In doing so, we will also track two divorcing couples making their way through the process.
Spoiler alert: Art and Angela Aingel take the high road. While divorce is not usually a fun process (I have yet to hear someone tell the judge at final orders, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”), the Aingels have a relatively straightforward experience before moving forward with their separate lives. Meanwhile, Draco and Desdemona DeVille make choices that, while initially tempting, detour them down a bad road laden with unnecessary drama, painful court appearances and skyrocketing costs.
The following is a roadmap of the 12 steps of a divorce proceeding as told through the stories of the Aingels and DeVilles. You can read a basic explanation of the steps of divorce here.
And if you want to discuss your specific situation, feel free to call me with. I am happy to walk you through your own next steps and to answer questions in your complimentary initial phone or videoconference consult.
Here is how we will cover the 12 steps of divorce:
8 – temporary orders
9 – mediation
Divorce Step 6: Hiring a CFI, PRE, Vocational Evaluator, Real Estate Appraiser and Other Experts
Art Aingel came home from work to find a series of emails from his attorney. She wanted to know if he was interested in hiring any expert witnesses or professional evaluators for his divorce.
He really did not know the answer to that question. All he knew was that he did not want to pay for anything unless it was necessary. Getting divorced reminded him of getting married and buying a house: you knew your life would change, you did not really understand what was happening, and every time you turned around, someone was asking you to write a check.
Art called his friend, Draco De Ville, for advice. Draco was also going through a divorce.
“Draco, all these experts I am hearing about: CFI, PRE, RE appraiser, vocational evaluator, business appraiser, it just goes on and on! I cannot afford to pay any of these people! And who are they anyway? It sounds like alphabet soup!”
“Well, you came to the right guy,” Draco answered. “Hire all of them and then just get your attorney to get your wife to pay for them! That’s what I am going to do. Why not stick it to her? Oh, and if they do make you pay half of the fees, just throw away their invoices and refuse to pay them. What’s she going to do? It all comes out of the same pot anyway!”
“Got it,” Art said, thinking to himself, to listen to what Draco says and do the opposite.
Meanwhile, Art’s wife Angela and Draco’s wife Desdemona were out for lunch at the new vegan café in town. “I’m so worried I’m going to lose my babies!” wailed Desdemona. “I’m so upset, I can hardly choke down my kale salad.”
“What do you mean, Des?” Angela asked with concern.
“Hey there, bring me another kombucha, hon,” Desdemona said as she waved over their waiter.
Angela tensed up. She knew she was going to have to pay since Des had been overspending again and her legal bills were piling up.
“My lawyer said that Draco wants a CFI or CIF or something like that to evaluate whether I am an unfit mother.” Des made air quotes as she said “evaluate.” “I mean, how can anyone accuse me of being unfit? I workout with my boyfriend Danny every day! He’s a personal trainer you know.” Desdemona stood up and raised her shirt to reveal her trim midriff. “Just look at this six pack! That’s thirty minutes of ab work a day, girl.”
Angela tried not to laugh. She knew that Des was genuinely worried. “Des, they are looking at parenting abilities, not your physical fitness. Why is Draco doing this? You’ve never given him any reason to question your parenting.”
“He’s just trying to get back at me and run up my legal bills. If anyone’s unfit, it’s him. Running around with a girlfriend half his age and leaving the kids with her. She is a terrible influence, I’m sure. The kids are going to get to hate her, at least if I have anything to say about it.”
“I don’t know,” Angela furrowed her brow. “From everything I read, you should not put the kids in the middle. It causes them terrible stress. You are not supposed to talk to them about the divorce proceedings or bad mouth the other parent.
“Why not? That’s half the fun! Getting everyone to hate him; that’s how you win the divorce!” Desdemona exclaimed.
“Is there really a winner though?” Angela asked. “Isn’t it all about what is best for our kids at the end of the day?”
Desdemona pouted. “I’m really getting tired of this divorce stuff. It’s a drag.” She wiped her nose with her napkin.
Angela wondered if she might have to go through the same thing with her divorce. She made a mental note to do some research on what a CFI or CIF was and if she was going to have to hire one.
When Angela got home, she found that the Colorado Judicial Branch website explained that a CFI was a Child Family Investigator that could be appointed by the court to make a determination about what was in the best interests of the child when the parents could not agree on parenting time or decision making. The CFI was usually a licensed attorney or mental health professional with knowledge of child development.
Curious, she picked up the phone and called her attorney, asking if they needed to have a CFI. Not necessarily, the attorney explained. If the parties could come to agreements without one, they were free to do so.
After hearing this, Angela was grateful that she and Art had been able to agree on how they would handle parenting. Neither one of them wanted to make things any harder on the children than was necessary and had worked really hard at reaching a compromise they could both live with. Angela even called Art that night to tell him how glad she was that they were working together on this, unlike the DeVilles.
Art agreed, “Draco told me that if the CFI didn’t recommend full custody for him, that he was going to push for a PRE.”
“What’s that?” Angela asked.
“That’s what I said. From my research, it is a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator. It’s basically one step up from a CFI. They can do psychological evaluations as well, so they’re not attorneys like CFIs often are. And they’re really expensive. CFIs are a few thousand, but PREs can be up to $10,000 just to get started!”
“That’s terrible. Why is Draco doing this? Does he really think Des is such a bad mother?” Angela asked in disbelief.
“Of course not! His attitude is basically just to make Des pay, both psychologically and financially. It’s so dumb of him since he’s going to have to pay half of any bills they run up. But he thinks he can just dodge the bills when they come in,” Art said with disgust.
Angela was in the midst of agreeing when Art said, “That’s work on my phone,” and hung up on her mid-sentence. He always did that and Angela always hated it. His behavior reminded her of why they were going their separate ways.
Feeling a bit guilty about talking to Art about her friend, Angela called Des to see how she was doing. She seemed much happier than she had been at lunch. “I’m good. I just talked to my lawyer. We’re going to hire a Vocational Evaluator to prove that I won’t ever make jack squat and so I need a lot of alimony and child support! And I really need the money. I’m helping Danny get his business started. Oh, and I need another round of Botox. I actually saw Danny flirting with a 20-something at the gym! I can’t lose him. He’s the only thing keeping me from going nuts right now!”
“So the Vocational Evaluator can look at your situation and tell you what you’ll potentially earn when you go back to work?” Angela asked.
“Yeah, if I go back to work. You know I mostly did modeling and I’m a little old to model now, even though I still look great. But it might cost me more in child care and expenses than I could earn.” Des said with a smirk.
“I know you were a model before, but you’ve been successful in your real estate career for the past few years.” Angela pointed out.
“I fired Sam and my new lawyer says I should just say that’s a hobby and not tell the Evaluator how much I make. I don’t really want to work anymore. I need time to work out or I’ll get fat and lose Danny! Plus, my therapist wants to see me twice a week. I’m just really busy,” Des sighed.
What about time with the kids? Angela wondered. Then she had another thought. “Will the Evaluator look at Draco’s income potential as well? Because I have a feeling he’ll cry poor when it comes time to agree on maintenance and child support.”
“Yeah. That’s the other thing. Draco told me he was going to quit his job at the bank and become a barista just so he doesn’t have to pay me as much alimony and child support! Ooh, Danny’s here. Gotta go!”
Draco being able to take a lower paying job didn’t seem right to Angela. She wondered if she was going to have to do some more research on whether she needed to hire a Vocational Evaluator for herself or Art. Art made good money and she didn’t think he would try to shirk his financial responsibilities, but she wanted to make sure she was doing everything she was supposed to be doing.
A quick email to her attorney clarified that the Aingels would not likely need Vocational Evaluators as long as they both were employed full time in their respective fields.
Over their weekly wings night at the local sports bar, Draco bragged to Art, “I’m totally going to sell the house for cheap so Des doesn’t get very much out of it. Then I’m going to crash with Sasha and her roommates. Think about it, buddy boy. Staying in a house with three hot girls in it. One of them works at Twin Peaks!”
Art wondered, not for the first time, why he was still spending any time with Draco. Maybe it’s for entertainment, he thought. Or like driving by an accident on the freeway. It’s terrible, but you just can’t look away. “But won’t you get just as little out of the house, too, if you sell it for cheap?” Art asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah, but it’ll be worth it! And I’ve been squirreling money away in a secret account. Des will never know about that! Ha ha! And here’s the thing: I’m selling it to Sasha’s brother and then buying it back from him later. It’s called sell and switch. I read about it in the book, ‘10 Ways to Screw Over Your Ex in Divorce.’ You really should read it. Great ideas like hiding all your cash by buying up silver coins, overpaying taxes and running off with the refund, having your mother open up a safety deposit box in her name to hide your cash. Great stuff!”
Draco got up and headed to the men’s room. When he got back, Art asked him, “Don’t you have to get an appraisal on the house? You can’t just decide how much you think it’s worth, can you?”
“Yeah, I have to figure out a way around that. The tax appraisal is really low. I will just tell the judge to use that amount. Or maybe just ask the hot appraiser I met on Match!” Draco laughed hard, spitting barbecue sauce.
Remember, Art, do the opposite of whatever Draco is doing, Art thought as he headed to the car.
Art’s lawyer had already talked to him about the fact that he would need a Professional Real Estate Appraiser for an impartial and accurate assessment of the value of the house. He wasn’t going to find one of those on Tinder.
He knew that the appraiser was not optional as they needed to know the value of the house before they could decide how to evenly distribute the proceeds if they sold it, or how to split the other assets to balance things out if one of them decided to keep the house. Whatever they did, they needed to know how much the house was worth. They couldn’t just assign a value, like good old Draco seemed to think.
After calling her attorney, Angela decided that she needed a Vocational Evaluator for herself. She had been working as a stay-at-home mom for several years and she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to find a job that would bring in good, steady income for quite some time. She wanted to make sure that she got a maintenance award that was fair and would allow her time to ease back into the job market.
Her attorney had explained that a Vocational Evaluator would look at her work experience, education, skills, qualifications, and interests as well as the current job market. The Evaluator would determine how likely it would be that she could get a job and how much she could expect to earn in the short- and long-term.
The attorney went on to tell her that the court would most likely give great weight to the opinion of the Evaluator when determining how much maintenance and child support to award. Also, the information would be helpful to Angela personally as she planned her future career. Assessing her skills and abilities would be a good step in the right direction for Angela to return to the work world.
Angela had also asked her attorney if she would need to have an Evaluator evaluate Art as well. She was assured that as long as Art was up front and honest about his current and future earning potential and was not threatening to reduce his income, Angela would probably not need to hire an Evaluator for him. That could, of course, change if Art started acting more like Draco!
Angela shot Des a quick email and told her that if she was worried about Draco taking a job as a barista, she needed to hire a Vocational Evaluator to assess his true earning potential. Then, even if he decided to take a lower paying job, his higher earning potential would most likely be imputed to him and used when the court did maintenance and child support calculations.
Des texted Angela to find out what “impute” meant and sent her a picture of Danny on his treadmill. “Doesn’t he look buff? And look at the man bun he’s growing! Isn’t it sexy?” Angela laughed and then sighed. She was glad her life was sane.
“My lawyer just called and told me I have to tell Dezzy who’s watching the kids when they’re not with me! Can you believe that?!” Draco complained to Art on the phone. “Apparently her lawyer didn’t like the fact that I said ‘none of your %$&$# business’ in answer to her stupid questions. So he filed some motion making me tell her. I’m getting seriously tired of her gumming up the works. I’m trying to have fun over here. Sasha doesn’t want to spend her time helping me with legal stuff. She says it’s boring.”
Art listened with interest and wondered what kind of motion Desdemona’s lawyer had filed. He was determined to keep expenses down and the court out of things as much as possible. That’s why he fully answered the interrogatories Angel’s lawyer had sent him. Apparently Draco wasn’t that bright.
“At least my lawyer says we might be able to do some of this stupid court stuff over the phone instead of going down to the courthouse. I don’t have time for this nonsense. I’m taking Sasha to Reggae on the Rocks! You are only young once!”
Well, at least Sasha is young, Art thought to himself. With Draco thinking it was fine to keep skipping court, Art immediately realized that he should never miss an appearance.
Questions for July (motions to compel and telephone conferences) why so compelling? And who are you gonna call?
If you need help getting through all the steps of your own divorce, contact Andersen Law PC today. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-922-3880 for a free consult.
Article by Annette Bybee and Beth Andersen. Edited by Jacquelyn Gutc of Magpie Media.