Thriving through Divorce: Choosing the Right Professionals for Support

If you are starting the divorce process, or even thinking about it, that decision alone is overwhelming.  If you then go online to look for resources, you will likely become even more overwhelmed as you find dozens of different types of professionals advertising divorce expertise.  Who do you hire?  Do you need to hire everybody?  That seems like an army.  But will just one person be able to do everything?  This post will discuss the role of various professionals you may be considering so that you can understand the roles these people play, and which ones might be most impactful for you.

Financial Planners – To CDFA or Not to CDFA?

The world of financial planning and advice can be confusing.  There is no regulation over the title “Financial Advisor” so anyone from an insurance salesperson to a fiduciary fee-only planner looks pretty much the same to the consumer.  However, these professionals vary widely in their skillsets and focus so it’s worth the time to look a little deeper and really understand who you might be working with.

As a first step, I recommend that any financial advisor that you hire be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).  This credential demonstrates a minimum level of education and experience in financial planning, above and beyond just being a stockbroker or insurance salesperson.  Keep in mind though, that not every CFP actually practices planning, some still just sell products, so you need to ask questions on how they are compensated and what kinds of services they offer.  Also keep in mind that the CFP is not a divorce specific credential.

For a divorce specific financial professional, you should look for a Certified Divorce Financial Planner (CDFA).  This credential demonstrates additional study in financial planning around divorce related issues.  In many cases, CDFAs are also CFPs so in that scenario you are getting the best of both worlds.  In my professional network, I have a number of colleagues who were CFPs and then became CDFAs after their own divorces when they realized how little their CFP prepared them to handle divorce financial issues.  That’s a great indication of just how much more complicated divorce planning is than more common financial issues like retirement planning.

Finding the right financial professional to help you is key.  A CDFA will be helpful to you prior to and during your divorce in preparing your financial statements, understanding various settlement options, and working with your legal team to help you avoid unintended financial consequences.  Then after your divorce your CFP can help you create a new financial plan and make sure you are on track with your new budget and retirement planning.  If you can find one person to handle all of this, you will be set.

Lawyers and Mediators and Collaborators, Oh My!

Gone are the days when divorce meant each person hired a lawyer and then spent months (and thousands of dollars) in court.  In divorce today, there are a number of options available in terms of process.  You can choose to go the litigation route and hire lawyers, or you can choose mediation or collaboration.  The type of process you choose will dictate the kind of professionals that you hire. 

In recent years, mediation has become a much more popular option because it’s less expensive and less contentious.  Many lawyers have become divorce mediators but there are also non-lawyer mediators.  Mediation tends to be a good option when both parties are willing to work together to negotiate something that works for everyone involved, including the children.  If you or your spouse is unwilling to negotiate, then this option probably won’t work for you.

Collaborative divorce is another option that is becoming more popular with both divorcing couples and the professionals that work in the divorce world.  In this type of divorce, you are working with a team of people including mediators, financial neutrals, and mental health specialists.  The team works together to help the couple reach the best possible outcome.  The collaborative process has very specific requirements.  If it falls apart, you have to start all over again with new professionals.  You will want to make sure both you and your spouse understand how it works, and that you are comfortable with the requirements before you go down this path.

Of course, the litigation option is still available as well.  In this case, each party will hire their own attorney and those attorneys will work to get the best settlement for their client, in or out of court.  Understanding the type of process, you want to go through will dictate which type of legal specialist you hire.  It is worth interviewing specialists in each of these areas before deciding so that you understand all of the options and pick the right people based on your desired process.

Buying, Selling or Refinancing the House

With the home being the largest asset most people own, it only makes sense that there are real estate professionals that focus on divorce as well.  In real estate, there are two areas of focus for divorce specialists: real estate agents and mortgage brokers.

A Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert (CDRE) is a real estate agent who has additional training and skills in the divorce area.  There are many agents who don’t want to sell houses during a divorce because of the additional conflict and stress that can be involved.  These experts know how to deal with conflict and can help you negotiate a sale that will work for you.

On the mortgage side, Certified Divorce Lending Professionals (CDLPs) are specialists in helping divorce couples understand their mortgage options post-divorce.  While you may not be thinking about the house you may want to buy after your divorce when you file for divorce, the earlier you get these professionals involved, the better.  There are specific mortgage underwriting rules around income, especially from alimony or child support.  They can make suggestions on how to structure your settlement so that you will be in a position to qualify for the mortgage you want after your divorce is final.  If you wait until after your divorce is complete to start thinking about buying your next home, it may be too late.

And Don’t Forget the Emotional Support

All of the professionals discussed so far can help you with the business of divorce, but what about the emotions?  Well have no fear, there are many types of mental health professionals in the divorce world as well. 

Marriage and family therapists are a good starting place for support before and during your divorce.  There are also a number of therapists that focus only on divorce and the related mental challenges.  This help may be only for you, or for your children as well.  Divorce impacts everyone in the family in different ways and each of you may need different support at different times.

In addition to therapists, there are also coaches.  While therapists tend to be more backward looking and help you work through your feelings about past events, coaches tend to be more forward-looking teaching you strategies to use in the future.  In the world of divorce, you can work with a Certified Divorce Coach (CDC) who is a specialist in coaching strategies related to divorce.  Many therapists are also trained as coaches, but similar to mediators there are non-therapist coaches as well.  As with any professional you are hiring, you will want to understand their education, expertise and service offering so that you can find the right fit.

And don’t think the support ends there.  One of the biggest challenges you may face post-divorce is learning how to co-parent with your ex-spouse.  Given how difficult this is, there are specialists in this area as well.  Whether it’s a co-parenting coach to help you and your ex-spouse or a step-parenting coach should you get remarried and have to blend families, know that there are lots of people out there to help you with these transitions as well.

Divorce Professional Referral Sites

If the thought of finding all of the professionals on your own is overwhelming, there are resources to help.  You can find local resources through any of the associations that issue the divorce credentials discussed above, just search for “CDFA near me” or “CDLP near me.”  There are also divorce specific sites like Hello Divorce or Split.FYI that have directories of divorce professionals by state that you can use.  And you can always ask for referrals from friends and family as well.

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

Divorce is a stressful process no matter how you cut it.  But there are lots of resources to help you so that you don’t have to go it alone.  Having the right professionals by your side will give you the confidence to make the best decisions for you.  Depending on the complexity of your situation, you may be working with a mediator and no one else, or you may need a team of four or five people to guide you through the process.  Regardless, know that the right professionals are out there and take your time to find the model that is going to work best for you.

If you are interested in learning about how I can help you take charge of your finances as a newly single woman, please contact me at  or schedule a free 20-minute consultation.

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