3 Signs Your Client Needs a Divorce Financial Advisor

Jacki Roessler Contributed by: Jacki Roessler, CDFA®

Not every client needs financial planning advice during their divorce and certainly, not every client feels they can afford it. We’re often asked if there are any tried and true red flags that should alert an attorney that divorce financial advisors should be consulted. 

Read on to discover the top 3 signs some outside help is typically needed.


1. Your client is afraid to sign the settlement agreement.

You’ve assured your client Doug that he can afford to pay the agreed upon spousal and child support. His income is high–you believe it’s a good settlement for him. However, he’s worried he won’t be able to afford his own expenses if he agrees to the settlement. The solution? You send Doug to a financial specialist who runs projections that give him a concrete number for his after-tax, post child and spousal support net income. Now, Doug can make decisions from a position of knowledge, not guess-work.

2. Your client is willing to give up everything for the “_______.” Fill in the blank with anything that fits; it could be the marital home, his or her pension, a share of a family business, etc…

Consider this all too familiar scenario:

Mary and Joe were married for 13 years with three children under the age of 10. Mary was a full time mom while Joe was earning a hefty salary. Mary is emotionally attached to the house and was willing to walk away from all the retirement and cash assets to keep it. Mary’s attorney is concerned and sent her to a divorce financial advisor. Together, they prepared a reasonable monthly post-divorce budget and looked at several different cash flow and net worth projections. Mary was sad to discover that if she kept the house and did not return to work, she would run out of money in 3 years. She was sad, but empowered to make decisions from a position of knowledge.

3. One or both parties have pension plans and retirement accounts that will need to be divided equitably.

No two corporations have identical retirement benefits for their employees. Furthermore, even in the most amicable of cases, employees often don’t understand all the quirks of their particular pension and/or retirement savings plan. As a firm that prepares close to 1,000 orders that divide retirement benefits pursuant to divorce, we have in-depth knowledge of what makes Acme Widgets’ 401k different from Beta Widgets’ 401k as well as the federal requirements and restrictions related to post-divorce division. Since no two plans are alike and no two divorce cases have the same circumstances, a specialist should be called in on every case unless the attorney has intimate knowledge of the plans being divided.

This leads to the obvious concern: can my client afford to get financial advice? Often, the client that needs advice the most is the one who feels they can’t afford it. Don’t assume that a divorce financial advisor won’t take a case on a limited basis. It always pays to inquire if they may be willing to offer clients an hour or two of consultation time. 

Divorce can be complex even under the best of circumstances. The financial aspects of divorce not only have the potential to be complex, they may also be emotionally-laden. Helping your clients find the path to financial stability may require the expert advice of a financial advisor.

Jacki Roessler, CDFA® is a Divorce Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®

The above examples are hypothetical in nature for illustrative purposes only. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Raymond James Financial Services and are subject to change without notice. Information contained herein was received from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed. Information provided is general in nature, and is not a complete statement of all information necessary for making an investment decision. Investing always involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss. No investment strategy can guarantee success.