Keep More of What’s Yours During the Divorce Process

Keep More of What’s Yours During the Divorce Process

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC –As soon as you begin to contemplate a divorce, the nauseating, panic-attack-inducing realization of losing half of your money kicks in and you find yourself wondering if it’s even worth it. Why even consider leaving if you’re just going to end up broke and starving anyway?

There are ways to ensure that your financial future is not destined for failure. Most importantly, get a financial advisor that specializes in divorce on your team so that you are fully informed of all the creative settlement possibilities that may be available to you.

A couple married 24 years were referred together to a colleague for assistance with their divorce. They had gone to an attorney together and were completely amicable entering the divorce process. The attorney made it clear that he could only do their document preparation since he was ethically bound to represent only one party. That was ok, but they asked how they would determine their property division. He responded, “This is a community property state, so we’ll just divide everything 50/50.” The couple just didn’t feel like that was the smart thing to do. They were referred to a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®), to explore additional options.

After gathering their financial documents and completing the analysis, the CDFA® put together two reports for the clients. The first reflected an exact 50/50 split as the attorney had suggested. The second was a creative settlement solution that also resulted in a net 50/50 split but took into consideration tax planning and consequences as well as the needs of each party as they planned for the next phase of their lives.

This couple didn’t have a huge net worth, but the creative settlement solution resulted in a significant increase to the bottom line for both parties –all because some financial intelligence was used to determine their settlement. Needless to say, the couple was thrilled knowing that they were able to walk away with more money than if they had listened to the attorney’s simplistic idea of a 50/50 split.

Don’t go blindly into this process! There are so many options that could help both of you keep more of your own money. Get the right professionals on your team. We’d love to help so, call us today!

Get Ready For The First Holiday Season After Your Divorce

By Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC – Is this it? Is this the first time since the birth of your babies that you will be forced to spend at least part of the holidays without your children because of separation or divorce? It’s no fun and the first year is definitely the hardest. It doesn’t have to be all bad – but it will be very different. Let me offer you a few tips:

  1. Realize that life is different now and will never be the same again … and that’s okay! You have to embrace change!
  2. Plan early! Don’t wait until the last minute to coordinate with your former spouse what the schedule will be. Remember, the kids want to spend time with both parents.
  3. Christmas does not have to be December 25th! If you won’t be with your kids on the 25th, simply plan a “Special Christmas” when you will be together. There’s no reason to look at it like you are giving something up, just rearrange.
  4. If this is your first Christmas without the kids, reach out to friends and family to see what they have planned. Invite yourself if you have to! Do not spend it alone! That is a recipe for disaster!
  5. Start new traditions. To help both you and the kids embrace the new reality, start some brand new traditions that you’ve never had! Rent a house in the mountains or at the beach. Go to an amusement park. Anything to make it different! Because it is!

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If this is your first holiday season as a single person, you are still in the grieving process and you can expect to have some emotional ups and downs. Do your best to think about your new future and try not to dwell on the past. Think of new possibilities. Are there activities that you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time? Now’s the time to make it happen! Take an art class! Schedule a weekend trip out of town with a friend or a spa day all by yourself. Of course, I’m a financial advisor so make sure it’s within your budget.

Speaking of budgets, don’t let yourself fall into the “best parent” trap of trying to outspend your ex on presents. The kids see through it and, trust me, they don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll love all the gifts, but kids want your time, not your money. Pass on the iPad and buy a board game that will force you to interact with each other for an extended period. These are the memories your kids will treasure, and so will you!

Good luck this holiday season. Remember, it doesn’t have to be defined as the end unless you choose to look at it that way. So, choose to see the beauty of a new beginning. You can do it!

Survival During a Gray Divorce

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC – As we settle into this new Millennium, one trend has become clears: Baby Boomers are divorcing at double the rate from the late 20th Century. As our life expectancies continue to increase, our attitudes about the divorce process continue to evolve. While it’s not still rapidly increasing, Boomer divorce is likely here to stay. So is the sad fact that divorce after age 50 can be financially devastating – especially if you are close to a planned retirement!

You set aside a comfortable nest egg for retirement that calculated golden years spent together, as one. Now, those same funds will have to support not one, but two households. You’ve suddenly gone from our financial plan to my financial plan. That’s huge difference in the planning world!

Following a divorce (and possibly during the process) your expenses can be significantly higher than if you stay together. That comfortable nest egg must now fund two of everything: Two homes, two cars, separate vacations, separate trips to see the grandkids, etc. This duplication can eat away at a retirement fund at an alarming rate.

More than likely, you will face some difficult choices. You can either reduce your standard of living (which no one likes to hear about) or retire later and increase your savings. You may both have to consider selling the marital home to split the proceeds so both parties can downsize. That equity can throw off income to live on, so selling may make a lot more sense than one party trying to keep it.

Illness and disability could also force some very difficult choices. As a couple, there is comfort in knowing that if one of you becomes ill or disabled, the other partner will be able to help with the care. After divorce, that burden could fall to your children or hit that nest egg again when you need to hire help.

If you find yourself considering divorce after age 50, the best thing you can to do to minimize the damage is to be as cooperative with your spouse as possible and get prepared with organized financial documents. Most importantly, to minimize the financial toll, be sure to hire a financial advisor along with that attorney or mediator.

With the children likely grown, the main devastation of a gray divorce will be the finances and your emotions. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) is specially trained in the finances of divorce and can help you make sure you are covering all the necessary issues. They can help you see with certainty if you can keep the house, if spousal maintenance is necessary, and how to split a pension. Some attorneys or accountants have the credential but, if not, it can be well worth the money to add a CDFA® to your team. Ultimately, your best bet for survival is to let the professionals handle the finances and legalities. That way you can take care of you during this difficult process.

How to Prepare for the Mediation Process

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC – Most people facing their day in court would avoid it if they could. When facing a divorce, that urge is just as strong. The first step you may want to take is to go through mediation. The mediation process helps you and your partner reach a mutually beneficial divorce settlement.

So, Why Mediation?

Besides the whole court avoidance issue, if you have children, jointly owned real estate, and investments, mediation may be your wisest option. Once you have decided on a divorce, the next step is to decide how to split up your assets and set child custody, support and visitation rights. A mediator is an impartial third party that can guide a couple in the negotiations preceding the actual divorce decree.

In addition to trust issues, unraveling your marital ties is a very emotional thing. During this time, many of us find it hard to stay rational, and a mediator can help you both reach the point where you can compromise, and eventually, agree on important decisions. While a mediator can’t give legal advice, they can teach you to communicate more efficiently. In a situation where you both desire to reach an amicable agreement and are able to be in the same room, mediation may be the right choice for you. You can even conduct mediation over the phone or online in some instances, if needed.

Mediator, Take The Wheel?

If you do choose mediation as an alternative path, you still need to be prepared. Divorce court is not a place to fly by the seat of your pants! Neither is a divorce mediation. It still comes with much of the stressful procedures of a typical case. And if you go in unprepared, you may lose out on the settlement that you desire.

Mediators only work with you and your partner to settle the important decisions a divorce forces you to make. They will not tell you what you should do. Nor will they make decisions for you. So, think about what you want your life to look like when this process is done. And focus on what you need from the separation to get there.

Meeting With Your Divorce Mediator

When you go to your first meeting with your divorce mediator, bring a list of your jointly owned assets, a valuation of your home, a copy of any prenuptial agreement, copies of income tax returns and retirement account statements. Take a notebook and pen and ask any questions you may have! This is your divorce! Take control of how it gets handled!

Write down everything you need to remember and talk about fees. This is where having a financial expert like a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) becomes paramount to the mediation process. The first meeting with a divorce mediator will be to assess your situation, get a feel for the chemistry between the couple, and to get to know the mediator.

Although the mediation is held in an office or meeting room, it should still feel like an informal atmosphere. The mediator strives to create a relaxed situation so that both partners can remain calm. One of the main goals of the mediator is to help the couple find creative ways to communicate and reach an agreement – especially if strife does exist between the couple. There’s no set frequency for a session and every divorce is unique. Some couples find they only need a few sessions, while others may need more.

You should find that mediation saves money on attorney fees and is one of the best ways to prepare for your divorce. Ultimately, being able to avoid court will make for a better day for the whole family!

When a Fair Divorce Settlement Can Be Costly

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC – As soon as you decide that divorce is a potential reality, your thoughts will immediately turn to your future along with fears of your new reality.

“I don’t make enough money to live on my own.”

“How much of my income will I have to give up to support my spouse and the kids?”

“I’ll be living in poverty!”

A world of unknowns reveals itself in an avalanche of financial and emotional realities that must be dealt with. Despite the stereotypes around vindictive, nasty divorces, my experience is that the vast majority of couples sincerely want what’s fair for all involved.

Fair.

The problem here is that every person’s idea of fair is different. Depending on how much emotional wounding may have happened during the marriage, perceived wrongs that demand to be righted, apologies that remained unspoken, “fair” may be on the peaks of two separate mountains cut deeply by a river of conflict and resentments. This simple truth has created a multi-billion-dollar divorce industry.

I believe there is a different answer.

What if you let go of the need for fairness? I know, sounds crazy, but think about it. What if each party didn’t worry about what the other person was getting and sat down with a divorce financial planner and simply figured out what they need for themselves to be able to be ok? And then they sit down with a mediator and start from there?

Maybe it’s not exactly equal. Maybe it’s not “fair”. Maybe it just works for everyone involved!

Now that is a win/win solution!

So, don’t focus so much on fair! Let it go! It doesn’t matter! Focus on the next phase of your life and how you can move on in a healthy happy way that will preserve your family unit for the future. As I always tell my clients, my goal is to help you be the best divorced family you can be, because, after all … you’re still a family.

To Leave or Not to Leave. That is a Very Tough Question!

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC – It probably comes as no surprise that people who ultimately decide to get divorced, had their first thought about that possibility more than a year before it happens – and sometimes it has been many years!

I have a divorced friend that was married for more than 10 years, even though she left him for the first time in their first year of marriage! Talk about red flags!

Even with early signs, the decision to dissolve a marriage is a very tough and complicated one. Many choose to just stay and still only find the resolution when the spouse you’ve been thinking of leaving for so long, up and leaves you.

Why does that happen? Why do people wait so long? Why do they sacrifice so much while clinging on to something that isn’t healthy? Well, I’m not a psychologist but I’ve spent my fair share of time studying the ins and outs of divorce.

What I know for sure:

  • When people say “for better or worse” most actually mean it! They go in committed to work through anything. But sacrificing self sometimes is not healthy.
  • If your marriage is really hard work, you’re married to the wrong person.
  • If you don’t like the person you are most days, you’re with the wrong person.
  • If you feel bullied, controlled, ignored, or completely misunderstood, you’re with the wrong person.
  • If you’re staying together for the kids, you’re hurting your kids, not helping them.
  • Kids need to see a model of a healthy love relationship or they will not know how to have one.
  • The right relationship should be effortless.
  • The right partner inspires you and you want to become a better person for them because you feel so lucky.

Something to think about.

Three Ways to Plan for Your Divorce

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC – Divorce does screwy things to a person’s head. Believe me, I’ve seen it.
The intelligent, put-together person that you were, turns into an emotional, brain-fogged, unorganized basket case. You try hard to keep it together, but you know this will not go down as “the best of times.” You want to sit down and get a handle on your future plans, but feel paralyzed and surrounded by a fog of indecision.

What’s a person to do?

Well, first, get real.

Admit What You Don’t Know

When it comes to the family finances, what has been your role? Do you handle the bill paying? Are you “in the loop” on all your investment accounts, retirement plans, bank accounts, etc., or are you in the dark? If you are in the dark, you need someone to help you turn the lights on – and quickly! If you and your spouse are cooperative, ask for statements on all your asset accounts and your most recent tax returns so you can find a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® to bring you up to speed. A CDFA® is specially trained in the financial aspects of divorce and will be your best friend during this process! They will help to clear out that brain-fog like a cool ocean breeze!

Think About Your Future

This is hard at first but start thinking about what the next phase of your life looks like. Unfortunately, this must happen at the same time you are grieving over what you thought the next phase was going to look like. However, if you allow yourself some space, it could actually be fun. You have the chance to start from scratch. What did you dream of doing that got lost during your marriage? Is it time to go back to school? Maybe a downtown loft condo should replace that huge family home. Whatever you dream of you must have your budget and financial picture clearly defined. So, the step above has to come first so your dreams don’t outsize your wallet!

Build a Single Identity

Often through marriage all the credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc., are in the names of both spouses. All those accounts have to be closed or converted. After the marriage is over, your credit picture may not be nearly as strong, so you’ll want to put some things in place while you are still married. Immediately open a checking and savings account in your own name to begin the process of establishing your own financial identity. Next, find a good rewards credit card to apply for in your name alone so that you will be assured of having access to credit post-divorce (and maybe even during the process if legal fees are necessary).

These steps seem small but are valuable first steps to get you thinking financially and looking out for your future. Take control! You can get through this! A little help from a CDFA® friend is a great place to start.

Just How Neutral Can a Divorce Mediator Be?

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC –Yes, a divorce mediator can easily stay neutral, because they are trained to be attentive to the needs of both parties. Mediators focus on the issues that each individual wishes to address concerning the matters most important to them. Concerns such as child custody, property, financial matters and more, can be discussed with the mediator, who will help guide the couple to a peaceful resolution.

The divorce process will be stressful.  Handling a divorce with a mediator can greatly reduce the stress during this emotional time.  The process avoids having discussions about the personal aspects of your life in such a non-personal setting like a court room(where decisions are made for you, not with you). Not to mention avoiding the stress and high cost of litigation, which definitely makes a divorce nerve-racking.

Working with a mediator also saves the children in the home from the stress of a court room setting. This is a huge benefit and can make the divorce process a less traumatic experience. The divorce mediator also has much more flexibility in the scheduling of times that they can meet with clients to resolve important issues.

Discussions with the mediator, in a private setting, one on one, also manages the tensions that can arise when talking things out.  While the mediator doesn’t make decisions for you, they are skilled at resolving conflicts and clearing the lines of communication between a disagreeing couple. They keep the discussions about issues such as child custody and the dividing of assets on track. They help each spouse voice their own needs and act as a referee, so each party feels that they are heard. Their tools can help individuals avoid unpleasant moments when discussing these highly emotional issues, hopefully making things much smoother.

The divorce mediator can also be instrumental in assuring that the financial well-being of both parties is taken care of. By teaming with divorce professionals such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, it ensures that the important questions are answered for the clients regarding the financial outcome. The CDFA® will list the benefits of specific settlement options and advise clients on the most advantageous property divisions taking the uncertainty out of financial concerns.

Your divorce process will be an emotion, intense and highly stressful period.  It makes logical decision making difficult. At such a critical time, avoiding potential financial disaster is crucial: through professional and proper guidance, concerning financial matters, a CDFA® and mediator can help ensure financial security for both parties as they move into the next phase of their lives.

For help with recommendations on a qualified Divorce Mediator, contact us today!

Five Financial Errors That Will Cost You During a Divorce

Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC – For most people, the divorce process is draining and exhausting. Many people describe it as being frozen, numb or moving in slow motion. While experiencing emotional and mental trauma, you will be expected to go through your finances with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that your settlement agreement is fair and equitable. With divorce brain, that’s a lot easier said than done!

Even if you feel like you are clear headed, here are a few of the most common money mistakes to look out for when getting divorced:

  1. Underestimating expenses after the divorce. You will be asked to do a financial affidavit that reflects your expenses AFTER the divorce. It is critical that you are realistic and don’t leave anything out. This information will be used to determine if spousal maintenance is necessary. You must be sure to include everything from your health care deductibles to anticipated home repair charges for the roof you need to replace. If you underestimate your expenses by $200 per month, that’s $2,400 per year. Where is that extra money going to come from? When you are the primary breadwinner,this mistake could lead you to agree to pay maintenance that you ultimately can’t afford. A Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM will help you scrub your affidavit for errors and make sure that you don’t leave anything out.
  2. Believing that your attorney will handle everything. Your attorney is an expert in the law, not finances. Would you ask your doctor for advice about repairing your car? No!So, why would you expect your attorney to be an expert in finances? The attorney’s job is to ask you to fill out your financial affidavit and take your word that it is correct. A good attorney will glance over it looking for any glaring errors but that’s about it. The most commonly miss-valued asset is a pension. Oftentimes, the pension is the most valuable asset in the marriage. I often see attorneys accept a present value statement from a pension as the correct value to include as marital property. It’s not. Not by a long shot. A CDFA® can value it properly and make sure that tax ramifications are considered and won’t be an issue down the road.
  3. Not consideringtax deductions. Not everyone realizes that portions of your attorney or CDFA® fees during divorce are tax deductible. In fact, very few people do. Any fees for obtaining alimony and/or retirement funds during your divorce proceedings may be tax deductible (this means QDRO fees). Also forgotten are how to handle tax deductions post-divorce. Who will claim the children? Should you alternate them each year? What about tax issues when selling the marital home? All ofthese issues need to be addressed on the front end of the settlement, so you don’t experience ongoing divorce wreckage for years to come.
  4. Letting attorneys do the talking for you. The more you and your spouse can work out by just communicating, the more money you’ll save. I’ve seen many couples that could not bear to be in the same room,but consider the cost.If you have your attorney relay information to the other spouse’s attorney, you’re racking up bills upwards of $600 an hour because you refuse to talk. This makes sense to no one. Get over any anger and talk about what will work. Get through it so you can get over it.
  5. Letting your emotions make your decisions. So many people going through divorce just want to “get it over with.” This is not the time to throw your hands up and agree to a settlement just to be done with it.This kind of thinking is why divorce so often leads to bankruptcy! A 50/50 split of assets is almost NEVER a truly equitable settlement. So, put the emotions aside and talk to your spouse. Take your time and make sure you thoroughly understand what your future will look like after your divorce and be sure to hire the right professionals to help you.

There Is Life After Divorce … And It Just Might Be Awesome!

By Duncan E. White, Owner
Inkpointe Divorce Solutions, LLC

IRMO, SC When you’re going through a divorce, it can be difficult to see the sunshine through the trees but, let’s face it, if you’re getting a divorce, it’s because you believe that you can be happier if you’re not married. At least, not to the person you are married to now. Here are some of the possible upsides of life after divorce:

Free Time
How many years has it been since you’ve had time to yourself?? No kids, no husband, no responsibilities. Wow! What are you going to do with yourself? It may take a while to stop feeling lonely, but now’s the time to take a dance class and check out some local meetup groups. It will be a great way to start to find your way back to yourself. You’ll need to start the process at some point and now is better than waiting.

Space
You no longer have to share the office, the garage, the kitchen, etc. It will feel so nice not to have to rinse whiskers out of the sink or try to make room in the shower amongst 30 bottles of hair products! The space all yours and you can do with it what you like.

Sleep
There is nothing better than totally sprawling across a queen or king size bed, spread eagle, to sleep. Not to mention if you were married to a snorer. The peace and quiet is such a treat!

Control Of The Remote
You could spend all day watching Say Yes to The Dress, The Voice, American Idol, and chick flick movies! Or sports, if that’s your thing. No nagging. No arguing. No Interruptions. Just blissful “me time” all evening long!

No Money Battles
Almost every couple that divorces had some sort of conflict over finances. While it’s really nice not to have to battle, make sure you are making good decisions for your own personal finances.

Working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) will help you understand how to put together a settlement for the long term. If you need help analyzing your settlement options and want to make sure you give yourself the best chance of success during this next phase of your life, give us a call.

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