Who do you call if you’re having car problems? A mechanic. Who would you contact for help if you’re ill? A doctor. Need food for a special event? You will probably call a caterer. Experts trained in all the specific details of every area of life are ready to spring into action whenever we need them. Thank goodness, because the next time my sink gets a leak, I know a plumber can come to my rescue!
So, who do you call when a divorce is imminent? For most, the answer is almost automatically “a lawyer”; but, a lawyer is not necessarily trained to advise on all problems one will encounter during this difficult time. Divorce is like a giant umbrella with many varied and complicated subjects that fit under that heading. One’s divorce could include co-parenting, moving, a shared business, real estate, helping children cope with the changes, financial issues, and so much more!
Leah Villalobos, a certified divorce financial analyst and master analyst of financial forensics, shared some priceless divorce wisdom as she explained the importance of incorporating a financial expert as part of your divorce support team. Leah is the founder and president of Great Lakes Financial Solutions, and an expert in navigating the financial aspects of divorce. In preparing for a special online class that anyone can take to “Approach Divorce with Confidence”, she shared the following:
Get organized! One of the four modules of her class is about organizing your finances before divorce. This step is of critical importance because you need to know where you stand as far as assets, debts, taxes, property, and more. Villalobos uses worksheets designed to help her clients organize their property, to aid in dividing it between spouses, to determine the value of these items, and to ensure that all possible categories of wealth (and debt) are properly recognized and addressed.
When divorcing, you have to know what to report to your lawyer, and it’s vital to know what your soon-to-be-ex will be reporting, as well. For these reasons, Leah urges divorcing partners to make copies of all documents, and recommends doing as much of this financial homework as possible before consulting with a lawyer to save time and money on legal fees.
Consider mediation! Leah wants us to know that lawyers aren’t the only way to settle a divorce! In fact, she sings the praises about the many benefits of turning to mediation to handle one’s affairs. Leah contends that for estranged spouses who are willing to engage in and trust the process and who can be counted on to give full disclosure, mediation can effectively save money and time, give the parties more control over the outcome, and potentially foster better post-divorce relationships between exes.
Build your support. Leah made interesting points about establishing one’s support system during divorce. As previously discussed, there are experts who specialize in a wide variety of needs, including those associated with divorce. Financial advisors, such as those at Great Lakes Financial Solutions, are ideal to analyze taxes, real estate, pensions, and other money-related considerations of a divorce, just as a lawyer is the legal expert, and a counselor is best-suited to treat the emotional aspects of divorce.
Leah recommends attending to all of your various divorce-related needs with the appropriate professional because, as anyone who has been divorced knows, it’s an exhausting and painful experience full of questions and uncertainty! One point to consider when going through the process is not to take issues that are the specialty of one professional to another. Not only will your problems go improperly handled, but you may waste valuable time and money!
For instance, it is natural to feel overwhelmed, sad, and angry during a divorce. Your lawyer will understand this, but his or her job is to help you file for divorce and finalize the legal side of the issue. Your lawyer is not the right person to unload your emotional baggage on; and, because time with a lawyer is expensive, you should make the most of your time with your lawyer to discuss legal issues. Similarly, a counselor is not going to be able to offer quality advice on the legal side of the process, so let them support you with your emotional needs!
Attorney advice. Leah’s class will explore important questions you should ask your lawyer, but she also shared that you should seek referrals for any lawyer you consider, narrow your pool of candidates to those who specialize in family law in your county, and interview at least three before hiring one.
Planning for the future. Financial security doesn’t just happen by chance or through good luck, but rather from careful planning. Leah invites her clients to develop a mission statement and to set goals for what they would like their future to be like. Part of good financial health is making and keeping a budget, which is not easy for a lot of people. Leah suggests that a budget can be easier to stick to if the whole family is involved, because everyone’s buy-in is important.
One should prioritize wants versus needs, be disciplined about following the plan, and build in rewards to incentivize progress and keep the motivation strong enough to continue. Using a credit card to free up one’s cash is often tempting, but cautioned against because credit card debt will be harder to overcome in the long term compared to the likely unnecessary nature of impulse buys and other spending that should ideally come from one’s budget instead of a card.
You can benefit from Leah Villalobos’ vast financial knowledge by taking her class, which begins May 1st. If it’s not possible for you to join in, be sure to consider how your finances will impact your divorce and life after, and who you might consult to guide you through.
A financial expert is just one member of a comprehensive divorce team that you should consider adding. Matters involving trust funds, property, retirement, taxes, and other monetary points can quickly become more complicated than the average person knows how to handle. Don’t let yourself become blindsided by money issues that could haunt you far into the future!