As a family-law attorney, I know you like to get a sense of closure when you wrap up a divorce case. Once you get the decree, you’re ready, mentally, to move on to other cases.
But that woman you just helped, may not.
There’s a ton of financial stuff that happens, post-divorce, that comes back to bite her—and thus you.
I’m talking about things like setting up new accounts, transferring assets, retitling accounts, and changing beneficiaries. Lots of this is sheer administrative work. But some parts of it, like tax planning and investment strategies, are really complex.
So how do you move on? How do you get that (hopefully) former client to move on?
How do you stop all those phone calls from coming? (“How am I supposed to do this? How do I get my money?”) Worse, how do you stop those endless emails from arriving? You know how it goes: You answer the email and think you’re done, when the follow-up email arrives. You respond to that one, and… well, you can guess the rest.
Different ticking clocks
My job is to help women with the financial side of divorce. I’m well qualified to do it: I’m a CPA, a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional. I’m also divorced, myself.
So, I understand what these women are going through. In addition to having the professional expertise to help them, I also understand how different women respond to divorce, emotionally… and how this impacts your phone calls and emails.
Some women are anxious. As soon as the divorce decree is signed, they’ll be brimming with questions and want their money, ASAP. Other women need time to grieve, to regroup. Meaning that some women will start asking you for help immediately, whereas others will wait months, even years, after you’d thought/hoped that that case was closed for good.
And just as there are different “clocks,” there are also different triggers. Unless your divorce takes place on December 31st, you’ll have a bank or brokerage account that paid interest or had capital gains, respectively… so who reports that on their tax return? And that’s a big trigger: Tax Day. Do you want your phone ringing off the hook every April 14th?
Diving into details
As I’d noted, lots of this stuff is purely administrative (i.e., stuff you don’t want to do, and stuff your client doesn’t want to get invoices for). Example: “How do I get half of my husband’s IRA put into my name?” Answer: “Well, you must have an IRA account to put it into. Do you have one? Would you like to open one?” And then you must contact the account custodian and provide them with a copy of the divorce agreement.
But it also gets tricky… and sometimes thorny. Would the woman, for example, want to stay with the custodian of her now-ex husband? That advisor might not feel very “neutral” to her anymore.
And then when it comes to things like creating a new financial plan, tax strategy, insurance coverage, investment strategy… this is stuff that’s made for a CPA and financial planner like me.
Head ‘em off at the pass
I worked on a case recently in which the financial language in the decree wasn’t clear. It had been written by the attorney, who hadn’t worked with me. The language was vague (financially), and the attorney was forced to deal with an unhappy client, years after the fact.
Which gets to my main point. Know the best way to deal with all of these post-divorce financial questions from your hopefully-former clients? Avoid them all in the first place. Get me involved, early. Then that woman won’t even bother you, ever, about any of this, during, and especially after, the case.
And, you’ll have more time to be the best attorney you can be.