I recently had a conversation with a woman who has just signed her divorce agreement. She agreed to a settlement that she really felt was not fully fair.
The division of assets was skewed to her husband’s favor. She is facing five years of debt to pay for bills that resulted from what we would consider “wasteful dissipation” – extravagant options trading by her husband which resulted in losses of more than $100,000, after his first series of losses of $50,000, in addition to other circumstances. She did so because she was afraid that if she hired a financial consultant or consulted a reviewing attorney, her husband would be angry and stop cooperating.
So, if we take this to its logical conclusion, he will be angry and become uncooperative if she gets sufficient information to make an informed decision!
Please, understand, you have the right to have any proposed agreement reviewed by an attorney of your own. Why? Because you don’t know what you don’t know. There are intricacies to the law, built to protect you. If you are unaware of them, they cannot work for you. Family law attorneys spend their entire careers learning how to reach the best settlements possible, for each party. Why not take advantage of their expertise? This is your only chance to get it right.
Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA®) are focused on helping you make sense out of the finances of your marriage, of your settlement, and the impact of various scenarios in the future, as well. Everyone wants to know: “Will I be OK?” A CDFA can help you understand how the financial side of your settlement can provide the security you seek now, and in years to come – or not. Most individuals do not have the expertise to perform these calculations.
Many therapists consider the process of divorcing to be the equivalent of an emotional disability, as husbands and wives experience a virtual roller coaster of emotion, as their lives change. Is this the best time for you to make irreversible decisions that will impact your future and that of your children, by yourself?
Your mediator must be neutral. That’s their role, and they take it very seriously. A mediator can tell you what the law may say, but can’t say, “That’s not a good settlement! You should ask for more!” And while it would be lovely to count on family and friends to guide you, be wary of un-trained advice. While certainly well-meaning, friends and family do not usually possess equal footing with the professionals who are likely making up your spouse’s divorce team.
The tools are there to help you when you need help the most. However, it’s up to you to use them.
Most professional fees are either paid by the spouse who controls the funds, or divided between the two of you, as part of the settlement. Your spouse cannot tell you that you cannot hire the legal and financial assistance you need.
So when you are ready to build your divorce team, be sure to include the professionals that have been trained to practice equitable and fair divorce practices. Yes, start with your attorney, even if you and your spouse will engage in mediation. Talk to a CDFA to be sure that you are covered financially, not just for today – but so that your finances are prepared for what tomorrow will bring. And of course, consider seeking the counsel of a therapist to help you navigate the emotional and exhausting moments that are sure to surface – sure to knock the wind from your sails.