a career with a high earning spouse and now she wants to stay in the home, but would have to do an equity buyout of the husband or trade, maybe a 401K or another asset to keep the home. And they really need to understand if they're able, if that meets their budget and if that's a smart decision for them, with the upkeep of the home.
Or the tax consequences of trading different assets. What does that look like? So there's so many nuances to gray divorces that really it, it's better to do things correctly. The first time then to try to repair mistakes later. Many are not repairable in the court system. Once you have a court order, a binding agreement, we can't revisit a lot of issues, many issues.
So do it right the first time. I guess also a DIY thing, just have it handled with the care that it deserves. It is the only transaction of your life that deals with everything. And so yeah. Get the right people to do it.
Andrew Hatherley: No you're right. It's probably the largest financial transaction of your life, and it's happening at a time where emotions are frayed.
You want to do it in an environment, in a process that's going to facilitate rational thinking as- as much as possible and avoid ranker. To that end I've been remiss in not, perhaps, not highlighting the role of therapists and coaches. Yes. In the divorce process, I'm a big believer in- in bringing in professionals to help with the emotional regulation during the process.
As I'm sure your conference room at your law practice has a box of tissues in the middle of the- in the middle of the table. Yes. But you're not a therapist. I'm not a therapist, don't pay your attorney $400 an hour, act as a therapist. There are qualified, trained professionals out there who can really help you get through the process, and it's certainly a worthwhile investment when, as we mentioned, this is such a large financial transaction in people's lives.
Tracy Moore-Grant: Absolutely couldn't agree more. It is a huge life change. If you've been married for a particularly- a long period of time, you thought that your future was going to look a certain way. To have that sort of all thrown up in the air at one time is very unsettling for everybody. And so it's always good to have a mental health professional on the team and a coach, I think just because the legal system can be scary and so unknown.
A coach is good as well to keep people focused and organized and keep them in the right headspace.
Andrew Hatherley: Look, terrific. Tracy, this has been great, and I hope our listeners will look further into the- into the amicable divorce process. Please remind us again where can people find out more about the Amicable Divorce Network, how it works, and whether it might be right for them.
Tracy Moore-Grant: So you can go to amicabledivorcenetwork.com. This is our professional website, so you will find a lot of information on the website. If you want a deeper dive into a person going through divorce and their perspective, you can go to divorceamicably.com and that tab is also at the top of the Amicable Divorce Network website.
And if you're listening to this and you just don't know where to start and you're confused and you have other questions, or if you have worked with a wonderful professional who you think would be a great fit for our network, we would like to hear about them. And we'd also like to answer your questions and you can email us at info.amicabledivorcenetwork.com and we'll get back to you as quick as we can.
Announcement: Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of the Gray Divorce Podcast. To learn more or get in contact with your host, you can visit Andrew's website at TranscendRetirement.net. Also, please feel free to rate, subscribe, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast.
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Andrew Hatherley: Information provided is educational only and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Each situation is unique and should be discussed with your tax or legal advisor prior to implementation. Andrew Hatherley is not an attorney and does not provide legal advice. Information provided is financial in nature.
Advisory services offered through Hatherley Capital Management LLC, Divorce Financial Analysis Services offered through Wiser Divorce Solutions, an affiliated company.