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divorce is like buying a house

How Divorce is like Buying a House

divorce is like buying a house

 

Many people going through a divorce think they just need an attorney to split up their assets and debts, figure out support and draw up the paperwork.

The problem with this line of thinking is a divorce is most likely the biggest financial transaction of someone’s life and an attorney is not a financial professional.

A divorce has a bigger impact than buying a home does in the long run.

When you buy a house, you have a team of professionals to make sure the deal is done right. If you need to get rid of the house after the purchase, it’s fairly easy to sell it and move on.

When going through a divorce, you need just as many people surrounding you to make sure the deal is done right because when it’s all said and done, you can’t go back and change the deal.

Let’s go through what your home buying team looks like and how that compares to what your divorce team should look like.

How Divorce is like Buying a House

Your Home Buying Team

Realtor

You will want a realtor to help you find the perfect home to fit your needs and to give you the inside scoop on the community. Your realtor is the backbone of your team. You trust that they are picking out the very best homes based on your needs for you. They are with you from start to finish and possibly many years later when buying a larger or smaller home.

Mortgage Lender / Banker

Most of us aren’t in a position to be buying a house without a little financial help from the bank in the form of a mortgage. Maybe your realtor refers you to a few lenders. That lender is going to figure out and let you know based on your assets, debts and income how much you can afford and the best type of mortgage for you.

Home Inspector

An inspector should look at the house before the sale is confirmed to ensure the foundation is sound and living conditions are safe. You certainly wouldn’t want any surprises after you have bought the home. Not knowing whether the house is up to code can result in large unplanned costs.

Attorney

Finally, you will need an attorney to draw up all the paperwork to ensure money goes to all the right places and the deal is legal.

This is your core home buying team. You will most likely need more professionals depending on your situation, but this just about covers your basis.

Your Divorce Team

Attorney

An attorney is the most well-known professional for divorce, but they can’t do everything. They are excellent for drawing up documents and advocating for what you are legally entitled to. However, they aren’t licensed or certified to advise you on the long-lasting effects of splitting up property, retirement assets and businesses. Most attorneys will help you put together your Statement of Net Worth, tell you how to divide assets and debts and figure out calculations for spousal and child support.

They can certainly split up your finances, but they cannot educate you on investments, taxes and insurance along the way or what the effect of splitting everything up is going to have in 2, 5, and 10 years. Hourly rates range from $300 – $800/hour.

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)

Most people want to understand what is happening in the divorce process; especially with their money. There are many ways to split up assets and debts in a divorce, knowing what way is going to benefit you the most in the future will save tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is what a certified divorce financial analyst does day in and day out. Most CDFA’s will complete your statement of net worth for you or with you and educate you along the way.

They will also propose how your assets and debts can be distributed so that nothing is overlooked, taxes are saved, penalties are avoided and what you are left with is in line with what your future needs are. As for child support and spousal support, they do those calculations as well; ensuring items aren’t forgotten like cash from a business that’s not reported. Hourly Rates range from $150-$400/hour.

Mediator

Some couples use a mediator instead of attorneys to divorce. They are a neutral third-party who helps you come to an agreement on how to split up custody, support, etc. Many states do not have any requirements for someone to be a mediator so be sure to do your homework. Find one that is experienced and concentrates on divorce. Mediators are wonderful when it’s an amicable divorce. Be sure to still get some legal advice from an attorney and have them draw up the final documents for you.

Mental Health Therapist

Divorce is one of the most stressful, uneasy times of your life. It’s a good idea to talk with a professional so you can be the best possible mom, aunt, daughter, co-worker, and friend. Taking steps to be the best you during a divorce means the world when entering the next chapter of your life.

You may have more professionals, but this should be your core divorce team.

If you have a team for your house, have a team for your divorce. 

Between splitting properties, bank accounts, retirement funds, debt and finding new living arrangements all while transitioning to just one income, a divorce is going to be the biggest financial change of your life. Make sure to have a team of professionals around you to help you. You deserve to have a financial advocate, an experienced mediator and/or legal counsel and a mental health counselor. Invest in yourself and your new future now so that you don’t have regrets or “surprises” once your divorce is complete.

By building a core divorce team just like you would when buying a house you will have peace of mind when you sign on that dotted line.

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financial house in order

How I Got My Financial House In Order After An Unwanted Divorce

financial house in order

 

Tax time. As I dropped by the post office to get the right postage for the thick packet of homework to send to my accountant, I smiled to myself, confident that I had my financial house in order. It brought back memories of all the effort it took to dig a new foundation years ago, after my divorce.

I no longer get weak-kneed and shaky thinking about those months leading to the divorce. The request for a divorce came as a surprise to me. So busy with family and career that I hadn’t been attending to the finer points of our family finances—that was something my trusted husband did.

Evidently, I wasn’t attending to the marriage either.

Rather, I was full throttle busy but confident that it wouldn’t be long before we would have an opportunity to do a reset as a couple once our last child left for college.  My husband was on another page. When the last child was launched, he would also start his new chapter. And, it didn’t include me.

The shock of divorce rattled me, and I don’t rattle easily. In fact, calm is my middle name. My career track steady and upward for the entirety of our marriage, I was now close to the top of my field, responsible for business lines that were valued at tens of millions of dollars. “On the rise” is what people would tell my husband about me at the rare work event of mine that we attended together.

I wonder now if that message didn’t send alarm bells to him—a signal that we were out of sync. After all, he had married a younger woman still in grad school with no prospects, and as he was older, his career was already launched. Perhaps neither of us took stock of what that would mean later.

Silly me, I thought we were happy and about to enter that golden time in a couple’s marriage when the burden of children is lifted, careers are set, and a second honeymoon is around the corner as empty nesters take the time to find one another again.

Some must find divorce a relief after years of strife, or abuse.

I found it confusing, embarrassing and disorienting. It took me months to feel myself again and to assure myself that the kids were ok—or as ok as they could be with their world shaken. But they had new worlds to explore, going off to college was a happy and understood rite of passage.

Divorce at middle-age is not. Although more “gray” adults are divorcing now, it still hurts me when I see a couple that is celebrating their 40 plus wedding anniversary. Surrounded by children and grand-children, toasting one another with loving looks, sometimes sharing a truth about having weathered a storm or two, but toughing it out. Good for them.

Life is hard. So, when you find someone to hang onto, it is a blessing. When you lose that person, it is difficult, regardless of the circumstances. After the initial shock wore off, and I adjusted to the fact that my husband of twenty years plus didn’t want to be married to me anymore, I wanted to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible. During that period of deep hurt, I realized how little I knew about our finances.

Pulling papers together, going through correspondence, talking to bankers, and finally, my own attorney, I was overwhelmed. I needed help. Someone to take charge of my funds—once I settled out— invest them, and work with me on managing them wisely. I also needed a CPA to help me with tax planning, short and long term.

I was startled by what I didn’t know. 

It’s not like I was a princess who had waited for her prince charming to come along and rescue her. I was a smart woman who had navigated to a high-profile career with a great future ahead of me. But I had not paid attention to the essentials of investing for my own future. Why would I? My future was intertwined with my husband’s, and he was looking out for both of us, right?

I felt powerless and knew I had to take control to conquer that fear. And, I did. But it took years, and a small village, to get me to a place that feels comfortable.

How I Got My Financial House In Order

Fortunately, through the referral from a trusted friend, I found a broker who was indispensable when it came time to receiving my settlement monies and guiding me through the decision making on where to make investments. Another friend referred me to her tax accountant who turned out to be heaven-sent. To this day, she has my back and has recently helped me through the intricacies of college savings for my grandchildren.

As I leave the post office, I realize that my comfort now is due to the fact that I educated myself, took advice from trusted friends, and brick by brick learned to build my financial house on solid ground.

My lesson was learned the hard way. Married couples are partners for financial planning and the tasks should not be delegated to one partner only.  Quarterly meetings to review your financials and make adjustments as needed, with both partners conversant and supportive of the financial plan is the best practice. Things happen, and when they do, the last thing you want is to be distracted about is your financial security.

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