Divorce is never easy, but having a team of professionals with the expertise to guide you through it makes all the difference.
Divorce touches upon every aspect of life: children, human emotions, the marital home and, of course, money. In addition to legal problems, divorce can present both psychological and complex financial issues. You need a team of professionals, each of whom has a particular expertise to deal with each of these aspects: a lawyer to protect your legal rights, a therapist to help you deal with emotions and children-related issues, a forensic accountant to identify and value the marital assets, and a financial advisor to assist you in planning your future.
In my law practice, I work with a “team” to provide the most comprehensive approach to a successful divorce, and am thus well-acquainted with the unique services and expertise each brings to the process. You should be, too!
The attorney’s job is to render legal advice and handle legal documents and proceedings. Your attorney knows the law, the judges, the process, precedent, and how to litigate in the courtroom. The attorney can determine which is the best cause of action to file, e.g., cruelty, adultery, desertion. An attorney can tell you how long to expect the divorce process to take, which will depend upon the on the circumstances of each case, court backlog, the demands of parties, and the cooperation of parties and attorneys.
The attorney will handle issues relating to alimony, custody determinations, child support, equitable distribution and legal fees. Most of all, the attorney acts as the quarterback of the team by coordinating all the necessary factors that will arise.
Therapist and/or Family Counselor
Stress can have a detrimental effect on a divorcing woman’s decision-making. I often refer clients to counselors for many different reasons. Counseling helps to relieve anxiety, regain control over emotions, and allow you to make better decisions. I recommend that you create some sort of support system so you do not have to endure the process alone. This can consist of family and friends, support groups, or a therapist. I usually recommend using a therapist during this challenging time, who can help you separate the emotions of a divorce from the business of the divorce.
As to children, an additional necessary part of your team is someone to help the children process the divorce, i.e., a children’s counselor. A child specialist can help find solutions for visitation, child support issues, living arrangements, etc., depending upon on the ages of the children.
When complex and sophisticated financial considerations need to be addressed, a forensic accountant can offer a uniquely qualified perspective. A forensic accountant can prepare pension and complex asset valuations and prepare needs and ability-to-pay analyses, which form the basis for alimony recommendations. Engaging a forensic accountant early in the case helps reduce costs by narrowing the focus to the most important financial issues. This can also lead to completing a thoughtfully prepared settlement proposal earlier in the process.
A forensic accountant can also untangle a complex web of marital and non-marital assets. When one, or both, of the spouses owns a small business, a business valuation needs to be prepared. This expert can often also trace hidden assets held by spouses who may be hiding money.
Another member of your divorce team should be a financial expert. Most divorce settlements come down to money and child custody. This expert can take a snapshot of your financial situation as a married couple and work with you to structure a fair financial settlement, as well as a financial plan for your post divorce future. A financial expert can analyze the assets that are subject to division and help you craft a customized, workable distribution.
An investment advisor is the most familiar with retirement plans, stock options, and investment portfolios. There are creative tax considerations which can reduce payments to the IRS and increase the amount of money for the ex-spouse and children. Insurance is another important component of the financial plan. A financial advisor can
advise you about which spouse should carry existing or new life insurance, medical insurance, insurance to protect alimony and child support, homeowners or rental insurance, etc.
Attorneys can help you with the law and procedure, settlement negotiations and a court trial if necessary, but they should not hold themselves up as experts in mental health, taxation or financial planning. Gathering the right group of professionals will give you a better chance of achieving all of this, save you money, and empower you to create and achieve a new vision for your life. You will fare much better in your divorce if you use a team approach.
Susan Reach Winters is a divorce attorney and Chairperson of Budd Larner, PC’s Family Law Department. Find out more about her services here.