As we wave goodbye to the force of nature that is Brangelina and the two heartthrob millionaires begin the painful process of unpicking their lives together and dividing up their vast fortune it seems timely to reflect upon how divorce can play havoc with your financial planning.
When you are planning a wedding, splitting up seems like an impossibility, but with one in three marriages ending in divorce, it is perhaps wise to have a think about it anyway. At the beginning of a relationship we all think that we won’t be the one in three and yet a third of us end up being just that!
Let’s not forget that Pitt and Jolie seemed rock solid until recently, appearing on the Today show last November singing each others’ praises in the wake of her extensive cancer prevention surgery. At that time Brad said ‘She was doing it for her kids, and she was doing it for her family, so we can be together.’ Yet just ten months later she is so opposed to his parenting style that she can no longer bear to be together.
In this case, the question on everyone’s lips is did they or didn’t they have a prenuptial agreement. With a widely reported joint net worth $400mn and a brood of six children, Brad and Angelina might have been wise to put one in place. However, the problem with prenups is that they are deeply unromantic and start a couple off on a negative note by highlighting a lack of faith in and commitment to the marriage on one or both sides. It’s trying to bring a business negotiation to a union based on love and that doesn’t really work, which is one reason why most people don’t have one.
So what are the options if you do find yourself splitting up with your husband or wife? How do you safeguard your assets if a financial settlement process becomes necessary while also ensuring that this traumatic life transition is as easy for your children as possible?
One tip is to get your own financial adviser on board. Divorce almost always involves lawyers – no matter how amicable both sides start out when it comes down to the nitty gritty of divvying up all your joint possessions, things become tricky. Lawyers are not however trained to quantify your long-term needs. That’s why, while often overlooked, a financial planner is absolutely key. This is especially true if you have been a stay-at-home parent and/or if you have tended to leave your ex to manage the household finances.
Trying to share a financial planner is a bad idea. They will have split loyalties and won’t properly be able to represent your interests. If you and your partner have been using the same one, now is the time for one of you to find a new one.
Here’s what a financial planner can do for you:
- Help you assess the value all jointly owned assets and work out what costs are attached to them
- Give you an idea of future tax liabilities
- Quantify your long-term needs including a retirement fund, insurance, education fund for your children etc
- Avoid you getting into a situation where all your assets are illiquid (particularly a family home) which could lead to financial difficulties down the line
- Keep your best interests at heart
- Help speed up the divorce process to keep your legal costs down and allow you to move on faster
Having all this information at your fingertips will give your lawyer leverage in pushing for a deal which really will cover your future requirements. You only get one shot at the divorce settlement that will affect the rest of your life so it’s key to get as fair a deal as you can.
If you are in the unfortunate position of getting divorced and you’d like some impartial financial advice to safeguard your future, please do get in touch.
A leading provider of expat financial services and wealth management services across Asia.