Messy Divorce and Messy Finances: How to Navigate Your Money During and After a Divorce

By Matthew Sivertsen, CFP®, CeFT®

Divorce can be messy, creating questions on how to move life forward. The team at The Planning Center have worked with clients going through divorces and members of our team are Certified Financial Transitionists (CeFT®), a training we received to help our clients navigate important decisions during life’s transitions and beyond. Over the years, we have created six recommendations as a starting point:

  1. Don’t panic and don’t let emotions drive decision making.
  2. Get organized and seek support (Family, Friends, Professionals).
  3. Maintain civility and establish the right precedents.
  4. Consider the involvement of a mediator.
  5. Focus on the big picture.
  6. Involve a financial planner.

Involving a
financial planner through the transitional process of divorce can be very beneficial. A financial advisor can help you understand your ‘before’ financial picture, to start to pivot towards the ‘after’ financial picture by creating and executing a new ongoing financial plan. Understanding the ‘before’ income and net lifestyle and the desired ‘after’ are crucial to make the appropriate adjustments for WHERE and HOW you can live to achieve your financial goals.

Understanding your ‘before’ balance sheet (personal financial statement) and being able to evaluate the differences in assets is also critical to create the ‘after’ financial picture. Evaluating your ‘before’ picture may include liquid assets that are usually accessible in positions like cash, savings, money markets and CD’s. There are also large assets like houses, cars, boats, jewelry and artwork that can be somewhat more illiquid and sometimes difficult to value. And there are investment and retirement accounts that can have very different rules about accessing and various tax treatments as well. Along with evaluating ‘before’ assets, is the need to factor in ‘before’ debts and how those will factor into the situation.

The financial planning process overlayed with the divorce transition can help someone pivot smoothly to a new financial and life situation. Making key decisions today, like what size home can be reasonably afforded and the expectations that can be made for weekly living, impact the bigger picture goals for both short term and long term. With modeling the aftermath of the asset divisions and retirement income pieces, a new plan can be put in place to make sure with ‘after’ financial picture has a high enough probability of success to be able to still retire.

If you are finding yourself facing a divorce and want to take control of your finances during this transition with clarity and purpose, contact your TPC Advisor. TPC can help divorcees plan for the ‘after’.

matthew_sivertsen_thumbMatthew Sivertsen, CFP®, CeFT®, is a Partner/Sr. Financial Planner in the Quad Cities office of The Planning Center, a fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm. Email him at