Written by: Rachael L. DeCosta, CDFA®
A client today said “I want to be able to stand in a field on my own …” Let’s get there!
A Ramsey Research study of over 1000 couples found that finances were the #2 reason for divorce, infidelity was #1. Despite this, women continue to feel uneducated and helpless regarding the financial aspects of divorce. Many lead with their heart, and acquiesce the financial component of divorce to their family, their friends or their soon to be ex spouse.
The following 3 implementable strategies will help as you engage in the divorce process.
1. Think with your head, not your heart – this can be harder than you think!
Our inner Pollyanna and empath want to believe our soon to be ex will do what is in our best interests and what is fair. Take a deep breath, and be real with yourself and answer these 2 critical questions:
What are your monthly expenses? Try tracking your expenses for 2-4 months, you may find your grocery bill is $1,200/mo and not $500/mo, you overlooked the $300/month spent on Amazon and your children’s gaming is running $250/mo – these are 3 common oversights when reviewing expenses.
What is your income and how or will it change post divorce? If you are a single parent will you still be able to travel for work? If you are a stay at home parent will it take time to find a job, and how much do you think you will make? Do you need additional training or licensing? What are your needs v wants?
As soon as you have an inkling that your marriage may be going south, even if the “D” word has not been discussed, identify your individual and joint financial accounts and keep copies of current statements. Schedule time to discuss next steps with a Financial Professional. Do not lose sight of what you deserve. No one wants acrimony; however, it is imperative that you protect yourself.
2. Is this bill for the year, or just this month? Understanding and Mitigating Legal Fees
I am a huge proponent of hiring legal counsel. We have all heard horror stories of legal fees, it does not have to be that way. You must understand how and for what you are being charged. Here are a few questions to ask your attorney before you sign the retainer:
What are your hourly rates? Clarify hourly rates and ask which professional does what work. When there is a newer Associate or Paralegal available at the firm, you do not want the high priced partner doing Lexus/Nexis research, and writing template motions. Some firms offer blended rates, however only “upon request”. This can decrease your legal fees by 30% or more.
How do you charge for e-mails? It is unsettling when you are billed five .2hrs for “correspondence” or “email” in a single day. Many law firms track emails and charge .1hr-.2hr per email received. Unless it is urgent, hold your questions and send a consolidated email at the end of the week.
What is expected from me, how can I help streamline this process? Set expectations upfront, including your budget. Respond timely and concisely to your attorney. Do as much of the document gathering and organizing for your attorney as possible.
What do you charge for copies? Unfortunately, while much of the world has moved to Docusign and electronic documents, the legal profession continues to be paper intensive. Printing your own documents and delivering them to your attorney’s office can save you some cha-ching!
Vet and retain the right professional team for your situation, having poor counsel, can be worse than having no counsel.
3. What can I buy with those 401k assets? Think before you spend.
As tempting as it may be to spend the windfall of money that may be coming your way, before committing to the newest G-Wagon be sure to consider tax implications. Reach out to your financial professional, otherwise you may be making Uncle Sam’s day!
While these 3 strategies do not touch the tip of the iceberg regarding financial issues to be addressed during a divorce, it is intended to provide some food for thought. The Sandbox Financial Partners Divorce Consulting Group has a team of Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA®) who support clients through the divorce process, and into their next chapter.
If you have any questions regarding your individual situation or would like to schedule a free consult, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.sandboxfp.com/Divorce for more information.