Do Credentials Make an Expert By Vickie AdamsIn my work as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, I regularly speak to groups of women about the financial realities of divorce.

Some are contemplating divorce. Many are already in the process. Some just want to make sense of the financial wreckage they were left with after their divorce settlement. All come seeking the counsel of an “expert”.

This Valentine’s Day was no different. I drove to the workshop that I present monthly, South Bay Divorce Workshop, eager to see if anyone would show up to discuss divorce. Would I be sitting alone with my co-presenters, a lawyer and family therapist, eating boxes of cookies and chocolate hearts?

By 8:45 that morning, several well-dressed, congenial women were seated, and the room was buzzing with a palpable energy as they began to introduce themselves to each other.

Women are verbal connectors and gravitate to a team approach. They like to discuss, share and analyze. They are compelled to tell their story and get feedback, and in order to satisfy this, there are two teams:

  • The official team: the lawyer, certified financial planner and therapist (expert).
  • The extended team: their stylist, personal trainer and friends/family (not so expert).

In Southern California where I practice, divorce workshops seem to be everywhere. Many financial advisors state they are an “expert in divorce planning.”

How do you know if your financial advisor or workshop host has actual divorce planning experience?

Here is a list of questions that will separate the amateurs from the industry leaders:

  1. When did you receive your certification as a CFP, CDFA or CPA?
  2. Do you have a specific background in taxation or accounting?
  3. How many divorce cases have you completed?
  4. Do you have experience in complex property divisions, and if so, will you illustrate multiple scenarios?
  5. Are you familiar with calculations regarding employee stock options, restricted stock and/or executive compensation?
  6. Can I see a sample of the written divorce financial plan you provide to your clients?
  7. When is the last time you testified in court?
  8. Are your credentials or licensing subject to review by government or regulatory agencies?
  9. Do you have any disciplinary events, suspensions, or violations on your record under this or any other name?
  10. Are you currently licensed and in compliance with all appropriate governing regulatory agencies?
  11. If you are not subject to the above criteria, what qualifies you as a divorce financial expert?

Protect yourself. Start by checking the disciplinary record and license status for an investment professional. Go to FINRA Broker Check. For insurance professionals, you can visit the California Department of Insurance website to review any complaints. To research financial certifications, visit Paladin Registry.

Does your financial professional make the cut?

Vickie Adams Divorce Financial PlannerVickie Adams, CFP®, CDFA