American Capital Planning Blog

ACP Blog, created by Bonnie Ashby Sewell, CFP®, CDFA™, AIF®

Divorce

Divorce 300x199Just the word, divorce, can be upsetting to some people. But this word describes best what is actually happening. We could say transition, dissolution, disunion, split or several others. The reason we use ‘divorce’ is because it describes a legal declaration dissolving a marriage and our work in this area is focused solely on the financial aspects of a divorce.

Some people assume our divorce work is depressing. In fact, once a family has decided to live separately, we believe our work helps them build a healthy, secure foundation for the new life they seek and perhaps were meant to live.

When life beats you up, remember, there is no poverty where there is laughter and love.

There can however, be poverty where parties have divorced without ensuring that both parties can 1) pay their bills after the divorce is final and 2) have a foundation on which to build future wealth. In our work with couples or individuals, we opt out of the ‘gotcha’ game that the multi-billion dollar divorce industry plays so well. Attorneys are rarely specifically trained in personal finance or divorce financial planning. They are trained in law which is expertise we do not provide.

Changing the way we divorce is quite the slog since TV, magazines, and movies make it seem as if it must always be adversarial and the winner comes from being the most adversarial. We put the financial analysis at the beginning of the process using our A.G.R.E.E.℠ negotiating system that came out of my book, “Love-Jacked! Divorce Your Spouse, Not Your Dollars”. A.G.R.E.E., A-Accept and Accelerate the process, G-Get agreement through understanding financials, R-Remove emotions by clarifying financials, E-Everyone is considered (you, them, kids, pets), E-Every dollar counts and every dollar is counted.

Know what you’re negotiating, why it matters to understand the impact of taxes, and how you can accurately express your spending needs. Negotiating your divorce without a written understanding of your finances is like taking a hike without maps or water. You can do it, but it invites disaster. Ask more questions, expect better answers. In the divorce process, if anyone is asking you to ‘just be reasonable’, or you hear “you won’t do better than that in court”, ask them to model the financial arrangement they are asking you to agree to. We often see negotiations happening on scratch paper with no date, letterhead, math, or modeling. Modeling demonstrates on paper whether something will work or not. When someone sticks emotion into the process, back it out again by insisting they show you through modeling that what they’re suggesting is true for you. You will have to live with your agreements in this process. Make sure you really understand them before you accept them.

Don’t settle your divorce until you’ve settled on paper how you will pay your bills and build future wealth. Divorce can and should be fair – this is most likely when both parties understand the family finances before signing an agreement.

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Thursday, 23 March 2017
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