Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions provides mediation services as well as detailed divorce financial analysis and planning whether you are contemplating divorce, evaluating options, or planning for your future. Your source for all information related to divorce financial planning and mediation. Empowering and educating clients to make wise financial decisions.
I am thrilled to welcome Rita Abdallah as a guest blogger. After meeting Rita and discussing the challenges faced by those going through a divorce, we agreed that the issue of “speaking up” is an important and relevant topic for our readers. What I enjoyed most about Rita’s post is that she addresses not only the importance of speaking up but also how to do it in a healthy and productive manner. Rita’s insight into how to speak up is key to communicating during divorce.
by Guest Blogger, Rita Abdallah, LISW-S, LCSW-C, ACSW
Harassment and sexual assaults in the workplace dominate today’s news headlines. It has become a never-ending cascade of revelations blaring abuse of power accusations. It is disturbing to learn of the many high-profile producers, stars and TV news anchors who have misused their power and influence. Each story offers us the same important invitation: “Speak up, speak truth and demand accountability.”
The importance to speak out can be applied beyond moments of violence, assault and harassment. Before we find strength in talking about these bigger issues, we must first flex our vocal muscles in everyday encounters. When we are able to speak from a place of calmness, clarity and confidence we build the courage and resilience to manage our other relationships in healthy ways. Read: Developing a Strong Spirit.
How do we speak up?
Let’s understand that emotional responses -our own and others – provide valuable information. They are, however, not a platform from which to communicate. Otherwise, we will end up regretting how we handle conversations in the “heat” of the moment. Maintaining “equilibrium within” allows us the chance to slow down and find a “measured place” versus ramping up negative energy leading to a blowout.
We don’t have to mimic others in the same way they express themselves. The beauty of listening with the heart – not from the head that wants to interrupt and take over – is an increased ability to sort out and tune into the message behind the words and gestures. In this way, we maintain power and dignity, as well as find inner guidance to provide us the necessary clear words and non-combative energy.
Speaking up requires getting in touch with what we value most: our own true selves. When our egos get in the way, we cannot be genuinely compassionate and understanding. Conversations instead revolve around winning and attacking others. We can’t see the bigger picture of why we committed to this partner, friend and co-worker. We lean towards subjecting our dearest friend or associate to our rage, judgment and bad feelings.
Speaking up is synonymous with showing up. The practice of life is about moving forward, falling down and getting up again. We reach for tools like curiosity, wonder and excitement as fuel. Another powerful tool is to be present – not flee – in times of pain, crisis, conflict, and struggle. It is so tempting to walk away from discomfort and confrontation. But if we can fuse and focus our minds and hearts to seek solutions, the outcome will predictably be better every time.
What if we don’t speak up?
When we withhold truth and forgiveness we feel lost and out of sorts. We may even subconsciously see ourselves as weak. Our self-worth begins to deteriorate slowly but surely. All parties will lack a coherent understanding of how to move forward.
If negativity persists perceptions about the “state of the relationship” take over. Once judged as thriving, it’s now barely surviving. During gaps between conversations, unhealthy choices and behaviors insert themselves. Sadly, they offer phony solutions to the changed and radically altered circumstances.
Rather than take a step back to reflect and get a fresh take on a situation, we avoid. Avoidance might look something like:
We schedule commitments so we don’t have to interact with the other person;
We take on new projects so we can claim we don’t have time to meet up and talk for more than five minutes;
We swap-out existing priorities with ones which keep us invisible, distracted and distant.
Substance-use is common for many seeking relief from the intensity of speaking up. They mentally anticipate the worst or more of the same, and so they self-medicate their anxiety and depression. Some even tell themselves they do a better job of expressing and managing feelings while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The silent treatment is a course of inaction wherein nobody wins. The one initiating silence harbors negative emotions and is overwhelmed and uncertain about their future role in the relationship. Other communication may have been attempted without satisfaction. For the one on the receiving end, this draining tactic supplies no feedback or resolution plan.
Who doesn’t like to complain and gossip when they are hurting or confused? For some reason, we want to be right all the time. Most people use gossiping and complaining as a primary mechanism for feeling better about themselves. If our adversarial partner/friend/co-worker doesn’t agree with us or we have reached an unfortunate impasse in the relationship, we look to the outside “world” to justify our position.
Although we inhabit a social landscape where gossiping and complaining is a typical behavior, it is a poor choice. It erodes trust and creates unnecessary hurt and suffering. It’s one thing to seek out professional help to deal with a situation or learn communication techniques. But if we’re in the business of telling people how wrong someone is, making up false stories or picking on someone in public, we are heading for troubled waters.
Where to go from here?
Identify your feelings without judgment of the person as best you can.
Prioritize your agenda. If you are able to communicate just one thing, consider it a good day. Two things? It’s a great day.
Set a time limit for a discussion and focus on one or two topics at most.
Formulate a simple and achievable action plan.
What words can we use in tough times?
Hurting: “I am not okay.” “I am hurting.” Something doesn’t feel right.”
Confused: “Help me understand.” “Can you say it another way?”
Shocked/Surprised: “I need a minute before I can respond.” Breathe or touch your toes. The chemicals in your brain respond and can quickly return you to a calm place.
Screaming*: Put physical distance between you and the other person. Remain calm and quiet; try not to shut down but to stand in a confident stance. Use your eyes to tell the other person you are listening but are confused at the outburst. After the person is done speaking, try these options:
“Can we regroup in an hour? I need time to respond to what you’ve said.”
“Please don’t talk to me this way. I really want to hear what you have to say and that tone of voice overwhelms me.”
“I’m going to walk away if you don’t stop yelling. Your behavior doesn’t feel right. I don’t feel safe.”
“Why are you yelling? I better understand when you speak with a lower tone of voice.”
“I don’t feel safe and need a minute.”
*Call a trusted friend or 9-1-1 if you need help.
About the Author
Rita is the Founder of Turning Point Services, Ltd., where she researches, writes, consults, and speaks on topics that support individuals, groups and cancer-care professionals. She joyfully delivers presentations to organizations that want to motivate staff and build human potential.
An authority on the topics of happiness, self-care, grief recovery, cancer wellness, cancer survivorship, work-life balance, and conquering the challenges of change, Rita’s helps people express and expand the inner voice.
As a Wellness Coach, clients seek Rita for very personal help and guidance. Her intuitive services such as Angel Readings, Spiritual Clearings and Intuitive Readings have brought greater awareness and comfort to clients.
Rita is the author of “Nurturing Spirit through Complementary CancerCare” for the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. She is also co-author of other clinical oncology articles. Rita has also published writings in Elephant Journal.
A co-founder of the non-profit, Destination Hope, Rita has been instrumental in promoting the art of positive living through humor, support and knowledge for individuals touched by cancer.
Rita holds a Master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work and an undergraduate degree from John Carroll University.
She is an Ohio Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW-S), Maryland Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) and member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW).
Dividing pensions in a divorce can be confusing. For starters, some clients that I see are often confused (even after negotiating their divorce settlement) regarding what type of retirement account(s) that they have. In this blog, I am referring specifically to defined benefit plans. Defined benefit plans are retirement plans where the employee spouse has earned a monthly benefit, which will be paid out once s/he retires. In some divorce cases, the employee spouse and his/her former spouse agree to divide the future benefit via a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO).
Unfortunately, most settlement agreements that I see where pensions were divided do not adequately address the options allowed by the defined benefit plan. To be clear, the options are not consistent across all plans. Thus, it does take some research to know what the options are before they can be considered. The easiest way to avoid some very common mistakes is to request a copy of the plan summary document and written Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) procedures prior to negotiating the details regarding how a plan will be divided. One commonly missed issue is whether or not there will be a shared interest or a separate interest in the divided pension. Why does it matter? There is a big difference!
There are many pensions that do not require the former spouse to wait to start taking the pension until the employee spouse is retired. Under a separate interest QDRO, the benefit for the former spouse is “separated” from the employee spouse’s benefit. This means that the portion of the pension benefit that is awarded to the former spouse is actuarily adjusted for the life expectancy of the former spouse. Thus, if using the separate interest approach, electing a joint & survivor annuity should not be required by the employee spouse as part of the settlement agreement. The former spouse will already be eligible for survivor benefits based on the separate interest if s/he is predeceased by the other.
Additionally, the former spouse is able to make his/her own decisions regarding the timing and form of the benefit. For example, one spouse could take a lump sum distribution while the other may elect to receive the monthly benefit. Neither choice has an impact on the other spouse’s benefit. Each spouse is still bound by the rules of the plan administrator (in terms of timing and form of the benefit).
On the other hand, the timing and form of benefit are determined by the employee spouse under a shared interest Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). The former spouse receives their benefits at the same time as the employee spouse. It’s important to note that a shared interest QDRO is the only option if the employee spouse already started receiving pension benefits. Should the former spouse predecease the employee spouse, the benefit amount reverts back to the employee spouse. However, if a joint & survivor annuity was not elected when determining spousal benefits, if the employee spouse predeceases the former spouse, the benefits to the former spouse would cease. In some cases, this may not be avoidable. Regardless, it’s important to fully understand for informed negotiating and financial planning.
If you need assistance understanding your options, contact me for a no-cost consultation. It does not have to be confusing. With clear information and guidance, you can feel confident that you are making informed financial decisions.
February is known as “Divorce Month” and kicks off what is known as “Divorce Season”. Do you know your divorce options?
The holidays are over; the decorations are down and now it’s back to reality. Unfortunately, the reality is you and your spouse face another difficult, unhappy Valentine’s Day which will likely be followed by another awkward angry summer vacation, and then the holiday grind all over again. You don’t want to do this another year. You had a terrible holiday season and now you feel like you are starting this all over – and you just can’t do it anymore.
So, what do you do?
This is the time to do some soul-searching.
Realize the realities of divorce.
You once loved your spouse, you chose this person for a reason. Is there work you can do to rekindle that feeling? Feelings follow actions. If you can act again like you did when you were dating, your feelings will likely change. Some people are willing to do this, some aren’t.
Know that you are still tied to this person if you have children with them – forever.
You won’t be married or live in the same home, but you will always share your children, you will still raise them together, be there for graduation day, see them get married and be there when they have grandchildren – you just won’t do this together.
Still wanting a divorce?
Then determine which action you think is best for you. Most people’s default response is to call an attorney and start a war. This is one of the most expensive divorce options. There are other options.
Explore which option is best for your divorce.
You have the kitchen table approach, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation. Whatever you decide, take the time to do your research. Explore all your options, ask all your questions. You only have one chance to get this right. Be sure you secure your financial future after divorce.
About the Author
Denise French is the founder of the Divorce Strategies Group. She is a 21 year veteran financial professional, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, and a trained family and child custody mediator. Denise has the personal experience of walking through an ugly divorce in 2007 and overcoming many obstacles. Now as a remarried mother of 2 children and 3 stepchildren, Denise strives to help others walk through divorce with hope, encouragement, and strength.
It’s not like you go into your marriage planning for a divorce. Once one spouse (or both) determines that their marriage is over, it often takes years to fully accept and move toward legally ending it. However, that timeline might speed up this year for many. It’s a result of the recent tax reform eliminating the deduction for spousal support.
Tax Reform & Divorce
When tax reform was passed in December, the tax deduction for spousal support (alimony) was eliminated. However, for marriages that are terminated by December 31, 2018, the tax deduction will be grandfathered. After that, there will be no more deduction for spousal support. Like the way child support is currently treated, it will be tax neutral to the payor and to the receiver.
For marriages where there is a large discrepancy in income between the two parties, this could mean a lot less income to go around. It could also mean that the payor will be agreeable to a much smaller amount of spousal support. Don’t misunderstand. This is not a negative for one party or the other. It is negative for both. Less income to go around generally means less income for both parties (not one of the other). This could be particularly tricky for those who are duking it out in court as the timeline is not in their control.
I’ve always been a proponent of a dissolution when at all possible and this just further showcases the greater control a couple has when choosing to file for dissolution rather than a divorce. For more information about the difference between a divorce a dissolution, check out my blog post on the topic. Does a dissolution mean that you must be in full agreement regarding how your case will be settled? Absolutely not. You still have options to get the professional support you need to reach an agreement while maintaining greater control over your timeline.
Maintain Greater Control In Your Divorce
Mediation is a great option for those who need someone who can facilitate the conversation between the parties. If there are complex financial issues that need to be addressed, I recommend using a mediator who is also a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), who can serve as a Financial Neutral.
If you would like to have your attorney at the table representing you, consider a Collaborative Divorce. The Collaborative Divorce process entails a series of meetings. At each meeting, the attorneys who represent each of the parties, alongside their clients, work through a structured agenda to come up with a settlement that meets everyone’s needs. A Financial Neutral may also be involved to provide unbiased financial analysis. Other team members could include a Parenting Coordinator and/or Communications Coach. The team is designed to meet the needs of the parties who are ending their marriage. The Collaborative approach is a great way to make sure the parties have the information and support they need. That way they can make the best possible decisions for themselves and their families.
Regardless of how you choose to move forward, know that there are ways for you to maintain greater control during the divorce process. And, if you might be seeking or paying spousal support, you may want to run the numbers to see how much the change in the tax treatment of spousal support could impact you. If you need assistance with this, contact our office.
Parenting is a tough job in the best of circumstances. Shared parenting after a divorce is a whole different ballgame. When I first went through my divorce, dealing with the most basic kid issues felt like preparing for battle with my ex again and again. It was exhausting. Quite frankly, I did not want to contact him every time I received information from the school or one of the kids was invited for a playdate or any other issues that regularly arise.
I first learned about OurFamilyWizard at a conference for divorce financial analysts and as soon as I started learning about the features and benefits, I was sold. (Please note, while I promote very few services, this post does include affiliate links.) I was further impressed by how widely the app is accepted by the courts.
OurFamilyWizard is an app that is designed specifically for people like you who are co-parenting with their ex. It is designed for parents who care deeply about their children. It is designed for people who don’t want their kids to be stuck in the middle of a constant battle. Features include things like a shared parenting calendar, an expense log, and even a directory of information such as phone numbers for doctors, teachers names and contact information, etc.
If you are thinking that there are lots of apps that can track those things, you are right. However, this one is designed specifically with you in mind. Many courts actually recommend it and some even order its use because it is a great source for documentation. The company has been able to show that families who use OurFamilyWizard are less likely to return to court as the tool helps parents to resolve their own parenting-related problems.
As parents, we have to continue to communicate well after the divorce is finalized. Shared parenting can be a source of a lot of angst if you are already having difficulty getting along. Even if you are getting along well, OurFamilyWizard creates a transparent structure for communication and information sharing so you can avoid future miscommunication. It limits the need for texting, which can often lead to miscommunication. Additionally, the courts can monitor all of the communication, if necessary. Just knowing that someone is monitoring communication has a way of improving individual’s behavior in his/her communications. OurFamilyWizard takes it one step further by having a Tonemeter to assist in improving the tone of communications. Let’s face it. It’s often the “tone” of a message that can escalate an issue.
If you want more information, take a minute to check out their website. You’ll be glad you did.
Divorces have a reputation for being messy and pitting couples at each other’s throats. Much of the controversy surrounding divorces stem from the allocation of assets and other financial concerns. You can reduce the associated stress when you use a Financial Neutral in collaborative divorce cases.
What is a Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is a divorce process where each party is represented by an attorney that has been trained in the collaborative process but rather than taking a specific position, the parties and their attorneys work together to come up with solutions that are in everyone’s best interests. There is an agreement not to go into litigation. If the collaborative divorce doesn’t work out, then the parties can choose to go for litigation but are required to hire new attorneys that were not involved in the initial collaborative agreement. That’s a big incentive for everyone to keep moving forward toward an agreement.
As part of the collaborative divorce process, neutral specialists are frequently consulted to provide relevant information, so the parties can make informed decisions. For example, a mental health professional could be consulted to give advice relating to the welfare of the children. There could also be a Financial Neutral who provides financial education and analysis around key financial issues.
Who is a Financial Neutral in a Collaborative Divorce?
A Financial Neutral is a financial expert, who is usually a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), meaning the individual has extensive education in the financial and tax implications of financial decisions made during a divorce. The Financial Neutral provides educational and informational advice that will enable the parties to make wise decisions about their assets and their cash flow.
Clients may begin the collaborative process by first engaging the collaboratively trained neutral professional or by first retaining collaboratively trained attorneys. If the Neutral is hired first, both parties must agree to the same professional as the Neutral is hired jointly. To prevent any issues of bias, the Financial Neutral cannot have worked for any of the parties in the past. For example, the parties should not hire their financial advisor or tax accountant. The Financial Neutral also agrees not to work for either of the parties in the future.
It is worth noting that the Financial Neutral does not have to be someone local. Many, including Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions, are offering their services virtually. Meeting with your Financial Neutral virtually can be a convenient and cost-effective solution.
The Benefits of a Financial Neutral
The following are some of the reasons why you should hire a Financial Neutral for your collaborative divorce case.
In traditional divorce cases, the couples each hire a separate financial expert to give them advice on financial matters such as business valuations, separate property tracing, dividing assets, etc. With a Financial Neutral, the couple jointly hires a financial advisor, reducing the costs that they would otherwise incur if they hired separate advisors.
Helps Parties come to a mutual Financial Settlement
With a Financial Neutral, the parties work together to come to an agreement regarding their financial assets. Since the Financial Neutral is working for both parties, the focus is identifying a balanced financial settlement that is mutually beneficial to the parties.
A lot of people depend on their attorneys to advise them on financial issues like taxes, and the IRS. Attorneys might have gotten experience on these issues over the course of their practice. However, this isn’t their expertise and as such, they might not be as knowledgeable as you might want.
The Financial Neutral helps the parties collect financial data that would be relevant to the eventual settlement. This would involve things like preparing a report on the assets, income, and debt of the parties. The report is usually supported by backup documentation the spouses provide. The Financial Neutral also helps couples come up with current and projected budgets that can help guide further discussions about support.
Identify and Analyze Future Child Expenses
In a divorce where there are children involved, the Financial Neutral can help the couples identify future expenses related to childcare. For a lot of couples, funding the child’s post-secondary education is usually a major issue. The Financial Neutral can advise the couple on their options for financing their child’s post-secondary education.
Financial Modeling and Projection
The Financial Neutral considers not only the short-term implications but also the long-term implications of financial decisions and creates various models for property division, maintenance, and child support. The parties are then at liberty to choose which of these models suit their own unique needs.
Often times, individuals are concerned about how the divorce affects their retirement and future financial situation. To remedy this, the Financial Neutral can prepare long-term financial projections for the parties. This way, they would be able to see how the divorce affects their finances in the long term.
Offering Financial Input in Settlement Deliberations
During the team deliberation, the Financial Neutral in collaborative divorce cases will chime in with the relevant financial information. S/he can inform the deliberators of how certain assets appreciate or depreciate over time as well as how taxes affect the decisions the parties want to adopt.
There is also less financial conflict at this stage since the Financial Neutral works for both parties. This is compared to a situation where there are two diametrically opposed financial experts trying to fend for their individual client. In the end, the parties merge the Financial Neutral’s advice with the legal advice of their attorneys, leading to a more sophisticated and nuanced divorce settlement.
Are you setting some New Year’s Resolutions? The New Year is an exciting time – it’s like we get a clean slate. For many of us, it’s a time of reflection on how we want to improve ourselves. It is very common to look at your financial situation and think, “I can do better than this.” If you’re in that camp and you’re ready to reach some new goals in the New Year, here are three tips to get you started on reaching your financial goals.
3 Tips for Reaching Your Financial New Year’s Resolutions
Financial Tip #1 – Write down your goals
This may sound simple but it’s really powerful. When you write down your goals, be sure to make them SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. The more specific you get, the more likely you are to attain the goals you have set out to accomplish.
Financial Tip #2 – Create a detailed yet flexible plan
It’s awesome to have goals but it’s equally as important to set out a plan to accomplish those goals. Are you looking to increase your income this year? If so, how are you going to do it? Will you ask for a raise? Apply for a higher paying job? Start a small side business? There’s more than one way to reach your income goals but you won’t accomplish much without a plan. I always encourage my clients to be flexible when it comes to creating that plan because let’s face it, life happens, and you’ll need a plan that’s flexible enough to adapt to life’s changing circumstances.
Financial Tip #3 – Find an accountability partner
A common goal for many of us is to boost our savings. Well, if you want to boost your savings, where is the money going to come from? You’ll either need to increase your income, reduce your expenses or do both.
One simple money-saving strategy that I often hear about when it comes to New Year’s resolutions is to bring your lunch to work rather than buying it. If you and your co-workers commit to holding each other accountable, it’s so much easier to stick with it. Instead of being surrounded by others who are going out to eat or bringing in takeout that smells a lot better than your made-at-home lunch, you can support each other and celebrate your success together along the way.
It may sound simple, but these three tips to reach your financial goals will get you well on your way to reaching your goals in the new year. If you need help creating a plan to reach your New Year’s financial goals, contact me for a no-cost consultation.
In my online course, “How to Prepare for Divorce,” I go in depth on how to prepare for divorce and mediation, specifically, if that’s the process you choose to use. At a high level, here is a brief divorce mediation checklist to help you prepare for your first appointment.
Make a list of questions that you have for the mediator. Before agreeing to use the mediator, both you and your spouse should have an opportunity to speak with him/her. You’ll want to ask about:
Cost of mediation/fees
Availability for meetings
Experience mediating the specific issues that will be dealt with in your divorce
Divorce Mediation Checklist: List Your Concerns
Make a list of all of your concerns. You may not address them in your first appointment but it’s important to start writing them down. To keep yourself organized, try to cluster your concerns about a specific topic. For example, make a list of all of the concerns you have that are about your shared parenting agreement separately from concerns you have about dividing retirement accounts. To get you thinking, here are some topics to consider:
Divorce can be scary but when you’re faced with debt and divorce, it becomes even more complicated. Know that you are not alone. Many couples find themselves knee deep in debt and have no idea what to do with it in their divorce. The best option for shared debt in a divorce is to pay it completely off. Unfortunately, for many, this is not an option. So what are the risks and what should you do?
If you are faced with debt and divorce, here are some important actions to consider:
Run a credit report.
This is a crucial step in determining just how much debt you have and can also help determine if there is any debt you weren’t aware of. We don’t like to think the worst, but it’s an unfortunate truth that hidden debt can be a common and unwanted surprise.
Use marital assets to eliminate debt.
Once you determine the amount of shared debt see if you can pay any of it off using marital assets before the divorce is final. This may not be possible but if you can pay anything off or even down a little it will be beneficial long-term.
Refinance in your own name.
Plan to refinance in your own names separately. If one spouse is keeping the house or car, it’s wise to have them refinance the loan or mortgage in their name. While your final decree may show that a specific spouse is now the “owner” of said item, the creditors don’t care if both parties are still listed. The creditor will still come after both of you if payments aren’t made.
Cut up and close joint credit cards.
Cut up and close out all joint credit cards. This is a crucial step to avoid one spouse using the card in the future. Even if you have a balance you can still call the card company and close out the account to avoid any additional purchases being made. While this is an important step, in some cases, I would caution you around the timing of doing this. You may want to first consult with your CDFA about your specific situation.
Have a written backup plan.
Have a detailed backup plan written out in your decree in the case of a spouse not making payments or filing bankruptcy. It happens more often than we’d like to think. As with other loans and mortgages, credit companies don’t care what’s written in your decree. If both of your names are on a credit card, you are both responsible. If your ex-spouse fails to make payments or files for bankruptcy they will come after you for payment. It’s important to have a detailed plan of action for this scenario. Including holding the non-paying spouse responsible for paying fees if you have to return to court.
We don’t begin a marriage expecting to divorce, nor do we consider this scenario when we buy a house, car or open a line of credit with our partner. It’s important to be aware of your debt as you move through your divorce and to make educated and fair choices for both parties. Enlisting the help of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is a wise choice to assist you through this process.
Have you ever wondered if your husband or wife is hiding assets? Do you want to know how to find hidden assets? Read on.
It’s an unfortunate truth but it’s common for individuals to hide assets during a divorce. While we may still want to think better of the person we married, it’s important to be diligent and do your research.
How to Find Hidden Assets: 5 Places to Look
Take a look at all savings, checking, brokerage, trust accounts, and any other accounts used by either spouse during the marriage. This can be tough if a person deals with a lot of cash transactions. Hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to do a lifestyle analysis is a smart decision. They can comb through all sources of income and expenses and find things that don’t add up.
A CDFA will usually review at least 3 years of returns, which provides a fair amount of insight into one’s financial picture. Often, tax returns can reflect information that wasn’t disclosed. Items such as interest and dividends, mortgage interest, profit/loss from a business and overpaying taxes, can create a complete picture of possible hidden assets.
If your spouse owns a business, there are numerous ways to hide assets. Your spouse can do things to intentionally lower the value of the business, such as delaying a large contract, prepaying expenses or using the business for personal expenses.
Collectibles & Other Valuables.
Your spouse may hide money intangible assets such as cars, artwork, antiques, jewelry and even equipment used for hobbies. Keep an eye out for items you may have been unaware of.
Employ some good old snooping.
Check the junk drawer for receipts for expensive items that may have been paid for with cash. Dig in the file cabinet for any statements or invoices you were unaware of. Take a look at your spouse’s social media accounts. Did he or she claim to be broke yet there are pics of a lavish vacation taken recently?
Some of these tactics may seem overwhelming or extreme but it’s important to get a full picture of your finances so you can move forward with confidence. The best defense that you have is maintaining involvement in the family finances throughout the marriage. If it’s too late for that, hiring a team of experts, including a CDFA is crucial to securing your financial future after divorce. If you have concerns about hidden assets, contact me for a no-cost consultation.