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Build Your Divorce Dream Team: Key Organizations to Know

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As the CEO of DivorceForce, I have spoken to hundreds of people who have gone through the divorce process. I’ve reviewed thousands of posts on our social channels detailing experiences people have had with their own professional divorce teams—matrimonial lawyers, financial advisors, accountants, realtors, mortgage lenders, and mental health coaches—and I’ve been shocked to learn just how many feel they’ve made mistakes. Many of these could have been avoided by exercising the proper due diligence beforehand, instead of contacting the first referral they received from a family member or friend.

I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for; and when you work with qualified and educated professionals, you will reap the rewards and benefits down the road, if not immediately.

At DivorceForce, we have spent the last six years becoming acquainted with several organizations and associations for divorce professionals, as well as familiarizing ourselves with the available certifications these experts can obtain. We feel it’s our responsibility to convey this knowledge and to educate both those affected by divorce who are seeking help, as well as those professionals who wish to gain additional expertise in their respective fields. 

Association of Divorce Financial Planners logo Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts logo International Academy of Collaborative Professionals logo illumni institute logo divorce lending association logo

This article will spotlight five organizations and associations highly specialized to particular professions: the Association of Divorce Financial Planners; the Divorce Lending Association; the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals; the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts; and the Ilumni Institute. Becoming a member of these organizations, or obtaining a certification, is a far more rigorous process than joining a divorce networking group. These professionals are committed to providing their clients the most relevant and targeted knowledge about divorce, and must complete intense training programs to receive qualified certifications to do so.

If you’re seeking the best of the best, these are the types of professionals that should be on your dream team!

We provided the president/founder of each organization an opportunity to educate our audience on who they are, what they do and why you should work with their professionals through a series of Q&A’s.

I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for; and when you work with qualified and educated professionals, you will reap the rewards and benefits down the road, if not immediately.

association-of-divorce-plannersAssociation of Divorce Financial Planners

The national Association of Divorce Financial Planners (ADFP) was founded in 1999 by a regional group of certified financial planners, specializing in divorce-related issues. Over the years, we have assumed the premier leadership role within the financial planning industry to develop a new professional niche. We are a not-for-profit membership organization with formal practice standards, protocols, chapters, and code of ethics.

DF: There are several organizations today that cater to professionals who focus on divorce. What is the main reason why financial professionals join the ADFP?

LAV: The ADFP has as its mission:

  • To make divorce financial planning an integral part of the legal divorce process.
  • To unify the divorce financial planning profession.
  • To set and enforce standards of excellence in the profession.
  • To make the ADFP the recognized voice and establisher of standards in the profession.
  • To encourage qualified financial professionals to become active practitioners in this field.
  • To provide and promote unique benefits to members that build, enhance, and promote expert skill sets and knowledge through our continuing educational programs and events.

DF: What are some of the key differences a person will notice when working with a member of the ADFP versus a traditional financial professional?

LAV: Divorce financial planning is a fee-only process and does not involve any sales of products, insurance transactions, or investment advice. It is a process that focuses on a specific life transition and on the financial issues associated with divorce in the short and long-term contexts. Divorce financial planners must have an interdisciplinary knowledge of tax and divorce laws. We gather, summarize, analyze current and historical data, and may provide economic forecasting/modeling. Traditional financial planning can take place before or after divorce.

We define the scope of tasks we perform:

  • Financial statement preparation and analysis.
  • Financial discovery and forensic tracings.
  • Analysis of current and projected needs and/or paying abilities.
  • Support calculations (child and alimony).
  • Tax impacting marital and separate property for determining allocation between the parties.
  • Analysis of tax issues, capital gains and losses, refunds, tax carry forwards, deferred benefits, etc.
  • Analysis of different scenarios and comparisons for settlement.
  • Developing options, opinions, and recommendations.
  • Assisting in the implementation of direct post-divorce or post-separation financial outcomes.

DF: At what point should a financial professional consider joining the ADFP, and what are some of the key requirements? How should this membership affect his/her practice?

LAV: Our membership criteria is established at two levels, depending on one’s experience, training, credentials, and practice specialty. For all members, we welcome you to enjoy opportunities for camaraderie, networking, education, inclusion in our professional search directory online, and discounts at professional events with other organizations. For financial practitioners, we encourage you to obtain a CDFA designation, in addition to your financial accreditation/license; be fee-only; receive specialized professional support for building your business; participate in our educational offerings; maintain specialized professional liability insurance; and meet continuing education requirements of the ADFP and your professional license/accreditation.

DF: Over the past several years, we have seen a variety of new organizations and certifications come to market in the divorce industry. What is your opinion on this growth trend, and are there any organizations that you work closely with or have an affiliation?

LAV: The trend for capitalizing on life’s transitions is pervasive across numerous industries. As most surveys of U.S. households show, Americans generally are ill-prepared financially for unanticipated emergencies, retirement, and/or divorce. Divorce is a popular topic that grabs peoples' attention in many ways: emotionally, financially, legally, and socially. Divorce impacts multiple generations of a family. Marketing “divorce” seems to be attractive to business professionals. The overall divorce rate has been fairly stagnant since the 1980’s; however, the trend for late-life divorce has more than doubled in the last decade. At this stage of life, people require more careful planning in many areas to disentangle and break up their marriage economic partnership. The break-up of one household into two exacerbates any shortcomings, failures or miscommunications about the couple’s financial planning (if any) during their marriage. The ADFP presently has no formal affiliations, but is officially recognized by the Financial Planning Association and the CFP Board of Standards. We align our members and interests with reputable, trustworthy, viable organizations that mutually support our mission. We support the Institute of Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) that has undertaken the significant role for training and establishing the accreditation for divorce financial planners. We developed a survey with www.Worthy.com to question divorced women about divorce financial planners that identified where we can better illuminate opportunities to maximize resources. We welcome all connections that help strengthen and build a unified divorce community and profession to serve both professionals and the public.

To find a Divorce Expert, please visit DivorceForcePRO today!


Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts

The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) trains professionals to apply the financial planning discipline to divorce settlements. The IDFA was formed in 1993 and has certified over 5,000 individuals in the U.S. and Canada. I joined the organization three-and-a-half years ago and bring experience in the field(s) of education, certification, and financial services.

DF: Over the past few years, we have noticed a rise in popularity of the CDFA certification. What do you attribute that success to?

CLR: I believe there are several factors that contribute to the rise in popularity of the CDFA designation, including public recognition of the credential, increased public resources, and our marketing efforts. The public recognition of the credential continues to rise due to the impact of social media sites (IDFA and others), the publication of help books for the divorcing public by CDFA professionals, and referrals by clients who are satisfied with the help they have received from our professionals. The rise in public recognition can be demonstrated by the increase in visits to our Find a CDFA feature on our website and our professionals reporting the number of clients they receive through our website.

IDFA has taken a two-pronged approach to increasing public awareness:

  • We have increased our presence at industry conferences to educate both financial and legal professionals on the benefits a CDFA can provide.
  • We have increased the number of public-oriented resources on our website, including launching a new blog.  

DF: What are some of the key differences a person will notice when working with a CDFA versus a traditional financial professional?

CLR: The easiest explanation of the difference between a CDFA and traditional financial professional is that the CDFA professional has received additional specialized training. For example, Certified Financial Planners invest years to complete their comprehensive education, covering risk management, investment planning, retirement planning, employee benefits, and estate planning. However, their education on the financial considerations surrounding divorce is just one subtopic under estate planning (special situations) and includes very little specific information. Just as a member of the public would not go to a general practitioner or a podiatrist if they had brain tumor, an individual who is contemplating divorce should use a professional that has specialized training in the field.

DF: At what point should a financial professional consider obtaining the CDFA certification, and what are some of the key requirements? How should this certification affect his/her practice?

CLR: The eligibility requirements for the designation are a Bachelor’s Degree and three years of experience in financial services or matrimonial law. Exceptions to the Bachelor’s Degree requirement will be granted to individuals who have an excess of ten years of experience in the above fields. The credential is granted after the successful completion of the CDFA Certification examination. The exam is 150 multiple choice questions, and the passing point is 72%. Once the CDFA credential is received, you must pay an annual recertification fee and report 15 hours of divorce-related continuing education every two years. The CDFA designation addresses two concerns of most financial advisors: the need for specialization or differentiation; and the need to assist the baby boomer generation as its members enter retirement. The current increase in gray divorce makes the CDFA designation more necessary than in previous years.

DF: Over the past several years, we have seen a variety of new organizations and certifications come to market in the divorce industry. What is your opinion on this growth trend, and are there any organizations that you work closely with or have an affiliation?

CLR: The rise in new organizations and certifications in the divorce industry is the natural consequence of rising rates of senior divorce and the increasing financial complexities that are resulting—although there is some concern that a growth of designations only serves to confuse the general public. Any credential that follows best practices of the credentialing communities—job task analysis, examination on a specific body of knowledge, and recertification requirements—should be supported in our combined efforts to assist the public in minimizing the negative impacts of divorce.

To find a Divorce Expert, please visit DivorceForcePRO today!


International Academy of Collaborative Professionals

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) helps families going through a divorce to stay out of court. Our mission is to transform the way families around the world resolve conflict. We believe that families are better off when they create their solutions with the help and support of professionals as needed. Collaborative lawyers work together in teams with mental health and financial professionals to help families restructure. The goal is to meet the whole family’s needs and keep children at the center of the process while making lasting solutions. I became involved as the Executive Director of IACP because I care about children, and I believe that they are better off when their parents resolve issues peacefully, and with dignity. As an attorney, I saw the damage that the adversarial court process does to families. IACP’s professionals are helping families find a better way in 26 countries around the globe, and I am proud to be a part of that.


DF: Collaborative practice is a very unique process to avoid the inside of a court room. How do your members measure success?

ATM: Helping a family move from conflict to resolution in a way that works for everyone is what our members strive for in each Collaborative process. While the outcome might look different for various families, the Collaborative team supports the couple in respectful communication so they can restructure their family themselves. When children are involved, success means a functional family where parents are able to communicate effectively and cooperate, and children feel supported by their parents. Our members like to say that they want their clients to be able to dance together at their child’s wedding.

DF: What are some of the key differences a person will notice when working with an IACP member versus a traditional matrimonial lawyer?

ATM: Traditional lawyers are trained in an “adversarial” process, in which there are two opposing sides. When divorces end up in court, decisions are made by a judge who is not in a position to really understand the family’s unique needs, and on the judge’s timeline. Even when they settle out of court, they are doing it from the position of two opposing sides and from a perspective of preparing for a courtroom battle. In the Collaborative process, the couple and the professionals involved make a commitment to stay out of court. Collaborative lawyers are trained to support the couple as they create solutions, and to be creative in meeting the needs of the whole family. They understand that no one “wins” when one member of the family “loses.” And they work in partnership with mental health professionals, child specialists, and financial planners to help the couple manage emotions and come up with creative solutions that fit their unique family situation. The Collaborative team can also help the family later, as circumstances change. 

DF: Why should a matrimonial lawyer join the IACP, and what are some of the key requirements? How should this membership affect his/her practice?

ATM: Lawyers who become Collaboratively trained report that the biggest benefit is the change in their working lives. Instead of spending all of their days in an adversarial process working on a court’s schedule and drafting tedious filings (at clients’ expense), they get to do what they became lawyers to do: help people solve problems. And, they learn tools that allow them to work in collegial relationships with other professionals who also want to help families. It is a healthier, saner way to practice law. Lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals interested in transforming the way families resolve conflict and helping families stay out of court are welcome to join IACP. The first step to becoming a Collaborative professional is to attend an Introductory Collaborative training.

DF: Over the past several years, we have seen a variety of new organizations and certifications come to market in the divorce industry. What is your opinion on this growth trend, and are there any organizations that you work closely with or have an affiliation?

ATM: Divorcing couples have specialized needs, and we support organizations that recognize this. IACP’s members are committed to Collaborative Practice because they are sincerely committed to helping families, and to working with their colleagues with integrity. We welcome organizations that share our commitment to peace-building and to finding solutions that prioritize the needs of the entire family.

To find a Divorce Expert, please visit DivorceForcePRO today!


The Ilumni Institute

The Ilumni Institute is the leading and most comprehensive divorce training organization in the real estate  industry. We have programs that educate realtors of all experience levels on the unique approach to handling the legal, financial, and emotional ties to the house in divorce. I have devoted my 14-year career to the divorce real estate niche, and I have had great success in building a purposeful, fulfilling, and predictable business. I am still very much a practicing divorce real estate expert, and in 2017 I launched The Ilumni Institute (formerly known as the Divorce Real Estate Institute) so that I could educate real estate agents nationwide to make an impact in their communities.


DF: To obtain the CDRE certification requires a significant commitment. How was your curriculum developed?

LS: I assembled an all-star faculty of family law professionals—including attorneys, mediators, and a lending professional, with me representing the real estate side. Together, we developed curriculum that is based on what I wished I'd had back when I began building my divorce real estate niche. We took the standards that the State Bar requires for attorneys to become Certified Family Law Specialists, and combined our 100+ years of experience into a curriculum that sets the bar for real estate professionals in this space. We cover the anatomy of divorce; communication, bias, and neutrality; qualifying and testifying in court as an expert; and ethics for divorce real estate experts (that incorporates, and exceeds, our NAR Code of Ethics). We have an entire business development program wherein we teach our models and provide support to our members as they go back to their communities and implement everything they’ve learned. We hired an instructional designer familiar with real estate to pull all of the content together into a cohesive, dynamic whole. Our CDREs form relationships and bonds, and become a tribe of change-makers in a supportive and energetic environment.

DF: What are some of the key differences a person will notice when working with a CDRE versus a traditional real estate professional? 

LS: CDREs are trained neutrals with a very specific protocol they follow when working in a divorce listing. The approach is much more consultative than sales; it is designed to prevent disputes and surprises, and includes special protocol for high-conflict cases. Issues like restraining orders, lockboxes, and property showings are real concerns of many clients. We often work with clients who suffer from personality disorders and substance abuse, and we train how to recognize these behaviors and implement tools to work with even the highest-conflict clients. Our CDREs have dispute resolution skills and can mitigate most conflicts that arise throughout the process. Should there be an impasse, CDREs will testify in court and know when and how to involve attorneys throughout the listing. CDREs are also great resources for attorneys with any real property issues in their cases, and serve as consultants even when there is no house to sell. Most notably, our CDREs adhere to the Ilumni CDRE Code of Ethics, which establishes their obligations—including recusing themselves from dual agency and maintaining an arm’s length in any transaction from a buyer. This provides accountability as well, through our member oversight process. 

DF: At what point should a real estate professional consider obtaining the CDRE certification, and what are some of the key requirements? How should this certification affect his/her production? 

LS: The CDRE certification is a significant investment of time and resources. In order to apply, an agent should already be a real estate expert, as divorce listings are some of the most complex listings an agent can take. The minimum requirements for our program are three years or more with an active license, 45 or more completed transactions, and no disciplinary actions. From there, we have an application process that includes an interview with one of our faculty attorneys, an essay, resume, and letters of recommendation. This program is designed for agents who are ready to level-up and apply their real estate expertise to make a difference. We look for passion and purpose in our applicants, and we screen for that. Like any business, you get out of it what you put into it. Currently, 75% of our graduates receive an ROI within one year, which is rather staggering, considering that research shows less than 5% of agents receive an ROI via many traditional means of real estate lead generation techniques.

DF: Over the past several years, we have seen a variety of new organizations and certifications come to market in the divorce industry. What is your opinion on this growth trend, and are there any organizations that you work closely with or have an affiliation? 

LS: The divorce industry has always depended on experts, from child custody to forensic accounting, and legal representation. “The House” in divorce has always been one of the biggest sources of tension and confusion, and is underrepresented in terms of a trained expert’s involvement. As a result, there are many horror stories I often hear, such as a spouse remaining on a joint mortgage that has gone into foreclosure, and wasting the asset while losing tens of thousands of dollars in what is already a financially devastating process. Many times, the sale of the house drones on for far too long, leaving children in a toxic environment and holding litigants hostage from being able to move on with their lives. I am glad to see more light shed on this important aspect of the case, and to be a part of the solution. The Divorce Lending Association is our counterpart in the divorce mortgage space, and together, our students and members are fundamentally changing the trajectory of divorcing homeowners as they recover from their process. I appreciate organizations like Divorce Force for bringing professionals together who are passionate about helping these families through one of the toughest times of their lives.

To find a Divorce Expert, please visit DivorceForcePRO today!


Divorce Lending Association

Since 2014, the Divorce Lending Association (DLA) has been providing education and training to mortgage professionals who work with divorce attorneys, divorce professionals, and divorcing clients, as well as providing education to attorneys and financial planners when real estate is present in the divorce. The intersection between divorce, real estate and mortgage financing is real. CDLPs are a vital part of the overall divorce team providing support during the divorce process to the divorcing clients and divorce attorneys.

DF: As a former mortgage broker, I can fully understand the need for additional training to structure loans during a divorce. How was your curriculum developed?

JB: My background is 30+ years in finance and mortgage. I built my divorce lending practice as a result of my own divorce. It emerged from becoming acutely aware of the major disconnect between all of the moving pieces and professionals involved. I began studying the family law aspect, the tax aspect, as well as the real estate and mortgage aspects of dealing with divorce and real estate and/or mortgage financing. The CDLP curriculum grew from there at the suggestion of attorneys I was working with. At that time, there was no organized educational training or approach in the mortgage industry for working with divorce and real estate/mortgage financing. And so it began! Since 2014, when the CDLP certification was launched, the program content has more than doubled—we are now in over 46 states!

DF: What are some of the key differences a person will notice when working with a CDLP versus a traditional mortgage professional?

JB: The key difference between a CDLP and a traditional mortgage professional is the knowledge level and the education. The intersection between family law, tax law, real estate and mortgage financing is real. This is not your typical mortgage application, whether refinancing or purchasing. A mortgage professional needs to understand how the mortgage product they put the divorcing client into may negatively affect family law aspects of the settlement, as well as structured tax planning in the divorce settlement. The other advantage of working with a CDLP is that they have the ability to work as a member of the professional divorce team during the settlement process. This helps to ensure that the verbiage is correct in the settlement documents; income sources are addressed appropriately. And the big thing is that when the CDLP is involved during the process rather than after, it helps to remove some of the conflict that occurs after the divorce when one party is unable to fulfill the requirements of the court orders as they pertain to the marital home.

DF: At what point should a mortgage professional consider obtaining the CDLP certification, and what are some of the key requirements? How should this certification affect his/her production?

JB: Our average CDLP has over 16 years of experience in the mortgage industry. Now, that doesn’t mean they need to wait until they are a proven veteran to become a CDLP. We recommend that a minimum of three years experience is a great foundation. You need to have that ability to think on your feet or see the whole picture, which is much broader when you are dealing with the different pieces of the divorce puzzle, such as family law, tax law, etc. CDLPs who really focus on the divorce niche as a main business arm of their mortgage practice can see a lift in production of three, six, 10 or more loans per month. This obviously depends on how focused and committed they are to building their divorce lending practice.

DF: Over the past several years, we have seen a variety of new organizations and certifications come to market in the divorce industry. What is your opinion on this growth trend, and are there any organizations that you work closely with or have an affiliation?

JB: Yes, there have been a few more organizations and certifications come to market in the divorce industry for sure. I think this is because of the reality of the size of the divorce niche. I think a mortgage professional (real estate professional, etc.) needs to be very careful about just taking any divorce training that is offered to them. Unfortunately, there is a ton of incorrect knowledge spewing out there—as well as bad business advice—which could land them in some hot water. Be careful to align yourself with a company that not only has the knowledge, but the experience as well. The Divorce Lending Association focuses primarily on the mortgage side of the divorce niche. We do work very closely with the Ilumni Institute on the real estate training. Our alignment makes sure that mortgage and real estate professionals are delivering the same message with the same strong educational concept.

We encourage you to visit each of the organizations listed above to learn more. To find a Divorce Expert, please visit DivorceForcePRO today!

Written by Gregory C. Frank, Founder & CEO, DivorceForce

Gregory C. Frank is the CEO and Founder of DivorceForce.

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