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How Can a CDFA Help Your Divorce Cases?

A typical case involves financial services from the initiation of the case after the initial filings. The attorney and financial planner meet with the client to discuss the legal and financial strategy. The financial planner can then meet with the client to do the financial analysis of the community and separate property and discuss current and future needs. Complex cases can involve asset tracing to determine community allocation, tax basis research and searching for hidden assets, among others.

Financial and divorce planning software is used to determine what the possible allocation of assets, earned income, asset income, support (received or paid) and projected living expenses will meet the clients future needs.

All current employment earnings, future cash flow needs, future incomes (Social Security, pensions, asset incomes, etc...), and community/separate assets are listed in Family Law software. This allows me to present various settlement offers and how they will affect each party's current and projected future needs. It illustrates the "effect" of the divorce financially so each party can determine if their needs are met.

This information provides the attorney the financial data to make a settlement offer, assuming the financial planner is working for one party.

The team then meets to develop the divorce legal strategy. Quite often attorneys will bring me into cases at this point to discuss strategies discussed below. Hiring a financial planner from the start is your best defense. The financial team can only determine the needs of the divorcing client by performing the above processes, or what can be called "future financial planning" and that tells the team what they are working to achieve, based on the needs of the client.

The strategic legal process can include expert financial analysis for both the client and the opposing spouse.

Assuming the husband is the breadwinner:

A financial team is hired by the Earning spouse to determine:

  • Over spending habits of spouse. A historic Lifestyle Analysis will show spending history. This was useful to discredit their claim for support as "reasonable".
  • Current AFI analysis of the spouse to determine future needs. Next a process of comparing the spouses future claimed living expenses is done to the Department of Labor's Consumer Expenditure studies. Based on specific socio economic demographic, how their projected spending compares to their peers can be determined. This provides an objective view for the courts to determine reasonableness.
  • Imputing Income to Wife's Assets. Assuming a property settlement will be allocated to the spouse, those assets have the potential to produce income. Often expert testimony to what that income could be, with a high degree of statistical certainty is provided. This is often an offset to their claim for spousal or child support.

When working for the Non-Earning spouse:

  • A Lifestyle Analysis is provided to determine the historic family financial lifestyle. This can be very costly and time consuming and is only relevant if the wife is requesting support based on historic lifestyle.
  • Current AFI Analysis to project current and future financial needs of the spouse. Often, financial planners use the same Department of Labor studies to show reasonableness.
  • Imputing Income to Earning Spouse's Assets as discussed above. This may be useful to provide the courts a bigger picture of income available for support payments.

Once the case settles, for clients, and their opposing spouses, the lawyer's job is over. The job now starts in the Post-Divorce planning. Assets need to be split, by QDRO or decree, or sold. Receiving accounts need to be set up. Pensions need to be split by QDRO and confirmed. Since this is usually a future benefit, it is often overlooked. Insurances need to be established and beneficiaries changed. Often mortgages need to be refinanced to remove ex-spouses or homes bought and sold. Titles to the house and cars may need to be changed. Credit cards need to be closed, or established. Names changed. New wills or trusts need to be established.

Clients are starting a new life. If client didn't pay the bills, they know little of what things will cost. If they did pay the bills, it's a whole new world. Either way, living within their means is critical. Without careful budgeting assets can be squandered and credit ruined.

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