By: Tricia Mulcare
Divorce affects one in four marriages for couples over the age of 50. As soon as the decision to divorce is made and your emotions settle, you need to muster your own team of professional advisors. In addition to your divorce attorney, hire a CPA or financial planner knowledgeable about divorce planning.
Marital dissolution can be managed in various ways. Many couples choose arbitration or mediation in an effort to avoid the fees associated with litigation. One model, collaborative law, is a process in which each party hires its own team of professionals (attorneys, therapists, financial advisors, etc.) and all parties agree to focus on a mutually agreeable settlement.
No matter the legal situation, your financial planner should walk you through these important first steps toward establishing financial freedom:
- If you do not already have a budget, develop an estimate of your current necessary monthly expenses.
- Open a separate post office box to ensure delivery of confidential documents.
- Establish separate checking, savings, brokerage, and credit card accounts, all of which will allow you to begin building individual credit. Be aware that on a joint credit account, all named individuals are liable for debts incurred.
- Review credit reports from each of the three major credit agencies. Check the reports for accuracy and identify all joint accounts that will need to be closed.
Your team of financial advisors will often request specific documents to support your assets and expenses. You will also want to contact your insurance agent for copies of your insurance policies and gather vehicle registrations, property deeds, and any recent property appraisals. Finally, copies of payroll stubs, W-2s filed with your previous tax returns, a marriage certificate, and employment contracts may be requested.
Your attorney will likely advise you to consider which martial assets are especially important or have sentimental value. Your team of advisors should evaluate the tax consequences of keeping certain assets. Often overlooked marital assets include season tickets, club memberships, and timeshares.
There may be considerations to make with respect to your career as well. For example, small business owners should inform any partners of a pending divorce. Similarly if you and your spouse are involved with a family business, examine the roles of each spouse and how they will be affected. Stay at home moms should consider the implications, via a cash flow analysis, of continuing in this role versus going back to work.
Georgia applies a doctrine of “equitable division of marital property” in divorce. This doctrine is designed to ensure that property accumulated during marriage is fairly distributed and can frequently override the current legal title of property owned by both parties in the divorce. As a result, the spouse who does the best job of planning in advance of the divorce hearing is often the party who stands to gain the best settlement. For this reason, be sure to select a team that has experience with your special needs during this time of transition.
The information reflects Homrich Berg’s views, opinions and analyses as of 6/28/2019 unless otherwise indicated, with no obligation to update. The information is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any investment product. The information does not represent legal, tax, accounting or investment advice; recipients should consult their respective advisors regarding such matters.