Divorce and Financial Planning:
An Interview with Financial Advisor Professional, Adam Waitkevich
Adam Waitkevich is the owner of Divorce Financial Solutions, LLC. Adam is a seasoned financial expert in divorce and financial planning. He holds the CFP credentials as well as the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst and Advanced Divorce Financial Analyst designations. He has helped hundreds of individuals and couples make better choices as it relates to the division of marital income, assets, and debt. Adam is a trained mediator and prepares QDROs (Qualified Domestic Relation Orders) and is an expert in State Pension plans as well as government and military pensions.
Adam was interviewed by Divorceify Co-founder, Sonia Queralt.
Sonia Queralt: Tell me a little bit about what you do, how long you’ve been working in the divorce field, and what role you play for individuals going through the divorce and financial planning process.
Adam Waitkevich: I am the founder of Divorce Financial Solutions. I have a couple of divorce-related credentials: I’m a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) and Advanced Divorce Financial Analyst (ADFA™). What that means, really, is that I am qualified to assist couples or individuals and their legal professionals, navigate the division of assets, income, and property so that they’re making optimal decisions during the divorce process. With this unique financial expertise, they can feel confident in their choices and not worry about looking back afterward and wishing they did things differently with their divorce agreement. I’ve been doing this divorce financial consulting for ten years now and it is helping to improve outcomes and speed up the process for divorcees.
Even though divorce has always been handled by the courts and family law, nearly every separation involves finances. Divorce is very much a financial transaction and it’s better for an expert like myself to come in early in the process. The way I look at it is, we’re trying to help a couple who had, up until the time of separation, built a financial plan for one unit, one household looking forward with shared goals. At the time of divorce, what they’re doing, is dismantling the plan they had created that now must be split into two units with different goals. As you can imagine, during divorce, few are in the right mindset to make rational decisions that require long term financial decisions. Without careful financial guidance, mistakes are very likely to be made.
My advice is to treat divorce as a financial planning event. It’s not just a zero-sum game where it’s a mad grab for property and assets; It can be done in a intelligent manner.
There’s a lot of value in just being thoughtful around the division of assets, and I think a lot more lawyers these days appreciate expert financial advice because it helps them with advocacy and it helps them reduce liability. The last thing you want is an attorney making financial decisions where he/she otherwise has no qualifications or expertise. People are more aware today too, that there is another field, there are other experts that can collaborate with my attorneys. That kind of sums up my work a bit.
Queralt: Do you work with individuals or both parties in a divorcing couple?
Waitkevich: It depends on the setting but I can do both. For example, later this week, I am meeting with a couple who were sent to me from their mediator. They’ll come in and I will be a financial neutral and our focus will be the martial financial estate. I’ll allow them both to ask questions and I’ll give them factual information and discuss different paths that they may consider and let them make the decisions. I’m there to empower them. I have other cases where I work with an attorney who’s faced with a proposed agreement from the other side they want me to review, from the financial side, to take a look at assets and see if their clients are protected.
Queralt: What are some of the most common financial mistakes that couples or individuals make?
Waitkevich: One mistake would be when couples go through asset-division simply trying to equalize everything as if all assets are in one category. Another mistake is that people don’t often think about their long-term needs or even their intermediate-term needs so they don’t plan accordingly. Another problem that I see in my practice is where lawyers -who aren’t financial experts – draft language that’s supposed to cover how things get divided. This often unintentionally leaves many important details left unaddressed. In worst cases, the couple needs to go back and modify the financial process of the separation agreement over again.
Queralt: What is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) and why it’s important to have a specialist draft it?
Waitkevich: The QDRO is required any time an ERISA sponsored retirement plan needs to be split in a divorce. The background on this is very confusing to many but essentially, all of our 401k and private pension plans are governed by a set of laws designed to protect those assets so that nobody can access them. Of course, an exception is needed in divorce as it relates to marital property. This is where the QDRO comes in.
The QDRO’s function is that it is the legal document required to “open up” access to the retirement account. You can’t have access without a court signed QDRO. The QDRO needs to fulfill certain criteria as well. For example, in order to divide a 401k, the QDRO has to include a valuation date and also has to address issues such as loans and how to deal with gains and losses in the account during the process.
One other thing to mention here is that there are QDRO-like orders that are applicable to different types of plans. Your federal pensions and your military pensions and state pensions are not governed under ERISA law but they do require a similar court order.
The term “QDRO” is often used as a catch- all by the legal area.
Queralt: What are clients biggest financial worries and concerns?
Waitkevich: People fear regret. They think, “I don’t want to leave anything on the table, and I don’t want to get taken advantage of either.” Additionally, people just want to know that the agreement is fair and equitable. People worry whether they are going to be okay financially and what type of lifestyle they could expect going forward. These are the things that we can do from a financial planning standpoint that can really help paint their future picture. When we provide tangible answers to those types of questions, I think that’s helpful to clients.
Queralt: Absolutely. Is there anything else, Adam, that you want to add or share?
Waitkevich: I think that it is very important for the divorce industry to realize that there are credentialed professionals in finance that can help with the financial aspects of divorce. I think it’s important to know who they are and how to find Certified Divorce Financial professionals with the right expertise and skill set. For those contemplating divorce, I would advise them to schedule a meeting with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® on their own to see how they can help you.