Summary of Issue:
Arxis was contacted to assist in a family court matter involving complex tracing matters. There was an ongoing dispute regarding whether certain material assets were separate or community. Determining the nature of the assets affected the division of assets and, because the cash flow associated with those activities were substantial, reimbursement claims would be significantly affected. Both parties came into the marriage with considerable separate assets.
The case had been active for over a year before Arxis was brought into the matter. The correspondence in that year included settlement offers from both sides. Both offers were immediately rejected as preposterous and even insulting. After this “attempt” to settle, forensic accountants were retained and the forces were being marshalled for battle in court. Each side made substantial commitments to preparing tracings to prove respective claims in trial.
Arxis immediately began the work of preparing the tracings for several bank accounts covering the period of the marriage and the year since separation. Based on some of the data and the conclusions becoming evident from the records, Arxis suspended the tracing work and analyzed the two rejected settlement proposals more closely. To understand the two offers, side-by-side marital balance sheets were prepared. On the left was the Petitioner’s version of assets, debts, and reimbursement claims as reflected in their Section 1152 offer letter. Similarly, on the right was Respondent’s version of assets, debt, and reimbursement claims. At the bottom of each balance sheet was a calculation of the net equalization payment due based on each party’s assumptions and conclusions.
Amazingly, what the parties perceived to be a massive gap between the two positions (millions of dollars) was actually, when put in a side-by-side analysis, a relatively narrow difference of a couple hundred thousand dollars. The emotional attachment to some of the issues by both parties and the enormous accounting complexity had masked the proximity of potential compromise.
Arxis approached our client and presented the prospect that staggering legal and accounting fees could be saved if there was an openness to compromise on a much smaller difference than the litigants previously perceived. Our client approached opposing counsel and requested a settlement conference with both sets of attorneys and forensic accountants. It took most of an eight hour day, but the case settled. The two litigants were initially stunned at how close their two seemingly opposite positions actually were. Significant fees were saved and it is likely that at least two years were cut from the dispute resolution process.