What Is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)?

What Is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)?

CDFA Defined

A CDFA is a financial professional who is skilled at analyzing financial data and providing expertise on the financial and tax issues of divorce within the context of the laws of your particular state. 

Taking the Edge Off

Many divorcing people are in a highly anxious state because they don’t know where to start. If your mediator or lawyer cannot help you with this, you will want to consider hiring a CDFA. 

Your CDFA will tell you what information you need to get the financial piece of your divorce organized and ready for settlement or trial.This brings a lot of comfort to clients who feel buried in numbers – or are completely clueless when it comes to money -- and don’t know where to start. 

Your CDFA will help you sort out your short and long-term financial goals within the context of your divorce. This brings focus to your case and makes it not feel so overwhelming. 

When Do I Need a CDFA? 

If you need more help than your attorney or mediator can provide, in any of the following areas, you should consider hiring a CDFA: 

  • understanding your family finances (income, expenses, assets, debts); 
  • crafting settlement offers that are based on factual information and industry standard assumptions (in the financial world); 
  • understanding the tax implications of various settlement options; and 
  • gaining perspective on how your decisions today may impact your future financial well-being. 

Classification of Assets & Debts

CDFAs are great at helping clients tease apart the marital from the non-marital portions of their assets and debts. This is called “classification” and is based on the divorce laws of your state. 

Marital assets are on the table for division and distribution in a divorce. Non-marital assets (often referred to as “separate assets”) are not (unless the owner of the separate assets agrees to put those assets on the table, too). 

Expert Witness

CDFAs are often used as “hired guns” by divorce attorneys to testify on all sorts of financial matters. 

If your case is not on the settlement track, a CDFA is often an attorney’s first choice to explain to the judge the significance of how different decisions will impact your short and long-term financial well-being. 

A good CDFA will provide all of the spreadsheets and financial projections necessary to bring your case alive to the judge. 

What is the Criteria to be a CDFA? 

CDFAs go through a rigorous examination process on three primary areas related to divorce: 

  • financial planning, 
  • taxation, and 
  • law. 

The CDFA designation is considered advanced.The test questions presume that the applicant comes to the exams already possessing high levels of knowledge in all areas of family finance. This includes insurance, real estate, investments, capital gains, and retirement.  

The exams also assume that the applicant has a good working knowledge of tax laws applicable in a family and divorce situation. 

The CDFA examiners also test the applicants on the law, but this is generalized information and cannot be relied on in any particular state. You will want to be sure, if your CDFA mentions “the law”, that he or she has been practicing in your area for a long time and actually understands how things work in the courthouse in your jurisdiction. CDFAs cannot provide legal advice, but they can provide information about the law. 

A CDFA Can Help you Make Good Decisions  

Divorce is a confusing time. It is not only hard on your heart; but can also take your wallet on a wild ride. Most people getting divorced don’t know what to do and, even if they do, they can’t figure out when and how to do it. 

A CDFA can bring order to the divorce process. This is especially true if you hire a CDFA early on. They will:

  • Give you a clear template of the information needed to get a good view of your family finances;
  • Help you craft budgets and net worth statements; 
  • Determine income needed for continuation of your lifestyle;
  • Help you create settlement offers; 
  • Analyze settlement offers provided by your spouse; and
  • Keep you focused on the money (not the emotions). 

Should I Hire a CDFA?

Before you hire a CDFA, you will want to consult with your attorney or mediator and see if they, alone, have the knowledge and skills to get you through the more complex financial issues in your case. If they do, you can probably skip hiring a CDFA. However, it will probably not hurt and, in many instances, a CDFA is better at explaining financial concepts than an attorney.


If you are in litigation, you will want your attorney to choose your CDFA. This is because, if you end up going to trial, your CDFA may very well end up on the witness stand. Your attorney will need to be in control of that process, which includes having a good professional relationship with your CDFA.


Before you hire a CDFA, be clear on exactly what you need that CDFA for. I counsel people on this matter all the time. As a CDFA, myself, I understand what the CDFA can provide and when having a CDFA on your team is necessary.

Be aware that the multi-professional style of divorce is gaining popularity. Do not assume, however, that more professionals helping you out will get you a better deal. Remember: sometimes too many cooks can spoil the soup.   

Most divorces don’t require a bevy of different professionals to get you through settlement … but if your case does, a CDFA is probably the first professional you will want to consult with outside of your lawyer or mediator (aside from your therapist, of course!)

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