What is The Splitting Syndrome in a Divorce?

The Splitting Syndrome in a divorce is a common problem in cases with successful people who tend to be Type-A personalities or somewhat domineering. Personality traits that make people successful in the business and professional world, such as taking control of a situation or not showing all their cards in a negotiation, are sometimes a problem in a relationship and are often a problem in a divorce.

Divorces involving one or more Type-A personalities can be effectively handled in the Collaborative Divorce process, but the lawyers and neutral professionals should have extensive experience in managing that particular type of case. In a Collaborative Divorce, the very traits that made the Type-A personality successful in business can result in the Collaborative Divorce Process failing because one of the cornerstones in that process is full transparency and full disclosure of all the assets. Through this transparency, a satisfactory settlement can be reached because each party has sufficient information to make an informed decision in the case.

A number of specific challenges can arise in the midst of a divorce when one party is the “Splitter.” “Splitting” occurs when one of the parties starts planning or negotiating on their own without having all the participants involved. For instance, Spouse #1 and Spouse #2 go off on their own to work on a final deal for their divorce. Normally you’d say, “Well, that’s a good thing, they’re taking care of their own problems.” But in a case involving Splitting Syndrome, the domineering spouse is driving a settlement that is substantially better for him or herself.

The “Splitter”, in most cases, cannot be changed; they are hardwired, so to speak, with that personality trait. Nor would he or she want to change because that personality trait has resulted in their success in the professional world. In fact, the “Splittee” will often be the first to say that their spouse’s Type-A personality is the reason they are financially successful. As an example of “Splitting” that can arise is when there is a family business, the “Splitter” is often concerned about having a “business evaluation,” afraid that the evaluation is going to cost too much and the value of the business be too high. The Type-A spouse, who, we will call Spouse #1, may try to sway Spouse #2 from have a business valuation done, using fear tactics such as, “We are going to use our whole estate on professional fees if you insist on a business evaluation,” or “We will have to sell the business if you insist on a business valuation.”

In a successfully managed Splitting scenario, Spouse #2 may ask the financial professional in the case to take a look at the deal (which they made with their spouse outside the collaborative process) and discover that all of the retirement wasn’t disclosed. It may not even be sinister by Spouse #1, but just an inadvertent oversight, but clearly this deal was not made with full disclosure of the assets; it is not a 50/50 deal nor is it a good deal for Spouse #2. If Spouse #2 then approaches Spouse #1, the Splitter, about it, saying, “Well, I know I said this deal looked okay, but now that I have more information it is not,” Spouse #1 counters with, “You agreed to this and now you’re going back on your word.” The process can then blow up (resulting in the case leaving the Collaborative process and going to litigation) because Spouse #1 pressured Spouse #2 into bypassing the professionals by splitting them off.

Spouse #2 needs to recognize this when it begins to happen. Instead of participating in the Splitter’s negotiation, Spouse #2 should bring everything back to the Collaborative process. Spouse #2 can say to Spouse #1, “I appreciate that you’re good at what you do. I know that we would not have been as financially successful as we are if you had made bad business decisions, so I know you wouldn’t ever want me to make a business decision without all the information that I need. So, I need to have full information and to do that I feel that we really need to follow the Collaborative Divorce process. That way we all have the same information and at the end, everyone can make an informed decision from all the facts.” That is very hard for the Type-A personality to argue with, and usually, the case then proceeds smoothly through the Collaborative process.

In a Collaborative Divorce, the key is for the Collaborative professional team is to identify the person the case as a potential for “Splitting” and who has the probability of becoming the “Splitter” (the person who is likely to try to negotiate with the other spouse outside the process). If the attorneys and team are well-versed in how to handle a case with the potential for the Splitting Syndrome in a case before it happens, they can usually save the case from failing in the Collaborative Divorce process and going to litigation. Recognizing the potential for a case to have the Splitting Syndrome is something that experienced Collaborative Divorce attorneys and professionals bring to the table. With professionals who are experienced in identifying and managing the “Splitting Syndrome,” time and money are saved; an experienced team can identify the potential risk and prepare the clients about how to handle the potential for “Splitting” to avoid it becoming an unmanageable problem.

David S. Bouschor, II and his team have well over a decade of practice working in the Collaborative Divorce process and working with clients who experience Splitting Syndrome. Contact David and his team today for more information, or to make an appointment for a consultation.

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