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11 Costly Financial Mistakes in Divorce Settlements

Divorce is expensive even without mistakes. Read on to learn of the top eleven most common financial mistakes made in divorce.     

1. Mis-Specifying Marital vs. Separate Assets

What’s considered marital property and subject to division? Most will say that any comingling of assets (e.g., depositing the funds in a joint account or using marital funds to pay the mortgage) constitutes an asset as marital. And in some states and counties, even if a portion of an asset that was separate on the date of marriage will, over the years, transition to marital. This can impact considerations of real estate, retirement, inheritances, and more.

2. Dividing Each Asset 50/50

Too often, lawyers, hearing officers, and judges take the easy way out by forcing division of each asset equally. Why? It’s easy and not easily challenged. This approach, though, fails to consider the needs and wants of each spouse, as well as the tax consequences of and administrative effort in dividing each asset.

3. Not Considering an Alimony Buyout

No one likes alimony. Payors hate writing the check and the recipient hates depending on it. Plus, if the payor dies or is disabled, the payments stop (an example of why insurance is important post-divorce). Instead, if there are sufficient assets to cover it, calculate the present value of the stream of anticipated payments at an appropriate discount rate and build it into the division of assets.

4. Errors in Valuing Executive Compensation

If there’s one financial topic that befuddles many, it’s how to treat deferred compensation, including stock options, both qualified and not qualified, as well as restricted stock and restricted stock units. Are they marital or separate? Are they based on past or future performance? Can they be transferred to a spouse/former spouse? What is the correct valuation method: intrinsic value, Black-Scholes, or the binomial method? How are taxes accounted for?

5. Not Considering the Possibility of Hidden Assets

Given the opportunity and motive, many a spouse will start stashing away funds in anticipation of a divorce, whether for financial security, sense of ownership, or vindication. Tax returns, W-2’s, credit card statements, and bank account statements are all sources to identify diverted funds. Even when not suspected by a client spouse, a quick review of these documents may reveal otherwise unidentified assets.

6. Not Looking at Creative Settlement Options to Meet Each Spouse’s Unique Needs

What if a spouse wants to keep the house for and can’t get approval for a mortgage buyout? It’s easy to just say “sell” and move on, but there are ways to facilitate the desire of a spouse who wants to remain in the home for a period without undue legal or financial burden to the co-owner spouse. As another example, maybe retirement funds are of utmost concern and alimony/cash flow not so much? A skilled divorce financial expert will come up with alternative settlement options to address the unique needs of each spouse.

7. Mistakes in Retirement/Pension Valuation and Division Orders

Retirement plans, and especially pensions, are widely misunderstood in divorce. The one who’s name is on the retirement plan thinks they are the rightful owners. Some incorrectly think the “current value” on a pension statement is the value of the pension. Pensions of all kinds, and especially military and federal pensions, require an expert for valuation and drafting of appropriate orders for submission to the custodian.

8. Failing to Consider Tax Consequences

All assets are not alike when it comes to splitting them in divorce. $250,000 in a 401k is not the same as $250,000 of equity in a house. The former is taxed at an ordinary income tax rate upon withdrawal while the latter may be largely excluded from any taxation and otherwise taxed at the capital gains rate.

9. Allowing One Spouse to Keep the House When it’s Not Financially Feasible or Beneficial

The marital home is an asset laden with emotion and sentimentality. It’s common to want to keep the house for emotional stability without consideration of the impact on future financial health. Houses don’t necessarily appreciate significantly over time, maintenance expenses are often overlooked or discounted, and a house is not a liquid asset. An objective evaluation is critical before deciding to keep or sell the marital home.

10. Not Properly Accounting for a Closely Held Business

If a spouse owns a business, is it a source of income, an asset to be valued and divided, or both? If a source of income, do we just look at the tax returns for the business? If to be valued, do you pay a business valuation expert thousands of dollars to get an accurate figure? Get the advice of a divorce financial expert is necessary if one of the spouses owns a business.

11. Not Accurately Budgeting for Your Post-Divorce Life

Do you have a good hold on where your money goes? Have you really assessed how much you will need post-divorce? Your choice in divorce settlement options needs to be balanced between short-term cash flow needs and long-term net worth.

Work with a qualified divorce financial professional, i.e., a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) to help you avoid costly mistakes in divorce. You only get one chance to get it right.

Take Control of Your Future

When you consider divorce, or if you know someone who is contemplating divorce, one of the biggest realities for those in the divorce process is the financial settlement and financial analysis post-divorce. Get the assistance of Berni Stevens, a Mediator and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®.)

Berni provides step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, Berni will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.

Schedule Your Complimentary Divorce Strategy Session Today!

What it Means to “Win” at Divorce

Are you thinking about a divorce and wondering how you can achieve a lopsided division of assets and alimony, so you don’t have to work? And maybe sole custody of the children, too? If so, you wouldn’t be alone.

You’ll easily find a divorce attorney who will fight your war with you for years. And you’ll only end up where you would have if you’d negotiated to begin with. And guess what—you’ve funded your lawyer’s kids’ college accounts rather than your own. Is this a “win” at divorce?

Perhaps you should instead consider getting through this overwhelmingly difficult transition with dignity while keeping a lot more of your own money and maintaining your and your children’s emotional health throughout. In most instances, you can do that without ever stepping foot into a courthouse or even speaking to an attorney. 

The fact is that ninety percent of divorces don’t belong in the court system. When you involve the court, you give up total control around life-altering decisions regarding your assets, your income, and the custody of your children. Whether within or outside of court, if you involve an attorney for both you and your spouse—the traditional model—it will result in legal expenses that you can’t possibly fathom when you’re 1) just getting started and 2) convinced the “system” will see your side of what’s just. Attorney-driven divorce processes will not provide you with practical guidance and needed emotional support nor correctly value all your assets and considers both the short and long-term impact on each spouse’s financial health.

I set out years ago to find a better way to divorce, creating and refining a process to deliver just that. At TruNorth Divorce, we provide a legally-sound, one-stop solution for divorcing couples who want a financially optimized settlement that helps both spouses achieve their long-term goals. When children are involved, we also provide effective and durable parenting plans. Yes, there is indeed a better way that will be less expensive, faster, less stressful, minimize the negative impact on your children, and launch you towards a new and promising future.

Want to know more? Read How to Win in Divorce.

5 Interview Questions for a Divorce Mediator in Annapolis

 So, you’ve decided to seek a mediation for your divorce, and you’re exploring local options. With emotions running high, picking a divorce mediator in Annapolis can seem like a daunting task. The professional you decide to work with needs to hold a level of your trust—after all, they will be helping you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse navigate the murky waters of divorce.

Choosing a mediator that fits your needs is a careful decision, it’s a good idea to do your homework ahead of time. Thinking about the types of things you might ask a professional mediator before you make the decision to commit to one is a good way to prep for an initial consultation. TruNorth Divorce Solutions has put together a quick list of questions that you might want to ask your prospective mediator.

1.     How do you define success? How do you facilitate this during the mediation process?

This is a great question to ask during your initial meeting with a professional divorce mediator because odds are that this is the first time you’ve sought out a divorce mediation and are unsure about how the process works. Mediation is a collaborative effort between you, your ex, and the mediator you choose to work with.

It’s important to outline expectations before the mediation process begins, and this question can really flush out some of those expectations. Ideally, you want to work towards a divorce settlement that both parties are happy with. Your prospective mediator may go into detail about their strengths and what they bring to the negotiation table.

 

2.     What is your success rate?

This is a great follow up question to ask in tandem with how your mediator defines success. The answer to this question can provide some much-needed confidence and really influence your choice.

The mediator will probably touch on the depth of their experience in the industry and how many divorcing couples they have worked with. They might also have some metrics (i.e., that they have successfully mediated XX divorces in the Annapolis area for X years) of success to share with you that reflect their professional expertise. They may even share some relevant anecdotes.

 

3.     How much does mediation cost?

Ah, the price tag. An important question. Make sure to get these details during your initial consultation. Your mediator may bill hourly or have a flat rate mediation fee. While one divorce mediator in Annapolis may charge $1000 an hour for their services another may have a flat rate fee for services of $7000. Don’t make assumptions and ask for rates up front.

Remember, price isn’t always the main consideration behind choosing a mediator and shouldn’t necessarily deter you. While it is important to stay on budget, you should also consider the level of skill and expertise that the mediator has to offer.

 

4.     How long is each mediation session/how long does mediation typically last?

Another great question to ask your divorce mediator is how long each session will last and how long the process takes overall. These questions can be particularly salient if your mediator bills by the hour. 

 The answer to this question also gives you an idea of how much time you will need to carve out of your schedule for the mediation process. You can also ask about whether your mediator holds private sessions (depending on your circumstances) and other questions surrounding the level of commitment expected of you.

5.      What do your services include?

Being unfamiliar with mediation, you probably want to ask about what is included with their services. Is the mediator drafting up divorce settlement documents for you? Will they be filing them on your behalf? Will you have to pay additional court costs or those included? Asking this question up front will help give you a clear picture of what to expect of your mediator. 

Any reputable mediator would welcome these questions during your consultation, so you shouldn’t hesitate to ask. Looking for a divorce mediator in the Annapolis area? Contact TruNorth Divorce Solutions for a free divorce strategy session. 

 

 

Get A free Consultation

484.321.6990

hello@trunorthdivorce.com

Why You Need a Divorce Mediator in Maryland

Most of us feel overwhelmed and rather clueless about which direction to take once we conclude we’re going to get a divorce. Traditionally, the first move had been to call a lawyer but you should pause, take a breath, and then reach out to the right professional to get you going in the proper direction for you and your family.

 Other than a DIY divorce (unadvisable unless you have neither assets nor children), mediation is the least expensive and fastest way to get your divorce. A divorce negotiated through mediation will also help you preserve a civil relationship with your spouse, especially important if you have children, and always important for your self-esteem. If you live in Maryland (or any other state) you should first seek the help of a divorce mediator in Maryland to discuss whether this is a viable option for you. 

The Best Mediator for Your Maryland Divorce

Divorce impacts us emotionally and financially and must be processed within the confines of the law. It’s generally not a good idea to go through this process alone, especially when there are qualified professionals who can help guide you through the process and address each of the facets of divorce, not just legal. 

If you choose a divorce mediator in Maryland, identify an experienced moderator who has not only knowledge of Maryland divorce laws and procedures but also training in divorce financial and emotional issues. The mediators at TruNorth Divorce take a holistic perspective on divorce and are dually certified as divorce financial analysts and divorce coaches. They have also been extensively trained in divorce mediation, including how to process your divorce legally. Don’t expect your divorce lawyer-mediator to be  skilled in all of these areas–the reality is that attorneys aren’t trained in anything besides law and often don’t know what they don’t know. Consider adding in a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst CDFA® and divorce coach to your team if you go the lawyer route.

Reach out to a divorce mediator in Maryland if you want a kinder, smarter, and more affordable divorce. If you’re on the fence and you have a list of concerns related to your divorce, don’t hesitate to Schedule a Free Strategy Session to go over your options. 

 

 

Get A free Consultation

484.321.6990

hello@trunorthdivorce.com

How to Get a Divorce in Maryland

Most “How to Get Divorced” articles take a rather narrow view, i.e., the legal process. Obviously, these articles are typically written by lawyers. 😉 

How to get divorced can be a multi-faceted, complicated, entangled, frustrating, non-linear, jumble of a messy process. Not surprising, given that there are two spouses, years of history, hot emotions, finances, children, a home, secrets and lies, and hidden agendas involved.

Given all this, though, let me try to keep this “how to get divorced in Maryland” piece as simple as possible for this medium (please contact us for more detail.) Here are what we consider to be three essential components.

 #1: Financially Prepare and Protect Yourself Before You Start the Divorce

  • Open a separate checking and credit card account at a new bank
  • Check your credit report and score and then periodically track
  • Establish private communication, e.g., P.O. box, email account
  • Gather and copy financial and legal documents—tax returns, statements for loans, bank and retirement accounts, investments, wills, trusts, deeds, car registrations, insurance policies—and store them outside of the marital home

#2: Talk to Professionals

Most think to first call a lawyer after they talk to a few of their friends and family members. Let me suggest otherwise. Friends and Cousin Amy are great for support but they aren’t likely stellar for advice on how to handle one of the most important and costly events of your life. While well-intentioned, their cases and knowledge of others’ situations are different than yours and you will need the advice of a professional for accurate advice.

You’re best first stop is not with a lawyer but with a far more neutral and resourceful individual: a reputable divorce coach. She or he can help you assess your situation and choose the best path forward and how to execute. They can also help you with setting objectives for how you want to handle the divorce on a personal level, i.e., how to be your “best self.” They can help you better work with a lawyer or mediator, saving you money and significant angst. They are more than anything, the quarterback on your divorce team who can help you assemble the right individuals for the jobs you’ll need to get done.

Lawyers, of course, are a critical component for their knowledge of the legal process. They will often unnecessarily steer you, though, to costly litigation, without regard for what will be best for you and your spouse. Many lawyers are now moving into mediation as its become more popular with divorcing couples, but keep in mind that lawyers aren’t necessarily the best choice for mediation. They are also not equipped to handle the emotional, practical, or complex financial issues of divorce, so make sure you talk to more than just a lawyer early on in the divorce process.

Mediators are a good information source as you consider mediation as a divorce process. Other professionals to consider are a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) to discuss optimal or creative financial settlement options, or a therapist who may be able to provide extended emotional support.

 # 3: Familiarize Yourself with MD Divorce Law and County Procedures

a. Legal Separation

In Maryland, there is no legal separation but a “limited divorce” serves as a legal separation. Even without legal recognition of a separation you can still create a legally binding separation agreement that covers such things as child support, spousal support, joint bills, parenting plan, health insurance, loans and other debts, etc.  

b. Residency

If the ground for divorce occurred in Maryland, you need only be currently living in Maryland at the time you file for divorce. If the grounds for divorce occurred outside Maryland, you or your spouse must have lived in Maryland for at least six months before filing your divorce complaint.

 c. Types of Divorce, Waiting Periods, and Filings

 In Maryland, there are two types of divorce: limited and absolute. A limited divorce is essentially a legal separation.  

  • Grounds for limited divorce
    • Separation
    • Cruelty or excessively vicious conduct
    • Desertion
  • Additional grounds for absolute divorce
    • 12-month separaton 
    • Mutual consent
    • Adultery
    • Imprisonment for a crime
    • Insanity

Additionally, there are no-fault divorces and at fault divorces and they may be treated differently when it comes to awarding alimony and sometimes, custody if the fault ground negatively affects the children. A no-fault divorce is based on either a 12-month separation or mutual consent. At fault grounds include adultery, actual desertion, and constructive desertion (typically this is cruelty). At-fault divorces will not be granted if the plaintiff is also determined to be at-fault.

 Divorce filings are handled by county court. Filing can take place where either of the spouses resides. Each county has its own procedures and fees and should be researched prior to filing.

 d. Support, Settlement and Custody Agreements

It’s important to note that if you have financial and custody issues to work out before the divorce is finalized you must do so before the waiting period is over or the decisions will be deferred to the court. The court will look to the filing spouse for their preferences.

If you both hire attorneys and litigate in the courts, you will likely spend a minimum of $30,000 – $40,000. Mediation can reduce fees to less than $10,000. Courts will appoint legal representation for those in need or you can negotiate the financial and custody terms yourselves.

 So, that, in a nutshell is “How to Get a Divorce in Maryland.” It’s a bit more nuanced than this as, stated earlier, divorce can be a multi-faceted, complicated, entangled, frustrating, non-linear, jumble of a messy process, right? Call or request a consultation if you want more info. 

Get A free Consultation

484.321.6990

hello@trunorthdivorce.com