By Nancy Hetrick, CDFA
Any woman that has gone through a divorce can tell you that the divorce process is emotionally draining and mentally exhausting. Yet it is in the midst of this process that you will be expected to go through your finances with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that your settlement agreement is fair and equitable. Easier said than done!
In my experience working with women, there are some common mistakes to avoid that could ultimately save you thousands of dollars!
- Underestimating post-divorce expenses. You will be asked to do a financial affidavit that reflects your expenses AFTER the divorce. It is critical that you are realistic and don’t leave anything out. This information will be used to determine if alimony is necessary or not. Did you include your health care deductibles? How about replacing the roof of your home next year? If you underestimate your expenses by $200 per month, that’s $2400 per year. Where are you going to get that extra money? A Certified Divorce Financial Plannerwill help you scrub your affidavit for errors and make sure that you don’t leave anything out.
- Believing your attorney will handle everything. Your attorney is an expert in the law, not finances. You wouldn’t ask your doctor for advice about plumbing so why would you expect your attorney to be a financial expert? He will ask you to fill out your financial affidavit and take your word for it that it is correct. A good attorney will glance over it looking for any glaring errors but that’s about it. The asset that is most often valued incorrectly is a pension. I often see attorneys accept a present value statement from a pension company as the correct value to include as marital property. It’s not. Not by a long shot. A CDFA™ can value it properly and make sure that tax ramifications are considered as well.
- Not Deducting Costs. Very few people realize it, but portions of your attorney fees and/or CDFA™ fees during divorce are tax deductible. Any fees for obtaining alimony and/or retirement funds during your divorce proceedings are tax deductible.
- Letting attorneys do the talking for you.The more you and your spouse can work out, the more money you’ll save. If you have your attorney relay information to your spouse’s attorney, you’re racking up bills upwards of $600 an hour because you refuse to talk. Does this really make any sense to anyone? Get over any anger and talk about what will work. Today there are many different alternative dispute resolution methods that would be far more productive at a lower cost.
- Making Emotional Decisions.So many women going through divorce just want to “get it over with” and will often agree to settlements just to be done with it. This kind of thinking is why divorce so often leads to bankruptcy! A 50/50 split of assets is almost NEVER a truly equitable settlement. Take your time and make sure you thoroughly understand what your future will look like after your divorce and be sure to hire the right experts to help you.
Divorce is one of the most emotional experiences you will ever go through and also one of the most financially important. Arm yourself with facts and a team that can support you in making wise financial decisions. You only have one chance to get it right and it could impact the rest of your life.
To ensure you get off on the right foot, download our eBook, Five Things to Do BEFORE You Decide on Divorce.