1. Get expert help in developing a plan
Under no circumstances should you attempt to lock out, hide, or dispose of
joint assets on your own if you’re undergoing divorce proceedings. The
legal ramifications can be very serious and costly. If you haven’t already
done so, a priority should be to separate your advisors, both legal and
financial, from those of your spouse, to avoid any possible conflicts of
You’ll need something more than just a back-of-the-envelope financial
guesswork when it comes to splitting assets. I recommend that you enlist
the help of a financial advisor holding the Certified Financial Planner
(CFP) designation. Look for someone who has experience in navigating the
special challenges of financial planning during and after a divorce. This
planner will be able to help you navigate the immediate next steps and help
set you on a path to recovery, both emotionally and financially.
This involves not only getting a handle on your immediate financial
situation, but developing your post-settlement financial plan. Great peace
of mind comes with the knowledge that your financial affairs are in order.
2. Find and track important documents
These include, most importantly, documents relating to ownership of real
property, investments, and bank accounts, both here and abroad. Originals
of signed wills, powers of attorney, trusts, and so on should be tracked
Your lawyer will probably already cover all of this, but it’s always wise
to do a double-check. In addition, having this information at hand will
give you a head start on the rest of the financial planning you have to do,
especially the division of property.
3. Know what you own, what you owe
What do you own, both jointly and individually? This includes not only your
principal residence, but any other real estate, like a cottage or
timeshare. Same goes for investments, including funds held in Tax-Free
Savings Accounts, Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Education
Savings Plans, Registered Retirement Income Funds, and any non-registered
brokerage accounts, both full-service and self-directed.
Of course, the other side of the coin is what you owe, both jointly and
individually. This includes mortgages, car loans and leases, lines of
credit, credit card balances, personal loans, and so on. Any property you
brought to the marriage is yours, but any increase in the value of that
property since the date of marriage must be shared.
Take stock of income from employment or self-employment, a business, a
trust, and investments. All sources should be counted. Itemize and detail
all your ongoing expenses, both short-term daily living expenses and
longer-term recurring expenses, like taxes, loan and mortgage payments.
This can get complicated, especially if there is a wide range of assets
accumulated over a long period of time. Expert financial and legal help is
Watch Robyn discussing the how to protect your finances when
you’re going through a divorce on CTV’s “Your Morning.”
Robyn Thompson, CFP, CIM, FCSI, is the founder of
Castlemark Wealth Management, a boutique financial advisory firm specializing in wealth management
for high net worth individuals and families. Contact her directly by
phone at 416-828-7159, or by email at
for a confidential planning consultation.
Notes and Disclaimer
© 2019 by the Fund Library. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or
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The foregoing is for general information purposes only and is the opinion
of the writer. Securities mentioned are illustrative only and carry risk of
loss. No guarantee of investment performance is made or implied. It is not
intended to provide specific personalized advice including, without
limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting or tax advice. Please
contact the author to discuss your particular circumstances.