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Allison Williams, our own Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA), recently sat down with San Diego divorce experts and fellow CDFA®s to discuss the emerging field of divorce coaching. These coaches aim to help clients navigate divorce from an educated and empowered position as they tackle the complexities of the process, while partnering with other advisors along the way. Knowing that divorce is sometimes an unfortunate fact of life that can be devastating to a financial plan, we wanted to explore this newly available professional service and its potential benefits for our clients experiencing divorce.
What is a divorce coach? How can one help with my divorce?
One of the coaches, Heather Steer, describes in her own words that a divorce coach can help get you out of the story of your divorce and more into the business side of your divorce. She explains:
In my practice, I focus on the financials as well as emotional support and planning. A divorce coach can be a strategic thinking partner. They can help you set the goals of your divorce. They’re there to allow you the time and the space to think about what is important to you, what you’re passionate about, and what you want to achieve during your divorce. Sometimes there’s also work to do to get through the disappointments that come along with divorce. Unfortunately, people tend to not get everything they want out of their divorce, but a coach helps prioritize how you are going to feel good on the other side of your divorce.
How is a divorce coach different from other advisors, such as a therapist, mediator, lawyer or financial planner?
Throughout our conversation, it became clear that much of what’s accomplished with a divorce coach centers on preparation and follow-up for the work clients are doing with other professionals, including a financial advisor, lawyer and mediator. A coach plays a key role in helping people get organized and set the agendas for their meetings, with an end goal that clients arrive feeling more clearheaded and more decisive about what they want, why they want it and how they’re going to get it. In being more efficient with time, the hope is that clients can save on legal fees and exit the divorce in an emotionally better place.
Many of these coaches have also seen first-hand how clients benefit from partnering with a financial advisor to explore realistic expectations and better understand post-divorce life and financial plans. Coaches explain that attorneys may be great at what they do, but they many not necessarily be trained to be empathetic, plan-oriented supporters so clients can leverage specialists in each areas to “bridge the gaps”.
How do you choose a divorce coach?
Considerations for choosing a divorce coach are very similar to what we recommend when hiring a financial planner. First and foremost-is there a fit? Financial planning is a personal and, particularly when divorce is involved, emotional journey. You have to engage with an advisor and team who you can trust and jive, with a background and experience you can rely on.
Another consideration is credentials. Clients can look for impartial, rigorous and niche designations tailored to their specific situations. For example, the lead advisors at Brown Wealth Management hold the Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA) designation, which specializes in financial planning complexities for high net worth individuals.
In the divorce realm, specialized designations include Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA) and Certified Divorce Coach®. Some divorce coaches also have more broad designations that are implemented in specific divorce scenarios, such as business valuations.
How should you prepare to work with a divorce coach?
While each divorce coach has a unique process, the engagement typically kicks off with a discovery session during which the coach assesses where the client is in the process of divorce. The next step is defining the scope of the partnership and outline scheduling and priorities, while breaking up tasks into bite-sized pieces. The ongoing work is oftentimes completed with collaboration between the client and the coach through weekly, monthly or ad hoc sessions, depending on where a client is in the lifecycle of divorce.
What services can a divorce coach provide?
The coaches we met shared several of their most impactful offerings, which include helping clients to:
- Find and interview mediators
- Strategize on how to present facts in mediation
- Establish a new budget (particularly important due to California disclosure requirements, Heather notes)
- Work through “homework” assigned by attorneys and mediators to prepare for upcoming meetings (statements of assets, financial disclosures, considering/reviewing settlement options, etc.)
- Partner with financial advisors to build out a new, individual financial plan based on settlement options and/or evaluating the financial impact of potential settlement agreements.
- Practice conversations around charged/heated topics to enable confident interactions
- Discuss and implement parenting plans
It’s also common for a divorce coach to bridge the gap between the legal requirements of settlements and the logistical implementations. This can include tracking down statements, helping to fill out forms, reviewing account split details (for example values and cost basis/tax lots) and more.
What topical issues are divorcees facing in 2020?
Unsurprisingly, this part of our conversation centered on COVID-19. With many courts closed, there’s a larger-than-normal backlog of divorce cases. This backlog will be compounded by an expected and unfortunate upswing in divorce filings. As a result, all the coaches we met with predict it will be a tough year to try to get a case through divorce court and encourage clients to consider mediation if possible.
Comprehensive support during a difficult time
We believe many of our clients who are in the process of a divorce would benefit from a divorce coach, in addition to our wealth management services and support from attorneys. By drawing on a deep team of qualified professionals, we believe our clients will be best positioned to experience divorce from an empowered, educated position. In particular, a divorce coach can play a vital role in helping clients spend less time stuck in the details and more energy navigating the rest of life’s work.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Brown Wealth Management. Brown Wealth Management and it’s advisors are not legal or tax advisors. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.