3 Strategies for a Smarter Divorce

Divorce is overwhelming and downright hard! I have witnessed the grief cycle play out from moment to moment all while the woman along for the ride tried desperately to grasp at ropes…anything…to stop the ride and feel some semblance of what was once normal. Divorce, like widowhood, can be a cruel process. While you are grieving the loss of a life you once knew, you are also being forced to make quick and what seem like terrifying decisions.

So, what do you do?

You start by taking one step forward at a time.


What’s your role when it comes to the family finances? Do you handle the bill paying? Are you “in the loop” on all your bank accounts or are you in the dark? What about investment accounts or retirement plans? Do you have any? If you’re in the dark, you need someone to help you turn the lights on – and FAST! Begin collecting statements on all your asset accounts and your most recent tax returns.  Then find a CDFA® practitioner to help you and bring you up to speed. A CDFA® professional is specially trained in the financial aspects of divorce and will be your best friend in this process! He/she’ll clear out that brain-fog like a West Texas wind!


Of course, this will be hard, but start thinking about what the next phase of your life looks like. Unfortunately this has to happen at the same time that you are grieving what you THOUGHT the next phase was going to look like. But if you allow yourself some space, it can actually be fun. You now have the chance to start over again. What did you used to DREAM of doing that got lost while you were married? Is it time to go back to school? Maybe a small townhome should replace that huge family home that you had to keep clean. Whatever you dream of, you will need your budget and financial picture top of mind. That way, if your dreams outsize your wallet, you know you have some serious planning to do!


Often through marriage all the credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc. are in the names of both spouses. All of those accounts will have to be closed or converted. Immediately open a checking and savings account in your own name to begin the process of establishing your own financial identity. Be sure to put some things in place while you’re still married because after the marriage is over, your credit picture may not be nearly as strong. Next, find a good rewards credit card to apply for in your name alone so that you will be assured of having access to credit post- divorce and maybe even during if legal fees are necessary.

These steps seem small but are valuable first steps to get you thinking financially and looking out for your future. You can get through this, and a little help from a CDFA® friend is a great place to start.

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Major Risk Women Have in Divorce

I have built a business on educating, informing and guiding women through the divorce process. So, it was no shock to recently read an article that highlighted how often women concede the family financial management to their husbands. The article outlined that 55% of Women over the age of 50 let their husbands take the lead on financial management. Surprisingly that percentage is not decreasing, but increasing, with 59% of women in the millennial generation following the same pattern. Generations of women have fought for equality but for some reason many of us have chosen to not participate in the financial affairs of our families.

Why is this so important? In a period of transition like divorce or widowhood women put themselves at a massive disadvantage by not having a healthy understanding of their family financials! In divorce the husband has a bit of a “leg up” because he has always known the financials of the family, whereas his wife now must play catch up. This dynamic throughout the divorce process causes vulnerability leading to fear of the unknown and the future, as well as added distrust in what the spouse is providing.

If you are walking through a divorce and are like so many other women, that did not manage the family affairs, then hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) is imperative! It is so easy for emotions to take over and drive decisions that are then finalized in the decree. There is a better way! With a CDFA® on your team you have an opportunity to get up to speed on the current financials of the marriage in addition to an understanding of how post-divorce life may look financially. Your CDFA® will also provide an objective view and help you understand the long-term impact of your finite decisions. 

At Next Step Divorce Solutions, we empower women walking through divorce by providing the financial tools and education they need to make decisions without fear of the future. As a CDFA® we bring financial expertise to women in divorce, so they are not left holding the short end of the stick. Don’t delay, contact Next Step Divorce Solutions to help guide you through your divorce.

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Eight years and going…. Awry

The average length of a marriage is around 9 years.  We have all heard the stereotype of the “seven-year itch”, but now that I am eight years into my marriage, I am learning quickly that the seven-year itch is a REAL thing. So, what’s happening? Why do I commonly receive calls about a marriage that has recently hit an eight-year anniversary and now divorce is on the table???

I am no phycologist, but if you have been married any length of time you know marriage is HARD. Around the 4-7-year mark, many couples start adding children to the mix, sometimes 2 or 3. The hustle and bustle of a family full of diapers, leaky boobs, temper tantrums, and sippy cups can quickly turn lovers into walking zombies who occasionally sleep in the same room. As a mom of two little boys there is nothing that makes you feel sexier for your husband than feeling like a milk cow covered in spit up or discussing the consistency and color of your toddlers’ poop. As our focus shifts from each other to managing a household of tiny humans, it’s no wonder that the fire between couples dissipates in some capacity.

So how do we combat the seven (or four, five or six) year slump? In my opinion this is where the work really comes into a marriage. Life can so easily pull two people apart. What better to “relight the fire” than to date like you did in the early years. Take the time and pay the sitter to go to dinner or dessert to connect with your spouse. Don’t feel guilty to take a trip, just the two of you, as a special honeymoon like getaway. Also, be willing to be vulnerable and ask for help.  Seek out a therapist in your area that can help you to relearn how to communicate with each other. Living in the Texas, many of my friends were married in their very early 20s. Not only could you be combatting the life as parents, but you are also maturing and chasing new dreams that may or may not be the same, or at the same pace, as your partner. Marriage is hard but can be wonderful if you’re willing to work at it.

Unfortunately, we can only control ourselves! Sometimes no amount of work will save a marriage if only one partner is willing to fight for what you once felt for each other. If you find yourself moving in the direction of divorce, I strongly encourage you to surround yourself with the appropriate team for your situation.  By contacting your local Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® they can educate you about your options and provide a list of attorneys and other professionals that could be appropriate for you and the style of divorce you are seeking.

With the average divorce length around nine years it’s no wonder that there are additional components that don’t come into effect unless you have been married at least 10 years. The two biggies are, spousal maintenance in Texas and the possibility of receiving the spousal benefit of your ex-spouse’s social security. There are also specific rules with military pensions that can cause issues if you divorce prior to your 10-year anniversary.

Deciding to file for divorce is extremely emotional, amid the stress there are some tough financial decisions that must be made. Most of us would struggle with hard financial decisions on our best day, so why wouldn’t you choose to hire an expert to guide you through those decisions while at your worst? Contact us a Next Step Divorce Solutions and let us carry you through this difficult time and bring clarity to the confusing financial decisions that you are about to make.

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What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order and Do You Need One

You mean, there is more work to do after the final divorce decree is signed?!?!?

Yes, unfortunately the long process to get to your final decree is not the end. Once the decree is signed, now the actual work of separating the assets, as detailed in your agreement, begins.

I have heard over and over that individuals post-divorce have split everything, but there is one retirement account that they just haven’t messed with. Some investments do require a little more time, energy, and financial cost to split, such as ERISA covered plans like 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, pensions, 457 plans, deferred compensation plans, some RSU, and restricted stock unit accounts. These types of plans require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to be filed with the plan administrator.  Once the QDRO is submitted and the assets split, then the non-employee spouse can roll the funds to an IRA account for future management. Note: Even though an IRA is a qualified account, they do not require a QDRO; a signed divorce decree is sufficient documentation to split that account.

One of the special features that individuals have with a QDRO is a ONE-TIME opportunity to take a withdrawal in which taxes are owed but AVOIDS the 10% TAX PENALTY if the distribution is taken prior to 59 ½. This could be beneficial in providing some needed financial flexibility, but if not done properly you could miss that special window.

As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® our firm acts as a liaison to a local Houston QDRO drafting service. We can help aid you in the process, as well as make sure that you have defined if and how much of an up-front distribution you may need from the plan.  In Texas, if the QDRO is not started within 30 days of the decree being filed, a separate motion must be filed with the courts throughout the process. For this and many other reasons, such as a tracing nightmare, it is imperative that you complete the QDRO process as quickly as possible once the decree is finalized.

The QDRO process is not for the faint at heart and following a long divorce settlement process can be downright overwhelming. Contact us at Next Step Divorce Solutions, your local Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, and we will help walk you through the QDRO process one step at a time to get everything done in a timely and efficient manner.

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Who to Hire for Your Divorce

Stepping into divorce can be scary and quickly overwhelming. A huge mistake that can be made early in the process is not hiring the right team or not hiring a team at all. Your divorce team can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. So, who are the various professionals you can hire to support you through this time? 

·       Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®

·       Mediator

·       Family Law Attorney

·       Estate/Elder Law Attorney – in certain types of cases

·       Therapist/Counselor

·       Divorce or Life Coach

There are other professionals that could come into play throughout a divorce, like a mortgage lender or real estate agent. How do you decide the right path and right individuals to hire? There are a couple things to keep in mind.

1.    Do your research and/or get referrals

The average divorce process can go on for a year. You want to be sure that the professionals you choose are focused on your best interest, have the same goal in mind and you actually like them! For example, if you and your spouse are cooperative you may find a private mediator is a good option for both of you. In that case you wouldn’t want to hire an attorney that seems to encourage litigation.

2.    If you aren’t sure ASK someone

Once a divorce is finalized it is, for the most part, final and cannot be undone. If you are in negotiations and feeling fearful or unsure then ask for help. Seek out a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® to help you understand your financial picture, what various settlement options will mean for your future and what financial mistakes to avoid. Be cautious to throw in the towel to come to a settlement. You may seek out a Certified Divorce Coach to help you work through each step of the process. Divorce DOES NOT have to be a long drawn out battle with your spouse. There are alternative options that promote a more peaceful process. Consider your situation and how you want the process to look then seek out the professionals that are in line with your wishes.

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Financial Questions in Divorce

Gathering financial information for your divorce can be confusing if you aren’t quite sure what you have and what it all means. Once you know you’re moving down the path of divorce, you want to start collecting every piece of financial information you can get your hands on.  There are several different types of investment accounts; you have Individual accounts, joint accounts, IRA’s, 401ks, pensions, annuities, and the list goes on and on. After tax accounts are normally the easiest to split and will often offer the easiest liquidity, or accessibility, with minimal tax repercussions. Retirement accounts can be a little trickier. Employer plans, like a 401k, will typically require a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, that must be filed with the plan administrator and courts before the account can be split. This process can take some time and carry an additional cost. Annuities, pensions and other alternative investments are quite complex, they must be individually researched to determine how and if they can be split. They also require special attention to determine their true value and know that the value on the statement is likely not the true value. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the types of financial questions you may face throughout your divorce, that’s why it is imperative that you add a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® to your team.  A CDFA® will guide you through the financial intricacies of your divorce by providing clarity and settlement solutions to get you to your best financial result.

Remember, when it comes to divorce, you only have one chance to get it right. Please connect with me today to get your individual questions answered.

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