Is Gender Bias Affecting Your Collaborative Matter?

Is Gender Bias Affecting Your Collaborative Matter?

Written by My Collaborative Team President, Edward S. Sachs, ACP

This past week three of my fellow My Collaborative Team members and I presented a panel discussion to the Association of Divorce Financial Professionals.  Our discussion was on how we utilize our Collaborative Ethical Standards to guide us through our cases.  

The ADFP Annual Retreat was built around a case study that started with the following sentence.  Sidney (Sid) and Leslie (Les) are both in their mid-50s and have been married for 25 years.  The case study goes on to describe their marriage.  

So how many of you read that and asked yourself “Who is the husband and who is the wife?”

Consider the following scenario.  The husband earns approximately $350,000 per year.  The wife has been a stay-at-home parent for their one child but has had a side business throughout the marriage that generates about $25,000 a year in income.  At age 60 they decided to divorce.  They have been married for 25 years.  Does the wife get alimony?  Is it permanent alimony?

My experience tells me that the answer to both of those questions is yes.  

However, I am finding that in today’s world we are seeing more divorces where the roles are reversed.  I am currently involved in two Collaborative cases in which the wife earns substantially more than the husband.  And the biggest hurdle we are facing in both cases is the idea of the wife paying the husband alimony.  

Implicit bias refers to the attitude or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.

It is critical that we be aware of, and monitor, the existence of such implicit biases in our Collaborative cases.  In fact, Ethical Standard 3.4A. places an obligation on the Collaborative professional to inform the other professionals of facts or circumstances that are likely to impair the effective functioning of the team.  Implicit biases and, in the circumstances described above, gender bias can be a major impairment in the Process and must be recognized and discussed.

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