Be proactive to minimize the other expert’s fees

By JoAnne C. Holt

Certified divorce financial analyst

If your spouse runs out and hires a financial expert what do you do?  Hire your own? This is duplicative work in most cases since an expert who testifies in court is supposed to be a neutral objective witness.  If that is case – why have two people?

Depending on the circumstances, most people will benefit from hiring a “neutral” financial expert.  This is not to say that anyone who holds themselves out as an expert in court isn’t supposed to be neutral.  They are supposed to offer an unbiased fact-based opinion; however, if they are only getting information from one source the opinion reached may be different than if they had the benefit of speaking with both parties.

 

If you can agree up front to hire a neutral financial expert, you can save on fees and both be able to communicate your experiences, knowledge and concerns.  If one spouse hires an expert they share only their viewpoint on spending patterns and needs.  Then the other spouse, to level the playing field, finds themselves also hiring an expert to refute the other’s position.

For example, let’s say you have been told by your attorney that your case looks like alimony may be required.  Alimony is normally a two-step calculation.  First, you have to determine what the “needs” of the recipient spouse are.  Needs are derived from the marital lifestyle analysis.  Then, we look at what the recipient spouse is either earning or should be able to earn to help pay their needs.  Any remaining deficit is then reviewed and may possibly be the amount of alimony that is requested.

Another benefit to working with a neutral financial expert is in the restructuring household needs and budgets.  Often one person’s frustration with another’s lack of “getting it” about income and limiting expenditures can be rephrased and the financial expert can work with that spouse to understand what needs to change.

The bottom line is when you have two households instead of one clearly the costs each month are greater than during the marriage.  In many cases this requires both parties to reduce spending in other areas to pay for the increase in the household costs.

Finally, one of the best reasons to use a neutral financial expert is in the long-term benefits.  When parties have a neutral financial coach bringing them to a resolution instead of two fighting for positions, the end result is understood and, even if reluctantly, accepted by both parties.  With this common understanding they can make better joint decisions in the future regarding their children and costs for things they require.  Money can often be the reason for a divorce and thinking after the divorce it will not continue to be a problem, without intervention, is naïve.  Without a solid financial plan both parties may find themselves back in court for the dreaded “modification” and facing more legal expenses and acrimony.

Be smart, be proactive and build a team of professionals to get the best result for the restructured family.  It isn’t about control.

It is about building consensus.

 

JoAnne C. Holt is a Florida-based CPA, certified family mediator, and certified divorce financial analyst. She also founded www.standbyhousing.com, an organization that presents alternative housing solutions to fathers going through a divorce. Her columns on finances and divorce will run monthly on DadsDivorce.com.

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