Managing Expectations

Managing Expectations by Fabienne Swartz

{3:20 minutes to read} One of the biggest roles of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is managing his or her clients’ expectations. Getting a client to realize they may not get what they want is the first step. They may need to adjust their spending habits and may not be able to maintain the same lifestyle as they previously enjoyed. A CDFA can show their client that their spouse cannot afford more alimony and/or child support.

Clarifying the financial issues:

It comes down to what can be changed to make it better for the couple in general. How can the future needs of both the monied and non-monied spouse be balanced? This can be done by looking at the tax consequences of:

  • Dividing assets;
  • Payment of alimony and child support; and
  • Highlighting tax rules.

It’s best when attorneys, financial analysts, and clients work as a team to figure out how best to serve the client. In some cases, the attorney doesn’t have time to go through all the documents; as part of the team, a financial analyst can spend the time to trace expenses and transactions, and find if something is hidden, by being a bit of a detective.

In a case where the client’s spouse was not showing all the documents necessary to prove or disprove his property claim, it was possible to see what was missing by examining all the documents and bank statements. By tracing wires between different banks, it was possible to see the money from one account draining into another account. In this case, an undisclosed bank account was discovered and a subpoena was sent to the bank by the client’s attorney.

Prioritizing goals:

There are two aspects involved with helping clients to prioritize their goals:

1. Determining which wants and desires are the most important and which are the least important — Clients need to determine what they want to fight for, what is less important, and what they’re willing to let go of.

2. Showing a client that there is only so much money to work with — If he or she is determined to keep the house, she may not get anything else. Sometimes it’s about giving clients a reality check.

On occasion, people are willing to pay an arm and a leg in attorney fees to fight for something that is more of an emotional value than a monetary value. Those clients would be better off spending their money relaxing on a vacation, as opposed to paying legal fees in order to determine who is entitled to sentimental assets.

Helping the client prioritize is necessary, because he or she probably won’t receive all that they want from the settlement. Some clients want to have child support and alimony, and their kids going to private school; the judge may not allow that, so the client then needs to decide which of these provisions are most important to them. It’s a bit like being a coach, in that sense, by concentrating on the future instead of the past.

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is trained in divorce-related tax issues, is familiar with the law, and is able to show financial projections of how the future will look long term, based on child and spousal support and the distribution of assets. They are not lawyers, but they can help make the process easier and more understandable, with tax-efficient results.

How can a closer look at the financial side of divorce benefit you?

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

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