Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yanking of Concealed Weapons in Domestic Violence Cases

The following is an older case, but it is important to be aware that in the event there is any accusation of domestic violence, its possible that your right to bear arms will be suspended.

Miami Judge Yanks Concealed Weapons Permits
By Megan O'Matz, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
5-23-07 -- People accused of domestic violence must surrender their concealed weapon licenses along with their guns and ammunition under new procedures implemented by the courts in Miami-Dade County. . . . Earlier this month, Amy Karan, administrative judge for the county's Domestic Violence Division, ordered that firearm forms for restraining orders and misdemeanor acts of domestic abuse be revised to specifically require that people give up their licenses to carry guns. . . . The judge said she took the step after reading a South Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation of Florida's concealed weapon system. The newspaper found, among other problems, that 128 people statewide had valid licenses to carry guns despite permanent domestic violence injunctions. Licenses are supposed to be suspended whenever an injunction is in place but mistakes are made and some cases overlooked, the Sun-Sentinel reported. . . . "It didn't sound like it was being done 100 percent of the time," Karan said

Monday, July 30, 2007

Divorce Resources

There is no shortage of materials out there to help someone cope with a divorce. Amazon.com has a variety of different books from getting your love life back on track to helping children through the tough times that a divorce can bring on. While I haven't personally read any of the materials that are offered through Amazon.com, there are many resources on the website that have been read and reviewed and that may provide you with the best book for your current divorce questions and needs. If you are in search of materials which will help you discuss your divorce with your children, or you are simply looking for a book which can help give you the serenity to get through the process, I suggest you search on Amazon.com and find the resources that is best for you.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Helping Kids Cope With Divorce

Many time I have clients asking me whether I have any ideas to help their small children cope with an impending divorce. I usually suggest therapy or other professionals who are trained to help children talk about their feelings and help them come to terms with what is going on in their lives. Many times couples don't believe that their children need any professional guidance and just want to know about a few things they can do at home to help their children with this transition. I found the following link from a California divorce attorney that gives parents some helpful tips that they can do on their own to help transition their children once the divorce process has been commenced:


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Aslyum Ruling Leaves Out Chinese Spouses

(AP) - NEW YORK-The husbands of women forced to abort a pregnancy or undergo involuntary sterilization, or else face persecution under China's coercive population control program, do not automatically qualify for asylum, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that U.S. law does not automatically grant asylum to spouses or partners in cases in which the women have been persecuted under China's family-planning policy, which limits most urban couples to one child and families in some rural areas to two.The ruling conflicts with a dozen other federal appeals courts, as well as the findings of the the Board of Immigration Appeals and 10 years of decisions in immigration cases, said Judge Guido Calabresi, who partially dissented. The ruling was unusual because all 12 judges joined the opinion.The court said that the board, which decides whether to accept immigration judges' conclusions, had been too permissive and that spouses do not necessarily qualify for asylum.The majority opinion, written by Judge Barrington Parker, said spouses would have to prove their own resistance to a coercive population-control program or demonstrate a well-founded fear that he or she will be subjected to persecution for resisting the policy.However, the judges said the ruling should not result in the reopening of cases in which Chinese refugees have been granted asylum. The opinion also noted that Congress can rewrite the law if it finds the court's interpretation inconsistent with its intentions.The court was ruling on three separate asylum cases, none involving spouses. Two of the cases involved boyfriends of women awarded asylum, and the other involved a fiance.China's family planning policy was implemented in the late 1970s to control population growth and conserve natural resources. Human rights activists claim it has led to forced abortions, sterilizations and a dangerously imbalanced sex ratio because of a traditional preference for male heirs, which has prompted countless families to abort female fetuses.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Close But No Cigar

The divorce process can be tedious, time consuming and a real test on a person's nerves and patience. The Greg Norman divorce has made headlines for various reasons from the nasty politics to final settlement negotiations. It appears that there is still no final settlement in this case, and the stalling may cost Mrs. Norman millions of dollars. While I am sure that Mrs. Norman's attorneys are trying to get her the best settlement ever, after $100 million, does it really make a difference? Sometimes I think that people underestimate the value of closure. I guess we'll stay tuned to determine whether Mrs. Norman actually signs on the dotted line.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reasons to Obtain a Post-Nuptial Agreement

A new phenomena is sweeping across the nation and that is Post-Nuptial Agreements. While Post-Nuptial Agreements require greater financial disclosure than your average Pre-Nuptial Agreement, many couples in their second or third marriages are finding them to be a useful tool to insure that their estates are passed onto their own children when they die. With many people on their 2nd, 3rd or even 4th marriages, often times a couple wants to complete the necessary paperwork to insure that their blood children are the beneficiary of their estate upon their death. A Post-Nuptial Agreement can make sure that this happens. While I'm not sure that a Post-Nuptial Agreement is a good idea for everyone, I think it can be a helpful estate planning tool.

If you would like to read the article for which this blog is based, please see: http://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/biz/content/business/BIZLIBERMAN0722.html

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Missing Person Playing Cards

I usually use this blog to comment on family law issues or post stories which relate to divorce, child custody, etc. However, I came across an article today, which I find interesting and wanted to share with people who frequent my blog. There are plenty of cold cases out there today where murders go unsolved or missing persons are yet to be found. Florida has put certain cold case information onto playing cards and has given them to inmates for them to play with, hoping that the information on the cards may trigger memories or information that can lead to resolution of some of these cases. Whether inmates actually fess up if they have information is up for debate, but if this approach to solving cold cases ends up with any substantial leads on these old cases, whoever came up with the playing card method should be given a pat on the back.

If you would like to read about this story, please see: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070724/ap_on_re_us/prison_poker

Monday, July 23, 2007

Selling a House in a Divorce

One of the biggest issues facing divorcing couples right now is how they get rid of a piece of property in a real estate market that is anything but kind to sellers. Often times, a couple's biggest asset, as well as their biggest liability, is their home. When the decision has been made to sell the home, the question than becomes how do you sell it in a market like the one that exists today, and who is responsible for payments on the mortgage until that time. This is a growing concern, especially in cases where the current incomes of the parties are not sufficient to properly finance two households. Often times, people live together much longer than they would want to because there is absolutely no financial way around it. The following article discusses this problem and how some couples are choosing to deal with it: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20070723/BUSINESS/707230322/1448

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Making Divorce Civilized

The divorce process can be adversarial and expensive with the average divorce costing each party around $10,000-$20,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. I have spoken often about a new approach to divorce called collaborative law, where both parties agree not to litigate their case in order to come to an agreement in a civilized and quick manner. This form of divorce seems to be catching on, and Brevard County seems to on board. See the following article for more details:http://www.floridatoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070722/NEWS01/707220340/1006

Friday, July 20, 2007

Peaceful Divorce

Often times I find myself searching for new, interesting or informative articles about divorce, child custody, alimony and other family law issues. Today I was searching for articles on how to have a peaceful divorce. A lot of the information I found was self-explanatory, or something that I have already blogged about. So, I decided to just reiterate the following words of wisdom which may help all of you out there who are going through a divorce and are struggling to find common ground with your estranged spouse.

It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow's viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences."-- Harry S. Truman

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Standard "Dos" and "Donts" When Divorcing

Orange County, Florida has a standard administrative Order which is incorporated into each and every divorce case. The Order is a brief list of "dos" and "donts" which helps to cut down on the necessity for emergency hearings prior to mediation. Often times the early stages of a divorce brings about questions of child support, dissipation of marital assets, and generally how to conduct yourself towards your spouse. Here are the things that you are required to do:

1. Parties are to insure that a child is allowed as much contact with both parents as possible and all decisions regarding the minor child should be shared by both parties, absent an Order of the Court stating otherwise. This basically means that if you are the primary residential parent, you should not only allow, but encourage your soon to be ex-spouse to have as much contact with minor children as possible.

2. Cannot relocate more than a ten (10) mile radius with a minor child unless there is an agreement or Court Order. You should "stay put" in order to avoid being penalized or reprimanded by the Court for failure to comply with this Order.

3. Child support starts upon separation. Therefore, it is important to establish a child support amount quickly and start paying to avoid any type of arrears.

4. Neither party can conceal or dispose of marital assets.

5. Neither party cannot change insurance policies. Violation of this provision happens often, especially when there are hurt feelings and one party wants to punish the other by removing them from their car or health insurance.

6. Neither party should incur additional debt. This is also a problem, because many times, a person is left without any means to support themselves and is left to using credit cards.

The basic rule of thumb when getting a divorce is to think before you act, and do not do anything with an asset or credit card without consulting with your attorney first.

To read the Administrative Order in its totality, see: http://www.ninja9.org/adminorders/orders/2004-05-01%20amended%20order%20governing%20dissolution%20of%20marriage%20actions%20with%20or%20without%20children%20orange%20&%20osceola.pdf

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Importance of Having a Divorce Plan

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you are going through a divorce is not having a clear idea of what you are looking for and what goals you are trying to accomplish. If you know what you want to get out of the divorce, you will feel less lost and confused. If you know where you are going and have a plan for getting there, you will be able to assess your progress and make adjustments in your plan if necessary. Without a plan, you will be doing nothing more than paying attorney bills and wondering how long the whole thing can continue. You need an action plan to insure that your divorce lawyer can properly represent you. Try to separate your emotions from the legal so that you can clearly think about what is realistic with respect to your kids, property and assets. Negative emotions are the reality of divorce, so its important to realize from the beginning that you are going to have to deal these emotions. Using the divorce process as a way to punish or harass your soon to be ex-spouse does nothing but prolong the process and cause additional hurt feelings. If you don't allow your emotions to dictate your actions in a divorce, you are more likely to get a quick amicable resolution to all of your marital issues. Work with your lawyer to prioritize your goals and stay focused on what you are trying to accomplish, and that is to get through your divorce in the least amount of pain.

If you would like to read more on this subject, see: http://www.divorcesource.com/info/lawyer/lunclear.shtml

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fighting Over Man's Best Friend

There was a fluff piece on The Today Show concerning people, their pets and divorce. Even Matt Lauer admitted that he and an ex had divided custody of their shared pet. Americans treated their pets as members of the family and not as possessions, so when couples split, custody battles ensue over who should get the family pet. In most jurisdictions, pets are seen as property, and often times a judge will not make decisions about custody. However, more and more people are interested in getting legislation passed that would set forth the issue of who gets the pet as a custody issue, much like child custody issues. What's next pet support? While I'm sympathetic to the pet lover's plight, I feel creating legislation that treats pets as anything other than property could get us going down a slippery slope. In most instances when I have clients who are dealing with pet custody issues, I tell them to work it out, because I don't necessarily want to bring the issue before a busy judge who may have little patience to decide on such an issue.

If you would like to view The Today Show segment about Fighting of Fido, see: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/19803536/

Monday, July 16, 2007

The 3-Year Itch

New research has discovered that couples may become disillusioned about their marriages after only three years. It used to be the 7-year itch, which was made famous by the play and corresponding movie with the same title, made men wander off into new relationships. New research shows that couples are happier within the first three years of marriage, than they are after that. There are evolving rules of marriage, which have shown a change in the expectations of the typical wife and husband, however, these evolutions don't necessarily correspond with happier marriages. In fact, this new research shows that greater expectations may cause greater disappointments which inevitably leads to divorce and break-up. Despite this new research, we still know that half of the marriages which end in divorce do so prior to their seven year anniversary, and half end after their seven year anniversary. Just another interesting divorce statistic.

If you would like to read the story about the 3-Year Itch, visit: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/08/MNG9CQR0H71.DTL

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ban On Gay Marriage

Florida, like many other states, may be considering a Constitutional amendment that would ban any type of legal unions for gay couples. While the initiative is still in its infancy, and the Petition will need many more signatures before it will get on a public ballot, the fact that there are so many people contributing money to raise awareness of such an initiative shows how people are committed to banning gay marriage. Florida is a state that leans conservative, but still has its share of people who are liberal and would vote to make sure that such an amendment never made it onto Florida's Constitution. While getting this initiative on the ballot is one step, there is still a major issue of actually getting the initiative to pass. Nevertheless, there are people very committed to making sure that marriage continues to be defined as a union between a man and woman. Whether their money, their voice and their initiative make it to election day is another story.

If you would like to read about the initiative, view: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=26071

Friday, July 13, 2007

Love Not A Reason To Marry

Often times a couple's lack of love for one another is not the reason that they are seeking a divorce. A lot of times its because the couple is incapable of working together with the nuts and bolts of married life, like splitting of household chores, communication, division of household expenses, etc. Sustaining a long and happy marriage appears to be less and less about loving one another, and more upon the ability to work with your spouse towards a common goal. Obviously love is essential too, but often times loving someone is not enough to sustain a marriage. The following article explores this phenomenon and takes a unique look at love and marriage.

Marriage, divorce and romance
Mike Hendricks
Saturday, July 7, 2007

Many cultures don't use romantic love as a reason for marriage; they opt for more practical considerations like dowries, economics, professions and occupations. But in America, for the most part, we don't do that. We base our entire future on feelings that cannot be measured or quantified. We get married because we've fallen in love.

We don't know how we fall in love or why we fall in love but we know that we do because our lives, our feelings, our emotions, and how we see and live in the world change immediately. We are overwhelmed by the most exciting, thrilling emotion in the world and we expect it to last forever.

Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't but most of us are prepared to risk everything hoping that it will. The question is what do we do when it doesn't? Some people stay in marriages even though the love is gone or worse, was never there to begin with, because of children, economics, family, reputation, status, religious beliefs or, far too often, a simple inability to make changes in their lives. It's amazing how many simply get stuck in the mundane and the routine. They would rather continue in a loveless relationship that's predictable than to challenge the unknown in search of that consuming passion and emotion of romantic love because it is sometimes unpredictable.

And even though divorce has lost almost all of the negative stigma that was attached to it 50 years ago, many people are still so concerned about what others might think or say that they put on a front to the rest of the world while dying just a little every day because they are denying themselves the true life force of being human; loving and being loved.

I don't know what would have happened to my marriage had I not moved to McCook or if my wife and family had moved to McCook with me.
We had been married for 22 years when I accepted a faculty position at the college and Linda stayed behind in Arkansas with our children because she didn't want them to have to change schools when they were in high school.
She and I had been best friends up until then; loyal and true to each other, and choosing to spend time with each other rather than with others. Our lives had literally revolved around each other. Then overnight, I was here and she was there and even though we ran up enormous telephone bills over the next five years and I put tens of thousand of miles on my Celica driving back and forth between Nebraska and Arkansas, it just wasn't the same.
We slowly and inexorably drifted apart emotionally until there was literally nothing left. Whose fault that was is really inconsequential; we both blame each other but it's not the blame that's important.
The end result is that we no longer had the emotions to hold us together through the rough times like we once did and, without those emotions, it's a hopeless cause. So we got a divorce.

Many people who know us are amazed that we remain good friends but those people simply don't understand the dynamics of the friendship we forged from the very beginning of our relationship.
I just spent a week in Arkansas with her and my two boys and we had a wonderful time with each other; reliving our past experiences, going places together, eating out every day, etc.
We know the romantic love we once had for each other is gone and is very unlikely to be rekindled but everything else we had and shared for a quarter century is still there and those are the things we concentrated on and talked about. We spent days talking about the experiences we had had as a family but not even a second talking about love and romance; other than the fact that neither of us currently have it in our lives, at least in terms of a person willing to reciprocate that love.

Are we better off without each other? Should we have stayed married? I suppose the answers to those questions will depend greatly on ones' personal perspective but for us the answer is crystal clear.
We shouldn't have stayed married because that intimate love connection we had for so long was no longer there and without it, there was no hope and no reason. Some people stay married because of fear of the unknown when, if they were truly honest with themselves, the fear of the known (a loveless, lifeless marriage) should be far more daunting, intimidating and just plain scary.

I was channel surfing the other day when I came across a new reality show that has to do with, of all things, why Scott Baio is 45 years old and still unmarried.
Because I teach love and relationships at the college, I had to watch at least part of it and the answer seemed to be he was afraid of commitment. His case is really not exceptional because the world is full of people like that, both male and female.
They like to have their little flings and add some excitement to their lives but when it comes down to actually committing and investing in a relationship, they simply can't do it. In fact, the very thought scares them to death.
So they stay in a situation where they don't have to commit or invest anything and convince themselves that's the best thing for them when, in fact, it's the worst.

Baio said his biggest fear was dying alone. But what many people in marriages and relationships don't fully realize or recognize is that they are also alone if there is no love, intimacy, or passion in their marriage.
So they may not die alone, but they most certainly will die lonely because they have no one to share their lives with at the very deepest level of love and commitment.

Being in love is the life-force that makes everything else bearable.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Workaholics Actually Good For Marriage

I'm always flabbergasted by the amount of statistics and surveys there are out there regarding marriage and divorce. I read about a study in Australia that argues that men who work a lot have less of a chance of getting divorced than men who don't work full time. The theory is that lack of work, means lack of sufficient income, which causes greater stress on a marriage. I'm not sure that this theory holds water here in America, the land of the workaholics. Many marriages fall apart because of the fact that a couple does not spend enough time together, or one person is constantly working and puts his/her family second. Although, I understand the stress that lack of sufficient funds to pay household bills can have on a marriage. Its interesting to read about the different reasons for divorce in other countries, especially for those with lower divorce rates than America.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Child-Center Divorce Month

Children are often the biggest casualties in divorce. Parents who fight over child custody, visitation, child support and other child related divorce matters sometimes lose sight of how devastating a divorce can be on a child, even under the most amicable circumstances. In July America is recognizing the first National Child-Centered Divorce Month. Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, initiated this designation as a time for professionals who counsel divorcing parents to stress the importance of putting their children's physical, emotional and spiritual needs first when making crucial life-altering decisions affecting their entire family. July is being recognized as the first National Child-Centered Divorce Month throughout the United States. This is a time for parents, therapists, attorneys, educators, clergy and other professionals to remind parents about the importance of putting their children's needs first and foremost when a divorce or separation is pending.

To read more about child-centered divorce, See: http://pr-gb.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2586&Itemid=9

Monday, July 9, 2007

Lucky 7s

Its estimated that 30,000 couples were married on July 7, 2007 (7/7/2007). 7s show up in mythology and religion and the Number 7 is often considered to be lucky and magical. With 7/7/07 only happening one time during a century, 7/7/07 may be the busiest wedding date of the 21st century. Are these couples more likely to stay together than those not married on such a numerically significant date? That depends on whether you consider luck to have anything to do with a successful marriage. More people are likely to consider hard work, understanding, and common goals as the keystones to a long happy marriage. However, I believe that a little luck never hurt anyone. Especially because luck can help you side-step health and financial misfortune which sometimes can be a catalyst to the demise of a marriage. For those of you married on 7/7/2007, congratulations, and I hope that lady luck is on your side when it comes to a long marriage.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Resuscitating Marriages

I’m always happy to hear about new and unique ways to help preserve marriage. In South Florida, a church and pastor are getting into the marriage saving business. Through a six week session, which includes newlyweds and couples who have been married for years, the Pastor helps these couples learn how to relate to one another and teaches them techniques to save their marriages, or help strengthen marriages which are already strong. The unique thing about this program is that the sessions are together with other couples, and this program has state funding. With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, this program and others like them, are a wonderful way to try to cut that statistic.

If you want to learn more about this program, see the following: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-flbmarriage0708nbjul08,0,1275446.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

Friday, July 6, 2007

Divorce As A Teaching Tool For Women

Without a doubt, divorce chances a person's lifestyle, and this is especially true in those cases where a couple gets a divorce, and a stay at home mother is forced into the workforce for the first time in their life. In a short term marriage, any alimony award will be for a short duration of time, and child support only goes so far. Therefore, many Wives are learning the lessons of how to become self-sufficient and along with those lessons they are finding their true selves. The following article talks about how divorce as a great feminist teacher:


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Clearwater the Divorce Capital of the Nation

It seems that according to a New York Times study, Clearwater, Florida has more divorced residents than any other large city in the United States. Other Florida cities ranked high on this list as well. Why is Florida such a popular place for people to get divorced, or flock to once they received a divorce? I think its a combination of the fact that if you and your spouse can agree on all terms, you can get divorced in 20 days and the fact that Florida is a no fault state. No matter what caused your divorce, or whose fault the demise of the marriage is, these facts will have little bearing on the financial outcome of a divorce. Or, perhaps the explanation is even more simple than that, meaning that Florida just has a large population of people from all walks of life, and divorce does not discriminate. So, if you are divorced, getting divorced, or thinking of getting a divorce, chances are there are a lot of people in Florida to commiserate with.

If you would like to read about the NY Times survey, read: http://cbs4.com/watercooler/local_story_185090337.html

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Modern Day Orphanages

There is never a shortage of stories concerning children who have been abused and/or neglected and have no place to go. What happens to these children if being placed with a foster parent or family member is not an option? In some circumstances, these children go to group homes such as Florida United Methodist Children's Home ("FUMCH") in Enterprise, Florida. These group homes provide a safe place for children and gives the stability, love and structure that they were lacking in their own homes. These group homes are a necessary part of our society and everyone should know that these places not only exist, but can use help in the form of volunteerism or money. Without FUMCH and other organizations like them, children with no where else to go, end up in situations which can be far worse than the home environment they were removed from. If we collectively take responsibility for making sure children's homes are funded, we can insure that every child has a place to feel safe.

If you would like to donate or learn more about Florida United Methodist Children's Home, visit: http://www.fumch.org/index.asp

Monday, July 2, 2007

Key To Happy Marriage

A new survey conducted by The Pew Research Center found that people consider children less of a key to a happy marriage than a similar survey conducted in 1990. Sharing in household chores was very important to 62% of the people who were polled while only 41% classified children as important to a happy marriage. In a margin of 3-1, couples stated that the main purpose of marriage is the "mutual fulfilment and happiness" of adults rather than the "bearing and raising of children". My question is whether this survey may be tied to the decline of the divorce rate? If more and more people are getting married with the purpose of sustaining a happy and fulfilled life, rather than getting married for the purpose of having children, could this actually be good for marriage? Some scholars believe that the fulfillment of one's own happiness is actually responsible for the decline in family values. However, does this necessarily mean the decline of marriage? While marriage and children do go hand in hand, people are finding that children do not necessarily mean that a marriage will be happy and successful. It appears that the more that a couple shares with respect to the responsibilities in marriage, the more likely their marriage is to be happy.

If you would like to read about the Pew Research Center Survey, visit: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070701/ap_on_re_us/marriage_survey;_ylt=Ajx252OIL92F1ke2r_noNk7MWM0F

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Financial Planners for Divorce

Financial Planners Take Guesswork Out of Divorce

ERIC SMITH The Daily News

Jim Whitehead has been a financial planner for the past five years, helping clients manage their retirement, their wealth, their estates, their children's college funds - pretty much their entire financial pictures.
But Whitehead, a partner at Shoemaker Financial in Germantown, said he has long believed the financial planning industry was ill-equipped to help clients manage the financial complications of a divorce, including how to divide a stock portfolio or 401(k) properly.
"I could guess at it, and I could give you a real smart answer, but I didn't feel secure with that answer," Whitehead said. "I didn't feel like I could do anyone justice because it wasn't what I was trained to do."
With this in mind, Whitehead set out earlier this year to become a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA), a relatively new designation geared to help planners handle the financial needs of clients in a divorce.
"When you're going through a divorce, you're out in the middle of the forest," Whitehead said. "You can't see the trees around you. You're just trying to breathe and get through this forest, this uncharted territory."
Divvying it up
From the splitting of assets to the custody of children, divorce can be messy. In the United States, close to one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, meaning the need for knowledgeable divorce professionals is immense.
The bulk of a divorce proceeding is handled by attorneys who deal with legal issues such as child custody. But there's often more to a divorce than who gets the children on the weekend and who gets them during the week. That's where a divorce attorney might refer a client to a CDFA.
"In divorce, you're talking about people going their separate ways," Whitehead said. "You have children issues, you have asset issues and you have emotional issues. Sometimes people want to fight over a set of china. Well, you need your legal department to help you with that. Sometimes you need to figure out a best way to split the assets. I can help the legal side with that."
Whitehead noted that couples often have precarious financial scenarios to work out with multiple accounts totaling large amounts of money. One example of where a CDFA's expertise comes in handy is the completion of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), the legal document that divvies up pension or retirement accounts during a divorce.
"Lawyers do a marvelous job, but they're doing legal work," Whitehead said. "Sometimes you need somebody else to come in and help with the financial picture just to make sure it's where it needs to be.I'm there to be an expert in what I already do."
Growing field
There are just eight CDFAs in the Memphis area, according to the Southfield, Mich.-based Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA), which, according to its Web site, is "the premier national organization dedicated to the certification, education and promotion of the use of financial professionals in the divorce arena."
The IDFA certifies a CDFA, who must pass a course before adding the designation behind his or her name. The number of CDFAs is increasing by 25 percent each year, according to the IDFA.
"If you're focusing on wealth management, the CDFA may not be the best degree," Whitehead said. "If you're focusing on company benefits, it may not be the best degree. But if you're focusing on relationships with people, you have to understand that this is going to be an issue."
Divorce is an issue these days, with complex retirement funds and other investments making the issue even more muddled - and making the need for expert advice more necessary.
"What we're looking for in any divorce is a happy and fast ending," Whitehead said.
Taking care of both sides
Another case that might be best handled by a CDFA is whether one spouse or the other should keep the house while the other one keeps the cash. This might look good on paper at a superficial level, but it can be dangerous if the spouse who keeps the house doesn't earn enough income to pay the property taxes or utility bills.
"Let's look at budgets and day-to-day lifestyle and can both of them be OK," Whitehead said. "Let's make the best financial decision for you and let's look at the best financial decision for the other party. Let's make the best financial decision for the split of this partnership."
Kathy Williams, senior vice president and chief compliance officer for Waddell & Associates Inc., earned her CDFA designation about a year and a half ago. She cited a similar example when touting the benefits of a CDFA.
Williams said some of the many questions that arise in divorce cases include: "Who brought the wealth into the marriage? How much did they co-mingle the assets during the marriage? Was the wife a stay-at-home and the husband earned everything? How will the wife live after the husband leaves? How are the kids going to be taken care of? Who's going to take care of college, stock options, 401(k)s?"
All those questions need to be answered so each party benefits as much as possible.
"We want to do it right and make sure both sides can live happily," Williams said.
Walked a mile in those shoes
Whitehead has gone through a divorce. So has Williams. Both readily admit it, and both said it has helped them deal with the stress their clients might face during the process.
"I'm divorced," Williams said, "and that's how I ended up being the expert in divorce for our clients because I've been through it, so I knew a lot of the issues that you go through - not just financial but psychological. I'm kind of the grief counselor, so to speak."
Whitehead echoed those comments.
"I am divorced," he said, "but that doesn't mean I think it's the right decision. At the same time, if I can give counsel to people to help them not make that drastic decision, I want to be able to do that too."