Tag Archive for: Finances

What is a Financial Neutral?  A financial neutral is a member of a collaborative divorce team or a mediator who helps couples find, organize and understand their financial information and facilitates a process of educating, visioning and creating a plan for settlement. They often have the designation “Certified Divorce Financial Analyst” (or CDFA).

What are the Benefits? 

  • Under the best of circumstances gathering financial information is complex, tedious and fraught with emotion, negative habits and fear. This gives a neutral, calm and supportive environment for that task.
  • Helps the couple understand their finances in a comprehensive, integrated way without denial or avoidance. Look at it, shine a light on it, organize it and understand it.  These are tasks many of us spend a lifetime avoiding and yet are skills that can begin a process of transformation.
  • Helps the couple understand assets, financial issues and the impacts of their decisions, short and long term.
  • Helps them identify interests, the elements of a plan and how to assess it.
  • Helps them come to reality from the magical thinking we all engage in from time to time, which can be so destructive.

What are the Qualities of Financial Professionals?

  • They are trained in Collaborative practice and/or mediation.
  • They have a breadth of knowledge in financial matters pertaining to families, including asset valuation, tax, cash management, budgeting, investments and retirement.
  • They have a knowledge of fundamental legal concepts regarding financial issues in family law matters including marital and non-marital property, equitable distribution, spousal support and child support.
  • They have facilitative skills, are neutral, open minded, creative and are team players.
  • They have an ability to educate persons who have an insufficient knowledge or understanding of the relevant financial concepts and present financial information in a clear and meaningful format.

What are the Tasks of a Financial Neutral?

  • To help you identify your high-end goals. Do you want each of you to have enough money to live comfortably? Own a home? Have your respective lifestyles be approximately equal?  Retire early?  Get some education and start a new career?
  • To create accurate reports of budgets, cash flow, asset and liability property division reports that are easily adjusted and recalculated for consideration of different options and ideas, including tax ramifications.
  • To do long term projections for different options considered for support and property division, including retirement planning.

How Financial Neutrals Benefit Attorneys and Mediators

  • They create reports to work with that get the case moving quickly.
  • Save staff time and expense collecting and entering client information.
  • Save money for clients. One financial neutral gathers information rather than two lawyers doing the same thing.
  • Runs reports to show the effect of different settlement options in real time at negotiation meetings.
  • Helps guide clients with reality checking as a neutral.

At Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions, we have many different skilled individuals to balance what is needed for a thoughtful, intelligent and well-planned divorce settlement. You use only what you need in terms of professional help. It’s delivered with care and compassion. Share this Blog article with others and save it for yourself. You don’t have to get divorced to benefit: These services can also be used for prevention.

To learn more about working with a financial neutral, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.


Dona Cullen, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Financial Neutral
5200 Meadows Rd Ste 150
Lake Oswego, OR 97035

Dona’s Website
Email Dona

Many people are paralyzed by fear when contemplating a divorce. Most often the fear is about money. It’s either a fight, flight or freeze response. But there is another possibility, and that’s empowerment. That’s the power created by two autonomous people with a shared vision for the future. I’m calling it the Third Power (1+1=3) and it’s possible to achieve in a facilitated process. I’ve seen it happen.

Energy is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “power derived from physical or chemical resources.” Money is energy. So is positivity. Learning about your resources and visioning what you want in your future can inspire and propel you forward. That capacity is increased if you do it together with a shared purpose.  A financial neutral, either as your mediator or as part of a collaborative team, can lead you there. It’s a journey that requires preparation.

As I see it there are 3 stages to work through, in the following order:

  • Emotional Regulation;
  • Information Gathering; and
  • Visioning.

Emotional Regulation

Focus must be on calming the mind and body. It’s important to practice neutrality in whatever way is comfortable for you. You will be offered tools to relax the nervous system so you can think clearly and make good decisions. You will be urged to consider your higher purpose, your long -term goals for yourselves and the family and your needs. It’s good to think about what you do have and find appreciation where you can. This is all energy savings. Anger, fear, doubt and other understandable but unhelpful emotions drain your energy and reduce the cortical function of that part of the brain needed to make good decisions. Negative emotions generate cortisol overload in the body which threatens health, well- being and the prospect of peace for all of you.

So, whether it’s meditation, prayer, a walk around the block, candles at the meeting or visits to the divorce coach, practice neutral as much as possible to build your resilience and capacity for getting to a calm place within yourself. Finding and maintaining that kind of attitude will make a world of difference.

Information Gathering

The core of the work of the financial neutral is to gather relevant information, put it in order and help you educate yourselves on asset/liability and budget formats and issues. The information must be provided voluntarily and completely.

Assets and liabilities are listed in a property statement and cash flow, present and future, will be developed in a series of budget reports. Present and future income and the intricacies of support are discussed. The reports are explained, questions are answered, and further information is added or corrected to get them right. At that point you have a very good idea about your resources and needs for cash flow. You build this information together, both understanding the information, the possibilities and the process. By the time this stage is complete you will be empowered with the knowledge of all aspects of your financial life in the past, present and possibilities for the future.

This information gathering is done efficiently, inexpensively and is empowering in itself. Even if you eventually go on to a different process, you will be prepared and have mutual understanding of the financial facts.


You will also be encouraged to create a vision for your future in detail. This will include what you want in your life and what you want the next chapter to look like. In most cases, the life you will envision is simpler and less stressed. It becomes reasonable and has to be. There is no tugging at a position. It’s a creative process from an open mind and heart. What’s really important to you? Once that future vision is in your mind’s eye you begin to see an opening to the light, and that opening gets bigger and bigger. It will include new things and activities. You will have the resources you need through mutual planning assisted by the professionals. The most helpful perspective is to work toward a good future for both of you and your family. You will have the help of a vocational coach, realtors, mortgage lenders and the research done on your own about the possibilities. There is time and support for this. Your energy is put into creating a future rather than resisting or fearing.

When you have made these preparations, there is a synergy that creates that Third Power moving you forward and not looking back. It runs on its own. Positivity does that. Continuing to care about the best interests of all concerned is what will make the process smooth and a better result for your health and heart.

To learn more about Money and Divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.


Dona Cullen, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Financial Neutral
5200 Meadows Rd., Ste. 150
Lake Oswego, OR 97035

Dona’s Website
Email Dona


It’s wedding season and there are many preparations for the joyous day. Have you thought about a prenuptial agreement? It’s becoming more and more relevant for reasons you probably haven’t thought of.

Here are 7 good reasons for a Prenup

1) Prenups Strengthen Relationships:
A prenup is an agreement about things that will come up in the relationship that are best understood and talked about now. In the glow of love and desire to be together happily ever after, entering into a discussion about a contract is not that appealing. However, if the practice of raising difficult issues and resolving them starts early, it will bode well for durability and happiness in the long run for the union.

2) Talk About What Is Important To You:
By identifying what is important to you and expressing it to each other you can work out the differences at a positive time and in a joyful light. To fulfill your dreams you will need to focus on practical matters, like financial planning, understanding money habits and disclosure of assets, debts and income. It’s better if the relationship is not based on vague illusions but on understanding and supporting each others’ dreams.

3) Talk About Money:
It’s an economic and emotional partnership. Disclosing present financial realities, making a plan and ground rules creates possibilities for bonding and security. Raise consciousness and confront issues, starting the practice of making intentional decisions now and in the future. Then the difficult issues are out of the way and you can relax and enjoy each other and the ride.

4) Protect Rights for Each of You:
You wouldn’t enter into a business partnership without an agreement laying out rights and responsibilities, conflict resolution strategies, assurances of being heard, having a measure of control – and, perhaps most importantly, a process for dissolution if it doesn’t work. Divorce is a $50B a year industry, largely due to the fact that these things haven’t been dealt with in the most important of partnership relationships. Family breakup is random and then left to lawyers and the courts with no predetermined, understood and predictable process or outcome.

5) Things to Discuss Up Front:
What kind of lifestyle do you want? How many children, if any? If having children – who will continue to work? If one stays home, what will be the compensation for time and opportunity lost in the job market in the event of divorce? What are your money personalities? Savers or spenders? What is the financial story for your family of origin?

All of these things can be made known, discussed and worked with from the beginning. Agreements can be made before you are married and modified as you go along to keep behavior in check so your future goals are met. You can work with mediators, attorneys, financial professionals, coaches and therapists as needed.

6) Develop Financial Plan:
Are you going to have HIS, HERS and OUR accounts? Is there a reason why some assets should be kept separate? Reasons might include other party in debt, threat of lawsuit, guarantee of business debts, high risk business situation, receiving assets from family, estate planning, keeping assets distinct for children from prior relationship, consistency for the prenup.

Adjust income tax withholding, determine contributions to retirement, insurance coverage (medical, dental, life, disability, long term care, car, homeowners or renters, umbrella or professional liability, selecting beneficiaries of life insurance policies, 401(k), pension, profit-sharing, 403(b) annuities and IRAs, registering assets in individual or joint title, writing a new will, health care proxy, living will, durable powers of attorney. Discussion of plan with adult children and providing a copy of the prenuptial agreement to third parties.

7) Empowering Women:
Having these issues discussed prior to marriage with agreements, advances women’s rights and ability to negotiate for themselves. Frankly it’s hard to get justice in the courts later, so claiming your power now is important. Things that come up include the financial consequences of staying home with children, supporting spouse through professional school, leaving your home for the home of a new spouse or not having an interest in the business because it’s hard to value.
There is opportunity for agreement for payouts in the event of divorce, equalized power at the table and legal, binding agreements. Having legal requirements for full disclosure and a more deliberative process at the beginning will begin to close the economic gap. You have more leverage before the marriage than after. You know what you’re getting in terms of the other person because the beliefs have all been brought out. It’s a positive atmosphere to get a fair agreement.
There is also an opportunity to talk about balancing other tasks like household and child-rearing responsibilities, freeing you to make more money.

Share This With Friends.

It takes more than love to make a marriage. It takes dispute resolution skills consciously developed over time. Work with collaborative professionals who can help you from the beginning, for the best chance at a lasting relationship or a lasting peace.

Click the image below to grab an Easy-to-Print comprehensive Premarital Checklist with more questions and ideas. If nothing else, it’s good for thought and discussion.

Printable Premarital Checklist

Premarital Checklist


Dona Cullen, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Financial Neutral
5200 Meadows Rd Ste 150
Lake Oswego, OR 97035

Dona’s Website
Email Dona