Divorce-Proof Your Finances – with Lisa Zeiderman
Despite the fact that I’m divorced, I’m actually very optimistic about relationships and their long-term potential. As I have shared on this show, money and a lack of transparency around it was certainly an issue in my marriage, and that’s why I was really excited to talk to Lisa Zeiderman, a family law attorney and partner at Miller, Zeiderman and Wiederkehr, about ways that people can divorce-proof their relationships. After dozens of years seeing all of the ways that people can financially handicap their relationships through various divorce negotiations, Lisa shares some great insights on how you can let money enhance your marriage and not lead to the downfall.
What are we drinking?
Lisa — Iced skim milk latte, decaf, with a half a shot
Shannon — Coffee in a Hello Gorgeous mug
- Lisa was in the fashion business when she was 18 years old, and then started her own fashion business. After she went through a divorce, she decided she wanted to help people going through divorce. She closed her business and went to Fordham undergrad and then law school. Her passion was to become a family law attorney.
- Lisa was married at 24 and divorced at 32. She wanted to help people go through this experience in a better way.
- Lisa graduated law school at 42 years old. People can pivot at any point! It is better to have more life experience to practice this area of law.
- When picking a divorce attorney, you need one that has gone through a divorce. It is a very emotionally charged experience and you are not always thinking clearly and without emotion. You need someone who can advocate for you, think ahead, and think without the emotion. You need someone who you feel will watch your back, is responsive, listens to your concerns, and works with you in an efficient manner.
- Shannon did her divorce pro se and she had an attorney friend review the agreement. It helped her to have someone point out what asset she was giving up and tell her she was entitled to it. Shannon amended the agreement because of the advice.
- Sometimes guilt gets in the way and people are more willing to give up something. It can be guilt about what happened in the marriage or because they feel bad about initiating the process.
- Think of the ramifications of rushing through a divorce. It is easy to just want to get it done, but you don’t want to miss something that could affect you later.
- People get attached to the marital residence because of children or because they’ve lived there for so long. It may be a financial burden and become a liability later on. If it is for children, there may be other ways to stay in the same area and the same school.
- When splitting assets, remember that you may not want the things after the divorce.
- Before you get married, sign a prenuptial agreement. It gives a roadmap. It is a place to learn and share about finances. During the agreement process, the couple shares information about their finances – their income, what they own, what they expect if they have children. It allows each person to enter the marriage much more in the know about their finances and what they need to do to keep financially sound.
- When you are getting married, you are usually at the happiest, most optimistic point in your relationship. You get a better idea of who you are marrying. It helps you discuss how you are going to manage your finances in your marriage.
- The world of alimony and spousal support is not very kind, especially if one spouse did not work during the marriage. A prenuptial agreement will tell you a lot about who you are marrying.
- It is a good idea to get an attorney for a prenuptial agreement. Attorneys can look down the road and see what issues may come up, offer suggestions, and help you think about what some of the issues may be. There is statutory language that is necessary for these agreements. Spend the money now instead of later.
- If you are presented with a prenuptial agreement, get your own lawyer to review it. This is the place to protect your assets.
- If you are married, you can sign a post-nuptial agreement. This spells out what the finances are now and what will happen with those finances, should there be a divorce. Make sure everybody is being fair-minded and one is not trying to get a better divorce settlement if the other is feeling more generous.
- The biggest mistake is not opening the mail. So many people do not look at the bills or bank statements or know what money is going where. Have an idea of what is going on in your finances. If all of the financial mail is going to a spouse’s office, that is a red flag. Redirect it to your house or a joint email address.
- Make sure you have access to all of the financial accounts by having all of the passwords.
- Debt accrued during a marriage is joint debt. You will be responsible for half of it, so make sure you know what debt you have. There are some exceptions, such as gambling, drug or alcohol issues, or spending money on a boyfriend or girlfriend. These are divided differently.
- In many cases the assets will be divided 50/50. Just because you put an asset or money in your name doesn’t mean it is only yours.
- The healthiest relationships are often the most open about their finances and have joint accounts. They also tend to be the happiest.
- Setting up a spending allowance is a way to have some freedom.
- Lay it all out there before getting married. If you don’t want to get financially naked with someone, you shouldn’t be marrying them.
- Never sign anything without reading it or asking questions – especially taxes. You are responsible for what is going on. Keep asking questions until you understand.
- Divorce proofing anything is open, honest communication. Once a month or once a quarter have a conversation about your finances. You need to be prepared in case you get divorced or a spouse dies. Go to a trainer at the Financial Gym!
TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is to be open and honest about your finances sooner than later in any relationship you’re serious about. If you can trust this person with a physical relationship, then you should certainly trust them with a financial relationship, otherwise the relationship is not as strong as you think it is.
Random Three Questions
- If you were to be any other kind of attorney, what part of the law would you practice?
- If you were to win one million dollars, what would you do with it?
- If you were on death row, what would be your final meal?
Connect with Lisa
If you’re ready to get financially naked with your significant other, I highly encourage you to make it a threesome and include one of my trainers at the Financial Gym. We have a number of summer promos in place specifically for couples, so now is the time to check us out. Go to financialgym.com to sign up for a free warm up call to find out more.