It’s always important when negotiating that you have more information than the person you’re negotiating against.
If the issue is dividing retirement assets, for example, make sure you go into the negotiation having already had the assets valued (if necessary), you know about the available options for dividing the asset and whether there are any other additional considerations, such as death benefits, etc.
If the issue is dividing personal property, it might be helpful to have an appraisal done of the “bigger ticket” items so that when the opposing party starts claiming that all of the items she’s receiving are worth $5 and all the items you’re receiving are worth $5,000, you have concrete figures to rely on.
If maintenance or child support are an issue and you think the opposing party is under-employed, a vocational evaluation might be an expert to obtain prior to mediation as well. Real estate appraisals and business appraisals can also be helpful.
Obtaining appraisals and valuations can be expensive, but if used correctly in a mediation, not only can they help you obtain a better settlement that will save you thousands in the long run, they can also help you finalize an agreement. This helps you avoid a costly trial.
The most important thing a guy can bring to the negotiation table is as much information as he can possibly get.
As in most things in life, anything you know that the other side does not can be critical to turning a decent outcome into a great one.
What information am I talking about? Long-term value, tax implications or anything else that will help you get a deeper understanding of the true values your assets and debts.
For example, I recently had a client that gave up a significant portion of one fund in his retirement for a much smaller portion in another, because he knew, based on his discussions with a financial planner, that the smaller amount in the fund he kept was both a tax advantage to him and would vest in a few years to become a much greater asset than what he gave up.
So, while she felt that she “won” and got more out of the negotiation, we left knowing that we were actually the ones that were coming out ahead.
Preparation is always the key when attempting any successful settlement negotiation. The more information you have in regards to the value of the assets and debts, the more leverage you can gain on the distribution of assets.
When it comes to real property, a full property valuation may cost more up front to obtain, but it will pay off in the long run. Simply contacting a local real estate agent may yield a comparative value to the other residences in your neighborhood and may be completed free of charge, but this value does not take into considerations such as pools and new renovations. You might find that a proper valuation will lead to a greater output in the divorce allocation.
Investment accounts can also become quite complex negotiation issues. A trip to your financial advisor will provide valuable information such as the tax consequence of cashing out versus reinvestment.
Further, some accounts are pre-tax while others are post-tax. A complete understanding of your investment portfolio is key to understanding the value of the marital estate and the distribution of it after divorce. A clear understanding of your local market is also important. Namely, is it a safer bet to maintain ownership of the real estate rather than the investment accounts?
In this financial market, you might find that one portion of property carries a higher degree of risk that others. This means that you should be fully informed of your local real estate market to determine risk and have an understanding of your financial ability to assume that risk.
First, being organized and providing your attorney with the information / documentation he or she requests in order to value the assets is key. Your attorney can’t do their job in helping you reach a potential settlement if you do not provide them with what they need to do the job.
Second, let your attorney know what is most important to you in the division of the assets. For example, are you more concerned with possibly retaining the marital home, preservation of your retirement assets or satisfying debts incurred during the marriage? Making this determination allows your attorney to strategize with you on the best way to reach your goals in the negotiation process.
Third, discuss with your attorney the possible tax consequences associated with each asset in the marital estate. Whether retention of an asset comes with potential tax consequences may change your mind in wanting to focus on retaining that asset in the divorce.
Having a full understanding of the tax implications for each type of account present in a marital estate will always help in negotiating an equitable split of marital assets.
Different accounts may have widely-varying tax implications, which can often impact the bottom line in a division. Many times, these tax penalties or assessments can be mitigated by your attorney if the account qualifies.
I would always recommend consulting with a financial advisor regarding the types of accounts you have and having that financial advisor fully explain the ramifications of each applicable account to you and your attorney prior to entering into any negotiations.
Separating assets can be tricky in many cases. The first and most important tip is to know what your assets are and their worth.
It is difficult to negotiate if you don’t have all the information. It is also a good idea to know what type of potential for growth one asset may have over another. The value of a house vs. the value of stocks worth similar amounts today can be drastically different five years from now.
It is important to also know what is most important to you when it comes to the assets. By focusing on the important assets, you can save a lot time and energy.
Some helpful tips for bargaining are as follows:
- Be creative regarding the division of assets. For example, you can take on more debt to keep your retirement intact;
- Understand the tax benefits you may receive from paying spousal support;
- Concentrate on big picture items, such as the marital residence, cars or retirement, and leave the lamps and dining room table for your Wife;
- Talk to your attorney before you sign anything, remove anything or give anything away — you may be over-promising something to the other party.