“My law students at UNM are often disheartened to realize the level of financial sophistication they’ll need to be a good Family Law attorney.”
Usually, one spouse is more savvy about the family finances.
If that’s you, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of the basic marital assets. But even you may be surprised to learn that divorce cuts a broad swath and includes not just the house, cars and business, but retirement benefits, pension plans, stocks, stock options, bonds, insurance policies, income and bonuses, leases and options to purchase real estate, accrued vacation and even sick time. Everything of value is taken into account and appraised and evaluated, for current and anticipated future value. How best to evaluate some of these items is a hotly debated topic, even among accountants. Whether it is your aim to be generous or to protect your interests, having an attorney who knows case law, has established relationships with evaluators and tax advisors, and who is sufficiently fiscally nimble to ensure those experts are getting it right, is highly advisable.
If you are the less fiscally knowledgeable partner, it is perhaps even more important that your attorney be prepared to educate you and protect your interests. Many spouses are not aware that even an equitable splitting of the marital assets may leave them in an untenable financial position down the road. This is often the case when non liquid and liquid assets are not separately considered. Even in the case of “friendly divorces,” you’ll be well served being advised by an attorney who often handles the appeals of ex spouses startled to discover they have to sell the house just to live.