By Dawn Papandrea, The Balance featuring Samantha J. Garcia, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove
When it comes to divorce and money, at least some financial strain is to be expected on top of the emotional trauma of ending your marriage. Unfortunately, with so much going on, couples are sometimes surprised—and often overwhelmed—by the changes that their personal finances are about to go through.
However, if you go into the divorce process with a good understanding of how it will impact the various facets of your finances, and enlist a team of professionals to guide you, you’ll be able to handle it in the best way possible.
From splitting assets to understanding the tax implications of divorce, read on for expert advice on how to prepare for the most common issues relating to divorce and money.
- Dividing assets, from property to joint accounts, can be a simple 50/50 split, but oftentimes, it’s more complex.
- Dealing with debt in a divorce can be tricky, and original lender terms often supersede divorce agreements.
- Couples going through a divorce need to reevaluate their retirement plans as incomes and expenses change in the process.
- Working with a certified public accountant (CPA) and certified divorce financial analyst (CFDA) can help you understand the tax implications and long-term costs of financial decisions made in divorce.
Controlling the Cost of Divorce
There’s no way around it: Divorce can be an expensive legal process.
“The longer you spend with attorneys figuring out asset division and custody, the more you end up paying and the longer your dissolution drags out,” said Rachel S. Ruby, a California-based attorney, former divorce mediator, and the author of the book “Divorce To Bliss,” in an email interview with The Balance.
As someone who has been through a divorce herself, Ruby advised trying to seek amicable solutions for dividing assets and custody, if applicable, even before hiring lawyers. In her divorce, Ruby and her ex-spouse agreed to split everything, and it helped defray some of the costs (other than some issues that were spelled out in an attached stipulations list).
“Most divorces are or become contentious so this is not possible, but if the parties work together, they can save a lot of money,” she said.
An uncontested divorce—one in which spouses have reached an agreement on logistics, such as splitting finances and child custody logistics among themselves—is often a cheaper option. It can avoid the higher cost of legal bills, and a lengthy court process.
Seek Financial Guidance
Divorce is a huge financial event. Seeking advice from financial professionals can be a smart investment in the long run, especially if your finances as a couple are complex, according to Samantha Garcia, CDFA and wealth advisor with California-based Halbert Hargrove.
Whether or not you hire a divorce attorney, working with a CPA, a financial advisor, and/or a CDFA can help you understand both the short- and long-term impact of how assets get divided. For example, said Garcia, a house worth $750,000 and an individual retirement account (IRA) worth $750,000 may look equal on paper today, but you have to look toward the future to see what the tax implications are and how the values may change after divorce.
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Learn more about why to seek advice from a divorce financial advisor.