• Women Financial Advisor Forum

How One Wealth Management Team Helps Women Going Through a Divorce Stay Financially Fit

Mary Gibbons Gardiner and Carole Epstein help women stay financially fit through divorce.

Purchase, New York – An estimated two million North Americans will divorce this year, but not every Financial Advisor has the knowledge or experience to help someone who’s weathering a divorce to come out financially secure. They need a keen understanding of all the financial issues a divorce effects, such as personal versus marital property, retirement assets and pensions, valuing and dividing property to name a few.

Mary Gibbons Gardiner and Carole Epstein are partners in the Gardiner Epstein Wealth Management team in Purchase, New York and one of their specialties is helping women through the divorce process. Mary has a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation.

Mary Gibbons Gardiner, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Mary Gibbons Gardiner specializes in helping women going through the divorce process.

“It was something important to add to our practice,” says Mary, “because we find when we’re working with a divorced woman this may be the first time she will handle finances.”

Mary says that while she and Carole had the expertise to help people in this area, getting the certification broadened her knowledge of the divorce process that she can now bring to the table.

“Divorce has its own language, with terminology such as a QDRO, which stands for a qualified domestic relations order,” says Mary, and is one of two documents along with a divorce decree that are generated out of the divorce process.

“These are two documents that spell out many of the details of the divorce that are important for us to understand and be able to analyze for that client,” says Mary. “A divorce decree will explain their spousal support or maintenance (alimony), which is taxable for the woman, while child support is non-taxable. It also talks about whether the house will be sold now or at a later date. Also, we coordinate with the client and her tax professional to discuss the tax important consequences of these decisions.

The other document, the qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO, often helps with separation of retirement assets that a client may have such as 401(k)s, IRAs and pensions. According to Mary, the pension is probably one of the more complicated situations and something that has to be analyzed.

“For example, if a husband worked at a company for 30 years and is entitled to a pension, how much of that is eligible for the ex-wife to share,” says Mary. “If they were only married for 25 of those 30 years, the ex-wife is only entitled to share in that part of the pension covering 25 of those 30 years. We need to be familiar with all of these things in order to provide the best financial advice.”

“We are often brought in as referrals by a lawyer or Certified Public Accountant toward the end of the process,” says Mary. “With the CDFA® certification, we have been educating attorneys in particular that we can be engaged earlier in the process. We can add value as soon the divorce process starts by modeling different scenarios for the client that the attorney suggests.“

Carole Epstein, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

One thing Mary and Carole would like to change is when they are brought into the process.

“We can help a client put together a financial affidavit and their net worth statement,” says Mary. “We can also help them understand, through our Life View financial planning process, what the financial ramifications would be for selling a house earlier or holding on to it for a few more years, or would it be better to receive a lump sum settlement versus receiving it on a monthly basis for eight years. Those are all things that help a client understand the financial ramifications of a divorce.”

Mary and Carole agree that anyone going through a divorce, and women in particular, need a team of professionals to help them through this often emotionally traumatic process, and that this team should include a Financial Advisor, an attorney, a CPA and a Psychologist or Psychiatrist with experience in treating families that are going through or have gone through a divorce.

For more information on weathering a divorce watch the accompanying video by clicking above, or visit Mary and Carole at their website at:


Follow them on Twitter @MGGardinerMS