Divorce or separation can be painful!
Emotions are flaring, it feels like an emotional roller coaster.
You are about to embark on a journey filled with decisions - some of which involve financial matters. Making decisions based on inaccurate information will lead to poor financial choices. These choices will affect you for years to come.
Decisions you make during this process maybe some of the most important financial decisions made during your life.
Preparation and knowledge are the keys to your success. A Divorce Financial Analyst can help guide you through the decision-making process. Marriage is about love, but divorce is about money, assets, and your financial future. Empower yourself by taking the necessary steps to secure your future well-being.
Most Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Divorce Settlements
You have lots of letters behind your name. What do they all mean?
I have several certifications and licenses that will assist you.
I have a CDFA which is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. With this credential, I can help analyze various aspects of your financials during the divorce such short- and long-term impact of potential settlements, tax impact of various divisions of assets, and assistance with financial affidavits.
I have a MAFF which is Master Analyst of Financial Forensics. With this knowledge and expertise, I can assist with various tracings, reconstructions, fraud investigations, as well as determining unreported income, assets, and expenses.
My CVA is a Certified Valuation Analyst designation that gave me special training to value a business for various purposes. The most common reason I am retained for a valuation of a business is for purposes of divorce. I can also perform a valuation for the purposes of sale, estate, and other specialized matters.
In addition to my certifaction above (letters), I am also a Financial Advisor, hold numerous state licenses for sale of insurance and investment products, as well as series licenses for asset management, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment products and services.
I am considering a divorce. What should I do first?
1. Make copies of all financial records and statements; compile you and your spouse’s list of assets and debts, know where the money is and what is owed. Make a list of all bank accounts with account numbers, title of each account, balances, if you have a credit line, interest rates, the type of investments, when they were opened, any closed bank or investment accounts you know of, etc. Knowing exactly what is at stake financially will help alleviate surprises, hasten the discovery process, save on legal fees, & avoid long delays later. You will want to find a safe place to store everything confidentially.
2. Obtain a credit report on yourself. If you have an old one for your spouse, make a copy of this document. If you don’t already have one consider establishing a credit card in your name to help establish some of your own credit.
3. Consider opening a bank account in your own name and determine what funds you have access to in order to budget for divorce.
4. You may consider decreasing your liabilities, such as paying down joint debts, the mortgage, or a home equity line of credit. This will relieve your marital stress with reduced debt in the short term but increase your available credit in the future should you need it during the divorce. Depending on your unique situation, there may be other protective measures you need take regarding your debt situation. This would be under the advice of your legal counsel.
5. If possible, make sure you have enough money set aside for at least three months of daily expenses (especially for house payments if your spouse leaves you), and/or for hiring an attorney. You will need to know how much you need to live on and how much is available to you. You may have to adjust your current lifestyle to make sure you and your children can survive financially.
Who can help us sort out our finances during divorce?
A Divorce Financial Analyst, otherwise known as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), is trained to help people navigate through the maze of divorce. They sift through the financial issues including income, expenses, assets, potential tax issues, pensions, division of property, and debt. We want to help you reach an equitable solution that is fair to both you and your spouse. A CDFA professional has specialized skills and experience that enable them to analyze financial issues of divorce in a long-term and short-term context. They can look at the offer on the table and project it out 5, 10, or over 20 years to show you what you’ll have to live on if you sign the agreement.
Does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst replace an attorney?
No, you still need legal counsel and a judge to dissolve a marriage contract. Rather than address your legal situation, a divorce financial analyst will assist you with finances. Very few family attorneys have training in financial analysis or financial planning. Divorce may involve very complicated issues such as pensions, retirement assets, stock options, and other assets that may have large tax consequences or tax losses. One often overlooked financial issue is a future earning potential. Depending on your spouse’s career, their future earnings may increase dramatically. When a pre-divorce financial analysis is created, a projection will show where you will both end up 5-20 years from now. The results can be very eye opening.
How can I find an excellent divorce attorney?
Many clients retain me prior to retaining an attorney. If this is the case, I am happy to recommend several divorce attorneys in your area for consideration. A highly qualified family law attorney is needed even in an amicable divorce.
How is a CDFA professional different from a financial planner or accountant?
There are many designations for a financial expert, including: Financial Planner, Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®), Accountant, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified General Accountant (CGA), Master Analyst of Financial Forensics (MAFF), Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA), and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA™).
The role of the financial planner (sometimes a CFP or ChFC) is to help people achieve their financial goals regardless of whether they are single, divorcing, or happily married. After determining the client’s goals, the next step is to take an inventory of current assets and liabilities as well as their expenses. The planner then looks at what needs to be adjusted to achieve the client’s goals.
Conversely, an Accountant (usually a CPA) typically looks at the details of the scenario as it is today and does not make future projections. In a divorce, they may be hired to calculate the tax effect of dividing property, an audit of activity or pro forma tax returns. They typically do not look further into the future.
To best meet the needs of divorcing couples, you need a blend of these two ideologies; the CDFA designation was created to fill this need. The role of the CDFA professional is to assist the client and his/her lawyer to understand how the financial decisions he/she makes today will impact their financial future based on certain assumptions. That way, you can make informed decisions about your future. It is in the future projections that will show you whether your future is likely to be financially secure or not. Many divorce attorneys welcome a Lifestyle Analysis or complex financial projections that will justify your position at the negotiating table. A CDFA can perform this type of analysis.A MAFF (Master Analyst of Financial Forensics) can reconstruct, trace and determine if there are areas on unreported financials and fraud involved in the financial records. This could be very important in the divorce in addition to the work of a CDFA. A CVA (Certified Valuation Analyst) will be able to value your closely held business for purpose of division.
Why can't my divorce attorney, CPA, or financial advisor handle these things for me?
In some cases, a divorce attorney may offer to assist you with a Lifestyle Analysis or another financial aspect of your divorce, but he or she is unlikely to have the specialized training and expertise in divorce finances to do so as thoroughly, efficiently, or cost-effectively as a Divorce Financial Analyst would. I have only met a few attorneys who even have a handle on economics or finance as neither are rarely taught in law school.
When it comes to financial services, CPAs and financial advisors are unlikely to realize what analyses and projections they ought to do for those going through divorce. Even though they are very competent at what they do, divorce financials are not their specialty. Your CPA or financial advisor may be instrumental for you to use in other areas of your case. Many have not had the specialized training needed to support the financial analysis needed. For divorce or divorce related mateted only 1% of financial advisors have earned the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation.
We don’t really have any assets and our incomes are very low. Do we still need you?
Divorce Analyst is not suitable for every case. Sometimes both spouses earn a similar income, have equal earning potential and hold simple assets in their individual names. A few who benefit from a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Master of Financial Forenics or Business Valulater would be if:
- Married for more than 5 years
- Your spouse earns 60% or more of the family income
- You have assets over $75,000
- Your spouse or you own a private or closely held business
- You have investment accounts that are not retirement accounts
- You have debts that will need to be paid off with marital assets
- You have a suspicion of hidden assets or income
- You need to determine your spouse’s real income, otherwise known as compensation
- You want to be certain you do what you can to receive your equitable share
- You are concerned about meeting your expenses for you and your children
- You need a value placed you or your spouses
The scope of a Divorce Financial Analyst is very broad so there are multiple other reasons why you need one on your team. After a 1 hour strategy session, a determination could be made.
Since I have an attorney, can retaining you really make a difference in my settlement?
Yes, especially if someone has complicated assets or a significant net worth, then working with a CDFA can mean a substantial difference. I have seen numerous times where the proposed offer seemed fair and equitable. After preparing analysis and calculating projections, my affluent clients would run out of money within 10 years and would have to sell their home and move! There is no way to know the impact on your financial future without running analysis and calculations. Otherwise, it is just a number on paper. Many clients find they can feel confident walking into mediation or into a court room knowing what the numbers show. The work a CDFA provides can be valuable during various points in the process.
What will a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) do?
A CDFA or MAFF will serve as the financial expert on your divorce team. They will partner with your divorce attorney to increase your chances of receiving the most financially favorable divorce settlement. They will ask the financial questions that need to be asked early in the process, review documents that may expose hidden assets or income, and provide financial summaries so that you and your attorney have a better understanding of the financial situation. This will help secure your financial future. Your attorney will handle the legal aspects; a CDFA/MAFF will do their best to assist you to be financially empowered before, during and after your divorce.
The financial tasks a CDFA or MAFF are too numerous to list. You and your divorce attorney through the expertise of a Divorce Analyst will be able to see the full financial effect and tax implications of each proposed divorce settlement offer. This can avoid a lot of costly delay between you and your spouse. An Analyst can explain the financial aspects so that you will be empowered to make educated decisions throughout the proceedings. Many times, complex but crucial information will likely be missed by those without specific divorce-related financial education and experience. With precise financial results, your divorce attorney will be able back up your position with hard numbers during the negotiating process.
An example of something instrumental a CDFA will do is numerically “show” what your marital lifestyle was like. This may be an important factor for the judge when determining the amount support to award. A Lifestyle Analysis will be conducted with the goal of enabling your Divorce Attorney to justify a support amount, based on the laws and trends in your county, that will allow you to maintain your current lifestyle or something reasonably close to it after the divorce is final.
What is a Lifestyle Analysis?
A Lifestyle Analysis identifies the spending habits of couples and their day-to-day living expenses during their marriage for the last three to five years. It includes recurring and ordinary expenses as well as unusual and extraordinary expenses. This will serve as verification to the judge of the net worth, income and expense statements submitted by both spouses.
In order to complete a Lifestyle Analysis, all the financial records from that time period must be reviewed. The documents needed with are personal and business tax returns with back up attachments, investment statements, bank and credit card statements, life insurance statements and credit reports for both of you. It may also be necessary to review business bank records, credit cards and the business “books” to determine additional compensation that funded your lifestyle. It can seem overwhelming at first, particularly if you weren’t the one in charge of the finances.
All expenses will need to be identified as well as spending you may not have been aware of. During this process spending on a paramour, concealed marital assets, and income or selling of assets are often discovered. This analysis is very important since it can help a judge determine the amount of your child support & spousal support ordered as well as the division of assets. Once this analysis is completed, you and your attorney will be able to see the lifestyle you and your spouse had established. You attorney will need this to defend your economic need and refute your spouse’s offer during settlement negotiations and in trial. There may be circumstances in which the lifestyle of either party to be maintained if finances were tight or they were living off credit cards prior to separation into two homes.
Do we have to go to court to get divorced?
Only if you can't reach an agreement, then a court date is set and a judge hears the case. About 95% of divorce cases are settled without going to trial. These cases are settled by negotiations through family law attorneys, mediation, collaborative divorce, or they are amicable and settled amongst the parties. A judge must approve any divorce settlement agreement and issue a final divorce decree before any divorce can be finalized. A CDFA’s work will be very valuable in all areas of divorce from the amicable mediation to the court trial.
Clients have found that having a CDFA on the team was extremely beneficial during these type of amicable settlement negotiations. Since many clients hesitate to rock the boat by insisting on the amount needed to secure their long-term financial well-being, having it in a report takes pressure off them.
A MAFF also helos determine if someone is "hiding money" or "hiding assets". The courts have a diffcult time determining if money has been concealed without assistance from a specialized assistance from an expert in this.
I have been given paperwork to fill out about expenses and my income. I don’t know what to do with this. I have no idea what I spend in a month. Do I make up numbers?
No, you should not make up numbers.
The best starting place is to look back at the past year of spending to determine what your future expenses will be. This task can be extremely overwhelming for most and many errors can happen. This is something that your CDFA can complete for you so that you have correct calculations for the courts. If it very important this is as accurate as possible. The courts will use this financial affidavit, also called a financial statement, to assist in determining the need for support or the ability to pay the support or income and expense statement.
What is spousal maintenance? (Also called “alimony” or “support”)
It is a court-ordered obligation for a spouse to provide a certain amount of monthly financial support to the other spousal after their divorce. Support was designed to provide the lower income spouse (or one with no income) with money for living expenses. This is a separate legal financial obligation if child support is awarded.
Will I receive spousal maintenance?
Each state will test for spousal maintenance differently. (Also called "alimony" or "support") In Illinois, there is a new guideline for determining spousal support. Keep in mind that no two cases are the same. You need to seek advice in order to find out how the specifics in your case may impact your ability to receive spousal support. It must first be established if a spouse is entitled to spousal support using the multiple factors. Some examples are shown below. After a determination is made, a formula using the parties net incomes become the starting point for the amount. Other states have different means to test or calculate support.
Need - Can you support yourself with your earned income including investment income from the property you receive?
Ability to earn income - Does the payer of support have enough funds to pay? What is their ability to earn income now and in the future? What is your ability to earn an income?
Standard of living - What was the standard of living established during the marriage?
Length of marriage - A long-term marriage is considered 10 years or more. The longer the marriage, the stronger case for support.
Health of both parties.
Will I receive enough support to allow me to maintain my lifestyle after the divorce?
It depends. Your marital lifestyle is one of the most important factors a judge is likely to use in determining a spousal maintenance award; that's why a Lifestyle Analysis so important to conduct. It will show validation of your financial affidavit or income and expense statement for the courts.
When is spousal maintenance deserved?
Only the courts can make this determination. If you've been in a long-term marriage during which you've been out of the workforce for decades or had an income substantially less than your spouse, that support may be needed. In the state of Illinois, there is a law in place for the calculation of spousal support.
Often one spouse, typically the woman, sacrifices their own education and career opportunities to invest their time and labor for her family. Instead, the wife takes responsibility for the household matters, aids the husband’s career by enabling them to invest time and effort in job opportunities and increase their income. Many wives help them complete school, or other training, whether financially or otherwise.
Unfortunately, many marriages end when this spouse is at or near the peak of their earning potential. The spouse who sacrificed may be unemployable with the possible exception of relatively low-paying jobs. Depending on the award of the assets of the marriage, the courts may find that a spouse is in need of maintenance. This may also happen in shorter term marriages and for younger spouses.
In the division of property you may recive assets that have the potential to generate earnings that you could withdrawl instead of recuring support.
Can't the division of assets make up the difference?
Not in most cases. Even if a couple divides all assets 50/50, over time, the breadwinning spouse is likely to be able to replace the assets they gave up due to their greater earning potential. The other spouse often lacks this earning power. As a result, typically the wife, will be likely to experience the opposite: rather than replacing the assets she gave up, she's forced to liquidate her remaining assets in order to maintain anything close to her pre-divorce lifestyle.
The more she liquidates, the more her net worth drops and less is left to sell. If market conditions aren't favorable, she may have to liquidate these assets at below-market prices. Spousal Maintenance helps to somewhat equalize this economic disparity. A CDFA can assist with projection to determine the financial impact in the short term and long term of the proposed settlements.
What's the best way to receive spousal maintenance?
Everyone’s situation is unique, but if assets are available, I commonly recommend that clients take an upfront lump sum payment in lieu of spousal support paid each month, regardless of whether the divorce is amicable. (I encourage you to meet with me to discuss this possibility as well.) This lump sum payment would receive a special calculation and would be “discounted” to a value of total payments.
Many times, both individuals want to “cut ties” as much as they can. Payments will continue to tie the both of you together. The future is also uncertain and support payments depend on your former spouse being alive and healthy enough to make them. If you outlive your spouse or an illness or injury renders them unable to work and produce an income that could be a significant problem. It today’s economy, many individuals find themselves unemployed or forced to take lower paying positions. If this happens, your support could change dramatically if you can even receive any at all! Spousal support payments can be modified by a judge if they agree that your former spouse can no longer afford the current amount. There are ways to try and protect aganist loss of support due to death. Your CDFA can help take through the this with you.
My ex-spouse owns a business. Could they get modification of what they pay me?
Yes, they can. Many businesses can by cyclical in nature. The business revenue as well as your ex-spouse’s income needs to be analyzed. A business owner may alter their books or intentionally destroy their business in order to reduce or eliminate the amount of support they are paying. As a MAFF (Master Analyst of Financial Forensics), I can do various tracing methodologies and reconstruction to see if in fact, the income has decreased, and research potential reasons. Many times, an ex-spouse will continue to ask the court over and over to modify the payments. This will be time consuming and expensive. Sometime this is a means of control with abusive spouses as they continue to abuse through the court system.
What if I have to pay support?
If you will be ordered to pay spousal maintenance, I will work with you to investigate their need of support and your ability to pay the support. This is done in part by verifying your spouse's expenses with Lifestyle Analysis. If you are a professional or own a business, we will work together to determine your compensation.
How do we figure how much child support should be paid?
Every state has Child Support Guidelines that are mandated by the state. In Illinois, it is called parenting time based on the number of overnights each parent has the child for. The income calculations can get tricky when one (or both) spouses are an independent business owner who can control their wages and alter their benefits. In this situation, it typically helps to bring in a financial expert who can help determine the true potential income of the parties(s) and the benefits paid by the business. There are other "offset" to child support that your CDFA can help calculate.
The child support may not cover the children's actual costs – for instance, extraordinary medical expenses, private school tuition, or extracurricular activities are generally not covered. Speak to your family law attorney about the possibility of increasing the amount to cover reasonable expenses or have them covered by the other parent. Other times a percentage is covered by both parents depending on the disparity in income. It is very important to carefully review current and future expenses for the children.
Who should claim the dependent child exemption?
The tax reform in 2017 changed the “exemption” to “credits.” Several factors would determine who would be best served by taking the child for the tax credit. Sometimes it can be given to one party or it can be traded off each year. A divorce analyst can assist in determining who will receive the greatest economic benefit for the family and make suggestions based on these calculations.
I'm going to be the custodial parent. Can I afford to keep the house?
This is one of the most important overlooked questions. The answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no. We would need to discuss what it will cost to maintain the home, including taxes and insurance. The next step is to analyze if there is will there be enough money coming in to stay in the home. You would want to make sure you are able to pay the bills each month and keep the house maintained. Once this is determined, you can compare retaining the home to buying another or renting. Other factors such as giving up other assets in order to pay the bills must also be taken into consideration. All decisions need to be weighed against economic conditions in your area and effect of the stock market on your investments. Certified Divorce Financial Analysts are trained to help answer this question before you commit to a settlement that cannot be changed. While a house may look nice on a net worth statement, it is not liquid enough to pay the bills. You would be in a much better financial position with that same amount in the bank.
What if I brought a house into the marriage that was in my name only – but after we married, I added my spouse's name to the deed?
In this case, the whole house could be considered marital property. You might have made a "presumptive gift" to the marriage and should consult with a family law lawyer to discuss your options. In some states, if your spouse moved into this house, and both of you lived there during your marriage, the house is marital property no matter whose name is on the title. Again, this situation needs to be discussed with a family law lawyer.
Will I lose my pension as a result of divorce? Will I get my spouse’s pension?
Pensions and retirement plans earned during your marriage will be subject to division as marital assets. Depending on the state you live in, a portion that was earned before your marriage could also be considered a marital asset. There are different methods of valuation that can be used to determine the marital & non-marital portion of the pension. It may be possible to keep your pension intact and have it offset with other assets. There are some pensions that can not be divided and will have to be offset by other assets.
Is my IRA considered marital property? It's in my name only.
Everything acquired during the marriage, no matter whose name it's in, is typically considered marital property. In some states, the increase in value of separate property could also be considered marital property. If you are going through a divorce, you should evaluate the financial drawbacks to having your IRA or your spouse’s IRA included in the list of assets you will retain post-divorce. Remember, the funds in the IRA cannot be accessed before 59 1/2 without paying a 10% penalty for early withdrawal. There is a little-known window of opportunity to access your spouse’s 401K before retirement without triggering the penalty. Talk to your CDFA professional about your options. Once this window of opportunity passes, it will no longer be available to you.
How will our assets be divided?
This is a complex question...
Many states often differ in how they define non marital (also called separate property) and marital property. Non marital property typically stays with the spouse who owned it prior to the marriage or received it from someone else as a gift or inheritance... but there is many ways non marital property can inadvertently be converted into marital property and therefore become subject to division between the two parties. Your MAFF will need to determine by various forms of analysis if a commingling of funds or a transmutation has occurred.
All property acquired during the term of your marriage is marital property regardless of how it's titled or whose names it's in. For instance, a business you started during your marriage or a 401(k) in your name that you funded during your marriage will be considered marital property. Sometimes it can be very easy to divide assets between the spouses.
The more you own, the more complicated it becomes. The most complex cases deal with retained earnings, investment accounts, stock options, restricted stock, real estate investments, trademarks, patents stemming from a business owned by one or both of the spouses, etc. Some assets are worth more than others even if they are valued at exactly the same dollar amount such a bank account and a retirement account. Different assets have different tax implications when they are liquidated. This will have a tremendous impact on your cash flow. An example of this would be a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA. Even if they are the same dollar amount, the Roth IRA (if it qualifies) could be distributed tax free while the Traditional would be taxed at the spouse’s ordinary income tax rate. It may also make a difference as to when the assets will be distributed. A CDFA professional can help you understand the true bottom line numbers.
Sometimes a pension can be worth more than a house. It is very important to get a pension calculation from you or your spouses plan administrator for purposes of divorce.
How do I know if a settlement offer is fair?
Your CDFA will be able to assist you in determining if a settlement offer is appearing financially “fair”. Only the court system can state if something in fair. CDFA’s specialize in analyzing proposed divorce settlements and how the complex financial factors may interact. Each must be considered so that the attorneys can negotiate what is most financially advantageous for you. Even in an amicable divorce, you'll need to know which settlement option will provide the best long-term financial security for you and your family.
The first thing your CDFA will do is determine your actual expenses you and your spouse incurred to support your marital lifestyle. The results of a lifestyle analysis along with various financial and tax projections will be used to calculate exactly how long your money will last based on various divorce settlement proposals. One spouse may have to liquidate all their assets just to make ends meet while the other immediately starts rebuilding their assets and retirement. All the while, this spouse regains their net worth due to their earning power all the while the other approaches the poverty level. The projections will assist you and your attorney in determining what appears financially fair. You will be better equipped to negotiate a settlement that gives you long-term financial security and allows you to maintain a lifestyle that's somewhat comparable to what was established during your marriage.
What is a QDRO and why do I need one?
A QDRO (or Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is the legal document that divides up a qualified pension or a retirement account, such as a 401k, pursuant to a divorce. The Judgment of Divorce is not sufficient to divide up qualified plans, a QDRO is needed. There are many nuances that go into QDRO's and make it an advocating (versus neutral) document. In order to protect your assets, be sure to obtain qualified advice in this area from a specialist. If you don’t know of a specialist, let me know and I can assist with recommendations.
I have never worked. Can I get Social Security?
If your spouse has worked and if you have been married for 10 years or more, then you are entitled to one-half of your spouse's Social Security or your own, whichever is higher – even if you are divorced. Your spouse still retains 100% of his/her Social Security benefit. This is an automatic guarantee and therefore it is not a negotiation point in a divorce. There are other guidelines for social security payments for a divorced individual. Be sure to discuss with your CDFA Professional.
How much can divorce financially impact someone?
Divorce tends to damage women financially far more than men. A study was conducted by the Columbia University and Indiana University professors found that during divorce, income drops 26% in households headed by women compared to 15% for households headed by men.
The negative effect of this financial situation can reach far into the future The result is they will have to start liquidating assets soon after the divorce in order to pay the bills much less maintain anything close to the lifestyle they had while married. This means chances are they will run out of money in the future. It compounds as many are forced to liquidate retirement plans during divorce proceedings to pay for legal and other expenses.
On the other hand, husbands that earn substantially more than their wives are often able to rebuild their assets after divorce, including their retirement savings. Therefore, many women find themselves in dire financial straits after a divorce, while their ex-husbands, whose earning power is unaffected or increasing, are doing more than fine. I have also worked in cases where the wife was the breadwinner of the family and her earning potential far outweighed what he would do in the future.
What are some of the financial ploys used by a spouse during a divorce?
While not all divorces are shady, I have unfortunately seen quite a few underhanded financial and legal tactics employed by spouses or their divorce teams. All of them support why you need a divorce financial analyst on your team to try and catch the foul play before it gets too far.
One tactic is stalling and delaying court hearings. They do this with excessive use of motions and requests for evidence with the sole intent of driving up legal costs and stretching out the time the other spouse must cover their own living expenses. In these cases the spouse using tactics hopes the other will run out of money and be forced to agree to their settlement offer, which is usually unfavorable for them.
Another is to take advantage of the spouse who hasn’t been involved with the family finances, who is typically the wife. This is usually a means of control. An example would be that the husband ensures that only he can access family funds, cuts his wife's credit cards off, or moves funds out of family accounts in advance of the divorce, leaving the wife without the money necessary even to buy groceries, much less hire the right divorce team to represent her. While this is happening, he hires an excellent team to represent him. It is recommended that women maintain their own emergency fund in a separate bank account, even if they haven’t yet considered divorce. Many spouses were blindsided with a request for divorce and were left without any funds to support themselves for a period.
Many have attempted to hide assets or income for a reduced divorce settlement or support order, especially in cases where the spouse owns a business or private practice. This will be seen when a Lifestyle Analysis is conducted. This is also when tracing of assets or income would be important for the case which would be completed through a forensic analysis of a MAFF (Master Analyst of Financial Forensics)
Even after the judge has entered an order, the high-income earning spouse may fail to pay court-ordered support or refuse to relinquish assets. This leaves the other spending considerable legal fees in order to retrieve the payments or assets that have already been awarded to them. It is frustrating and unfortunate, but some family courts do a poor job enforcing such orders. This happens repeatedly even when one follows its requirements correctly and the other is deceptive.
How can I be sure that I will be financially independent after my divorce?
There are many areas that need to be addressed but it begins with Pre-Divorce Planning. For many individuals, the divorce settlement will be the single most important financial decision they make in their lives. Once the divorce is final, you will need to put together a financial plan for your family’s financial goals.
Whom do you serve?
My clients include all types of individuals, men or women, executives, celebrities, professionals, business owners, retail sales, administrative, stay-at-home moms, and more. They all have significant or complicated assets in common, and they want to work with someone who will understand their financial needs, be able to assist them personally and respect their need for privacy and discretion. I am also hired by attorneys to conduct an analysis of various financial scopes. The scopes may include areas such a valuation of a business, tracing of assets and/or income, projections to assist in determining division of assets, and support needs and calculations of non-marital and marital accounts.
What if I'm not in Illinois or the St. Louis Area?
Divorce Dollars is headquartered in Swansea, IL but we serve and advise affluent individuals throughout the United States. We assist not just during the divorce process but beforehand and afterwards as well.
How does an analysis process work?
All analysis is comprehensive. It can deal with a specific financial issue, but this is not typical. The details can be quite different from client to client given their own unique set of circumstances. Initially, we would meet for a strategy session to discuss your case. After that meeting, you or your attorney would retain Divorce Dollars & Sense to work on your case. I would complete a need a list of documents needed in order to begin the scope of work. Various analyses could be completed such as a lifestyle analysis, tracing of assets and income, business valuation, completion of a financial statement and income, and expense statements for the courts. During this process, hidden assets or income may be uncovered. Financial and tax projections will be completed based on any proposed divorce settlements and will be provided to you and to your attorney to back up your position at the negotiating table or in court if necessary. During the case, other needs may arise, or calculations needed such as present value of an asset, pension calculations, or the value within an account that is marital.
How do we get started?
The first step is to contact me to set up our strategy session. I want to learn about your situation. I will give you a Divorce Financial Checklist that outlines the documents you'll need to start gathering. At our initial meeting, we will discuss the fee structure for the service provided. I feel my fees are often a small percentage of the amount an individual will gain by retaining my services. I always seek to provide an excellent value for my clients.
Divorce Dollars & Sense Corporation does not provide legal advice or tax advice. Anything displayed should not be construed as such.
Please seek independent legal and tax advice for your specific situation.