In the 1980s dark comedy The War of the Roses, Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas play wealthy divorcing spouses each vying ruthlessly to retain the couple’s home and possessions. “When a couple starts keeping score, there is no winning,” narrates their divorce attorney, actor Danny DeVito. “It’s only degrees of losing.”

Fortunately, these two wealth managers, from independent RIA firms in the Dynasty Financial Partners network, are having more success getting clients to settle their affairs amicably through collaborative divorces that enable splitting spouses to retain more of their wealth for themselves, their kids and their charities. Retaining wealth is particularly important for couples divorcing later in life with significant assets because there's less time to rebuild wealth and finances before retirement.

Matt Celenza, the managing partner of Beverly Hills-based Boulevard Family Wealth, got involved five or six years ago when a client couple that had accumulated a net worth of about $400 million over their 35-year marriage decided to “call it quits,” he said. The husband was willing to evenly distribute the couple’s capital and didn’t want to go down the long, messy legal path.

Celenza helped the couple find a good mediator and split their assets while retaining legacy trusts for their children and a trust for the family foundation. “This has helped not only from a financial aspect but it’s helped from a psychological standpoint for the entire family,” said Celenza, who recently joined these ex-spouses and their adult children during their family retreat meeting.

Celenza and his team have since introduced other clients to this divorce philosophy and focus on two main unifying goals – planning for clients’ children (who range from young dependents to adults) and philanthropy. Boulevard Family Wealth also works closely with clients’ outside advisors and tries to set the tone.

While attorneys and “tax guys have a certain mindset,” said Celenza, “we look at things more holistically and we may have a better understanding of what the family goals are.” In most cases, his clients have used mediation.

Celenza is a proponent of dynastic trust structures. These long-term trusts enable wealth (including trophy properties that family members want to use and feel emotionally attached to) to be passed to future generations while avoiding transfer taxes. “You’re definitely disinheriting the IRS and the kids feel more secure because they have a piece of it,” he said. “And if there’s a new wife or a new husband that comes along, they can’t get their hands on it.”

Kim Kenawell-Hoffecker, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and a founding partner and senior family wealth advisor with Avantra Family Wealth in Mechanicsburg, Pa., works several ways on collaborative divorces. First, she serves as a financial neutral on the collaborative divorce teams of couples who aren’t clients. Also at the table are the couple, their attorney advocates and sometimes a child specialist and a mental health professional.

When Avantra’s wealth management clients divorce, she often has conversations with each spouse, give them options and run financial plans for each of them. Should the spouses opt for a collaborative divorce, they should find a financial neutral from outside the firm unless they already know how the assets will be split, she said.

One client wanted a stake for her children in her ex-spouse’s start-up company but was concerned he would “run the business into the ground and start up a new business under a different name just out of spite,” said Kenawell-Hoffecker. So Kenawell-Hoffecker helped design a palatable plan that puts some of the business’s assets in a trust for the children. The ex-spouses’ parenting plan, reviewed every December 31, is based on a percentage of revenue from that business and the income of the ex-wife.

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