A new client came to me this month at the recommendation of her Family Law attorney. She wanted to consult with a financial advisor while preparing for her mediation.
She wasn’t necessarily looking for a specialist, a Certified Financial Divorce Analyst, just someone who could help her envision her financial life post divorce.
I am a CDFA and understand divorce law in New Hampshire but in this case that really wasn’t my role. My role, as her attorney defined it, was to help her understand what she and her husband owned and how some of that would support her for the rest of her life.
Therein defines the respective roles of an attorney and a financial advisor during a divorce process: the attorney will address the legal issues and the CDFA® will assist the client and his/her lawyer in understanding how the financial decisions he/she makes today will impact the client’s financial future.Today’s Family court is a crowded and complex arena and Family Law attorneys are handling increasingly complex issues such as commercial real estate, business interests and complex family dynamics with child custodial issues. If they can receive assistance in developing the financial settlement it allows them to focus only on those legal issues. Financial Planners have always assisted clients in understanding how their financial resources such as retirement plans, social security, real estate holdings work together in retirement and other exit situations. Divorce is one of those exits with it’s own legal overlay.
During the divorce process, attorneys and their clients are often asked to present mediators with very clinical financial affidavits containing assets, budgets and family statistics. These briefs outline only the very basic facts and financial information of a family’s circumstances. Proofs at trial can be equally empty and perfunctory. What is lacking is a great deal of “non-legal” information from other disciplines which would take those same financial facts and incorporate them into a process that includes economic assumptions, tax consequences, and actuarial projections. These projections help all parties involved see the whole picture long term.
Divorce has the possibility of being devastating to the families involved. But it doesn’t have to be. A mutually agreed upon settlement hammered out by informed parties has a greater possibility of successful acceptance and implementation than one handed down by a judge. Having gone through a lengthy divorce with painful consequences to myself and my children, it has become a bit of a dream of mine to help others avoid the same. It can be done!