Three Reasons Why a Lifestyle Analysis Is Critical For Divorcing Women

Jeffrey A. Landers • Divorce Financial Strategist™ and founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC

For example, while CPAs can provide good historical and present-day snapshots, few carry out future projections –and yet it’s precisely this type of analysis that will show you whether your future is likely to be financially secure or not.

Here’s another point to keep in mind: Only a scant one percent of financial advisors have earned the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ designation, which is so important in understanding the financial ramifications of divorce. In fact, many large financial services firms, including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Wells Fargo, don’t permit their financial advisors to provide advice on real estate or closely held businesses, and yet for many affluent couples, these represent the vast majority of their net worth.

2. It’s essential to know where you’ve been in order for you to get where you want to go.  In essence, a Lifestyle Analysis establishes what your standard of living was during the marriage. It reconstructs:1) the day-to-day living expenses incurred during your marriage and 2) the spending habits of both you and your husband. Generally, a Lifestyle Analysis has an emphasis on the last several years of your marriage, and it usually includes, but is not limited to, an analysis of:

  • all financial statements (bank, brokerage, credit cards, etc.)
  • personal and business income tax returns
  • recurring and ordinary expenses within each category of expense (clothing, food, housing, entertainment, travel, etc.)
  • unusual, non-recurring and/or seasonal expenses
  • credit reports
  • any discrepancies
  • a realistic estimate of future family expenses, like college or boarding school for your children

At first, compiling the data needed for a Lifestyle Analysis might seem like a laborious, time-consuming chore. But working side-by-side with your divorce financial planning expert, it’s likely you will discover all sorts of regular expenses (and income) that you neglected to consider –and that information is essential as you plan for your future as a single woman.

What’s more, a Lifestyle Analysis can also prove an incredibly valuable tool for uncovering assets your husband is trying to hide from you and/or any dissipation of marital assets he’d rather you didn’t know (like when he took his girlfriend to Hawaii).  In other words . . .

3. A Lifestyle Analysis keeps your husband honest. Any comprehensive investigation of spending habits and day-to-day living expenses is bound to reveal a few surprises here or there.  However, in some cases, the details uncovered by a Lifestyle Analysis can be even more shocking.  In fact, sometimes, when we are preparing a Lifestyle Analysis for a client, we find non-recurring or occasional expenses that take her totally by surprise. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual during this process to discover a husband has been pursuing some kind of nefarious activity, such as selling marital assets, concealing income, collecting art, or even supporting an extramarital relationship completely unbeknownst to his wife.

Once revealed through the analysis, this dissipation of assets can be taken into consideration when the judge determines the amount of your divorce settlement agreement and any alimony ordered.

Here’s a real-life example to illustrate my point. Divorce attorney Mudita Chawla of Chemtob Moss Forman & Talbert, LLP, recalls that she once represented a wife whose husband had controlled the family finances throughout their eighteen year marriage. In reviewing the various financial documents, however, it became clear that the husband was siphoning funds into an offshore account he had not disclosed on his Statement of Net Worth.

“We could not subpoena the documents from the offshore account because a New York State subpoena held no weight overseas,” Ms. Chawla explained to me. “But, by tracing exactly how much money the husband had transferred over the years from the parties’ marital accounts into the offshore account, it was determined that this sum amounted to approximately $3 million.”

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