By, Debbie Hartzman CFP.CLU.CDFA
As the cold gets colder and bills pile up, those of us who help families going through separation and divorce get extremely busy.
With the holidays over and expectations not met, plans start to evolve to make the move towards a marital adjustment. Although this isn’t something people plan or look forward to, when they make the vow, “until death do us part”, statistics show this scenario to be an all too common occurrence.
As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, there are a few good tips I make sure people are aware of.
Aside from the issue of children, custody and access, the financial implications of a split can be the most devastating effect today and into the future. It is no surprise to those of us who help people who, in this situation feel that the family law is flawed and doesn’t always deliver the intended or best results for all those involved.
In every relationship there is always one person, who has emotionally left the relationship long before the other person even realizes. This means it is not unusual to have both partners in the same place at the same time.
Here are a few tips if you find yourself heading down this road:
- Divorcing couples must take ownership of their divorce and what their family’s unique situation requires.
- Take the time to understand the process and how it works. Shop for the professionals you require to make the best of the situation. This can include a mediator, financial analyst, child co-ordinator, therapist, business valuator, pension valuator, or a home appraiser. The most important thing to understand is the various ways you can arrive at a settlement. Make sure you hire the right lawyer to take you down your intended path. Don’t hire a litigator if you are a candidate for mediation. It will increase cost and frustration.
- Identify that divorce is not a legal issue, but more of an emotional issue that wreaks havoc on our lives, finances and relationships. If you deal with the situation as a business relationship, you will be more successful in coming out with a satisfactory solution. Making financial decisions out of anger, spite, sorrow, guilt or any such thing is a recipe for disaster and regret.
- Tax implications and future values of assets are something else that requires particular attention. Working with a financial professional that understands the laws of property division can elevate issues that otherwise might not show up until it is too late.
- If possible, it is wise to make copies all financial documents that you can get your hands on and store them in a safe place, with someone you trust.
- If you have joint lines of credit or credit cards, make the issuers aware of the situation. This doesn’t get you off the hook, it just documents dates.
- Open up a separate bank account immediately and start depositing your pay into this account.
- Keep a diary of dates and times of emails and texts in case you require them for future reference.
- Don’t agree to separating assets on a one off basis.
- Try to work with one another, not against each other. Come to an agreement on what you can and leave the professionals to help with the issues that are harder to resolve.
- Resolve to get organized. The more on top of your information, the less cost is involved for your professionals organizing you. They can be more efficient and spend their time working through possible scenarios that will serve you better in the long run.
Tough as it is to work through things, it is worth it. Once on the other side, most people are much happier, however, the emotional pain can make it extremely hard to move forward. Holding on to negative emotions leads to stress and depression which can add to serious health issues.
A healthy support network of family and friends is most important at this time in your life.
The best way to move forward is to keep your eyes firmly fixed on the future. Know that no matter how bad things seem in any given moment, you will get through it. Focus on the big picture. Someday, this will all be behind you. Keeping your divorce resolutions will lay the groundwork for a financially secure future and a stable foundation for your life going forward.
Debbie is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst who works with clients to find the fairest and quickest financial solution. She is the author of “Divorce Is Not Easy, But It Can Be Fair”.