Financial experts fill a variety of roles and functions as collaborative team members. Often, the conflict that people have is about money or property. Examples of these conflicts that can be resolved in the collaborative process equitably can be in a divorce where valuation of a business needs to be determined in order to divide property, or a civil matter regarding the division of a business or estate matters.
Which financial expert or experts will be brought into the case depends on the needs of the clients and the nature of the specific dispute. A financial expert could be a business appraiser who values a business, a forensic accountant who helps trace separate property claims, a financial planner who helps the parties plan for the future, or a tax expert who helps determine the tax implications of various alternative approaches to resolving the problem.
Frequently, CPA’s are brought into this process as financial neutrals, which means that they do not take sides or advocate for one party’s position over another. As a financial neutral, the CPA can identify and value assets and liabilities, calculate income for purposes of alimony and child support, and help structure an equitable distribution in a manner that is most favorable from a tax perspective. The financial neutral can provide a valuable sounding board for the parties in developing solutions that meet the parties’ goals. A forensic CPA can also help insure all assets are accounted for assets or trace assets from premarital to post marital periods..
CPA’s who act as financial neutrals must follow the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. This means that they must maintain objectivity and integrity, be free of conflicts of interest, and shall not knowingly misrepresent facts or subordinate his or her judgment to others. An important distinction between the advocacy roles of attorneys and CPAs is that attorneys are advocates for their clients and CPAs are advocates for their opinions, which can reinforce their neutrality.
When financial experts are brought into the case, they become part of the team in finding solutions that benefit all parties. These trained professionals assist the parties in developing solution-oriented goals that the parties can live with for the long-term.
The composition of each collaborative team varies according to the clients’ needs. Although initially it may seem more costly to hire a team of professionals, collaborative teams work in a concerted effort to resolve issues more fully and more comprehensively than in litigated cases. Additionally, collaborative cases are completed on the parties’ own timeline, rather than the court’s, often allowing clients an opportunity to move past the conflict and move on with their lives in a shorter period of time.
CCWM is an organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of the collaborative process through a speaker’s bureau and public education. We also conduct monthly meetings and discussion groups. CCWM will also be developing training opportunities for professionals interested in the collaborative process.
The Collaborative Council has a number of outstanding trained speakers who are willing to volunteer to make presentations to service clubs, fraternal orders, professional organizations, and similar groups about Collaborative Practice. If your group is looking for people to present such programs, please contact our Speakers Bureau chairperson, Brian A. Kane at 301-790-3600 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.