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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Why You Should Use a Divorce Financial Planner

By John F. Wasik

Of all of the financial activities of adulthood, divorce has to be among the least pleasant. In addition to the emotional pain, there's the thorny matter of how to equitably divide the marital estate.

Fortunately, you can involve a growing number of financial planners in the divorce process to see that this life-changing event isn't impoverishing.

       It's no secret that among other sources of marital disputes, money is often a prime reason for divorce. Couples that argue at least once a week about finances are 30% more likely to get divorced, according to a  2009 Utah State University study . And having seen ugly divorces among friends and family over the years, it's evident that money arguments can last years after the separation--particularly if children are involved.

What a Planner Brings to the Table

Why should financial planners be involved in reviewing settlements? They can often do detailed financial analyses that can show you a number of options. Their input could be the difference between living and retiring comfortably or being under constant financial stress.

       Unlike attorneys, though, financial planners can't actually transact settlements. They are there to supplement what a lawyer has negotiated and act in a consulting role. Ideally, they are on board to collaborate with you and your lawyer in getting the best-possible financial arrangement.

       King Perkins, a Chicago-based certified financial planner who specializes in divorce financial planning, said he acts as a neutral party or financial consultant in a collaborative divorce and "never crosses the line of practicing law." He will employ sophisticated software to analyze proposed financial settlements and advise his clients on their options. Where some lawyers might typically offer a short-range projection of financial outcomes, he focuses on the long-range view.

       "Not many couples collaborate on divorce [financial planning]," King said. "But those who do can end up with a better life overall. Usually, the more conflicts, the higher the [legal and/or planning] bills."

       What does King do when he's called in for his expertise? Here are some key questions he will walk a client through:

Bringing in a financial planner who specializes in divorce settlements is a good first step to protect your interests. Not only can they walk you through proposed and final settlements, but they can do projections on how you will fare decades from now.

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