The majority of my practice is helping couples who have been in very long-term marriages divide their marital estate. Most have grown kids so there are no issues of child support or custody and are over 50. It’s becoming more common to get a client or clients in their 70s. A common occurrence is that a “traditional” marriage took place, where the husband worked and the wife raised the kids. She did not work for a portion of the marriage, often a good portion, and may presently not be working. The husband took care of long-term finances.

As a divorce financial planner, I can work with both spouses, prepare a financial analysis of their marital estate and budgets, and mediate their division of assets and spousal support, if that applies. I can also assist just one spouse as their financial advocate. When divorce comes into the picture, often the wife is at a loss as to how much she can expect in the divorce settlement and whether she can afford to live. She doesn’t know a lot about finance, and she is scared. In long term marriages, divorce is a financial settlement, and that’s where my knowledge as a divorce financial planner helps BOTH parties in a divorce, even if I’m hired as an advocate by one spouse.

I believe that division of assets is not as complicated as some attorney’s make it seem, although figuring out the value of assets can be (and that’s where financial expertise is more beneficial than legal expertise.) Financial documents must be gathered, assets must be valued, and then according to North Carolina statute, “There shall be an equal division by using net value of marital property and net value of divisible property unless the court determines that an equal division is not equitable.” My approach is to divide marital assets equally as a starting point.

Spousal support is a big worry for many. There is no formula for determining spousal support. It’s need vs. ability to pay. There are other factors a judge would look at as far as amount and duration, but my approach is need vs. ability to pay. That’s where good, thorough budgets are extremely important, not just looking at the present, but also how things will change in the future. For instance, will they go back to work? When will social security start and how much will it be? Should they keep the house? If they are not keeping the marital home, do they want to buy a house or condo and how much will the mortgage be? What will it take to be able to buy a house? These questions take time but pay off in the long run.

In summary, I can act as an advocate for one spouse and help them come up with a proposed settlement, based on their needs and my analysis of their finances. Some will take my analysis to an attorney and some will negotiate with their spouse on their own. My philosophy is not to push for every dime they can get. On the contrary, I believe in assisting my clients find what is fair and workable for both spouses. I am blessed to have a client base where most are seeking to avoid an adversarial divorce (and the associated legal fees) and just want to figure out what is fair and workable for both so they can move on with their lives.