During the turbulent emotions and challenging legal proceedings of a divorce, some spouses make bad financial decisions that can potentially impact the rest of their lives. Under California’s community property divorce laws, a couple’s marital assets must be divided as close to 50/50 as possible. Often this involves many back-and-forth negotiations and mediation until both spouses reach agreements on which assets to distribute, divide, or retain, and a judge finds the agreement fair and signs off on it. In many cases, divorcing spouses cannot come to an agreement at all and a judge must make the decisions on the division of the community property.
If you are facing a divorce in California and have considerable assets or a complex financial situation, you might consider hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to develop a financial strategy that protects your interests during a divorce.
When Do I Need a CDFA as well as an Attorney for a Divorce?
When a couple has been married for a significant number of years they may acquire substantial assets and often comingle assets that began as separate. For instance, giving a spouse access to an investment account in your name makes it marital property. Also, a spouse could have a valid claim to the other spouse’s separate real estate property if they made improvements on the property during the marriage. When many assets or complex financial entanglements are a part of the negotiations for a divorce settlement, a certified divorce financial analyst can help you to develop a financial strategy that protects your interests before you begin the divorce process.
In some cases, even those with fewer assets may benefit from the services of a CDFA as well as a divorce attorney, for instance, if they have a sentimental attachment to a particular asset they wish to keep or if they have a great deal of marital debt.
What Does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Do?
Like a CPA, a certified divorce financial analyst has valuable knowledge of California tax law, long and short-term financial planning, and asset distribution. However, unlike a CPA, a CDFA also has training in achieving the most equitable divorce settlements with several years of divorce-related experience. They also must pass a required exam by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts in order to earn the designation and keep up a specific amount of annual training hours in order to maintain their CDFA status.
A CDFA works with clients who are beginning the divorce process to help streamline, improve, and expedite the process of dividing marital property in the most equitable way with the goal of protecting their client’s interests to the best extent possible under the law. A CDFA analyzes the following typical marital assets:
- Personal property such as jewelry, antiques, artworks, cars, boats, and RVs
- Real properties such as the marital home, vacation homes, and rental properties
- Investment and retirement accounts
- Insurance policies
- Income and expenses
They’ll typically work alongside your Palo Alto divorce attorney to develop a plan which the attorney then works into the divorce negotiation process with your spouse and their attorney. They can help analyze the financial impacts of your divorce on your post-divorce lifestyle and help to ensure that you maintain your accustomed lifestyle after the divorce or minimize the change in your socioeconomic level through a careful budget plan. They may also work with a client’s attorney to specify a requested amount of spousal support or alimony.
If you feel you’d benefit from financial guidance during your divorce, a certified divorce financial analyst will help you make the best financial decisions to protect your future.