“Will I have enough money to make it on my own?”
One of the scariest aspects of divorce, for women, is the most basic question about the financial future. Will you have enough to make it on your own?
This backs into some other questions:
- “How much will I get?”
- “How much do we have?”
- “Where is it all?”
In this article, I’m going to help you answer these questions—these financial questions which your attorney doesn’t specialize in. Trust me, there is actually joy in your life, post-divorce, but you need to get through this phase first. So let me help you get empowered.
Start with what you know
It’s not unusual for the husband to be the primary handler of taxes, investment strategies, and other items. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get started on this yourself.
Indeed, you’ll need to, because one of the very first milestones in the divorce is the completion of the AFI, or Affidavit of Financial Information. This is to be filled out by both parties (husband and wife), and it’s required in the state of Arizona. It asks you both to list all of your assets (what you own), and all your liabilities (what you owe).
So gather up your bank statements. Get your credit card statements. Don’t forget the mortgage statement: it will show both your monthly payment and also how much you still owe. Ditto for any other loan statements, such as student loans.
You’ll also want to find tax returns and investment statements, such as for a 401(k).
Right there, with that stack of paper, you’re already underway. This is the exact kind of stuff I’m going to ask for when we meet, to help you answer all the questions I listed above.
This isn’t television
Since I’m a financial expert (I’m a CPA, a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional), people often ask me about “finding hidden money that the husband has squirreled away.”
Yes, that happens. And yes, I find it; I’m good at it.
But the reality is far less dramatic. More often than not, the information is there. But it needs to be interpreted properly and handled properly. Example: I recently worked on a case where the husband properly disclosed his deferred compensation on the AFI. But he failed to list it when his business’ worth was being calculated by a business valuator (an expert at these things). As a result, the value of the business came in too low, and the wife would’ve gotten a lot less. But I caught this. The attorney didn’t; that’s not their job nor expertise.
I work hand-in-hand with attorneys. For example, you can’t order a credit report on your own spouse; your attorney can request one as part of the discovery (information-gathering) process. I want to get my hands on your husband’s Social Security statement in order to “look into the future”; your attorney can order that for me.
So, you can usually rely on the information in the AFI. (By the way, lying on the AFI is a crime, kind of like perjury.) Things get trickier when there’s a lot of cash involved (such as a marijuana business or gambling), or in high-dollar cases where there’s efforts to reduce assets through what’s called “marital waste” or “community waste,” e.g., I worked a case once in which the husband used his business’ expense-account credit card to pay for… sensual massages. Ugh.
Nerd to the rescue
If you think your eyes glaze over at the mention of tax returns, liabilities, and so forth, you should see how attorneys react to this exact same stuff. Fortunately, I’m an expert at this (and, confession: I love it), and I can dig deep into the IRS weeds—and all things financial—to help you and your attorney craft the best possible case for you.
Which gets back to the original question, and topic of this article: Will you have enough to make it on your own?
I obviously can’t give you a “yes” or “no” right here in this article. But I can help you to get to the truth—and the best possible outcome—by working with you.