It’s Who You Know

It’s Who You Know By Fabienne Swartz

{3:40 minutes to read}

Some specialized areas of divorce are better left to experts.

When I first meet a client and her/his attorney, we go through something called the discovery phase. The aim of the discovery phase is for each side to gather the necessary information to negotiate the financial part of their divorce agreement. As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), I can:

  • Help find hidden assets;
  • Trace money; and
  • Forecast monthly and annual payments over several years.

But divorce law can be so complicated that there are several roles I cannot fill, like the ones below:

Business Valuation Expert (BVE): Many BVEs are also forensic accountants (discussed below), in addition to performing certain tasks that only a BVE can do like:

  • Valuing the business;
  • Determining what part of the business is marital property and what is not;
  • Examining the books and reports for Accounts Payables, Profit and Loss and other key indicators; and
  • Uncovering assets hidden in the business.

Forensic Accountant: Forensic accountants are capable of digging deep into tax returns to see if there is any unreported income or hidden assets – something that is particularly useful in the case of individuals who are self-employed. I have several forensic accountants in my network that meet a diverse spectrum of needs.

Case study: A client thought they needed a forensic accountant, but the other spouse had a relatively simple tax situation as a W-2 employee. We already knew everything the other spouse had. I recommended against seeing a forensic accountant because the costs were outweighed by the benefit.

House Stager: House stagers are used in the real-estate industry to help market a house. In lieu of the owner’s furniture, they redecorate with thought-out themes and color schemes. Their work often dramatically improves the impression potential buyers get from the house.

Mediator: Mediators serve as neutral facilitators of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.

Mental Health Professionals: Divorce is a roller coaster. I keep several therapists in my network in case any of my clients need help breaking through emotions that are getting in the way of coming to an agreement. I have found it also helps clients plan for their lives after divorce.

Pension Specialist: Complex rules govern the splitting of one spouse’s pension during divorce. Something called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, commonly referred to as a QDRO, is the mechanism by which the pension funds are split. I count in my network several QDRO specialists.

Real Estate Broker: Think of a real estate broker as a hidden partner in valuing your home. While inspectors look for structural defects and appraisers concentrate on the value of the home, a real estate broker brings knowledge of trends and current “word on the street.” A broker may notice something that time and experience has taught them is a deal-breaker.

Trust Attorney: A trust attorney is useful in drafting a power of attorney and setting up a will and/or trust in order to avoid probate court. Additionally, a trust can be structured so that beneficiaries receive their disbursement according to a schedule that you determine. This can be done after the divorce, and the primary objective is to protect an individual’s assets. Appointing a trustee will take away control from the ex-spouse, if there are minor children. Without a trustee overseeing the trust account, one parent could abuse their role, as the grantor, and take away some, if not all, of the beneficiary’s assets.

Having a well connected CDFA can make all the difference in the outcome of your divorce. You don’t want someone who has bitten off more than they can chew; sometimes the best exercise in judgment is to ask for help from experts.

Who is in your network? If you are in need of any of the above named services, we have an extensive referral network that we would be happy to share with you. Call our office at (914) 798-6940 or click here to learn more.

Fabienne Swartz JD (Belgium) CDFATM
Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM
500 Mamaroneck Av.
Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
(914) 798-6940

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