were together—is a trying time. The heartbreak of divorce can be exacerbated when financial stresses come into play. On top of emotional upheaval of the split itself, not knowing how one will be able to afford to live as a single individual is enough to cause more than a few sleepless nights. In the throes of breaking up, divorcing couples are often subject to financial missteps that can have far-reaching effects. However, utilizing the services of a professional can ease the burdens associated with the blur of emotions occurring in the midst of a divorce.
According to Quint Cook, a Level Four Wealth Management financial planner and wealth manager with over 20 years of experience and a subspecialty in divorce work, the financial implications are an especially frightening piece of the divorce puzzle. “It’s an emotional, scary time,” he says, “Financial details are so intertwined with the rest of your life. People wonder what their divorce settlement option means for the future and how it can impact them five, ten, even fifteen years down the road.” As a financial planner, Cook strives to serve as a “collaborator” designated to ask the difficult questions regarding personal finances.
“More often than not, there’s one individual in the relationship who understands the ins and outs of the financials better, which means there’s another party involved who doesn’t know as much about it,” Cook says. “That’s why it’s so important for both spouses in the process of divorcing to fully understand their post-divorce financial needs and their current financial situation.” Cook encourages anyone even considering divorce to gather all their financial information first and foremost. In advance of the divorce process, he says it’s important to stay as organized as possible with your financials, including collecting financial papers, mortgage and credit card statements, bank accounts, tax returns, and year-end statements from everything.
Maintaining a “business approach” can be the furthest thing from your mind during a divorce process, but Cook encourages couples who are dissolving their marriage to think of it as a business agreement. “It’s an emotional time, so I continuously make it a point with my clients to remind them that we are looking at the facts,” says Cook. “When you’re married, you share things like income, expenses, assets, liabilities, a stock portfolio, and probably things you can’t even think of because there’s so much going on all the time—so when you have to separate all of that out, it truly helps to have a professional go through everything and sort it all out with you and for you.”
Divorce can get heated; it can be upsetting—which is all the more reason to bring in a professional to help delve fully into the complicated side of untangling the financials. “In my role as a financial advisor, I get to be the neutral party or middle ground. In such an emotional time, we must rely on the numbers. After all, the numbers don’t lie,” says Cook. “I work to break down the individual’s needs to a granular level—both for now and for the future.”
Some of the most critical financial pieces to examine are cash flow needs and understanding the level of immediacy for that cash. A financial professional can help determine what assets can be sold easily and quickly for immediate cash flow in addition to the degree of liquidity the assets possess. In addition, a wealth management professional such as Cook can help one or both parties involved in the divorce explore joint liabilities, the division of retirement assets, and the division of debt. “Everyone has their own set of unique circumstances. There’s no cookie-cutter approach to handling these divorce financials,” notes Cook.
With so much financial minutia to sift through, it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees, so to speak. Cook encourages those embarking upon a divorce to strive for a collaborative practice with a host of professionals designated to assist in making the process as simple and straightforward as possible. He says, “Having the right team around you—from a financial advisor to your attorney to even a mental health professional, if necessary—during this significant life change can help ensure an outcome that will be appropriate for all involved. These professionals, in addition to helping uncover and clarify all of the information, can be your advocates.”
Unfortunately, a large part of a breakup often involves smack talk, colorful language, and general riling up—and not just from one spouse to another. Friends, cousins, mommas, great grandfathers all seem to have an opinion when it comes to your divorce. And, naturally, not all of it is good advice. Not only will a professional help you fully understand the short- and long-term financial and tax implications of any decisions made during the divorce negotiation process, they can assist in dispelling some of the bad advice or emotionally-charged language many will receive from friends and family. “The professionals you have around you are doing their best to help you secure an appropriate settlement for your personal needs—the attorneys handle the legal side of that and I handle the financial side. It’s so beneficial to have people with expertise surrounding you who can and will take the time to hold your hand through every step from start to finish,” says Cook.
When selecting the right financial planner to help you work through the money details of a divorce settlement, Cook advises seeking someone with both proficiency in the field and a clear interest in your needs as an individual going through a transitional period. “In this role, I believe you have to truly see the person and understand what they’re going through,” he stresses. “I try to remind my clients that at one point there was love and caring in the relationship. Moving forward means having all the information at your disposal—knowing what everything will look like if you agree to a particular settlement. There’s a decent, honest way to find an appropriate financial situation for you with the right team surrounding you.”
For more information about receiving financial guidance in the instance of a divorce or other significant life change, contact a local Level Four Wealth Management professional at (205) 949-8677 or levelfouradvisors.com.
Quint Cook is an Investment Advisor Representative with Level Four Advisory Services, LLC and a Registered Representative with LPL Financial. Investment advice offered through Level Four Advisory Services, LLC, a registered investment adviser. Level Four Advisory Services, LLC and Level Four Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual, nor intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all individuals or will yield positive outcomes.
This article was prepared by Alabama Media Group.