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What should you do if you are thinking about divorce?

Many people going through a divorce don’t get exactly what they deserve, both in the distribution of assets and in the help they receive. We too often concentrate on the emotions of divorce rather than the financial implications. These are important, but it’s also important for everybody involved to plan for their financial future.

Before filing for a divorce, make sure you have an action plan. Having a plan will help ensure you get a fair settlement.

Gather together as much paperwork as you can before filing for divorce. In particularly messy divorces, it can be difficult to get a hold of the required paperwork, especially if you’re forced to leave the family home immediately.

  • Tax Returns – Gather tax returns for the last seven years. Take some photocopies, as well.
  • Income sources – Pay stubs, social security benefits, pensions
  • Business Expenses – Self-employed people should have financial records showing their business expenses. Make sure to get copies of tax returns and financial statements.
  • Real Estate – Copy any mortgage agreements and any deeds to establish a full real estate portfolio for both yourself and your spouse.
  • Financial Statements – Checking accounts, savings accounts, 401ks, investment accounts, insurance statements. Statements from all these accounts will prove useful in getting you a proper settlement when you begin divorce proceedings.
  • Debt – Mortgage(s), credit card, car loans, student loans, college tuitions for children. Obtain a copy of both credit reports; you may not be aware of liabilities that your spouse has incurred.
  • Benefits - Contact your spouse's HR department to discover what benefits you may be entitled to. 401k, pensions, profit sharing, stock options, life insurance, healthcare benefits, etc. A spouse is entitled to this information.
  • Priorities – What are your priorities? Do you want to keep your home? Do you want to pay for your children's college education? When do you want to retire?

Hire a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)

A CDFA is a financial professional that works closely with the divorce attorney. They can forecast the long-term financial effects of the divorce settlement by working with clients individually or as a couple alongside your attorney. Having a clearer picture of your financial situation can save you money while going through a divorce. According to Attorney Gina M. Ghioldi, a founding partner of The Law Office of Gina M. Ghioldi, P.C., the people that have the most difficult time financially in divorce is when the divorce is forced upon them and they don't understand their lifestyle will change. "Bottom line is that their expectations are not realistic". A CDFA can help reduce stress and manage your expectations of what your financial future will be. Before making any decision, begin by speaking with a CDFA and a divorce attorney.

Why should you work with an attorney and a CDFA?

Attorneys are experts in law. They make sure the divorce conforms to all laws and everyone fulfills their obligations. They are not financial experts.

A CDFA will work with you to you understand the financial implications of your divorce. Can you afford to stay in your home? How assets are treated differently? What will your financial situation look like in the future?

Is it the Right Time?

Divorce laws change all the time. Depending on what state you live in, a new law could make getting a divorce more worthwhile if you wait six months. When you get divorced will influence your settlement.

Even if you’re hurting and you want to disconnect from your partner as soon as possible, waiting may make more financial sense than bowing to your emotions.

A CDFA and your divorce attorney will work alongside you to help ascertain the best time to file for divorce.

Think About the Marital Home

You need to consider what you want to do with the house. There are three options available:

  • 1. The woman keeps the house.
  • 2. The man keeps the house.
  • 3. Both parties agree to sell the house and split the proceeds.

The problem is that an emotional attachment to the family home can lead to a financial mistake. Attorney Rhonda Levy an associate at The Law Office of Gina M. Ghioldi, P.C notes that people need to consider that if you required two incomes to maintain your lifestyle and keep the home before, you may not be able afford it on one income after a divorce. Even if you believe it’s best for the kids, you may not be able to afford to hold onto it.

You also have to consider what you’re going to trade. In the case of a joint mortgage, can you afford to buy the other party out of their share?

In homes where there’s a joint income, it’s often a case of moving somewhere more affordable.

The Emotional Web

Filing for divorce as a reaction to a catastrophic event can leave both parties worse off. Contemplate divorce many months in advance. Try to get yourself at least three months to prepare yourself for what’s to come. This will allow you to work through most of the emotional clouds impacting your decisions. Attorney Gina Ghioldi suggests that "the best time to consider divorce is after a financial look, if you have the luxury of time, it may be better to wait." Gina went on to say, "most financially successful divorces are done with financially savvy and objective people, no emotion involved."

How will it affect the Minor Children?

Adding children in to the mix makes opting for divorce a lot harder. Understand the implications of what divorce could mean for your children.

For example, child support laws differ for every state, so find out about the laws in your state. There are also laws specifying what happens to any college funds and how much parents can contribute to limit their exposure to asset distribution upon divorce.

Either way, divorce will always be traumatic for children. You need to support them emotionally while keeping a clear head for the financial side of things.

This is where planning in advance comes in handy for not only you but your children. Data from Scientific American demonstrated high levels of parental conflict in the period before and after divorce correlated with poorer levels of adjustment in children.

With better preparation, you can make the transition easier through minimizing conflict over assets.

If you've made the decision to pursue a divorce, it’s time to start talking to your attorney and your CDFA. Always remain open about everything. Maintain strong lines of communication. Missed information can seriously impact what attorneys and CDFAs can do for you.

When you’re going through your divorce, you have to think realistically about the outcomes. Your legal and advisory team is there to give you a hand.

As a firm providing wealth management services to clients, we offer both investment advisory and brokerage services. These services are separate and distinct, differ in material ways and are governed by different laws and separate contracts. For more information on the distinctions between our brokerage and investment advisory services, please speak with your Financial Advisor or visit our website at UBS Financial Services Inc., its affiliates and its employees are not in the business of providing tax or legal advice. Clients should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP and Certified Financial Planner in the U.S.

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