Money Mapmakers – How Financial Neutrals Guide Separating Couples Through the Finances of Divorce
In a divorce, emotions are naturally running high. Separating couples are dealing with their marital breakdown as well as the legal implications of their decision; add in the financial complications and the emotional aspects are compounded. This is one of the many reasons why it makes sense to hire a neutral professional who can assist with the financial concerns, leaving lawyers to concentrate on the legal issues involved.
Financial Neutrals, in addition to being financial planners or accountants, have in-depth training in the financial fundamentals of divorce. This includes separation and divorce concepts, net worth and cash flow analysis, budgeting, taxation specific to divorce, family law process and collaborative practice, pensions, asset and liability division, child and spousal support, and risk management.
Financial disclosure: Providing all records of your financial assets, including property, vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts as well as a complete list of your liabilities and income sources at the date of separation, and anything you entered the marriage with or any exclusions to family property.
Where to start
An accredited financial specialist starts by leading the clients in a discovery process to determine the financial disclosure requirements and provides an in-depth evaluation of their financial situation. The financial specialist will also complete the Net Family Property Statement and/or Financial Statement and share with the legal team. These statements essentially provide an overall summary of the separating couple’s finances and offer a starting point for discussing settlement options. The financial specialist may map multiple variations of the Net Family Property Statement in the process to look at alternative scenarios that may work for the family and allow them to make informed decisions about their future. With a Collaborative Divorce, there is room for creative resolutions, even with finances. A specialized financial professional is equipped to help find the right solutions.
Seeing the full financial picture clarifies decision-making
Forecasting settlement options with a financial plan can be instrumental in helping with decision-making. Can I afford to keep the house? Will taking cash or part of my spouse’s pension be better for me in retirement? A plan will provide peace of mind or a reality check by looking at multiple scenarios showing resulting tax, cash flow and net worth positions and implications. What does the future look like for me? A financial neutral may also assist with budgeting, cash flow planning and an insurance analysis, if required, to ensure sufficient policies are in place to cover any child or spousal support obligations.
How does a CFDS fit within the Collaborative Team?
A Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist (CFDS) assists the team by calculating Equalization Payments, Child and Spousal Support, and acts as a subject matter expert with all things financial. A review of tax returns is important, particularly for business owners, to determine what their true income is for the calculation of support.The financial neutral may also make arrangements to have a pension valued, source an actuary for tax rate estimates, arrange for real estate and business valuations, and refer clients to new advisors post separation for their benefits, investment, insurance, and estate planning needs. Money, not surprisingly, can be a difficult part of any divorce, so having a highly trained guide to assist in the process can help reduce worry and aid in decision making.
A Quick List of Collaborative Benefits:
- In the Collaborative process, clients negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without going to court
- The professionals on the team help create customized solutions that consider the priorities of each spouse
- With an emphasis on full disclosure, respect, and open communication, this approach is client-directed and family-focused
- Collaborative divorces preserve relationships and result in better separation agreements, as clients are in control of the process and ensure their goals, needs and interests are addressed
- Being retained jointly by the couple, the engagement of a financial neutral saves time and money as a joint Net Family Property statement is completed, gathering financial documents is simplified, and the couple is able to split the fees
- Financial professionals provide unbiased information and assistance, helping clients reach a fiscally responsible settlement, while providing education and guidance throughout the process
The bottom line? Clients can enter the next stage of their lives with the knowledge and confidence that they have a thorough understanding of their financial position and the right professionals to assist them.
Terri McDougall is a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist – Advanced Accredited (CFDS-AA) and Personal Financial Planner (PFP). Prior to working exclusively with separating and divorcing clients, she spent over 25 years in the Private Banking and Wealth Management fields. She helps her clients increase their comfort level with regards to financial planning, budgeting, insurance, and investments. Terri maintains a wide network of like-minded professionals to ensure all of her clients’ financial needs are addressed in creating an integrated plan for their personal situation