Divorce means more than the end of your marriage. It can mean a change in your finances, your lifestyle and even the way you parent.
But you don’t have to do it alone. Attorneys, therapists, investment advisors, accountants and estate planners can help you navigate the choppy waters of divorce. Let’s look at each of these professionals to understand how they can help.
Attorneys who concentrate their practice in divorce and family law can be powerful allies. A divorce does not have to be a “knock down drag out” battle. An attorney experienced in this area can diffuse conflict and ease the path to settlement. He or she will help you understand your rights and responsibilities during the divorce process. Your attorney will represent your interests and make sure that all assets, income and liabilities are known prior to negotiations. Quite often one spouse is better at negotiating than the other. If you feel you are not in an equal bargaining position, your attorney, in consultation with you, can handle those negotiations for you.
For couples that prefer to mediate their divorces, an attorney can also play a helpful role. An attorney experienced in mediated divorces will help you understand the process and know what to expect. He or she will also review the mediated settlement and settlement agreement to make sure it fulfills your expectations in the best possible way.
The decision to divorce and the divorce process itself are emotionally charged. Most people go through stages of grief during a divorce whether they are the ones initiating it or not. Friends and family are good sources of support but they are not professionally trained to assist you through the difficult emotional rollercoaster of divorce. Having a therapist to guide you through the process is extremely helpful. If you do not already have a therapist, your family doctor, friends or attorney may be able to recommend one.
Investment Advisors and Accountants
For couples with complex financial assets, it is important to involve financial professionals in the divorce process. An investment advisor can assist in gathering information, as well as developing a full picture of the family’s assets, income and liabilities. An accountant, on the other hand, can project tax consequences of liquidating assets, if that is a likely outcome. Both advisors can assist in gathering important documents that will be necessary during the divorce process such as tax returns and account statements.
If you don’t have a relationship with a financial advisor or would prefer to use one different from your spouse’s, get recommendations from family, friends or your lawyer. Interview two or three before you choose the one who is right for you.
Once you select these advisors, they should be part of the negotiating process. Accountants will analyze income flow, insuring you don’t end up with assets that are more taxable, risky or hard-to-value than you should. Investment advisors should be involved in the process from the beginning to insure the best asset allocation and income flow for you once the divorce is complete.
A trust and estate lawyer should be involved in your divorce early in the process. This attorney can help gather information on trusts that may be relevant to the division of assets or allocation of income. Since estate planning for married couples frequently includes both parties, this lawyer can also assist in amending estate plans following the dissolution of the marriage.
Partnering With Advisors
It is important to consider partnering with certain professionals in the divorce process. Their expertise and guidance will make a significant, positive impact on the financial and emotional outcome of the divorce for you.