Shawn Leamon, MBA and CDFA discusses how to protect your money during your divorce and how to best prepare financially for this life-changing event.
Divorce is hard. It represents the end of a commitment that was supposed to last forever. The process of getting divorced is complicated — legally, financially, and emotionally. It will be one of the toughest times of your life, but you will make it the other side. Inevitably, you will experience a wide a range of emotions —including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Divorce however, needs to be approached as a business deal: a legal and financial transaction.
During divorce, you will be determining how to split everything from your marriage, including your home, cars, jewelry, businesses, investments, debts, and child visitation rights. You need to understand that the decisions you make during divorce will affect you and your family — not only for the next year, but also over the next decade. You must approach the business of your divorce with rationality, and keep the big picture in mind.
1) BUILD THE RIGHT TEAM
Getting a divorce is a team effort. The most successful way to navigate it is by assembling the following team:
The Captain: You
You are the captain of your divorce team. It is your divorce—not your attorney’s or your best friend’s. You are the leader of the process. And as tough as it may be, you are in charge of its success. Divorce is a time in your life when you need to step up and take control of the process—to protect your and your children’s future.
The Legal Expert: Divorce Attorney
You should have a divorce attorney represent you and your interests. Dissolving a marriage is a complex legal process, which requires help from a competent attorney. This person should be an expert in family law. Keep in mind that each state has its own set of rules and procedures when it comes to divorce. Choosing the wrong attorney can have far-reaching and long term negative implications.
The Financial Expert: Divorce Financial Analyst
A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) is a financial planner with expertise in the intricacies of divorce. They hold a specialized skill-set. A CDFA will help you understand your financial picture, determine which assets to split, analyze settlement proposals, explain often-ignored tax implications, and help you position yourself for long-term financial success after your divorce. A CDFA serves as your personal business advisor during divorce.
The Emotional Expert: Therapist
Given the inherent emotional challenges of ending a relationship, you should have a therapist on your team. A good therapist can work through any difficult emotional issues you are coping with. He or she will allow you to focus on the legal and financial decisions with a rational mind. Your attorney does not substitute as your therapist, and you should hire someone specialized in helping you through grief. Remember that if you’re better equipped emotionally, you’re better able to help your children through this transition. Your children may require their own therapist if they’re not opening up to you.
2) PREPARE YOUR FINANCES
The more prepared you are upfront, the better your life will be throughout the divorce process.
Organize financial documents
Gathering essential financial information like tax returns, employment records, and bank statements right away will help you save money as you work with your legal and financial team. And it will make a difficult process much smoother.
Open new accounts
You need to open new accounts in your name only. You will need your own bank account, separate from your spouse. Money in a joint account tends to disappear when a divorce starts. So joint accounts with your spouse will soon need to be closed, and you should also check your credit report for a comprehensive list of accounts that your name appears on. You need your own credit cards, and even your own mailing address.
Know how you are going to pay for the divorce
The cost of divorce can range from as little as $1,000 (for an uncontested divorce) to hundreds of thousands of dollars (if there’s a lot of fighting). You need to know how you are going to pay for the many expenses associated with divorce before embarking on the process. That may mean using your own funds, taking money from a joint account, borrowing from friends and family, or even getting a loan from a divorce-funding firm. Regardless of your situation, you will not be able to get adequate divorce support (much less prepare for life afterwards) if you cannot pay for the appropriate experts.
The process of getting divorced is complicated—legally, financially and emotionally. Once divorce is inevitable, you need to develop the right mindset, surround yourself with a good team, and prepare your finances for the process. Then you will be able to confidently proceed through divorce, and you will be able to protect your financial future for you and your children.
Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at www.divorceandyourmoney.com