Life Spans – Bridge Divorce Strategies Newsletter

Shifting out of neutral

Some financial advisors specialize in divorcing men. Some do neutral work. I focus on women.

I’ve done neutral advising. Rarely. I don’t like it.

It may be my personality. It may be my backstory, as a divorced woman myself. It may be, as a CPA, I’m a numbers-and-logic person. In any case, it’s hard for me to stay neutral when, financially, it’s obvious to me that a divorce settlement is starting down a decidedly un-neutral path.

What if I ask the soon-to-be-ex couple: “Are you discussing spousal maintenance?” and they say “No”? How can I keep mum when I can see, for example, that the woman should be getting spousal maintenance?

So I get referrals from attorneys. From other women I’ve helped. I typically don’t get them from mediators; they’re neutral.

Here’s a true story. Not long ago, a divorcing woman was frantically Googling to find information about trying to keep her house. Nerd alert: this concerns Section 121 of the Internal Revenue code, about the exclusion for the capital gain on the sale of a primary residence, something I know all about, and you—admit it—probably don’t.

So. The woman finds an article online, published by some company in California. She calls them in desperation. They tell her they can’t help her; she’s an Arizonan. So she re-Googled (is that a word?) and found me.

I was able to help her quickly. Whereupon she immediately lashed out at her attorney: “Why did I have to do all this myself? Why don’t you already have Julie Kern in your hip pocket?”

Remind me to add that to the “Testimonials” section of my website.

Gearing up for a more equitable settlement

Here’s an adage I’m sure you’re familiar with: “You know you’ve had a successful negotiation if neither party feels like they got what they wanted.” Right? Divorce is an exercise in compromise.

But here’s how I help to smooth that process, for the divorcing women—and for the family law attorneys who are trying so hard to help them:

You may know, for example, that it might be a totally emotional decision that drives that woman to demand that she keep the house. You know that, financially, she’s been the out-spouse throughout the marriage while the husband was the primary earner. But I help out by bringing logic to this argument.

Mind you, I’m not out to make you miserable, and advocate that she fight for every last nickel. To the contrary, I use facts, figures, and cold, hard logic to help her find “The Goldilocks Zone” between asking for too much, and giving up too much.

I can quickly run sets of realistic numbers, including everything from the mortgage to the insurance to the property taxes, lawn care, pool guy, you name it, to paint a picture that helps her—and you—get to a settlement she won’t regret or lose sleep over.

In it for the long run

This gets back to what’s, arguably, the most value I provide for you, when I work with one of your clients. I also help them get their financial lives in order, after the divorce. So they have a plan, based on their needs as a single person. I do their taxes. All of it. Commission-free. As a fiduciary.

So, in the long run, they don’t suffer buyer’s remorse over their settlement—or the attorney who wrote it up for them. To the contrary, they’ll tell their friends, “My attorney took good care of me.” And it was all from the attorney’s having Julie Kern in their hip pocket.