What is The Value of a Divorce Financial Planner
Key Points
  • Divorce financial planners have value when it comes to divorce, before filing, during the process and after the divorce is finalized.
  • Before filing for divorce, a financial planner will ask about various assets, ask you to provide statements, and expense figures. This information helps the financial planner get an idea of your financial profile.
  • Sometimes once the divorce is underway, it is harder for the spouse to get ahold of investment statements or other assets that are not easily or readily available.
  • Make sure you know the net outcome when you are filing for divorce. If a settlement negotiation is not adequate, you might be a month, year or two from living paycheck to paycheck.

The Value of a Divorce Financial Planner

A Divorce Financial Planner is a valuable resource when contemplating a divorce, while the divorce is in progress, and after a divorce.

Prior to Divorce Proceedings

Before the spouse is served the request for divorce, the initiator of the action should follow specific steps in order to gather asset documentation and expense figures. Once the action has commenced, the opposing party generally changes the mailing addresses of statements, and makes provisions so that fewer assets will be known by the non-financial oriented/non owner spouse or withholds any/all information.

When preparing an Affidavit of Net Worth, the parties rely on information available or known. To later search for those assets, using a forensic accountant, or not knowing they exist can be costly. Attorney’s review the information and from this, decide on settlement and maintenance. If the action goes to court, the Judge is the one to make the binding ruling. In the divorce planning process, in New York, equitable distribution does not mean equal. Judges make judgment decisions based on the facts and the parties. Judges move out of a person’s court is they feel that the party has deceived the court and the spouse by hiding information. Although a divorce financial planner is not a forensic accountant, and can not go in to review the assets of the opposing party, they can point out many inconsistencies with the data. From there, a financial decision can be made to help determine if further investigation is warranted and financially justified.

In one case I dealt with, my client’s spouse would not present investment statements after repeated appeals by the court and the attorney’s. With the income reported and expenses verified, there was so much excess cash available for investment that was not reported.

This excess cash flow was either invested (statements should and must be made available), or assets were hidden. Since I was aware of the spouse’s business, I knew that there could easily be a search for Non-Qualified Investments, where to look for them, and about additional pensions. These are assets that do not show up for tax purposes.

Based on those projections, a Forensic Accountant was called upon. If this process were started later, there would be a greater push by one of the parties/attorneys to get the case settled rather than prolonging the proceedings and search.

During the Divorce Process

During the settlement process, a Divorce Financial Planner plays a crucial part of the divorce team. The division of assets and maintenance (if required) can be projected to determine future needs. The cost basis of the assets must be identified, because that ultimately affects the net outcome.

  • How long will the money last?
  • What income can be generated?
  • Is the settlement adequate, or will living hand to mouth be a year or two, or five years away?
  • Should the house be sold, and if so when and how should the title be registered?

What changes can be made to the division of assets or maintenance/child support to create a more equitable (never equal) distribution.

After the Divorce

Once the divorce is finalized, a divorce/certified financial planner can help teach the basics of budgeting, help with investment diversification, and in some instances manage the investments to meet the needs of the client.

A divorce financial planner is your advocate, just like your attorney, but a resource for financial advice.

Useful Online Tools

Suggested Reading
Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions
This book is a practical guide to evaluating assets during divorce. It explains how to determine the real value of marital property including houses, businesses, retirement plans and investments and how to negotiate a settlement that is fair to both sides.

Authors: Violet Woodhouse & Dale Fetherling

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