Why Litigating Your Divorce Can Be A Costly Mistake

In a recent story published by the AP News Organization, a New York father who said no to his toddler son’s demand for a McDonald’s meal was branded an inept parent by the psychologist appointed by the court to assist with custody and timesharing determinations, and urged the judge to eliminate or limit the father’s parental visits. The court-appointed psychologist told the judge that the fast food dispute “raises concerns about the viability” of the father’s weekend visits with his son.

The court-appointed psychologist reportedly pronounced the father incapable of caring for his nearly 5-year-old son after the father offered his son a choice — dinner anywhere but McDonald’s, or no dinner at all — and let the boy choose no dinner at all. The father then took his angry 5-year old son back to the mother’s house early from their October 30th dinner timesharing visit.

The father and mother of the boy are in the middle of a bitter divorce. Court records in the divorce case indicate that there have been a considerable number of court filings over a two-year period. While the divorce case is pending, the father has timesharing on alternating weekends and a dinner timesharing visit every Tuesday with his son.

The father described himself as “normally not a very strict father who rarely refuses his child McDonald’s,” but he put his foot down on October 30th “because his son had been eating too much junk food.”

Though the father quickly regretted his stance when his son threw a tantrum, he felt that giving in would reward his son’s bad behavior, so he offered the elsewhere-or-nowhere “final offer,” as the father described it.

“The child, stubborn as a mule, chose the ‘no dinner’ option,” the father said, so he returned the boy to the mother’s building, while still trying to entice his son into changing his mind as they waited in the lobby for the mother to get home from work.

This case illustrates why litigating your divorce case can be a costly mistake. Two (2) years of litigation and still not divorced; tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees; strangers (psychologists, judges) determining what timesharing is best for the children and the parents; lack of privacy; acrimony and bitterness; poor co-parenting relationship between the parties; child stuck in the middle between warring parents, exhibiting signs of emotional trauma.

Collaborative divorce empowers the parties, with the guidance and assistance of a professional team made up of their attorneys, a neutral financial professional, a neutral facilitator, and other neutral professionals as needed, who have all been formally trained in the Collaborative Divorce process, to achieve an outcome that is fair, reasonable and most importantly, designed by the parties, for the parties, and is in the best interests of the parties AND the children, in a non-adversarial, non-confrontational environment. It’s faster and less costly than traditional adversarial litigation, while preserving the privacy of the parties. The Collaborative Divorce process allows the parties to successfully co-parent their children after the divorce is finalized, maintain civil parenting relationships, and move forward constructively and positively toward a happy and healthy future, free of the drama and expense, in every sense of the word, of litigation.

Ronald L. Bornstein, Esquire, is an attorney, mediator and frequent lecturer on Florida Marital and Family Law. His practice includes contested litigation and collaborative family law cases throughout the State of Florida, with offices in Palm Beach County. He is a member of the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, serves on numerous Florida Bar Family Law Section Committees, and has been practicing for more than 25 years. To learn more about him and his practice, email him at trialguy@aol.com.

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Establishing Credit Before you Get Divorced

Divorce is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. That’s because many people do not take the right precautions prior to the divorce. And women are often the more vulnerable since they may believe that after years of sharing a good credit history with their spouse, that credit history will carry with them after the divorce.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Once they become single, all that good credit history of keeping up those payments could stay with their spouse. Then the woman finds she has difficulty buying a home or a car, or even getting a job.

The Court may order the spouse to pay off any joint credit cards or accounts. However, the creditors can still come after the wife. And her credit rating will suffer as a result.

Here are some tips:

She should make a list of all bank accounts, credit cards, and loans in her and her husband’s names. She might have to dig through past bank and billing statements, and canceled checks to find them all. There could even be old accounts that she thought had been closed but are still open.

Then request a credit report. This could reveal all accounts with her name on them including some she might have missed. At the same time, if there is any inaccurate or incomplete information in her file, she should write to the credit bureau and ask them to correct it. The credit bureau must confirm the data within a reasonable time period, and let her know when they have corrected the mistake.

After a list of all the accounts is compiled, she should remove her spouse as an authorized user on any of her individual accounts.

establish credit before divorceNext, the wife should establish her own credit. She can start by opening her own bank account in her name, not her husband’s. In other words: Mary Smith, not Mrs. John Smith. She should also have her paycheck directly deposited into this account.

As soon as the individual bank account is opened, she should close all joint accounts as soon as possible to prevent her husband from running up a big bill before the divorce is final, and closely monitor account activity.

However, she won’t be able to close joint accounts without paying off the balance. So for any joint accounts she can’t close, she should notify creditors in writing that she is breaking up with her spouse and is not responsible for any charges he makes after the date on the letter. At the same time, reduce the credit limit as much as possible to prevent future charges.

Send the letter via e-mail, fax, and registered U.S. mail. This proves to the Court that she acted in a responsible manner and could weigh heavily in the Court’s decision as to who is ultimately responsible for that debt.

Getting a credit card in her name only, without her spouse as an authorized user, is another important step. This is much easier to do before the divorce because the card company will consider both spouses’ income. That could be particularly important if she doesn’t have a job outside the home or has a low-paying job.

However, if she and her husband have a poor credit history, she might need to apply for a secured credit card. It’s generally a fairly quick and easy way to get a major credit card. Secured credit cards look and are used like a regular Visa or MasterCard. But they require a savings or money market deposit of several hundred dollars that the lender holds in case she defaults. In most cases, the creditor will report her payment record on these accounts just like a regular bankcard, allowing her to build a good credit record if she pays her bills promptly.

Once she has it, she should use it sparingly and make sure she can pay it off each month. Her goal should be to establish a good credit score and not run up a pile of debt. Plus she might need the credit card for an emergency. And the best way to do that is only charging what she can pay off monthly.

 

Do you need help managing your finances during your divorce?
Contact us for the financial help you deserve! www.carystamp.com

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ Practitioners and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts™ at Cary Stamp and Company in Tequesta, Florida assist divorcing women with setting realistic expectations, preventing financial mistakes and making crucial decisions. The process allows clients of Cary Stamp & Co. to take charge of their financial lives by empowering them with the knowledge to provide clarity for the difficult decisions before, during and after divorce.

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Alimony Reform Returns to 2013 Florida Legislature

The Florida Alimony Reform bill was pre-filed in the House of Representatives. The 2013 session began March 5th but Rep. Workman filed the bill (HB 231) on January Florida alimony reform17th. As you may know, legislative sessions are like making sausage so I won’t over tons of details but here are some highlights of this year’s Florida alimony reform bill:

The length of marriage presumptions are tweaked. A Long Term Marriage is 20 years (up from 17) or more, a Short Term Marriage is less than 10 years (up from 7 years) and the “Mid Term Marriage” is at least 10 years but less than 20 years.

Permanent alimony is repealed and durational alimony takes its place. Durational alimony is limited to 50% of the length of the marriage in this year’s alimony bill. The court must find that other types of alimony are inappropriate before awarding durational.

A long term marriage has a presumption in favor of alimony awards.

There is a formula for determining the amount of alimony based on the difference between the spouses’ net incomes and length of marriage.

Termination of alimony happens automatically at the end of the term or when the recipient reaches retirement age, unless there is a showing of greater need.

HB 231 changes evidentiary standards and sets higher standards for establishing need.

For termination and modification of alimony, the bill establishes a rebuttable presumption that the change should be retroactive to the filing of the petition.

A Court may not reserve jurisdiction to reinstate alimony once it is terminated for a supportive relationship.

Reaching retirement age for full Social Security benefits or reaching retirement age, retiring, and not intending to return to work is a substantial change of circumstances.

This year Florida’s alimony reform bill also changes the type of alimony that can be awarded and tweaks the factors used to consider what is appropriate. These are just a few of the highlights of HB 231. Take the time to look over the bill. Get ready – Florida alimony reform is back for the 2013 session and the bill has already passed several key committee votes.

 

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Divorce and Social Security – Some very important facts you should know.

What are you entitled to with regards to social security?  Just because you are no longer married, are you not entitled to receive spousal social security?  There are some very important facts that you should be aware of when it comes the benefits you are entitled to.

 

If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if he or she has remarried) as long as:

  • You are unmarried;
  • You are age 62 or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on you own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on you ex-spouse’s work.

 

If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on you former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).  There is one situation that you may qualify to collect on your ex-spouse’s social security, which will be addressed in a later paragraph.

 

If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

 

There is one situation in which if you remarry, you can still collect on your ex-spouse’s record, it is only in the case you are the worker’s surviving divorced spouse.  If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided that you marriage lasted 10 years or more and you were not remarried when you turn 60.  If you remarry after you reach age 60, the marriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits.

 

Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age requirement as a widow or widower won’t affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record.

 

If you are the widow or widower of a person who worked long enough under Social Security requirements, you can receive full benefits at full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60.

 

Your survivor benefit amount would be based on the earnings of the person who died.  The more he or she paid into Social Security, the higher your benefits would be.  You can collect survivor benefits and continue to work and not apply for Social Security under your own record.  You can delay collecting on your record till 70 ½ and start collecting survivor benefits when you are age 65.  When you reach 70 ½, you will receive either based on your own record or on your ex-spouse’s, it will be whichever is higher.

 

Mary Elias is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) who works with individuals and attorneys to assist with gathering all the information to identify the net worth of the couple and to help identify the marital versus non-marital assets and liabilities, prepare the lifestyle analysis, income analysis, completion of the mandatory financial affidavit, preparing of a household budget and much more. She assists divorcing women and men with setting realistic expectations, preventing financial mistakes and making crucial decisions. By empowering them with the knowledge they can make better decisions before, during and after their divorce.  You can contact Mary at info@MaryMEliasCDFA.com.

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What To Do About the Family Home in Divorce

While going through divorce, deciding what to do with the family home can be an emotional issue, as well as, a financial one.   I find that the best way to begin the decision-making process, is to start fact gathering. 

 First, you should know your exact monthly home expenditure, which is NOT limited to mortgage + taxes + insurance.  It may also include a condo association or homeowner association fee and/or special assessments, monthly lawn and/or pool service, pest control service, etc.

 If your home is located East of I-95, you may have annual windstorm and flood insurance premiums that are not included in your monthly mortgage payment.  Taxes are usually included in your mortgage payment.  If you do not have a mortgage payment, you will receive your tax bill on Nov. 1st.  Either way, you can see your annual taxes online on the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser web site.  This site will show you if there are any planned increases or decreases in your property tax amount.

 Second, you should know the cost of maintenance and repairs.  Start by hiring a home inspector to inspect your home.  The inspector will be able to determine what items (roof, plumbing, appliances, etc.) may need repairing or replacing in the near future.

 He will also be able to give you an approximate cost for repairs and replacement.   If you are considering staying in the home, this may be a good time to invest in a home warranty service contract.  Most repairs and some replacements are covered under a service contract.

 Lastly, consult with a Realtor to determine the current value of your home AND to get an idea of rental and sales prices in the area.  A Realtor will provide you with a market analysis of your home for free.  This report will show you the value of homes in your neighborhood, and give you an idea of what your home is worth based on its current condition and recent sales in the neighborhood.  You should also be aware of rental and sales prices in the area so that you can compare the cost of staying in your home to that of renting or buying elsewhere.

 Having all of these facts down on paper, will enable you to make the best possible decision regarding your home.

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Avoid These Financial Mistakes When Planning Your Divorce

Often divorce is not just a simple parting of ways, it’s a parting of households. Everything that you once owned together has to be divided between two households now, and that can take its toll on anyone, both emotionally and financially. So how do you navigate through your divorce financial planning and keep the stress to a minimum? Well it’s not always easy, but using these tips to avoid financial pitfalls will help keep you on track to a balanced, low-stress divorce.

Keep your Expectations Realistic

This is often the hardest part of splitting households. Because you have been managing things as a two person household, it can be hard to adjust to providing for everything on your own. “Divorce will put a cramp on your lifestyle” says Violet Woodhouse, author of book Divorce and Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce. Unless you are the heiress to a vast fortune or long lost princess, expect things to get a little tight for awhile. Remember, you are splitting the household you are used to in half, and you will have to adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

Don’t Cut Corners

Sometimes people are so focused on keeping it simple that they forget to include important information that could affect their financial future. Don’t forget to bring any information or paperwork related to finances, such as retirement pensions, investment funds, and of course all your current assets.

Communication is Key

Not only with your former partner, but your lawyer as well. Be open about anything and everything. Otherwise you’ll just end up paying for it in legal fees later because instead of spending all that time on your case, your lawyer had to waste the time digging up information that you could have told him or her yourself.
Don’t Confuse the Courtroom with the Counselor’s Office

Getting a divorce is emotional, but the courtroom is for settling legal disputes, not personal ones. Turning what could be a quick formality into an endless battle ground not only taxes your emotions, it can tax your wallet as well.
Numbers Aren’t Everything

When getting a divorce, sometimes an even split isn’t always a fair split. The assets a person had when they came into the marriage can be an important factor, as can childcare responsibilities, social obligations, and sometimes even geographical restrictions can all play a part in deciding who will manage what.

Never Forget the Taxman

This is an area that lots of people overlook until tax time comes around and it’s too late. Every portfolio has to pay out a certain amount of taxes to the government each year, but not always the same amount. Two portfolios of seemingly equal value could actually be quite different after taxes are factored in.
Always Assess the Risk

Some people have a higher tolerance for risk than others, and this should be taken into account when dividing up assets. For example, your spouse may not mind taking over a risky stock portfolio that you don’t want to handle, and you may feel more at ease with the security of a bond fund, or vise versa.
Focus on the Future

Don’t just dive straight for what will give you the most money now. Instead, try to keep the future in mind and envision how your decisions will affect you finances 10 years down the road. Once you do that, you might want to rethink taking the car over a mutual fund of the same value. While the car will eventually depreciate in value over time, unless it is a collector’s item, odds are that the mutual fund, if chosen wisely, will not.

Don’t Leave Loose Ends Hanging

Choosing to keep your financial responsibilities mingled after your divorce could be setting you up for disaster. If your former spouse doesn’t make payments, declares bankruptcy, commits fraud, or becomes disabled, you could be liable for picking up the bill. Make sure you have cut or minimized all financial ties with your spouse, even if you plan on remaining friends.
Recreating your Career can Take Time

If you left behind a career when you got married, as is the case with many women in America, don’t expect to just jump back in where you left off. It takes time, money, and patience to rebuild your career from the ground up. Try to make sure your financial plan accommodates a little downtime, that way you don’t have to stress about not making your old paycheck right away.

Do you need help managing your finances during your divorce?
Contact us for the financial help you deserve!

The CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ Practitioners and Certified Divorce Financial Analysts™ at Cary Stamp and Company in Tequesta, Florida assist divorcing women with setting realistic expectations, preventing financial mistakes and making crucial decisions. The process allows clients of Cary Stamp & Co. to take charge of their financial lives by empowering them with the knowledge to provide clarity for the difficult decisions before, during and after divorce.

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Protect Your Credit Score During Your Divorce

If you are going through a divorce, you should immediately begin taking steps to protect your credit score. Your financial future depends on a good credit rating. Here are some tips for handling your finances during and after your divorce so that your credit score is protected.

Handling Joint Credit Cards and Other Debts

You should immediately order your credit report and find out exactly what debts you have.  In your credit report you will see all debts that belong to you and your spouse as well as the accounts that belong solely to you. You should closely monitor debts that your spouse has access to, such as credit cards, bank loans, mortgages and home equity lines of credit.  If you are concerned that your soon-to-be ex-spouse might borrow money in your name, you might want to sign up for a credit monitoring service.  These services will notify you anytime there is a change to your credit history.

Close Joint Accounts If Possible

If possible, close all joint accounts. Most likely, you will only be able to close accounts that have a zero balance.  But, you should call all credit card companies, banks or other creditors to request that the account be closed.  Make it clear that you will not be responsible for any charges.

Stay Current on All Joint Accounts

It is very important to make payments to all joint accounts on time even though you are going through a divorce. Unfortunately divorce negotiations can go on for a long time and not making payments or paying late can really hurt your credit score. Your credit rating will go down if a payment is late or missed entirely, even if your spouse is assuming the debt.

Freeze Accounts that Can’t Be Closed

If you find that you are not able to close an account due to an outstanding balance, request that a freeze be placed on your account.  This will prevent any further charges.  You will still be jointly responsible for the balance, but no further debt can be added to the account.  Remember to document all details related to this call and write and mail a letter.

Close Joint Bank Accounts

Most couples have a joint checking and savings accounts.  These need to be closed as soon as possible, however you should talk to your lawyer before withdrawing money or closing your account since each state has rules about this. You will want to open a new account for yourself as soon as possible.

Mary Elias is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) who works with individuals and attorneys to assist with gathering all the information to identify the net worth of the couple and to help identify the marital versus non-marital assets and liabilities, prepare the lifestyle analysis, income analysis, completion of the mandatory financial affidavit, preparing of a household budget and much more. It was through her own 3 ½ year divorce that she became passionate about helping others with their finances in a divorce. You can contact Mary at info@MaryMEliasCDFA.com.

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How will all the assets be divided?

The divorce process involves a financial as well as an emotional separation. Which assets and liabilities will you own post-divorce, and which will be owned by your former spouse?

If the divorce is uncontested or collaborative, the two parties may be able to divide all the assets on their own, and then have the agreement formalized by their attorneys. If this is not possible, you may require the courts to make the decisions. How a judge will decide will depend on the guidelines set by the state’s laws and also at their discretion based on what is presented to them. Each state has its own guidelines as to how things are split. There are some key concepts that are important to know, such as marital versus non-marital property and equitable distribution.

Marital property includes all property that was acquired by the two of you during the marriage. This includes your home, checking and savings accounts, investments, jewelry, cars, motorcycles, boats, art, and so on. In other words, any money you earned and did not spend, anything you bought or invested. Property that you will not include in the marital property category, which was acquired during the marriage, are any gifts you received from your family, including inheritances that you kept in your name only and was not comingled with joint funds, that was acquired before the marriage, or obtained using funds from gifts or inheritance from your family. Included also as non-marital property would be anything that was listed on a pre-nuptial agreement or any other agreement signed by both parties. The same rule also applies to liabilities.

Most states, and Florida is one of them, use the concept of equitable distribution to divide marital assets and liabilities. The goal here is to come up with a division that is fair to both parties based on numerous factors, such as the ability of the party to maintain the marital property, what the needs are with regards to the children, financial needs and circumstances and future prospects of each party. In the case of a contentious divorce, you will need a knowledgeable lawyer and financial professional, such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, to ensure that all the factors are taken into consideration in your case.

The other method that is used in nine states, one such state as California, for dividing marital property is the “community property” approach. In a community property approach, all of the property is divided evenly between the parties, regardless of how it came into the marriage or the projected financial needs of either party.

Mary Elias is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) who works with individuals and attorneys to assist with gathering all the information to identify the net worth of the couple and to help identify the marital versus non-marital assets and liabilities, prepare the lifestyle analysis, income analysis, completion of the mandatory financial affidavit, preparing of a household budget and much more. It was through her own 3 ½ year divorce that she became passionate about helping others with their finances in a divorce. You can contact Mary at info@MaryMEliasCDFA.com.

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The “Gray” Divorce, and the Benefits and Importance of the Collaborative Team

The number of couples divorcing after the age of 50 has been growing tremendously over the past twenty years. In my own collaborative divorce practice, I am seeing a definite trend towards what has become known as the “gray” divorce. While the overall divorce rate has remained about the same, “Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 already have a divorce rate triple that of their parents,” according to the New York State Bar Association Journal. But that doesn’t mean their divorces are more contentious than that of their children’s generation.

What I see in my practice, is that older couples are frequently more civil toward each other than their younger counterparts, and their interactions are not as hostile or affected by anger.

Older divorcing couples appreciate the fact that time is extremely precious. They do not wish to squander it on a lengthy and protracted court battle, nor do they wish to deplete their accumulated assets and savings on lengthy and expensive court battles, especially with retirement on the horizon. Many of them realize the great benefits of working with collaborative divorce lawyers and professionals trained to be creative problem-solvers, who can find solutions that would not necessarily be available to them if a judge were to decide their fate. Two particularly important issues for these couples are determining and planning how to live on fixed incomes, and paying for health insurance. Additionally, the current economic climate has resulted in many older couples providing some level of support for their adult children and/or grandchildren, many of whom have temporarily returned to their parents’ home.

I recently assisted with a divorce for a couple in their early 60’s who, after spending the better part of a year in court with traditional litigation-minded divorce attorneys, realized that they simply were not getting any closer to a resolution. At that point they called upon me, to help them bridge what were relatively small gaps rather than continue with the long, protracted and expensive legal battle that they saw eroding the respect and care that they still had for each other after their long marriage, and the savings and assets that they had accumulated. I was able to help them reach an agreement, with the assistance of collaboratively trained financial and tax professionals, and in the end, the couple decided that it did not actually serve their interests to divorce at this time. For them, the most viable and practical solution was to enter into an agreement allowing them to live separately, dividing their assets and property, but to stay married for another five years so that the wife could keep the self-employed husband on her insurance plan and then retire at a time that would maximize the amount of her pension. This solution would have been impossible in a court of law, as a judge would not be empowered to order a distribution of their assets without also ending their marriage (which would thereby end the husband’s right to remain covered as a spouse under his wife’s medical insurance policy).

My role as a collaborative divorce attorney is to help the parties avoid court intervention and resolve their issues in a way that will keep the focus on their needs and goals, rather than their “positions.” That’s why collaborative divorce works so well for most divorcing couples, and particularly well with couples who are divorcing later in life. I’ve heard many of these couples express how important it is to them to end their marriage in a way that preserves the “good times” of their long-term relationship, allows them to remain “friends” and see each other at family functions, grandchildren’s birthdays, and holidays, and accomplishes the dissolution in a way that is cost effective. They recognize that they still have a family unit that needs to be maintained and still want to be able to share family moments as their children get married and have children of their own.

I highly encourage divorcing couples to consider the team approach of a collaborative divorce. In addition to each spouse having their own attorney, a collaborative divorce team includes a neutral facilitator who can help the couple in bridging communication gaps in a non-adversarial manner, as well as a neutral financial professional who can help them determine and plan how best to utilize their assets and income in way that will allow them to both feel financially secure post-divorce, minimize tax consequences, and plan for their financial futures.

In one of my collaborative cases, the wife had received a teaching degree after the children were grown and at 55, she was just starting her career. The husband was a 65-year-old partner in a law firm who was winding his career down. We utilized as part of the team a collaboratively trained divorce financial analyst, who was able to help the couple look at their expected incomes from employment, as well as retirement and social security, and figure out how to help both feel secure enough at these different stages of their work lives.

Ideally, litigation should always be a course of last resort for all divorcing couples. This is especially true for older couples who want to preserve what was good about their relationship and move into their post-divorce lives with dignity. Gray divorce clients have learned from their own parents’ mistakes, and sometimes those of their children, and are realizing that not only do they have a choice as to whether and when to divorce, but they also have a choice about how to divorce.

Ronald L. Bornstein, Esquire, is an attorney, mediator and frequent lecturer on Florida Marital and Family Law. His practice includes contested litigation and collaborative family law cases throughout the State of Florida, with offices in Palm Beach County. He is a member of the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, serves on numerous Florida Bar Family Law Section Committees, and has been practicing for more than 24 years. To learn more about him and his practice, email him at trialguy@aol.com.

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Divorce and Finances

If you are thinking of, or are in the process of a divorce, it is very important to understand this process and know the rules. This will reduce your stress level and make your life so much easier. It can also help you protect your interests.

As you become involved in the divorce process, you are most likely dealing with an array of complex issues, from the very personal to the extremely practical. Just like in all situations, the more you are informed and know, the better you will understand what is happening around you, the more in control and confident you will feel and the more likely that you will make the best decisions.

When it comes to the legal aspect of the divorce process, it is well mapped but there could be some fine points of the law that may have relevance to your situation. There are a few important concepts that you should understand right from the start. What should you put together in advance before you meet with any of the professionals you are considering as part of your team in this life changing event? What should you expect to see happen with the property division? Who should you have on your team to advise me on all the different aspects of the divorce? Divorce is a tough process to go through, but you can prepare for it and when you do, it can go more smoothly and predictably than you expect.

You most likely will be asking the following questions at some point in your divorce process:

⇨ Who gets what?
⇨ What about the house? Will we have to move?
⇨ What will I/we have to live on?
⇨ How will this effect my retirement?
⇨ What will I have to retire on?
⇨ How will I be able to pay all of my bills?
⇨ How will this effect the kids and their college education?
⇨ Will I be required to pay support? How much?
⇨ Who should I have on my team of professionals to assist me through this?

As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, these are the most common questions that I have been asked. You will have more questions than these but this is a start to help you with preparing yourself for the divorce process.

Mary Elias is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and a member of the Collaborative Divorce Team, who works with individuals and attorneys to assist with gathering all the information to identify the net worth of the couple and to help identify the marital versus non-marital assets and liabilities, prepare the lifestyle analysis, income analysis, completion of the mandatory financial affidavit, preparing of a household budget and much more. It was through her own 3 ½ year divorce that she became passionate about helping others with their finances in a divorce. You can contact Mary at info@MaryMEliasCDFA.com.

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