By RUTH GOODMAN, For the Courier
WATERLOO — With the promise of warmer weather comes the desire to do a little spring cleaning. For some people that means scrubbing floors, cleaning out the garage and tossing unused sports equipment. For others, it means getting rid of their spouse.
Attorneys across the country say the number of people filing for divorce spikes during the first quarter of the year, and in June.
“The pressure of leftover holiday debt, relationship tensions that surface around Valentine’s Day and the stress of income taxes really bubble to the surface this time of year,” said Kim Stamatelos, a Des Moines-based attorney and mediator. “That’s when many people re-evaluate their marital relationship and say, ‘I’m not going to live like this another minute. I’m going to talk to a lawyer.'”
Couples looking to untie the matrimonial knot are faced with many questions. Will I need to get a different job? Can I stay in the house? Is it even in my best interest to keep the house? According to Cindy Gleason, a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) and owner of Gleason Resource Group, no one can truly answer these questions without a comprehensive financial analysis.
“A couple contemplating divorce should look ahead at least 10 to 20 years to see what kind of financial shape they’re going to be in,” Gleason said. “You have to look at tax ramifications, how those taxes will affect retirement and the impact of keeping various assets, such as the marital home. Before someone agrees to a settlement proposal that sounds good in theory, they need to analyze the options to really see what the numbers mean.”
That’s where Gleason comes in. CDFAs use comprehensive divorce-specific software to extrapolate these numbers and forecast the short- and long-term financial impact of a divorce settlement proposal. They also look at critical issues such as tax consequences, the division of pension plans, continued health care coverage and stock option elections.
Divorce attorneys also benefit from the expertise of CDFAs by gaining financial forecasts to help prove their case to the judge and opposing counsel. After working with Gleason on numerous divorce cases, Stamatelos knows how valuable a CDFA can be.
“With Cindy, clients have an expert in taxes, property distribution, alimony and cash flow. Cindy helps take the fear and uncertainty out of the divorce process and helps clients face financial issues instead of running from them.”
Stamatelos also agrees that attorneys and their divorcing clients need to look at more than just the bottom line. “Something that at first blush looks like it’s fair because you do a spreadsheet with ‘husband’ on the left and ‘wife’ on the right doesn’t actually turn out to be fair if you look at the different characteristics attached to each property, most notably, tax consequences.”
Gleason knows exactly how it feels to divide marital property because she’s “been there, done that.” In 1998, after a year of bitter turmoil, Gleason’s 18-year marriage ended in a court battle that focused on child custody, alimony, inheritances and family farms on both sides, as well as the financial planning business she had started eight years earlier.
“I had been a financial planner for nearly a decade and understood better than anyone the financial aspects of my divorce,” said Gleason. “But even I needed the objective eye of a CDFA to help remove the cloud of emotion that divorce brings.”
Gleason’s divorce went to trial, and she was relieved to have a qualified professional on her side. The CDFA’s expert testimony made a substantial difference when sifting through the complex financial issues of her divorce. “It was the best money I could have spent,” said Gleason.
CDFA certification has been around since the early 1990s. There are nearly 2,000 licensed CDFAs in the U.S. but only six in Iowa: four in Des Moines, one in Sioux City and Gleason in Waterloo.
“It’s becoming much more common in central Iowa to use experts in divorce. As more and more attorneys realize how CDFAs can give them a competitive edge, I expect this trend to move to eastern Iowa as well.”
Gleason can work with soon-to-be ex-spouses living anywhere in the U.S. and always offers a free initial consultation.
“I’m quite passionate about helping divorcing couples see that they’re going to be OK financially after the decree is signed,” she said. “In many cases, working with a CDFA can lead to a much more amicable divorce. And that’s good for the entire family.”
Contact Ruth Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org.