It’s Not Just Financial “Settlement” Anymore…
We call them “financial specialists” or “financial neutrals.” They are Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (“CDFA”) and they are at the core of the Collaborative Law team. The more I do Collaborative Law cases, the more I appreciate the CDFAs and the more I believe it is their function that for many couples most differentiates this process from a more conventional divorce.
Why are they so important? Imagine the financial anxiety that surfaces for many (all, in my experience) who are ending a marriage or domestic partnership. For most, the marriage or partnership has been the most significant economic relationship of their lives (excluding only their dependence on their parents as children). The questions that confront them now seem to reach into every corner of daily living:
- Who gets which of our assets?
- Where will each of us live? In an apartment? House? Rented? Owned?
- Can one of us keep our current home?
- Who will pay our debts?
- How will I support myself?
- How will we divide the responsibility of providing for our children?
- How much of our savings will I be able to keep?
- Will I still be able to retire as early as I hoped?
- Will some of my future income go to my former spouse? How much and for how long?
- Will I need to significantly change my lifestyle?
- Can I keep my health insurance?
- Can I make ends meet?
- How will we fund the children’s education?
- What will be the tax consequences of these decisions?
Addressing these questions thoughtfully, assessing the needs (emotional as well as material) of each spouse, analyzing the numbers, projecting the future. All this can be done in an atmosphere of open-minded reflection and serious, compassionate problem-solving. It does not have to be with a focus on scarcity and loss. Rather, it can be done to make the most of available resources and ensure as much financial security for each spouse as possible.
In my experience, the work in addressing these financial questions is more satisfying if a CDFA is part of a professional team. Attorneys, as good as we may be, are not (usually) financial experts. And even when our financial competence is high, we are not the most efficient laborers at the financial oar. When two attorneys represent two spouses without a neutral professional synthesizing the financial information, we necessarily duplicate efforts. And our two minds rarely reach as far as the three minds of two attorneys and one CDFA, and are rarely as creative as the group – the spouses and the professionals – together can be.