That question can be answered on many different levels, of course. But, as a Divorce Financial Strategist™ who exclusively works with divorcing women throughout the country, my advice is to direct your focus immediately on creating a solid strategy, one that will help you emerge from divorce in the best possible shape, both emotionally and financially. How do you make that kind of game plan? Easy. I believe there is one thing you need to do that can make all the difference between a successful divorce settlement and one that is considerably less favorable: Build a winning divorce team.
Yes, you need a “team.” In the past, divorce was a simpler process involving only the divorcing couple and their lawyers. But these days, you’ll also need the support of other professionals; particularly those who can help secure your financial interests both in the short- and long-term. To protect your financial stability and personal well-being, build a solid divorce team that includes these three essential players:
A Matrimonial/Family Law Attorney
Look for an attorney who exclusively handles divorce cases or devotes at least 75 percent of his/her practice to divorce. Ideally, your lawyer will be a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an organization requiring the fulfillment of several stringent professional conditions. When interviewing potential candidates, please don’t hesitate to get a little nosy. Certainly, you’ll want to discuss the individual complexities of your case, but be sure to explore the lawyer’s own qualifications and fees, as well. Honesty and openness are the best strategies here because there’s no need for any “surprises” once you’ve started working together. Find out answers to questions like these: How many cases has he/she has recently handled, how many have been settled and how many have gone to trial? What were the outcomes of these cases? Does he/she typically represent the husband or wife? Will he/she personally handle all aspects of your case, or will your case be passed to a more junior attorney and/or paralegal (and at whose rate will you be charged)?
In addition, be certain you feel personally at-ease with whomever you choose. By its very nature, divorce is a delicate and emotional experience, and you need your attorney to be a trusted, supportive and forward-thinking resource throughout the entire process. “Bedside manner” is extremely important. I’ve had a number of clients who had to fire their otherwise highly qualified divorce attorney because the attorney did not respect women!
A Divorce Financial Planner
A divorce financial planner is not the same as a financial advisor, financial planner, stockbroker, CPA or accountant. A divorce financial planner is equipped with all the necessary specialized tools for the divorce process, including divorce financial planning, asset protection strategies and the Certified Divorce Financial Analystä (CDFA) designation.
As the financial expert on your team, your divorce financial planner should work hand-in-hand with your divorce attorney and take care of the critical financial tasks that are beyond the capacity of the attorney’s expertise. These tasks can range from preparing the financial affidavits to projecting the financial and tax implications of each divorce settlement option.
In addition, your divorce financial planner will also be responsible for creating the comprehensive financial analyses and projections that you and your divorce attorney will need to fully understand the short- and long-term financial and tax implications of each proposed divorce settlement offer. Your attorney will then use those conclusions to substantiate and justify his/her positions when negotiating with your husband’s attorney.
In certain cases, other additional specialists are needed, as well, so be sure your divorce financial planner has the necessary contacts to bring in experts such as: