Byline: CHRIS LAUDERMAN
Financial planning during a divorce can become a disaster, especially when overshadowed by emotions.
And with 2,385 divorces from January to May this year in Duval County - and not many more marriages, 3,047, making for a divorce rate of over 78 percent - Michelle Ash thinks she can help.
Last year, the financial analyst at The Householder Group decided to get a CDFA designation, making her one of a growing number of Certified Divorce Financial Analysts around the country. CDFA's are specifically qualified to provide clients with plans for equitable divorce settlements and work hand-in-hand with divorce attorneys..
She's not the only one.
Fadi Baradihi, president of the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, which issues the certification, said the number of CDFAs in the U.S. has increased from 300 to 3,500 since 1998.
The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts was launched 13 years ago on the premise that people don't always make the best financial decisions while going through a divorce.
For example, Baradihi said that after a divorce former spouses often end up in different tax brackets. In this situation, a 50/50 split of assets will often mean more money going to the government and less to the former couple.
"People were shorting themselves," Baradihi said.
Jim Newman, a financial advisor in Ponte Vedra Beach, received his CDFA three years ago.
Newman thought the certification would help him with his clients, many of whom were going through divorces or had been divorced.
He says the certification has paid off.
While only 15 percent of his business is divorce financial planning, Newman said he uses the techniques and methods he learned from the certification courses in 75 percent of his work.
Ash, the only female CDFA in Jacksonville, and one of three divorce financial analysts in Northeast Florida, compares the certification to a medical specialty.
When you need surgery, you go to a surgeon, not your family physician, she said. But your family physician still provides good general information.
Ash said the financial industry works under the same principle. When you are going through a divorce, a lawyer is your primary contact, but an expert on divorce finances might be able to give you additional insight.
"It is an area that more people in society and professionals are seeing a need for," Ash said.
Not every divorce needs the services of a financial specialist - CDFA's can be the most help to people who have more than just a house and a small amount of money in savings, she says. The more substantial the assets involved, the more useful a CDFA might be. …