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1 (902) 393-1248
P.O. Box 1201     Charlottetown, PE     C1A 7M8
T: (902) 393-1248 (direct)     CorkumFinancial@pei.sympatico.ca     www.CorkumFinancial.ca

My Financial Divorce Counselling Services

My Role

A financial professional, such a Chartered Professional Accountant or a Registered Financial Planner, is the specialist in money matters. A Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist has additional training from the Canadian-based Academy of Financial Divorce Specialists  in financial matters related to separation and divorce.  Similarly, a Certified Financial Divorce Analyst has received training and accreditation from the Institute of Financial Divorce Analysts, which has a home base in the U.S. (For my credentials and experience, see my Curriculum Vitae (a PDF file)).  Having financial issues dealt with by a specialist in finances rather than a lawyer is more efficient because the financial person will have a better understanding of budgeting, valuation and tax issues, and be able to explain these more fully to you. The figures are provided to your lawyer for use in negotiations and decision-making, hence focusing their time and talent on the areas of their expertise. When you think about it, who should be able to analyze numbers more quickly and understand their impact more fully – a lawyer or a financial professional?

The financial professional first plays the role as “fact finder” and “educator” with respect to the money issues.  After your interests and needs are determined by meetings with all the parties involved, the financial professional can offer options that lead to fair solutions. Explaining the purpose of this data collection helps you understand your current financial situation as well as the future impact of your financial decisions. This is very important because you will need to live with your decisions, and this step can also help you reduce your fears of moving on.

Assistance that I can provide will vary on the situation, but may comprise helping you:

  • get answers to your financial questions and explaining the importance of money issues so that you understand the process and the implications of your decisions;
  • prepare budgets to help you plan for the future and determine if you will have enough cash flow to meet your needs. This may be important to reduce your stress;
  • help you establish values of your assets and liabilities to use for equalization of net family assets;
  • calculate income that is used in determining child support;
  • calculating income and tax effects related to determining spousal support;
  • ensure that you have an equal understanding of your financial affairs to that of your former partner so you can negotiate on an equal footing.

You may wish to read my article titled, “Overview of Separation and Divorce Issues.”  For a list of questions you should ask your financial advisor, see “Questions to Ask about Divorce and Separation Financial Topics at Your First Meeting“.  One piece of advice – you should feel comfortable with your professional team, be able to be open in your discussions and have trust they are acting in your best interests.  Feel free to interview several people if you do not have such comfort.  In a separation and divorce case, your team should be trying to reach a fair and reasonable settlement for you (and your children), and not be trying to reach extreme financial or custody arrangements that will unjustly harm the other party (and significantly increase your fees because such tactics will reduce the chance of an out of court settlement).

My Service Approach

Overview

For marriage breakdown assignments, the method of delivery from your Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist will depend on whether they are working as a neutral financial professional in a collaborative practice or mediation case, or whether they are representing one specific party in their settlement negotiations. The main difference is that they will work together with both partners, often at the same time, in a collaborative or mediation case, whereas otherwise they will be working with just one party and his or her lawyer. Obviously working together with both parties at the same time will reduce costs.

My Approach

I am now on parties who are cooperating and wish to settle out of court.  Cooperation reduces the costs, often by tens of thousands of dollars, and decreases the emotional impact and related health issues.  Perhaps most importantly, working together towards a fair solution improves ongoing relationships with any children that are involved, protecting their emotional stability; studies have shown that they will perform better in school as well.  If you are already headed to the courtroom, you may be looking for “litigation support”, where you will need a financial expert to testify in court. I have experience as an expert witness, but am being very selective with regard to the cases I will now accept.   I have no interest in working for clients (or their legal counsel) who have unrealistic expectations for achieving more than their reasonable share in a settlement.  This only results in excessive court costs when reasonable solutions are obtainable with objective minds.  I am very willing to express my opinions from an educational viewpoint.  In such situations, my written materials provided to you are typically marked “without prejudice”, meaning they would not be admissible to court as evidence.

Before my initial meeting with you, I will ask you to write down any questions and bring them with you. I will also suggest some financial information that you can collect and bring with you. During that first meeting, I will answer your questions, review the data you have brought with you and provide you with a list of additional information to be collected.  See my checklist for property and debts, as well as detailed explanations for your needs for equalization as well as for support calculations.  I will explain these lists to you. In some cases, you may need assistance in collecting the information, and I can provide help as needed. For example, where do you find information on how much you make and spend? How do you get proper values for your assets, especially real estate, pensions and businesses? How is all this data summarized? What should you collect and what should your former partner collect? How does this all come together? The first meeting tends to be two to three hours.

There will typically be several meetings. After the first meeting, you will collect the remaining information and deliver it to me for compiling into appropriate forms. If needed, we will meet to help you collect that data; otherwise, you can deliver it to me and we will then meet later to review the information after I have summarized it. This process can take a few weeks or several months, depending on whether you have a need for property appraisals or business / pension valuations, which may take longer to obtain from the appropriate specialists.  In a cooperativee or mediation process, I would attend ongoing meetings with other professionals where the negotiation process unfolds and offer my input to find appropriate solutions.  I have been trained in collaborative practice, but have continued only as an associate member of Collaborative Practice PEI – I no longer practice in official collaborative cases.  For more information on collaborative practice, see www.cppei.ca.

Services That I Do Not or Will Not Provide

I am not a lawyer, and provide no legal advice. However, the Community Legal Information Association (CLIA)(www.cliapei.ca) offers free legal information (not advice) and many useful brochures, as well as a Lawyer Referral Service (Tel: 1-800-240-9798).  CLIA also publishes a brochure titled Resolving Conflict Outside of Court that explains different approaches to reaching agreement in marriage breakdown cases. Other useful information from CLIA is a free family law seminar, a free family law kit, and, for simple uncontested divorces, a “do-it-yourself” divorce kit (for a small fee).

While I am neither a real estate appraiser, pension valuator nor Chartered Business Valuator, I understand these needs and can refer you to appropriate parties, if applicable, and interpret their reports.

Regardless of the divorce process that you follow, I recommend that you work with a family professional through this emotional and stressful time. A family professional can help you explain your separation to your children, assist with a parenting plan, and, whether or not you have children, assist you deal emotionally with this process.  These professionals will help you understand and control your emotions, which will in turn, assist you in making sound decisions. Obtain a list of experienced family professionals at www.cppei.ca or through a referral from your other advisors or contacts. The solution to reaching a fair separation without going to court (and spending tens of thousands of dollars) is to negotiate in good faith and to think objectively in spite of emotions.  To do this, you certainly need to deal with your feelings.

What I will not do is provide biased reporting to you, your partner or to the lawyers to achieve an unfair solution. You should know that resolution of financial issues in a marriage breakdown is difficult; emotional challenges are very significant; it will not be as easy to meet your living expenses in the future; and no solution will be perfect. Certain financial decisions will involve a choice within a range of possible answers, and my recommendations in such cases will explain these situations to guide you. In cases where partners are not cooperative, some “professionals” deliberately try to take advantage of the other party with manipulation of figures or by ignoring certain issues.  This may be done with the argument that they are doing so in order to obtain the best deal for their client.  Actually, unless one spouse and their lawyer are not well informed, all it does is prolong the time to reach a settlement, increase professional fees, and create more animosity between you and your former spouse (and maybe impacting your children’s attitudes also).

Time and Fees

There are two typical types of assignments that I encounter with respect to marriage breakdown. They are as follows:

  1. Specific Issues

Many individuals have certain aspects of their separation that they wish to discuss, but have already completed much of the process, either by themselves or with lawyers or mediators. Typical questions relate specific issues on how assets are valued, the impact of income taxes, a review of a draft separation agreement for financial implications and personal budgeting concerns.  For a typical list of questions and topics, see “Questions to Ask about Divorce and Separation Financial Topics at Your First Meeting“.  These types of meetings are typically well focused, and last about two to three hours.  If you wish to have a written report, it usually takes me about an additional hour. My hourly rate is $200 per hour, plus applicable taxes.

From your educational perspective, the most surprising information my clients usually learn are:

  • the law is fairly clear on how most financial issues are decided, and if you cooperate you can usually reach the same answer as a judge will reach after an expensive legal battle.
  • people with a company or government pension have an asset worth a lot of money, and usually more than the valuation figure provided by your employer (which may be a benefit or a cost to you, depending on if you are the person with the pension or not). A pension valuator (at a cost of about $800) is typically worthwhile.
  • it is very difficult (expensive) to retain the family home.
  • it is often worthwhile to have real estate appraised rather than pay lawyers to argue over values
  • businesses may or may not have a value, depending on how much income they make and how much in assets/liabilities they own.
  • liabilities and assets are both divided based on the date of separation, with adjustments for certain items as amounts brought into the marriage, inheritances (if kept separate and apart), insurance proceeds, etc.
  • the cost of income taxes must be deducted from the value of your assets (such as RRSPs, real estate and investments).
  • the government will determine who is entitled to tax credits and Child Benefits based on custody arrangements – you cannot decide who gets these except in some very limited shared custody situations.

2. Comprehensive Financial Divorce Counselling

A comprehensive engagement typically includes most of the matters that I discussed above under the role of a financial professional. Such engagements will take several meetings and usually proceed over a period of months as we collect and analyze data with a cost that can be several thousands of dollars. The amount is very dependent on your individual circumstances, and an estimate is not possible because the time will depend on the nature of your assets, whether or not support is being claimed, and whether both parties are fully cooperative and working diligently to collect the necessary data. However, in my experience I have seen costs for financial matters ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 (being total costs that are divided between both parties in cooperative scenarios).

Making an Appointment

You may telephone me to set up a meeting at 902-393-1248 or email me (see my web site Contact page).  Note that I do have a busy schedule, but will return your call if I am not available when you telephone me (although it may be the following day). I am typically booking appointments a month into the future.

My Credentials

I am an hourly based fee only (i.e. fee for service) Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst professional and a financial planner. I have my CPA, CA (1978), as well as my financial planning, insurance and financial divorce counselling designations.  (To identify my credentials and learn more about them, you may click on them – CPA, CA, R.F.P.,CFP, CFDS, CFDA®, CLU, CHS).  However, although this is not normally an issue with respect to marriage breakdown, please note that I am a financial planner but I am not licensed to provide individual investment recommendations or to sell insurance products. If such a need arises, I am able to refer you to licensed brokers.  To maintain my objectivity and independence, I do not have established referral agreements with any specific individuals, and receive no referral fees, commissions or other such payments for my services. I have been practicing in the area of marriage breakdown since 1997 and you can review my experience and credentials here.