Divorce Planning, Mediation, Asset Management
Robert Kokol, founding Principal of Divorce Financial Planning LLC, brings 29 years of experience in financial services. A solid background in commercial banking, trust, insurance, executive compensation, and investments created a sound foundation on which to build. Bob added a Florida Supreme Court certification in mediation for family law and multiple designations in divorce, estate and financial planning. This combined to form a practice dedicated to the divorce process with a clear commitment to assisting those in family law situations.
As a true advisor, Bob is able to play a variety of roles. Those roles can oftentimes include the following:
Bob is hired to manage portfolios of assets for clients in a traditional sense. His approach is one of a manager of outside managers, oftentimes using highly rated mutual funds, separately managed accounts, and exchange traded funds with proper asset allocation to work towards achieving targeted results. Bob has substantial expertise in family situations that involve life changes, which could include retirement, sale of a business, divorce, loss of a spouse, and others. Anticipating the needs of the client post-life change and properly planning to meet those needs is oftentimes a true asset to the client. Bob is oftentimes sought by divorce lawyers and CPA’s involved in divorce cases to work with their clients post-divorce given his expertise in providing financial guidance to their clients at a time when they have little expertise with which to make decisions. Financial fear is oftentimes something that creates substantial delays in settling cases, and financial planning is one of the best methods to meet that fear head on.
Bob’s comfort in stepping in to a role may involve providing support in areas such as FAFSA for college funding, giving assistance in seeking to refinance bank loans as part of the divorce decree, examining sufficiency of disability insurance and life insurance due to requirements of a marital separation agreement, and other areas that were affected by the divorce. Bob’s experience in these areas and in working in divorce situations has helped to build the attorney’s comfort with Bob’s approach to providing financial advice to post-divorce clients.
In cases of divorce, Bob is oftentimes hired by one party to assist in using his financial planning background to determine recommendations in which assets his client should exit the marriage with. He is oftentimes involved in designing the strategy used in the negotiation of the case in conjunction with the divorce lawyer. His expertise in understanding his client’s needs lends itself to determining the level of alimony sought by his client. Bob is typically involved in mediations with his client in this role to assist in the negotiation of an optimal settlement for that client.
Walking into a mediation process is difficult enough, but not only is expertise needed in the legal process. Expertise is truly needed in understanding the ramifications of financial decisions, and in traditional settings, for the wife, this is often a role that is new to her. Neither the attorney nor the CPA traditionally have the experience, training, and/or desire to assist their clients in formulating a financial plan and yet the client is asked to select which assets they want from the marriage, and which liabilities or debts they are willing to be liable for. These decisions are oftentimes decided by emotion, e.g. the spouse who wants to keep the marital home. From a child rearing standpoint, it is understandable why the home is sought. The financial impact, however, e.g. cost of keeping the home in terms of upkeep and repairs, the cost to market and sell the home in the future, and the impact of the delay in how long it may take to sell the home is not always factored in to the decision and yet can be critical to the client in the decision process.
As is typical, the value of one party’s pension is often an asset left out of the negotiation process, and yet can be one of the largest assets earned during the marriage. Understanding the nature of the assets and how it affects you post-divorce can be essential to the success of the client’s transition out of the marriage.
Bob has been approved as an expert witness in Hillsborough County and has been hired by clients and accepted in the court to speak on the earning potential earning power of investments and how anticipated portfolio earnings can affect alimony paid by one party to the other.
Bob is fully trained in collaborative divorce, both at the introductory and the more advanced level. Collaborative divorce is a specific process agreed to by both parties that uses each client’s needs rather than wants as the impetus for a divorce settlement, and seeks to avoid a judge deciding the outcome of the case. Attorneys who agree to use the collaborative process are not permitted to take their case to trial, rather they must step aside if the parties are unable to agree on an outcome. The Financial Neutral is involved in the case to gather and share all financial information with both sides in order to facilitate a proper outcome. The Financial Neutral, however, does not provide specific guidance or advice to one party and to the detriment to the other. A Financial Neutral cannot be a Financial Advocate in this situation.
Bob is a Florida Supreme Court certified mediator in Family Law. As the mediator in the case, Bob’s role is to assist both sides in seeking out an amicable resolution. Bob brings a somewhat unique background as he has expertise in commercial banking, investments, trust, and insurance as well as years as a Financial Advocate in divorce cases.
Given his 29 years of providing financial services to his clients, Bob may have a slightly different approach than many mediators who were trained as lawyers. Where the attorney/mediator can be more of an architect in designing an outcome that is based on what could happen in a trial setting, Bob has been more hands on in cases post-divorce and therefore has a very practical approach. He perhaps focuses less on what might happen in court and more on the practicality of his recommendations. His approach is formulated from experience in providing financial services and provides solutions that lead to well-grounded outcomes. In a manner similar to the general contractor who is asked to build the home based on a set of blueprints, Bob for many years was asked to create a financial plan based on someone else’s blueprint. As the mediator, Bob can bring that hands on experience to the settlement process.
Unknown to many clients when they first learn about the process, mediation can be with attorneys or without, known as Pro Se. Bob is comfortable with working with clients in both situations, with legal counsel or without. In family law situations, this role will include seeking agreement on parenting plans, equitable distribution of assets, alimony, child support and the payment of fees to consummate the divorce.
Bob’s first goal will be to determine which role you will want to consider him for and what role he feels he is best suited for and how he can best help his client. He is equally comfortable in each of these roles and needs to respect the role of the neutral and the requirements of “staying neutral” when he has a first meeting with his clients.
Should his client be in a divorce scenario, Bob has extensive experience and training in the divorce process, albeit the more traditional route of cooperative divorce with the pending issue of trial as well as the collaborative route. Bob has served as an expert witness and has provided extensive assistance to counsel in the mediation process, in the taking of depositions, and in trials when necessary. He is certified to mediate family law cases in Florida as well.
For his clients, divorce raises many complex financial issues. Given the emotion that is incorporated in divorce, Bob believes that looking forward in time becomes the critical basis for making decisions, rather than looking backwards. Divorce can have the impact on a family similar to the actual loss of a loved one. The long term impact on the children can also be severe. The ability of each party to make sound decisions can only come from their ability to look forward in time and see that where they are each headed is a safe haven. Without that “light at the end of the tunnel”, financial fear, whether it be typically via retirement issues or tax issues for the primary wage earner, or income replacement issues for the lesser wage earner, will oftentimes prevent cases from settling. A clear, long term direction allows cases to resolve, thus bringing to an end the further spending of significant economic resources and emotional capital for both parties.
Bob typically focuses his wealth management practice to moderate to high net worth clients, endowments and foundations. His extensive experience in proper asset allocation and manager selection has created a number of long term relationships that Bob has enjoyed over the years. Bob applies a similar approach to managing these clients by employing a comparable financial planning approach. As an independent advisor, Bob is able to commit his time to both sets of clients. In an effort to avoid all potential conflicts of interest, perceived or other, Bob’s clients where he is engaged to go through the full divorce process with the client, rarely, if ever, become his investment management clients.