Thursday, January 24, 2013

What does a Collaborative Law Financial Neutral Do?

Guest Post Introduction: Jessie L. Foster, CFP®, CDFA™, MBA is a Collaborative Law Financial Professional who works with clients and their attorneys to fully understand the financial complexities surrounding divorce. She offers comprehensive analysis of the short-term and long-term impacts of proposed divorce settlements that may impact clients and their families well beyond divorce. Ms. Foster serves as Chair of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council (MCLC), Members Meeting Committee and is a member of The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the Divorce Center and The Massachusetts Council of Family Mediation.

What does a Collaborative Law Financial Neutral Do?
By Jessie L. Foster, CFP®, CDFA™, MBA

Financial issues in divorce are complex and the decisions a couple makes as part of the divorce process may be some of the most important fiscal decisions they will make in their lifetime. On the Collaborative Divorce Team the financial professional is a neutral who works with both spouses and their attorneys. They help to answer questions such as:

  • Can I afford to keep the marital home? 
  • Is it more tax efficient to pay/receive child support or spousal support? 
  • What is the value of a pension and can you divide it? 
  • How do we equalize our after tax income?

A Financial Neutral helps clients determine the short term and long term financial impact of any proposed divorce settlement. They will provide valuable information on financial issues that are related to the divorce, such as tax consequences, dividing retirement plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections and much more. During negotiations, a Financial Neutral can assess the budgetary and tax impact of spousal and child support. They will prepare schedules that project cash flows, net worth, and tax effects of proposed settlements. Putting that information in language you can understand helps you take the next steps. If one spouse is less financially savvy, a Financial Neutral may be asked to educate one or both spouses to keep negotiations on an equal footing.

Often times, negotiations break down because of financial issues and can lead to litigation. A Financial Neutral can help to provide a thorough financial picture and show realistic solutions that set a positive tone for productive discussions, thus allowing the collaborative process to move forward more efficiently and cost effective.

Everyone’s financial needs and goals are different. Every divorce is unique. A Financial Neutral can help guide decision-making and problem-solving on one or more of the financial issues related to your divorce, including:

  • Tax issues Property division
  • Health care insurance
  • Retirement and pension plans
  • Social security
  • Property and business interests
  • Cash flow analysis
  • Budget analysis
  • Lifestyle/living expense analysis
  • Credits and reimbursements
  • Debt pay-off

  • Life Insurance
  • Employee benefits
  • Children’s education/special needs
  • Separate vs. marital property
  • Spousal and child support
  • Recalculate support per agreement 
  • or change in circumstances
  • Stock options
  • Separate property claims
  • Sell vs. keep personal residence

Divorce is a highly emotional process that has legal and financial ramifications that can be devastating. But with proper planning and expert help from professionals specializing in collaborative resolutions, you can increase your chances of arriving at a settlement that is financially equitable.

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