Apple Growth Partners

Financial Tips During a Divorce

 by Bob Nemeth, CPA/ABV, CVA, CDFA, CFE | Principal – Business Valuation/Tax

Bob Nemeth head shot

The decision to divorce can take an emotional and personal toll on both spouses. Not only can divorce become a sensitive, life-changing event, but it also requires financial consideration for both parties. This includes the need to ascertain the fiscal value of their combined assets, including available cash, investments, and even any privately-held businesses. While the divorce process may feel overwhelming, it can turn from bad to worse without proper fiscal preparation and help. A financially bad divorce settlement can end up complicating your tax situation or leave you without enough income to meet your monthly expenses. A basic financial education and understanding can help you prepare for the fiscal aspects of the divorce process. Here are some tips that you should know to protect your budget situation during and after a divorce.

Understanding Everything is Not Equal

During a divorce, it’s important to take a close look at every asset to understand how it may affect you financially. When couples go through a divorce, underlying assets can cause you to pay more in taxes than you would expect, or at least more than the other party in the divorce. Certain assets have much greater tax implications than others. For example, let’s say that you and your spouse are attempting to split $100,000 of assets, which includes $50,000 cash and $50,000 worth of marketable securities. If you divide up the assets so that one person receives the cash and the other keeps the marketable securities, the person who gets the cash comes out ahead financially because an additional tax needs to be paid on any gains when they are sold. In addition to marketable securities, businesses and homes can also lead to tax issues during the divorce process. It’s important to analyze each type of asset to really understand what the tax implications are for each party so that one side doesn’t get hit hard after all the assets have been split up for both parties. 

Have Documentation Available

It’s important to have all the documents you’ll need during the divorce process. Bank statements and tax returns are pretty standard, but it can be easy to forget about other key documents, such as investment statements. You’ll want to collect all these documents now, as it can be very difficult to get statements like these from your former spouse decades down the road.  Investment statements are critical, as they share the cost basis for certain assets, which will be needed if you decide to sell the venture. You may get the current statements, but you may not have information relating to the original cost of the investment. This information is required if you ultimately sell the investment, so it pays to get your documents in order ahead of time.

Disclose Everything During a divorce, make sure that you disclose every asset that you own. Not only does this mean that you must personally disclose any assets you can remember, it also means that you should look at your prior tax returns to see if there are any items that don’t appear to be disclosed. There’s always a chance your former partner may forget about some type of assets. Even worse, you may uncover signs of fraud during the divorce.

Disclosure is key for a few reasons:

  1. It’s easier to fairly split up all the available assets.
  2. Non-disclosure can lead to penalties, which depend on how egregious the issue is.

It’s one thing to forget a $10 savings account, but an undisclosed $500,000 investment account could result in the court could awarding the asset to the wronged party.

Couple in need of financial divorce help from a domestic relations litigation and CPA firm.

Create a Budget

Your financial situation changes drastically after you’re divorced, so it’s important to create a budget during the legal process so you can determine what you’ll need to live within your means.  When you get a divorce, you are essentially taking your source of income from when you were married and dividing it between two households. While the total income may be the same, it never goes as far with two households because there are always more expenses than you had before. A budget helps you understand what your expenses are so that you don’t stretch yourself too thin after the divorce, especially if you end up with assets that don’t create cash flow.

Don’t Go Alone

While some people think they can handle their finances on their own, it’s a good idea to seek help from professionals who can guide you through the divorce process if your case is even remotely complicated. There are a few different professionals that you’ll want to turn to during a divorce, including a financial planner and a CPA. In a relationship, it’s not uncommon for one person to handle most of the financial decisions and pay the bills. This spouse usually understands the family’s finances, while the second person may have little to no idea about where their budget stand. A financial planner is able to provide education to help a client prepare a budget so that he or she is in a solid financial state following the divorce. A CPA is another key professional that can help protect your financial future during a divorce. The older you get, the more assets you tend to collect, and the more complicated it becomes especially if someone owns a business. A CPA and business appraiser are able to sift through all of these assets to provide credible fair market value opinions and make sure that your tax situation is in order during and after the divorce.

Divorce isn’t easy. Between the emotional and financial complexities, there are a lot of details that you’ll need to deal with to ensure that your future is secure. If you’re a business owner, executive, or another individual with a complex financial situation, Apple Growth Partners’ domestic relations litigation team can help. Contact us today to talk to one of our experts about how we can provide some financial clarity during your divorce.