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Posted on October 15, 2019 12:00 AM by Gina
Categories: General
We’ve all heard the horror stories. Spouses being antagonistic, fighting over the children, spending tens of thousands of dollars on attorney’s fees to argue over property, etc. It’s not surprising that these situations are extremely stressful. Yet, even relatively amicable divorces can cause levels of stress that negatively impact not only a person’s emotional health, but also the ability to make good choices in her divorce settlement. On the Holmes-Rahe Scale of stressful life experiences, divorce and marital separation rank second than third respectively, after the death of a spouse or child, and before incarceration and death of a close family member. As a result, those in marital transition are at relatively high risk for developing stress related illnesses. A combination of fear of both the known and the unknown are primary causes. With all of this in mind, it’s not difficult to imagine how a person’s elevated level of stress can also have a negative effect on her decision-making skills before during and after a divorce, resulting in repercussions that could be long lasting. In an effort to reduce the impact of stress, I recommend the following dos and don’ts to my clients in the midst of marital transition.
 
Do
 
Educate yourself
Learn as much as you can about the divorce process. Schedule a consultation with a CDFA and matrimonial Attorney or Mediator as soon as possible once you begin to seriously consider divorce. Understanding what is involved in the divorce process as well as your rights and responsibilities will empower your decision making from the start, and eliminate much of your “fear of the unknown.”
 
Put your health first
Marital transition is stressful for all family members, but if you don’t attend to your own needs first, you won’t be in a position to help anyone else.
 
It’s more important than ever to:
  • Get enough sleep
  • Maintain healthy eating habits
  • Prioritize physical fitness
  • Consume alcohol responsibly
Build a network
A major contributing factor to the stress of divorce is the impact it has on relationships outside of the marriage: in-laws, mutual friends, even your own family members. Any of these relationships can be strained or even lost as people feel the need to choose sides. However, having a strong support system is critical for your emotional well being during a divorce.
 
Strive for the following:
  • Nurture your positive relationships and acknowledge that your divorce is also stressful for your family and mutual friends.
  • Consider joining a support group for those experiencing a marital transition.
  • Aim to expand your social circle by pursuing your hobbies and interests.
Seek professional help
It’s unreasonable to assume that you can manage all of the obstacles you will encounter during divorce on your own. In addition to retaining the services of a CDFA and Attorney or Mediator, depending on your circumstances, you may also want to consider seeking the services of a:
 
  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Life Coach
  • Personal Trainer
Don’ts
In moments of high stress, your judgment can be flawed. Here are a few scenarios you should be cautious of.
 
Don’t put your children in the middle
Few topics of marital transition are more emotionally charged than children. During times of high stress and animosity, it can be tempting to use access to your children and/or child support as a means to punish your spouse. This can have a negative emotional impact on your children, put you in legal jeopardy, and prolong your settlement proceedings.
 
Don’t seek legal or financial advice from anyone who isn’t a professional
Divorce is one of those times in life when you’ll receive a lot of well-meaning, but inaccurate legal and financial advice. Everyone’s neighbor’s cousin’s best friend has a story of how they gamed the system or got the better of their spouse and it can be tempting to heed this misguided advice. However, while there are standard legal guidelines determined by your state, divorce settlements are ultimately subjective, based on the unique financial circumstances of your marriage. 
 
Don’t make settlement decisions based on emotion
The road from marital transition though finalizing a divorce settlement can be exhausting, causing even those in relatively amicable splits make decisions based on emotion rather than logic. Whenever possible, take the opportunity to step back, regroup and be sure that you are agreeing to the terms that will be in your best interest for years to come.
 
Where to begin
With all of the emotional and practical issues needing to be addressed, you can easily become overwhelmed. Take control by getting organized. Download my
Marital Transition To-Do List to organize your priorities, set deadlines, and track your progress.
Posted on August 9, 2019 1:11 PM by Gina
Categories: General
 
 
Did you know that couples over the age of 50 have the highest rate of divorce? A recent article in Forbes quoted a Pew Research study, which found that while there has been a 21% decrease in the divorce rate of couples between the ages of 25 through 39 over the last 25 years, the divorce rate among those in the 50+ age group has increased 109% during the same time period. 
 
A further negative impact on this increase in “gray divorce” is the additional complexity of dividing assets following a long term marriage. Two areas, in particular, accumulated wealth and retirement income present much greater challenges to divorcing couples over the age of 50 when compared to younger couples.
 
Accumulated Wealth
The equitable distribution of property can be significantly more complex when couples divorce later in life, simply because there is typically more to divide.  Laws determining the division community property (owned by both parties) vs. personal property (owned by only one of the spouses) varies by state.
 
Therefore, pinpointing the details of all property accumulated during the marriage should be made as early as possible when divorce is being considered. Examples of what to catalog include the description, title, and value of all:
 
  • Community property
  • Personal property
  • Community debt
  • Personal debt
 
Retirement Income
After alimony, retirement income this is the biggest source of contention during a divorce settlement, according to an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey. The settlement of joint retirement income is a primary concern in gray divorce, for the simple reason that there is less time to recoup any losses. Considerations to be made during negotiations include:
 
  • What percentage of your spouse’s 401k or pension are you entitled to?
  • At what age can you begin collecting from your spouse’s 401K or pension?
  • What will you need to do post-divorce to restore /increase your retirement savings?
 
Where to Begin
While there are many common areas of concern in any divorce, it’s important to remember that the financial details each couple brings to the table are unique, so retaining the services of a CDFA®  is an ideal first step when considering divorce after the age of 50. The CDFA® can assist you in assessing all financial options based on your unique situation before you commit to a divorce settlement.
 
Download my free checklist Charting Assets to help you get started. Having this financial information organized will allow empower you in your decision making throughout the marital transition process. 

 
Posted on June 21, 2019 8:14 AM by Gina
Categories: General
married couple in marital transition
 
The decision to leave one’s marriage is an extremely difficult one, fraught with emotion, and a seemingly endless series of complex, far-reaching decisions that could impact your children, your income and assets for years to come. It’s no wonder that those experiencing marital transition often become overwhelmed, leading them to make decisions against their best interest.
 
What is Marital Transition?
The process of divorce is clearly defined as a legal dissolution or termination of a marriage. However, marital transition is a bit broader and can include any of the following stages, pre, and post-divorce:
 
  • Considering divorce, but no decision made yet
  • Filed for divorce or have been served with notice of divorce filing
  • Currently in the divorce process
  • Divorce finalized, but new financial concerns arise
 
At any of these stages, engaging the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Advisor (CDFA®) is a worthwhile investment in your peace of mind that sound financial decisions are being made.
What is a CDFA®?
 
What is a CDFA®?
A CDFA® acts as a liaison between the client, and divorce mediators and matrimonial attorneys, specializing in guiding clients in navigating all financial issues and decisions surrounding divorce from assessing their options for fair and equitable settlements.
 
Certification is granted by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts to applicants who complete a four module independent study program. Eligible applicants must possess a Bachelor’s degree and at least three years experience in the financial or legal fields, including:
 
  • Financial professionals
  • Accountants
  • Matrimonial attorneys Annual reinstatement of CDFA® certification is required, in addition to fifteen hours of continuing education every two years.
 
Why Should I Hire A Certified Divorce Financial Advisor?
While your mediator or matrimonial attorney will focus on the legal aspects of the divorce, throughout the marital transition, the CDFA® professional assists the client with:
 
  • Identifying the short- and long-term effects of dividing property
  • Addressing any tax concerns
  • Analyzing options for dividing pension and retirement plans
  • Recommendations regarding the marital home
  • Evaluating the client’s insurance needs
  • Establishing projections on inflation and rates of return
 
With the ability to collect financial and expense data, develop budgets, identify future goals, and assess the financial impact of a proposed divorce settlement, a CDFA® is an essential member of your marital transition team.
 
In fact, given their ability to provide practical and actionable information from the get-go, CDFA®s are quickly becoming the “gatekeepers of divorce”, a role historically held by therapists as the ideal first professional to consult with prior to beginning divorce proceedings.
 
If You’re Considering Divorce
Engage the services of a CDFA to ensure that your interests are addressed as early as possible. Prior to your first meeting, it’s a good idea to make note of the priorities for both you and your spouse in terms of:
 
  • Division of property
  • Finances (ex. spousal support, division of debts, division of retirement assets, etc.)
  • Children (ex. Child support, custody, and visitation)
 
Download my PDF worksheet: Divorce Priorities Checklist to help you get started. Laying out the high-level priorities will help structure the planning that you will do with both your CDFA and attorney.

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Gina Phillips is NOT an attorney or CPA and does not provide legal or tax advice. Changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have substantial impact upon each person’s situation. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.