CAN YOU AFFORD TO DIVORCE?

Over the last year I have received many e-mails regarding all different aspects of Single Motherhood. Topics such as advice on disciplining children, setting up co-parenting guidelines, to how to form a support network, just to name a few. But I’ve even heard from a lot of very unhappy women who are living either currently separated from their husbands, or who want to file for divorce but feel like they are trapped & have to stay married because of the financial ramifications divorce would have on them. Though I understand why these women want to protect what they’ve earned over the years, it saddens me to think that they are out there raising kids and living in such an unhappy life situation.

Since I am not familiar with this area at all, about a month ago when I received yet another e-mail from a woman desperately wanting out of her marriage but full of fear about what would happen once she divorced, I asked a friend of mine, Karen Mendez, who is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst tm (CDFA) as well as an Expert in the world of Finance, if she could shed any light on this topic & break it down a bit so that anyone facing this dilemma could get a better understanding of how their financial life might be affected should they decide to divorce. To my delight, she was thrilled to share her knowledge.

Below is her first of many blogs to come with the hope that you all can be better informed regarding your financial situation and options. It is important to know all of the facts first and where to go to get help before letting fear or assumption stop you from moving forward.

As always, please pass this on to anyone you know who might be in need of assistance. We have to look out for one another & share resources.

Don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you are in need of help as I just might know someone who can give you direction. Take good care of yourself & Remember that you are doing an Amazing job raising your children!

Sending you all Love & Light ……. Torie

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO GET DIVORCED?

It is not unusual for people to be unhappily married and believe they are stuck financially. Some feel they will not have sufficient money to live once they are divorced. Others worry about having to give too much of their hard earned assets, including retirement accounts, to their to be, ex-spouses. Unfortunately, many of these people are operating under incorrect assumptions or advice from friends and family who are not really qualified to give such financial advice, and the resulting fear of the financial consequences of divorce keeps them in a miserable marriage; afraid to take action to remove themselves from this situation.

Fortunately, if you are in this situation, you do not need to give up hope. You can get the financial facts and figures about divorce specifically relative to your unique situation and from there you will know what your various choices are so you can make smart decisions in your best interest.  What would it mean to you to be able to make financial decisions with confidence instead of fear?  What if you could afford financially to divorce? Divorce is typically complex and painful, but there are financial professionals like me and well vetted methods we use to help achieve a truly equitable financial split in divorce.  CDFAs have very detailed and specific training to help you and your attorney navigate through the financial complexities of divorce. I say “your attorney” here since most attorneys have not had this type of detailed training and usually welcome the assistance of a CDFA. In any case, it is important you consult a family law attorney to guide you with the legal aspects of divorce.

Over this and the next few blogs I will share my process in working with clients in divorce which may be similar to the process used by other CDFA’s and I hope to help educate you on some of the common financial issues in divorce and how those issues are typically handled. This will include definition and division of property, handling of retirement accounts, the complexities of stock compensation and, finally, spousal and child support. Of course, every case is unique and the laws in every state are different. Since I practice in California, my focus and examples will be with California divorce in mind. However, the basic concepts are very similar across many of the states.  Regardless of the state in which you reside, this series will not be able to address all the financial issues in your particular case and should not be construed as specific financial advice. So, if you are considering divorce or are underway with one and are worried about the financial impact, I highly recommend your first steps are to read this blog and to consult with a CDFA as soon as possible. For California cases, please feel free to contact me. For cases outside of California, a good starting point is the Institute of Divorce Financial Analysts™: http://www.institutedfa.com to help you locate a CDFA near you.  Please also refer to my website www.karenmendez.com for more information.

Ok, let’s get started. In today’s blog I will start with the process I use in helping my clients get through the financial issues of divorce and I will cover in detail the critical step of gathering all the data you need.

My process:

Clarify current and future financial reality

Acquire and analyze financial data

Outline various settlement options

Analyze financial impact of proposed settlements

Maximize marital assets

Minimize tax impact

Attain financially fair and equitable agreement

Rebuild long-term financial stability

Gathering information:

In order for you to be able understand your complete financial picture to decide if you can afford to get divorced and certainly in order to be able to get through a divorce this is a necessary step.  There are several important documents your CDFA will need to see.  If you work with me I help you gather everything you need and keep you organized, even if you believe you do not control the finances in your household. This saves you time and money as this information once gathered can be shared with the other professional advisors on your team should you decide to proceed with divorce.  Whether or not you decide to divorce, this valuable financial information can give you confidence in making financial decisions. Here is an overview of some of the items you will need.

  • Personal tax returns for you and your spouse for the last five years
  • Books, records, financial statements, and tax returns for any businesses in which you or your spouse has an interest
  • Property taxes
  • Banking, credit-card statements, checkbook registers
  • Mortgage statements including lines of credit.
  • Loans made or received including student loans.
  • Cost basis (price paid) of home and year bought
  • Household expenses and bills ie: Telephone, utilities, gas for cars, food for meals at home, meals out, entertainment, household non-food, grocery items, club memberships etc.
  • Other records of major expenditures
  • Statements for investments such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds. Etf’s, hedge funds etc.
  • Information on employee stock options, RSU’s
  • Retirement plans and beneficiaries
  • All insurance policies and beneficiaries
  • Descriptions of your and your spouse’s employee benefits
  • Your latest pay stubs
  • Health Insurance Plans
  • Annuity contracts with beneficiary information if applicable
  • Airline frequent flyer miles
  • Estate Planning documents such as a Living Trust, Will, AHD etc.

You’ll also need valuations or other paperwork detailing property you and your spouse own together or separately – from the contents of a safety deposit box to the car to your home.  You can request an asset worksheet from me along with a household inventory sheet to help you list every item of significance.  Although you’ll be dealing mainly with “big ticket items” here, if something is very important to you, make sure it’s on your list. If a business is involved, brokerage statements or corporate minute books will also be required. Basically, your CDFA needs to see any major paperwork that involves the transaction of money – for both you and your spouse.

With all this information in hand, your CDFA can now help you understand what your financial picture could be after the divorce in the short, medium and long term.  Your CDFA can map out a plan to help you in getting your financial fair share in the divorce much like your GPS system or AAA will plan the best route for you from one location to your destination accounting for your needs and desires for the journey and at the destination.

Stay tuned to my next blog for a detailed discussion on property in a divorce. I will help you understand “”community property” and “separate property” and the process of how property is dealt with in divorce including some examples.

I hope that this helps a bit.  Feel free to e-mail me should you need further clarification.

Sincerely,

Karen Mendez, CDFA
Karen@KarenMendez.com
www.karenmendez.com

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