Most people who are going through a divorce want to maximize financial security and minimize depletion of assets. Some spouses turn to their own separate financial advisors who may or may not have experience and training relating to divorce in Northern Virginia. Some spouses rely on their attorneys alone and never seek the assistance of a financial specialist. If the professional (attorney or financial planner) is only working to protect their own client, the client may then become involved in an adversarial divorce with each side competing against the other for money and assets.
There is another option to engage the services of a Neutral Financial Specialist with training and experience in Collaborative Divorce work (hired to work with both the parties and their attorneys) to achieve an amicable settlement that is informed and emphasizes financial security and minimizes depletion of assets. When the parties use a Neutral Financial Specialist to collect data and prepare budgets, the work between the clients and their attorneys can be more efficient and productive (and less costly). The lawyers can focus on explanation of the law, options for resolution, evaluation and negotiation.
A Neutral Financial Specialist assists the spouses in collecting and organizing data that may be relevant and needed for a settlement. The data collection usually involves preparation of a report for the parties and their attorneys regarding the income, assets and debts. The summary may be supported by backup documentation provided by the spouses. The Neutral Financial Specialist can work with the spouses to prepare current and projected budgets in order to have an educated discussion about support.
When there are children involved, the Neutral Financial Specialist can help the spouses identify expenses and needs of the children. For many parents, the costs of post-secondary education can be a challenge and it helps to know the options for saving for that education and/or qualifying for financial aid. If there is a child with special needs, it may be critical to involve a Neutral Financial Specialist who can assist in gathering data about benefits and resources for the parents.
Some couples divorce later in life and have concerns about how and when they will be able to retire, what benefits they may be eligible for and how divorce impacts those benefits. The Neutral Financial Specialist can prepare long-term financial projections for the parties so that they can understand how any settlement being considered is likely to play out over time.
There may be tax issues associated with the assets and/or support. Neutral Financial Specialists may be trained as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) and be knowledgeable about various financial/tax regulations and how they may impact a financial scenario being considered by the parties. A CFP (Certified Financial Planner) has training and experience in the planning aspect. Some Neutral Financial Specialists have a combination of credentials.
Frequently the Neutral Financial Specialist educates the attorneys regarding the facts of the family’s finances and the issues that may be particular to that family’s situation. A Neutral Financial Specialist can work with a Mediator or other Collaborative Divorce professionals as a team in assisting the parties with generating and evaluating options for financial settlement. A Neutral Financial Specialist does not sell products to the parties or invest on their behalf. The spouses should each have their own investment counselor to work with post-divorce.
When considering the use of a Neutral Financial Specialist in Northern Virginia, look for training in Mediation and Collaborative Divorce in addition to the other credentials of the specialist. Using resources to pay a Neutral Financial Specialist in a divorce case can be money well spent – It can reduce the overall attorneys’ fees and may lead to a financial settlement that is a win-win for both parties while avoiding unnecessary depletion of assets through sound planning regarding asset and debt allocation while considering tax implications that may be avoidable.
Karen Keyes is a divorce attorney serving clients in Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria and cities throughout Northern Virginia.