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Untying the Knot Part I - Financial Considerations in Divorce

Divorce is not easy. Just ask anyone who has been through it. Besides the emotional aspect, the financial impact can be devastating for both sides. How can you financially survive? Having a good understanding of your assets and educating yourself before agreeing to any type of settlement will pay off down the road.

Pre-divorce financial planning can play an integral part in finding an equitable distribution, especially in mediation and collaborative divorce cases. Remember, equitable does not mean an equal division of the marital assets. Many factors are used to determine that amount. Many couples are looking for the best solution, particularly when children are involved. Rather than focusing on what you want, what do you need to support a post-divorce lifestyle? One spouse may want the home for emotional reasons. But being asset rich and cash poor can have serious consequences. Will there be anything left after the house bills are paid?

A divorce planner can help you understand your current and future assets and liabilities as well provide a clear understanding of cash flow and projected cash flow post-divorce. Having an unbiased opinion can help take the emotion out of the decision making to help find a workable solution that you can both live with.

Do you understand pension valuations, social security benefits, tax consequences of spousal support and dependency exemptions? Is one spouse highly compensated? How to value "nonwage" benefits? Does one spouse have a business? Are there substantial non-income producing assets? These questions and many others will need to be addressed.

As with any negotiation, preparation is the key to success. During emotional times, it can be hard to think clearly or rationally, so get a team of professionals who can guide you along the way. If divorce is inevitable, here are a few tips to get organized:

  • Make a copy of all important documents. Last 2 year tax returns, W2s, most recent paycheck stubs, bank and brokerage statements and employee benefit statements such as 401(k), 403(b) and deferred compensation.
  • Locate insurance policies. Policy numbers, deductibles, limits, premiums. Who is the owner and beneficiary of life insurance policies?
  • Get a free copy of your credit report by going to If you do not have credit in your name, you may want to apply now.
  • Take an inventory of personal property.
  • Get your team in place. Interview an attorney, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, divorce coach or therapist.

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