AND WHEN TO BRING IN THE EXPERTS
None of us is as smart as all of us.
There are times when a “go it alone” approach is a sound strategy. Downhill skiing comes to mind. But to get through a divorce with your skin intact, you need a team.
Your team will help you navigate more smoothly through the divorce process, avoid making painful – and expensive – mistakes, complement your knowledge and skills, and build your confidence that you’re making the right decisions.
So, how do you know when you need an expert, and how do you go about finding the right ones?
First, be honest with yourself about your own strengths. You might be a pro at organizing your finances, but your legal knowledge could use some help. Keep your costs down by connecting with exactly who you need, and just when you need them.
Having a team of experts on your side can be well worth the investment, especially when you know that professional advice is just a phone call or email away. Your peace of mind is important.
Here are some areas where consulting an expert can be helpful:
- Attorney: a lawyer who specializes in divorce law or family law, has experience and can function as a skilled advisor, advocate, negotiator.
- Mediator: a neutral third party who works with you and your spouse to discuss and resolve issues related to your divorce. This is very different than hiring an attorney even if mediator is a lawyer. This persons role is limited in that they cannot give you advice and they can’t say to you that this is a bad deal or good deal for example. They do not look out for either party’s interests, it’s not binding, and should only be used after consulting with attorney.
- Certified public accountant (CPA): a trusted financial adviser who can help calculate financial net worth for you and your spouse, and help generate reports acceptable to the legal system.
- Divorce financial specialist: aka certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA), a divorce financial specialist brings an extensive knowledge of tax law, financial planning, and divorce-related asset distribution. They can help with budgeting, tax, estate, and retirement planning, and also a sense of the divorce settlement with long-term financial forecasts.
- Valuation professional: When you need help determining the fair-market price of high-value items for the purposes of property division, the experience and knowledge of a valuation professional can help you avoid costly mistakes.
- Mental health professional: a qualified therapist or counselor can help you through past, and current emotional issues related to the divorce. There are different categories:
- MD: a therapist with this designation is a medical doctor and a psychiatrist who can not only counsel you but also prescribe any necessary medication.
- Ph.D./PsyD: a psychologist is a therapist with an advanced degree. Typically, they have counseling experience with a variety of approaches.
- MSW: a therapist with a Masters in Social Work has also earned an advanced degree and will have counseling experience.
- LCSW: a Licensed Clinical Social Worker trained in psychotherapy.
- LPC: a Licensed Professional Counselor with a master’s degree.
- MFT: a Marriage and Family Therapist is a trained counselor who specializes in marriage and family issues.
Recruiting your team
When assembling your team of advisors, get referrals from friends, family, and other trusted sources. Talk to a few candidates for each position and be prepared to give them an overview of your divorce situation and what you’re looking for them to provide. Here’s a starter list of questions you may ask:
- How much experience do you have with a divorce like mine?
- Can you tell me about your training, education, and credentials?
- How much will your services cost?
- How long will this process take?
- Are you aware of any conflicts of interest if you were to work with me?
Take the next step
- Assess your strengths
- Make a list of where you need help
- Seek referrals from your network
- Interview a few candidates for each position
- Assemble your team