Well-Being Of The Children

The Association of Divorce Financial Planners is an interdisciplinary not-for-profit national association; Lori Lustberg is the Editor-In-Chief of the ADFP monthly newsletter.  With permission, I occasionally share her articles on my website.  Her comments are authentic representations on the divorce experience, both from the side of the divorcing parties and their families as well as the professionals who support them in this transition.

I think these articles offer great insight into why I have chosen to work with those experiencing divorce – it is a personal calling as well as a professional expertise.  Please enjoy her notes.

Once upon a time, there was a young boy who had just celebrated his 10th birthday. An only child, he was unusually tender-hearted and sensitive, and cherished the safety, security and predictability of the routines of daily life. His parents loved him dearly and he never had reason to question that. One evening, the boy’s parents sat him down and told him that their marriage was over; that they would soon be separating and living in different households. They did their best to make the conversation as easy and painless as possible for him. They told him it wasn’t his fault; that they had simply grown apart as married couples sometimes do. They assured him that they would each love him just the same as they always had. Even so, the boy became overtaken with gut-wrenching tears. In between sobs, he got up, went into his playroom and emerged with the board game Chutes and Ladders. The boy composed himself and said to his parents, “Let’s all play,” declaring, “I’m going to do everything in my power to keep you guys together.” Heartbroken to see her son so devastated, his mother told him the most difficult thing she had ever told anyone: “I’m sorry, honey, but you just don’t have that power.” She watched as the hope, the energy, the life left her son as swiftly as air escaping from a leaky balloon.

About two weeks later, the boy’s father packed his things and moved 10 miles north. One Sunday morning, soon after the father moved out, the mother woke up and headed downstairs to make breakfast. On her way, she passed the boy’s room, looked in through the open door, and was unprepared for what she saw next: the boy’s bed was empty except for his two stuffed animals. She had momentarily forgotten that he was sleeping at his father’s new home. For the rest of her life, she would carry the memory of the waves of shock, loss and grief that washed over her at the sight of her son’s empty bed that morning.

As their separation and divorce progressed, the mother and father were so committed to the well-being of this boy that they resolved to keep their anger, bitterness, resentment, sadness, and blame from coloring their relationship going forward. This meant that they each spent lots of time, money and energy working on themselves as well as their co-parenting relationship. In their communications about their impending divorce and their son’s future, they had to work extremely hard to put their own agendas out of the way, understand the other’s point of view, and not instinctively react out of old patterns. This internal effort was the hardest work either of them had ever undertaken, and yet, they knew it was also the most important, both for the well-being of their beloved son, and for their own well-being, so they could move forward in life without being weighted down by the heaviness of negativity and blame. They weren’t always perfect and they weren’t always happy, but, having brought this young life into the world together, they felt obligated to try as hard as possible to take the high road, despite the fact that, at times, the low road had an irresistibly seductive pull.

This is the story of my own divorce. The boy is my son, Liam, now on the cusp of his 16th birthday. Happy, secure, well-adjusted and universally well-liked by both peers and adults, Liam knows full well how much he is loved by both parents. He never feels like he’s in the middle of an uncomfortable situation, and frequently expresses his gratitude for that, as he witnesses first-hand the effects on his friends of their parents’ destructive divorces. His tender, sensitive heart has remained intact, as he has realized, over time, that his world didn’t fall apart when his parents separated; it simply changed form; that he was always safe and loved; and that he didn’t ever need to shut himself down in order to deal with the trauma of his parents’ divorce. Liam has had the freedom, support, love and respect he has needed to enable him to fully blossom from a once-awkward, somewhat timid young boy into a self-aware, articulate, and empathetic young man.
Divorce is all too often a battleground in which it is the most vulnerable and innocent who end up being hurt the most. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We, as divorce financial planners and allied professionals, can help guide our clients through the most difficult time of their lives, so that both they and their children have the freedom to grow, blossom, and meet the joys and the challenges of the road ahead without carrying the scars of battle. Myself, I cannot imagine a task more important than this.
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Thank You To NorthWest Arkansas Community College

Last November, I was invited to share my perspective as a CDFA with students currently enrolled in the Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies program at NorthWest Arkansas Community College. Property issues are quite often the main focus of a divorce and paralegals can play key roles in support of the attorneys and clients involved. This includes discovery and organization of financial information, document preparation, and case management.

The focus of my presentation was to highlight the importance of attention to detail and how vital knowledge of common financial documents involved in divorces can be. I also shared many of the frequent errors made during the property settlement process and how the wording of the decree can make a significant difference in the transfer of assets post-divorce.

My hope is that those students who find themselves working in the family law area are now knowledgeable of how important a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can be to their clients during and after their divorce. It was a pleasure meeting the group of students and I appreciated having the opportunity to present.

NorthWest Arkansas Community College is a comprehensive, public two-year college that serves and strengthens the local community through learning for living. NWACC offers an Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies through their campus in Rogers, AR. The AAS in Paralegal is an American Bar Association (ABA) approved paralegal program designed for paralegal professionals who assist attorneys in the research, investigation, document preparation, trial coordination, case management and writing responsibilities of a law firm, corporate legal department, or government law office or judicial agency.

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Thank You To The Washington Co. Bar Association and Benton Co. Bar Association

Speaking to attorneys in Northwest Arkansas, I shared the benefits of working with a CDFA. With my expanded office locations now in Texas and in Arkansas, I introduced my recently established practice to attorneys in the Rogers area.

Members of the Benton County Bar Association (July – Rogers) and the Washington County Bar Association (September – Fayetteville) listened to the summary of a case study and learned how adding a divorce financial professional can ease the load of the attorneys as well as inform the process for the client. The response has been very positive as the CDFA designation is new to the legal professionals in the area.

The attorneys in attendance had many great questions and I look forward to assisting on cases in the future as appropriate. It was a great opportunity to meet with many of the local attorneys, learn about their work, and also share about my practice. I look forward to helping divorce clients and their attorneys across the NWA area.

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Thank You To The Dallas Bar Association Family Law Section

I want to thank the Dallas Bar Association’s Family Law Section for having me present during their early February event.  Here is a recap of the event including a mention of my presentation on page 4 of their monthly newsletter (screenshot of that newsletter included):

feb2015presentation

The presentation covered the merits of a CDFA and why family lawyers should consider including one for their clients.  Also included in the presentation were:

  • case studies
  • discussions of family law software
  • various financial assets such as 401k, IRA, pensions and other instruments and how they get addressed in a divorce situation
  • other discussions of residual income assets such as annuities
  • what to watch out for when it comes to certain financial assets and how they affect family lawyers’ clients depending on the situation

Again, I want to thank everyone involved for the opportunity to present.

 

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Carrie Wilson To Speak At Dallas Bar Association Family Law Section Bench Bar On Feb 6

Tomorrow, February 6, at 3:40pm Carrie will be speaking at the Dallas Bar Association
Family Law Section Bench Bar.  The event is for For members of the North Texas Family Law community: judges, attorneys, and staff.

Carrie will be speaking on the topic of financial accounts, especially when it comes to matters of family law and divorce.

The event information is:

Location:

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dallas – Campbell Centre

Address:

8250 North Central Expressway, Dallas, Texas 75206

If you plan on attending you are welcome to talk with Carrie after her presentation.

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Tips From The ADFP Newsletter

The Association of Divorce Financial Planners (ADFP) offers a free newsletter roughly once a month.  Inside each are some valuable tips and stories to which I often refer both my clients and attorneys with whom I work.

Here is the link to their most recent newsletter:

For example, in this month’s newsletter the ADFP touches upon some helpful definitions regarding rental real estate:  “Depreciation” and “Passive Activity Losses”

Should you find the current or archived newsletters to be of interest, but you have some questions on how to apply them in any divorce-related situation that you find yourself, then you are welcome to contact me.  Thank you, Carrie.

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Two New Articles Added

I have added two new articles which may be of interest for those who are past the divorce process in the Dallas and Collin County areas.  The first deals with the personal financial considerations many seem to overlook now that their divorces are final.  You can read that here:

The other article deals with possible Social Security benefits after a divorce is finalized.  You can read that article here:

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August 18 2012 – Finding Your Way Through The Financial Issues Of Divorce

On August 18, 2012 Carrie D. Wilson will be speaking at the Information To Live By event.  Her talk is on “Finding Your Way Through The Financial Issues Of Divorce”.   Here is the event information:

  • Location:     3621 Shire Blvd. (Suite 100)
  • City/State:  Richardson, TX
  • Date:  August 18, 2012
  • Time:  9:00 to 11:30am
  • Registration:  Begins at 8:45am
  • Cost:  Free admission
  • Hosted by:  Dawn Redmond
  • RSVP:  dawnredmon “at” ebby.com (please use the @ instead of “at” – done to reduce the likelihood of spam e-mails)

Carrie’s talk will cover several topics including:

  • Types of divorce
  • What to expect in Texas
  • Property division issues
  • Divorce:  Before, during and after
  • Financially on your own:  now what?

We look forward to having you attend the upcoming event.  Thank you.

Divorce Financial Advisor for the Dallas Fort Worth area

Click the image to open a larger resolution

 

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Dallas Divorce Support Group Resources – Know Where To Go

Recently, I was invited to speak briefly for a divorce support group at a local church.  This group follows a 13 week set of discussion topics and one of the weeks is devoted to financial survival.  My contribution to this particular week’s group included an introduction to the services provided by a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.  Because most of us do not become experts on divorce until we are forced to, most people faced with a divorce are not aware of all of the resources available to them.  Assistance can come in various forms and finding the most appropriate resource for you can be crucial.

Many people are aware of the existence of support groups.  Support groups offer an array of benefits in lots of different formats and locations for those interested in attending.  Some support groups such as the one I presented for offer insight and guidance in public, large group settings and cover lots of different issues associated with divorce.  Examples of topics include issues with children, dealing with anger and loneliness, financial survival and moving into new relationships.  The format can follow a set curriculum based on religious beliefs and principles such as the group I met with.  Other support groups base their format on professional counseling and therapy principles in a secular setting.  Choosing to participate in a support group is an individual decision and if this is something of interest, there is most likely a group of some type meeting close to you.

Some of us prefer meeting individually with a therapist, professional counselor or minister.  Similar to selecting the best family law attorney to work with, choosing someone to counsel you individually is a personal choice.  Friends and family can offer suggestions; the minister of my church and my attorney both provided names of therapists I could consider.  Others who have experienced a counselor’s help during divorce can also be a good resource for possible contacts.

Additional resources to consider utilizing as you transition through divorce include a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst.  Experienced in the complexities of the divorce process, a CDFA™ can help you work your way through all of the steps needed to complete the divorce property division.  As you begin to consider your needs as an individual, there will many moving parts that at times can be overwhelming: numerous account titling changes and transfers, refinancing considerations, benefit replacements including health and life insurance, estate planning document changes, reestablishing a budget, etc.  Having a professional who can guide you through all of the steps post-divorce can save you money and reduce your anxiety.

Most people will tell you that separation and divorce are the most painful and stressful experiences they’ve ever faced.  Many times, you face the emotions and life changing decisions alone, isolated from friends and family by the circumstances.  Finding support resources whether in groups or with individual professionals can help ease the transition anxiety and lay the groundwork for moving forward in your life.  Additionally, seeking out the services of a professional Certified Divorce Financial Analyst like me to inform and guide your financial decisions during divorce can help reduce the anxiety and fear of making these permanent and far-reaching decisions alone.

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Unintended Consequences Of Dividing Variable Annuities During A Divorce

 

Dividing assets during the divorce process can be challenging; there are so many issues to consider.  One of my recent cases involved a division of assets that included several variable annuities, and highlighted the complexity of dividing these types of investments.  It can be confusing to make decisions during the divorce and splitting complicated investment assets like annuities without complete information can result in dire financial consequences.  Attorneys and mediators provide guidance and direction as best they can but the outcome is not always as intended.  Each annuity has differing characteristics in regards to short term liquidity and in how it can be divided.  Here are a few (but not all) of the issues to consider:
Surrender charges:  Annuities are contracts and the provisions of these contracts vary between annuity providers and between each individual annuity.  Distributing or cashing in an annuity can result in charges deducted from the cash value of the distributed amount.  A detailed review of the provisions affecting each specific annuity and the applicable surrender period can provide a more accurate value of the funds as they are taken out of the annuity to divide between spouses.  Make sure the value used to determine your portion of the annuity is based on the actual amount that will be withdrawn, with or without surrender charges.
Taxes:  Annuity companies (insurance companies) follow the directions outlined in the decree.  The wording in the decree should specifically note that any transfers or splits of annuities into new contracts are in the context of divorce and are nontaxable.  As always, tax consequences of dividing assets should be considered.
Income:  If the annuity is currently being used for income by the divorcing couple, the wording in the divorce decree can be especially significant.  Depending on the annuity contract provisions, the annuity can be divided as an asset (a portion of the annuity value transferred into a new annuity owned individually by the recipient spouse) or as income stream (a portion of the income received from the annuity is forwarded to the recipient spouse).  For instance, if the husband is the owner and annuitant of the contract to be divided, many attorneys draft the decree to name the husband as trustee of the annuity income for the wife.  This can result in the husband being required to forward a portion of the annuity monthly income to the divorced partner for life – a potential bookkeeping (and emotional!) mess for both parties.  Verifying the options for dividing the annuity contract with the insurer can help the attorney build flexibility into the decree so the best option for division can be utilized.
Valuing the Contract:  Many annuity contracts provide living income benefits that may provide an actuarial value beyond the stated contract value of the annuity.  In other words, taking an income stream from the annuity may offer greater value long term than the value of the amount available if the annuity is cashed in and divided.  It might be better for one spouse to take the annuity and the other spouse take another asset of equivalent value.
If possible, it is best to work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst before the asset division settlement is finalized.  Working with a financial adviser like me who is experienced with variable annuities can be critical to an equitable distribution.  I can contribute education on the characteristics of the annuities to be divided and help my client understand the complexities associated with the options available.  How, or even if, you should consider dividing these types of assets can mean substantial differences in the long term financial consequences for both parties and adding a professional CDFA™ to your team can save money in the long run.

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