(May 28, 2004) The Academy of Divorce Planning Specialists is gearing up for its first course in Toronto next month. A growing number of financial planners are training for the rebranded financial divorce specialist (FDS) designation, the academy’s founder says.

“In your practice you’re probably going to come across people within your client-base that are going to go through the [divorce] process,” says Linda Cartier, CFA, FDS and owner of Financial Decisions in Sudbury. “It also provides you with the opportunity to enter a niche market, which at this point is pretty much wide open.”

Cartier, who has been specializing in divorce planning since 1997, says there are some recent graduates who are considering making this their predominant practice, but she says it is not an overnight shift.

A planner wanting to build their practice around this specialty market must prove themselves not only to their clients, but must also impress their client’s lawyers, she says since they can be an invaluable source of referrals.

“Some lawyers are not as receptive to working with other professionals, but there is this collaborative law movement that is growing by leaps and bounds across the country,” she says. “Those lawyers would seek out financial planners, because it’s a team approach and they bring in objective third parties to do expert work.”

One of the pitfalls facing financial planners getting into the divorce market is the shift from an advice-giving role to information-provider. There is a danger the financial expert could be seen as giving a legal opinion, without the proper training. Understanding what the planner can and cannot do makes up the backbone of FDS training.

The certified divorce planner designation started in the U.S., but the niche service has since found a home north of the border. Cartier says in the early days of the divorce designation, lawyers were concerned the title “certified divorce planner” would mislead clients, leaving the impression the professional planned the divorce, rather than dealing solely with the financial aspect.

In Canada, the designation was renamed “financial divorce specialist” to avoid the confusion.

“The last thing you want to do is stand on the toes of a professional you want to liaison with,” says Cartier. “Personally I prefer the financial divorce specialist name, because it’s very clear. I don’t want to be called upon to do work I’m not trained to do.”

A quick check of the academy’s Web site reveals about three dozen Canadian planners with the FDS designation.

The course will be held at Toronto’s Seneca College June 14-16, with a second planned for British Columbia in the fall. Students must have an existing financial degree or designation to qualify.

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  • Graduates receive 30 continuing education credits along with the FDS designation. For more information, check the Academy of Financial Divorce Specialist’s Web site.

    Filed by Steven Lamb, Advisor.ca, steven.lamb@advisor.rogers.com