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Speed Divorcing: Like Speed Dating, Only ...

Tuesday, 24 Apr 2012 | 2:06 PM ET

The term "speed divorcing" immediately conjures up images of speed dating only with introductions like: Hi. My name is Cindy. I'm your next ex ... Hi. My name is Cindy. I'm your next ex ...

Shaking hands
Piotr Powietrzynski | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images
Shaking hands

Speed divorcing is one of the latest trends to hit Splitsville. It is a lot like speed dating, where you have 15 minutes to speak to each person before it's time to move on to the next, only you're not meeting future dates or a future ex — you're meeting attorneys, mediators, financial advisers, investment advisers, mortgage brokers and therapists — all the people you may need to consult as you hop the next train out of Blissville.

The first speed divorcing event, to be held this weekend in Atlanta, is the brainchild of Lisa Decker, a certified divorce financial analyst whose motto is “Divorce your spouse. Not your money.”

“I’m trying to help people be smart from the start. I see too many people who don’t understand what they’re getting into,” Decker said. “If you begin your divorce volatile and hire the wrong people you’re likely to end that way as well,” she said.

The idea is to put all of the people you might need to consult or hire along the way in one room and have you spend 15 minutes with each to see if they can help you — whether it’s managing your retirement account or helping you refinance your house.

She decided to do it like “speed dating” after hearing one too many clients say, “I don’t have time to follow up!”

Not to mention, planning a wedding — the happy part of your relationship — can be exhausting where you just want it to be over. Who wants to prolong the ugly part, divorce, by hiring the wrong person?

For example, maybe you hire a mediator to save money but realize you and your soon-to-be ex are just too far apart and you wind up needing to spend even more money on attorneys who are litigators.

Or maybe you hire the wrong attorney — just because the person was recommended by a friend.

Decker had several female clients who hired attorneys for retainers upwards of $10,000. The women didn’t understand the process and their attorneys didn’t communicate with them. They hadn’t been given any documents.

“They went through that entire retainer and didn’t have anything to show for it!” Decker said. “So many times I’ve seen people having to divorce their divorce attorney!”

It’s not bad enough you have to go through one painful split — you might have to go through a second one, with the person who was supposed to help lead you out of this mess!

Decker said she’s seen a lot of horror stories that could’ve been prevented with a little work and communications up front.

In one case, the wife got the house but the agreement was that the husband had to pay the mortgage for 18 months. After that, the wife would refinance and pay it on her own. Guess what no one figured out? The wife didn’t have any income so she didn’t qualify to refinance. She wasn’t able to make her mortgage payments and suddenly the husband’s credit was affected.

Had they consulted a financial adviser or mortgage broker, they would’ve realized before they made that deal that she wouldn’t be able to refinance, Decker explained.

In another case, the couple divided the assets in what looked like a 50-50 split, but then the wife got socked with a $60,000 tax bill. As it turns out, the wife wound up with all the assets that had tax ramifications.

Decker said one of the most important things is to know the right questions to ask when you meet your potential divorce team. For example: How can I expect to hear from you — email, text, phone? How often will you respond? How can I maximize my communications with you? For example, in some cases, if it’s a busy attorney who’s in court a lot, maybe you communicate with an associate to explain the process and answer your questions, instead of blowing through a $10,000 retainer only to realize that you’ve never heard from your attorney!

You might also ask if you work with an assistant or paralegal, are the fees less? It’s also important to ask how often an attorney’s cases end up in court and what percent they’ve won. Plus, do they know your spouse’s attorney and are they on good terms?

“People generally want to have as amicable, civil divorce as possible,” Decker said. “You don’t want this to blow into DIVORCE GONE WILD!”

No one wants to get hosed by an unscrupulous attorney whose only mission is to drive up billable hours by fanning the flames between spouses until it’s the “War of the Roses” and one spouse is trying to run the other off the road with an ax in the car.

Great movie — but hard to explain to your kids in the morning.

So now there’s speed divorcing — to make sure you find the team that’s the right fit for you.

Hi, my name is Cindy. You must be my future ex-lawyer!

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  • Cindy Perman is a writer at CNBC.com, covering jobs, real estate, retirement and personal finance.

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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