Financial Planning for Divorce

Divorce financial planning focuses on elements of financial planning — such as asset management, income planning and estate planning — specifically through the lens of an upcoming or ongoing divorce.

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  • Written By
    Stephen Kates, CFP®

    Stephen Kates, CFP®

    Expert Contributor

    Stephen Kates is a Certified Financial Planner™ and personal finance expert specializing in financial planning and education. Stephen has expertise in wealth management, personal finance, investing and retirement planning.

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    Savannah Hanson
    Savannah Hanson, financial editor for

    Savannah Hanson

    Senior Financial Editor

    Savannah Hanson is an accomplished writer, editor and content marketer. She joined as a financial editor in 2021 and uses her passion for educating readers on complex topics to guide visitors toward the path of financial literacy.

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  • Financially Reviewed By
    Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP®, CRPC®, RICP®
    Marguerita M. Cheng, Certified Financial Planner

    Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP®, CRPC®, RICP®

    Expert Contributor

    Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP®, CRPC®, RICP®, is the chief executive officer at Blue Ocean Global Wealth. As a Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Ambassador, Marguerita educates the public, policymakers and media about the benefits of competent and ethical financial planning. She is a past spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom campaign.

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  • Updated: March 22, 2023
  • 8 min read time
  • This page features 5 Cited Research Articles
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APA Kates, S. (2023, March 22). Financial Planning for Divorce. Retrieved April 1, 2023, from

MLA Kates, Stephen. "Financial Planning for Divorce.", 22 Mar 2023,

Chicago Kates, Stephen. "Financial Planning for Divorce." Last modified March 22, 2023.

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Key Takeaways
  • Preparation is key for any financial planning endeavor but is especially important when evaluating divorce settlement options.
  • A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® is uniquely qualified to provide divorcing couples (and their legal teams) with specialized financial advice.
  • There are many areas beyond asset management to consider when getting divorced. These include taxes, property ownership rules, health insurance benefits, and employee benefits, such as pensions, retirement plans and equity compensation.
  • Leveraging available resources and experienced divorce specialists can help you and your family achieve both your short-term and long-term financial goals.

What Is Divorce Financial Planning?

Divorce financial planning — like all financial planning — exists to assess and build a sound strategy for someone’s finances but has a specific focus on a future or existing divorce settlement. A primary goal of most client and planner teams focusing on divorce is achieving the best possible settlement. This often involves taking account of the present and liquidation values of a client’s assets and evaluating options for distribution and future impact on their financial situation.

Normally, a financial planner will partner closely with their client’s legal representation so there is a common understanding of the divorce proceedings and the strategy for settlement. Keeping in close contact with both parties can make preparing for and finalizing any divorce settlement easier. Using an advisor with expertise in helping divorcing clients will minimize mistakes and emotional stress.

“The CDFA® Program complements CFP® education because together they help the clients evaluate the financial impact of a settlement and plan for the long-term.”

What Is a Divorce Financial Advisor?

Any qualified and experienced financial advisor will be able to assist with the financial implications and planning needed for the transitions during a divorce. The Certified Financial Planner™ or CFP® professional represents the standard of excellence in the financial advice profession.

However, there are specialized professionals that focus their practice on divorcing clients who will be able to assist in more complex situations. If you are looking for an advisor with this specialty, search for an advisor with the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) designation who will offer experience with many of the questions, concerns and challenges that divorcing individuals experience.

When searching for a financial advisor of any kind, it’s important to make sure they will be a good fit for your needs by interviewing them about their experience and approach. During your divorce, it is no different. Choose someone that you can work confidently with to build and maintain a solid financial plan during — and after — your divorce.

How Are They Different from a Regular Financial Advisor?

In addition to experience as a financial planner, most divorce financial planners, including those with the CDFA® designation, will have experience with family law and a strong grasp of the tax code, real estate and financial therapy.

There are many niches within the financial advisory industry and each practice may focus on different specialties. Larger practices may funnel clients toward their most experienced members while independent advisors may only work with certain types of clients. Experience and fit matter most when choosing who will provide advice.

Do I Need a Divorce Financial Advisor?

Your financial situation and the circumstances of your divorce will dictate how much specialized help you may need. The more complex your financials are, the higher the likelihood that you will need to employ someone with specific expertise in divorce planning or financial analysis.

Some of the most used specialties during divorce are as follows. Most often clients will employ one (or multiple) during their divorce proceedings.

Common Specialties in Divorce Financial Planning
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The broadest specialty on this list, an accountant can offer help with tax preparation or analysis of past tax returns.
Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP® professional)
Offering general and broad-based financial advisory services, a CFP® professional can assist with most financial questions or challenges.
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional (CDFA® professional)
A CDFA® professional specializes in assisting clients who are planning to divorce or are going through a divorce.
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
Those with this specialization offer an in-depth analysis of complex financial situations, including situations where cash or assets may be hidden during a divorce.
Chartered Business Valuator (CBV)
When a business is involved in a divorce, a CBV will evaluate or manage the valuation of the business and its accounts.

Should I See a Financial Advisor Before Divorcing?

In short: Yes.

If you haven’t worked with a financial advisor before, taking stock of your current financial situation and building a plan that incorporates a potential divorce can be both enlightening and sobering. Divorce is a major emotional and financial decision that has significant impacts on your life. Before divorcing, it is important to understand how your finances will be impacted and how best to prepare for that event.

How Do I Find a Financial Advisor Who Specializes in Divorce?

If you have already spoken to an attorney about divorce, they likely have names of planners they have worked with before. Exploring the services of someone your attorney trusts and has a good working relationship with could make the process easier.

If you are only just beginning the process, searching through the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) database will provide results in your area. You can search by name or location and adjust for distance.

For additional due diligence, it is important to verify the licenses of any advisor you speak with. This can be done using FINRA’s BrokerCheck system.

What Do I Need To Prepare Before Meeting with a Divorce Financial Advisor?

Preparation for any engagement with a financial advisor is vital. The more detail you can provide, the more helpful they can be in assessing your situation and providing actionable recommendations. Whether during a divorce or in preparation for filing, compiling all the information about your assets, income, expenses, debt and taxes will be the baseline information necessary.

Divorce proceedings will precipitate additional specifics for determining ownership and division of assets and financial responsibility. Obtaining an accounting of separately owned property, individual accounts, individual debts or spending will also inform a plan. Historical documentation of assets brought into the marriage and documentation to prove separate vs. joint ownership will also be important.

Prior to meeting with an advisor, ask them for a complete list of information they will need to make your meetings worthwhile. The more prepared you can be upfront the more fruitful the time spent with your advisor will be.

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Other Financial Considerations In Divorce

Divorce can impact every part of your life and establishing a strategy should address your unique personal and financial situation. Your employment, income, residence, family size and many other factors can all impact how you’ll approach a successful settlement.


State laws can vary, so it is important to speak to a knowledgeable attorney or counselor who can explain your state’s specific property and divorce laws.

Location can impact everything from property ownership to employer benefits rules. For instance, nine states have community property rules, which means both spouses are entitled to or responsible for assets or debt created during the marriage even if only one party is named. The remaining states use common property laws meaning that unless both parties are listed on a loan or account, it remains the sole property of the named individual.

Health Insurance

Divorce is a qualifying reason for special enrollment in health insurance. If you were covered by your spouse’s employer, you can enroll in your own employer’s insurance off-cycle, apply for COBRA coverage on your spouse’s plan or apply for an independent plan yourself. This is a situation where planning ahead with a trusted advisor will be important, so you are not left with a gap in your coverage.

Social Security

Per the Social Security Administration (SSA), “If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried).”

Your ex-spouse can receive benefits if:
  • The marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
  • The ex-spouse is unmarried. You do not have to be unmarried, but the person claiming on your record must be unmarried.
  • The divorce is at least 2 years old.
  • The ex-spouse is age 62 or older.
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work.
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Speaking to a representative of the SSA will give you the best opportunity to explain your unique situation and get support with any required applications. For specific questions please visit: Information You Need to Apply for Spouse’s or Divorced Spouse’s Benefits.

It’s important to emphasize here that the SSA cannot give advice. They can only inform you of your benefits.


The IRS has suggestions and guidelines for those who may be separating or divorcing. Speaking with an accountant to help with filing taxes or assessing your new tax liability will mitigate any surprises from your new filing status. Changes that could be required may include updating new tax withholding, accounting for alimony or child support, and property sales or transfers.


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Last Modified: March 22, 2023

5 Cited Research Articles writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

  1. Crowley, J. (2022, July 8). A Guide to Divorce Financial Planning. Retrieved from
  2. Crowley, J. (2022, July 8). What Does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Do? (and How To Know If You Need One). Retrieved from
  3. Gerson, E. (2022, April 27). What Is a Community Property State and How Does it Impact Finances? Retrieved from
  4. Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts. (2012, March 27). Financial Professionals: Who’s Who. Retrieved from
  5. Social Security Administration. (n.d.). Benefits For Your Family. Retrieved from