Imagine you are enjoying a wonderful evening at a five-star restaurant. You’d like to order a bottle of wine, but you’re not sure which one would best accompany your meal. Would you ask the bus boy or valet for their recommendation?
Of course not! If you’re ordering wine at a five-star restaurant, you want the advice of the wine expert on staff. Naturally, you would turn to the sommelier.
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The same logic applies to other aspects of daily life. If you have a problem with your car, you take it to a trusted mechanic. If you have a concern about your heart health, you consult a cardiologist, etc.
So, to whom should a woman turn when she has concerns about the financial aspects of her divorce?
The answer is simple: She should consult only with a professional divorce financial expert–someone who is specially trained to handle the multifaceted financial aspects of today’s complex divorce settlement agreements.
Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.
Why? Because when it comes to divorce, there’s no shortage of friends and family who are willing to lend their advice.
In fact, as I see it, divorcing women need to learn to make an important distinction. They need to learn: 1) where to get financial advice, and then, just as importantly, 2) where NOT to get financial advice. Quite frankly, the opinions and recommendations of friends and family can often be more detrimental than helpful. They all mean well, of course. But, this is definitely one of those instances where a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
To illustrate my point, here is my short list of people you should “tune out” if they start volunteering financial advice during your divorce:
Friends, Family or Anyone Who Claims to Have “Been There” (Or Knows Someone Who Has)
Lots of people have a divorce story to tell, and usually, they’re quite eager to share it. In reality, though, no two divorces are alike. Even relatively fundamental things like differences in geography can have a profound impact. Just because a friend of a friend who lives in Silicon Valley received a settlement that included half of her husband’s tech company doesn’t mean you will get the same deal in your east coast divorce. (See my earlier post for more details about the differences between Community Property and Equitable Distribution States.)
Likewise, even though your cousin kept her marital home , that doesn’t mean you should. And, discussion about your stock portfolio can lead to a veritable minefield of misinformation, as well. Uncle Joe, who helped you get on the right track with investing as a twenty-something, just isn’t the right person to help you understand how dividing your current portfolio will impact your long-term financial well-being.
As I mentioned earlier, all of these people are well-intentioned, and there’s no doubt that they can provide support for you in other ways during your divorce. But, when it comes to advice about your finances, please learn to say, “Thanks–but, no thanks.”
A Financial Professional Who Doesn’t Specialize in Divorce
A CPA can file your taxes or give you a snapshot of your current and past financial status. A typical financial adviser is hired to help you invest in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. But should you rely on financial professionals like these during your divorce? No, you shouldn’t.
Instead, you need someone with a skill set specific to divorce finances. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) specializes in divorce finance and will carefully weigh each settlement proposal presented and project how it will affect your short- and long-term finances while calculating the tax implications for each scenario.
Keep this in mind: The US is home to more than 1 million accountants and some 320,000 financial advisors. But there are only about 3,500 CDFAs who are specifically trained in the financial aspects of divorce.
What’s more, many CDFAs have completed additional education and training. For example, in addition to being a CDFA, I have attended law school and have also completed dozens of advanced training courses in finance and divorce, including many of the same continuing education courses that are required for divorce and other attorneys (trust and estate, asset protection, etc.).
Finding a firm that specializes in divorce/family law and dedicates at least 75 percent of its practice to divorce is a MUST.
But, these days, there are numerous critical financial tasks that are beyond the scope of even the finest divorce attorney’s expertise. For example, preparing financial affidavits and projecting the financial and tax implications of each divorce settlement option are now the purview of CDFAs.
Put another way, think of the CDFA as the financial quarterback of your divorce team. A CDFA is responsible for creating comprehensive financial analyses and projections so you and your divorce attorney can fully understand the short- and long-term financial and tax implications of each proposed divorce settlement offer. Then, your attorney can use that information to substantiate and justify his/her positions when negotiating with your husband’s attorney.
Without a doubt, if you’re going through a divorce, you’re going to get advice –whether you asked for it or not. The trick is to know which advice to heed and which advice to ignore. Get the specialized help you need by hiring a CDFA. They’re the professionals that can evaluate your financial circumstances before, during and after a divorce, while helping you plan for a secure financial future.
All content on this site/blog is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, retain a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney.
Jeffrey A. Landers, CDFA™ is a Divorce Financial Strategist™ and the founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC, a firm which advises women throughout the United States before, during and after divorce on dividing marital assets and negotiating favorable settlements. He writes for Forbes.com, the Huffington Post and other publications. For further information go to http://www.BedrockDivorce.