One of the most important things I've learned from my own divorce experience and working with others going through divorce is just how important it is to have a competent team of professionals in your corner for the best possible legal and business advice. This ensures that no stone goes unturned in any area of your life affected by your divorce, and that your future is well protected.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that not consulting with area experts can negatively effect the way in which a divorce agreement is written and its impact on post-divorce life - namely, your finances.
Let's take a look at the seven members of a good "Divorce Dream Team" and why each professional is so important.
Life Direction Support -
Team Member 1: Divorce Coach
Divorce coaching is becoming more popular as people and their attorneys recognize the value of having someone on the team who can support, educate and guide overwhelmed and fearful individuals going divorce. In addition to assisting with the emotional upheaval and helping with the life transition process, a divorce coach also provides a broad-based overview education about the legalities of the process, thereby priming individuals for the challenges ahead.
Managing expectations and getting clarity about future goals is a big part of streamlining the divorce process that can minimize victim mentality and a "lack" mindset, which can prolong the divorce process resulting in spending more money than is necessary on attorney's fees. Additionally, a good divorce coach will serve as the hub for their client in accessing other divorce team professionals for casting a wide net of protection.
Good Legal Representation -
Team Member 2: Divorce Attorney
A good attorney is at the center of your divorce. This means someone who specializes and practices divorce & family law. (Not your friend who is a general practitioner or your brother-in-law who practices real estate law.)
At its core, your divorce and the separation agreement you will sign-minus the emotional upheaval and physical changes brought with the break up of any marriage - is a legally binding contract. Your lawyer is your representative and "voice" with the court and your spouse's attorney, to advocate for your best interest based on his or her expertise of the laws and the courts. Hence why it is so important to have competent representation.
Depending on your attitude and that of your attorney’s will generally determine how much your divorce will cost. Working with a professional who is first and foremost your advocate and represents your interest is key. However, one that is fair minded will also help you to have clarity about the realities of the law and that in the end, finalizing terms of the divorce will require some compromise. Be very wary of “sharks” and those who over promise and fuel your emotions. In the end this can cost you a great deal of time and money.
Clarity About Your Current Financial Status -
Team Member 3: Accountant/Tax Expert
Finances are one of the cornerstone issues in divorce. Splitting of assets, alimony, child support and budgeting for a new life are some of the realities that comprise post-divorce life. Therefore, clarity about your current finances, your (potential) future financial status and expenses, tax implications, as well as a plan for successfully managing your money day to day is imperative. You will also need to fill out a net worth statement in most states, which is one of the first steps in the process.
An accountant will be worth his or her weight in gold as they will see things in a way that you and even your attorney will not, especially in the area of tax. Not to mention, give you guidance in how to weed through all of those files and documents, streamlining them for the purposes of your divorce. Many people are under the impression that they need an accountant that has a CPA designation, which is not true. Management accountants are just as competent and in some cases more adept at working in the area of tax.
This input is invaluable to making sound financial decisions now that you will have to live with for a long time. In some cases, a Forensic Accountant may be necessary to help with expert analysis of high-asset or high-net-worth individuals, business valuations, complex property division cases, and/or hidden assets.
Insuring Yourself -
Team Member 4: Insurance Expert
The break up any marriage will make it necessary to make changes to the various insurance policies. More than likely each party will need to secure their own respective policies in the following areas: Auto, Health, Homeowners/Renters and Life.
Not to mention that most divorce agreements, especially if children are involved, will require each spouse to secure life insurance. Depending on one's health and circumstances, it is wise to begin this process early on to avoid delays in getting necessary approvals from the insurance company(s).
Investments & Future Financial Wellness -
Team Member #5: Financial Advisor
With divorce comes a brand new future, some of which may be uncertain. Current investments, IRA’s, pensions, college funds, and other long-term assets will certainly be part of the divorce negotiations. It is important to have a clear sense of your current assets and holdings and how to best protect and grow them post-divorce.
A financial advisor will provide expert insight for the short and long-term when it comes to dividing property, analyzing pension and retirement plans and helping to create a realistic budget and future spending plan for peace of mind about your long-term financial security.
Residential Considerations -
Team Member # 6: Real Estate Broker
It is inevitable that with divorce, someone will have to move. Whether it is temporary or long-term, residence considerations can be stressful, overwhelming and potentially costly. Knowing all options when it comes to where to live. If you need to move and find a new home, your criteria for a residence may be different with your pending divorce than in the past.
A knowledgeable and experienced real estate broker can help you navigate the daunting process of selling your home and searching for a new one. This includes assisting you to figure out what your options are and familiarizing you with pricing so you can incorporate this into your budget and future plan. They will also do a great deal of the leg work and hold your hand through each step of the process of both selling and purchasing.
Mortgage & Refinancing
Team Member #7: Mortgage Broker
Depending on your unique situation, a mortgage broker will provide the knowledge necessary to tackle the needed steps in homeownership and your options for paying for it. With their expertise, you will be able to better determine the best options for refinancing if you are buying out your soon-to-be ex-spouse, or secure a new mortgage if you are relocating. Mortgage brokers can also assist with questions regarding your credit rating and suggest ways to build your credit if it's low.
These professionals make up the core team of experts that should be consulted, preferably in the early stages of divorce consideration. All of the above-mentioned non-legal experts do not charge for initial consultations and some of them do not even charge for their services, as their commission is not paid by you.
Knowing the value of each of these professionals and making the time investment to meet with them at the beginning of your divorce process will ensure the best outcome for your separation agreement and your post-divorce life.
Till next time,