I met my good friend Holly many moons ago in university. Holly and I connected immediately; I loved her amazing sense of humour and her super smart mind. About five years later, she married Russell, a handsome investment banker she met on vacation, and soon they had what looked like the perfect family, kids, dog, the whole shebang. Then one day, Holly and I met at our favourite downtown lunch place, and when I hugged her, she was shaking. Something had happened that I found is becoming all too common these days: she had just discovered that her husband had been having an affair. He wanted a divorce, and was set to move right in with the girlfriend. I felt like crying along with my friend but what it was time to do was build her a divorce team she could count on to get her through what felt like hell.
I was in daily contact with Holly while we built her divorce team, a combination of professionals that would get her through the divorce with her finances, property, family and her dignity intact. She is now a homeowner and an expert in personal finance. And she is dating. But getting there wasn’t smooth sailing. Far from it. There were many dark days at first but, as things started to take shape, and Holly found the right professionals to take care of her and her family, she felt empowered and was able to rebuild her life step by step.
The 5 Professionals You Need On Your Divorce Team
Divorce is hard, and any experienced divorce professional will tell you that in most cases, one professional working alone on a divorce is not enough. This is especially true when there are financial and custody issues as well as a matrimonial home to deal with, and of course, the overall emotional challenges of dealing with a divorce and moving on with your life.
Here are the 5 professionals do you need on your divorce team to help you successfully get you through your legal, financial, real estate and emotional challenges, and on to the next exciting chapter of your life.
1. Divorce or Family Practice Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer will be more expensive than doing it yourself, but having someone who understands divorce law (especially if your situation is complex with conflicts over custody, property or support) will definitely be to your advantage. A divorce lawyer can help you in the areas of:
- custody, access and support
- property and asset division
- separation agreements
- overall divorce proceedings
Make sure you feel comfortable speaking with your lawyer. Make sure you tell your lawyer everything and ask any questions you have. There are a lot of fantastic lawyers out there who have reasonable fees and tons of experience. Ask around for recommendations – almost one out of every two adults will have dealt with one.
2. Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
The financial issues surrounding divorce can be devastating, but with proper planning and expert help, you can increase your chances of arriving at a settlement that fully addresses your long term financial needs. ACertified Divorce Financial Analyst Professional (CDFA) is a professional who is specifically trained in the financial issues of divorce, who will provide education and support throughout the divorce process. A CDFA can help you examine and understand your lifestyle costs, explain the nature of various assets, inform you of the tax implications of various settlement options—now and in the future.
3. Real Estate Agent
The matrimonial home is often a family’s largest asset and can be one of the most difficult pieces to manage. Once the separation agreement has been signed and the details of property ownership have been clarified, several questions can arise: Should the home be sold? Where can I find a suitable home for my family? Should I rent or buy? And the list goes on. Having a real estate agent who understands you are having to make big life decisions while feeling emotionally exhausted is someone you want on your side. That person will be there to fight for your best interests in bidding wars or in obtaining the best prices for buying or selling your home. Again, ask for referrals and try to find an agent who has experience working with divorcing clients.
4. Mortgage Agent
A mortgage is a financial obligation by which a bank or other lender loans money for you to buy your house. You pay interest on this money on top of your regular payments. If you and your spouse are listed on your mortgage, you are both liable in the case of default. Regardless of whether you plan to stay in the home, you may want to remove your spouse’s name from the current mortgage so that your future borrowing ability will not be impacted. And ask your mortgage lender what penalties (if any) there will be should you end up closing your existing mortgage before the term is up.
A mortgage agent can help you to understand your numbers, and can actually “pre-qualify” you for a mortgage. They work with you to determine exactly how much you will be able to afford to either keep your current property, or to purchase a new one. This will remove any surprises down the road and give you more control of your situation.
5. Counselling and Divorce Support
Separation and divorce can be absolutely soul-destroying at times. The enormity of the situation can, on many levels, easily overwhelm anyone. Taking some time for yourself to explore your feelings can be a life saver. If you put on your oxygen mask first, you will be in a better position to help those around you. Whether you are in the midst of your divorce or if it’s all over and you can’t seem to move on, you may just need support outside of your circle. Therapists are there to provide you with what you need to address the grief you are dealing with, no matter what stage of the process you find yourself at.
Rebecca Griffith is President of Divorce Solutions Group in Toronto Canada. She is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst with an MBA in finance, and has more than 20 years of experience in wealth management, strategy, private banking and management.