S1 E09- Divorce and Money Mistakes… Why You Need a CDFA On Your Divorce Team with Donna Cates

⁠In this episode, Jess talks to Donna Cates who is one of the financial advisors here at the Women’s Wealth Boutique and is also a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. On this episode Donna gets into what brought her to the financial advisor world and more specifically the area of being a divorce professional. They also discuss the importance of breaking down a complex process such as divorce into smaller steps to make it more manageable. She explains the various parts of her divorce shop including mediation, workshops and the other layers that make up her business.


  • It’s helpful to break divorce into smaller steps as it can be a complex process
  • During divorce planning, it’s important to know what’s important to you for your future when you’re deciding what to ask for
  • Having money puts you in the place to have choices and be able to make choices
  • Mediation is a great option whenever possible with divorce and puts you in a power position

Contact our guest:

Website: https://www.moneymatterswealth.com/


Jessica Weaver  00:02

Hello and welcome to women behind the millions we have a juicy guest here today with us I’m so excited. I am Jessica Weaver, your host, wealth advisor, Best Selling Author and founder of the woman’s wealth boutique. And we have one of our original advisors with us today, Donna Cates who specializes in divorce. She is a certified divorce financial planner, a wealth advisor, she also has a mediation practice, which is amazing. We all could use some help with confrontation I think in this world. So thank you so much Donna for being here being joining the woman’s wealth boutique as well, I’m so excited to be able to bring on this huge divorce piece to our, our firm, our industry, and you really are one of the leaders in this space. So thank you, Donna for being here with us today.

Donna Cates  00:50

Thank you so much. I’m very honored to be here. And I think it’s kind of a sad thing that divorce is such a big thing. But I definitely am glad that that I’m able to help folks in that position so.

Jessica Weaver  01:03

It’s an emotional time. It’s a stressful time, overwhelming. When do the women usually come to you? Is it before the divorce or right? Divorce is starting to come into their mind more and more? Is it during the divorce process on the other side of divorce? 

Donna Cates  01:20

Well, it varies. I have people that come to me a year or two before they’re ready to literally make a decision. I’ve had some folks, it just takes that much time to figure out if that’s what they want. I have some folks that come to me, after they’ve already hired attorneys and they’re in the divorce process. They’re actually working to negotiate a settlement and everywhere in between.

Jessica Weaver  01:49

So there’s no right or wrong time to come, just come. What would you recommend? When is a good time to bring in a divorce professional who focuses on the money?

Donna Cates  02:02

Okay, that’s a great question. And I will tell you the best time is as soon as you think that you might be going down that road. One of the things that I focus on in my practice is helping women make smart decisions about their money, because so many times even though we’re intelligent, we have all the capacity to do the money things, a lot of times we’ll kind of push that off to our partner, just because we all have too much to do. So with me saying, hey, you know if whether you’re divorcing or not, we really need to get our head around the money stuff. But if there’s any inkling that divorce is in your future, now’s the time to really pull together all of your financial data, and start understanding what your financial household looks like. Because you cannot go into divorce blindly. Many people do. But they regret that when the divorce is finalized.

Jessica Weaver  03:00

Great point, don’t go into anything blindly. Whether you’re starting a business, you’re retiring, or divorce, all of these things come down to the money, and it’s huge to be able to have an advocate like you on their side to help them get involved. And I love that you said it doesn’t matter if you’re going through a divorce or not. Sort of understanding and becoming aware of what’s happening with the money. 

Donna Cates  03:24


Jessica Weaver  03:25

Now, you didn’t start your career as a financial adviser, what got you into the business? And then we’ll touch on after that how you started to focus on divorce why you went that way? How did you start your career? 

Donna Cates  03:38

Well, I actually was working with the Army Reserves. I was not in the Army. I was a civilian. And I worked in the manpower and then budgeting aspects. I was always involved in the resourcing. How many people do we need to do these missions? How much money do we need to make these things happen? So that was where I started straight out of college. And then years later, I’m married, and we moved. So during that time, I had a big transition. So I started actually in a sales position with some direct marketing stuff. And I never imagined that I would be doing that. So I always laugh when people say I can’t sell anything, I go- That’s so not true. We’re selling something every single day. But I learned very quickly that I had a good skills. I had good skills at learning what was important to people and helping them figure out the best way to get it. So a friend actually approached me when I was working in that business and said, Have you ever thought about being a financial advisor? Because I’d really think it’d be good. So it’s not something that I sought out, literally said, and the timing of that question was perfect, because if it had been six months earlier, I probably would have never considered it but I said What the heck lets check it out and see what that’s about. And I did and the world opened up. And I was really excited because I discovered that I could really make impactful transitions with people by doing this type of work.

Jessica Weaver  05:15

It’s amazing. It’s combining both of your previous careers in sales and budgeting. Now, it’s one thing together. And I just want to highlight what you said about sales, identifying what people really need. Now, whether that’s working with you, or maybe it’s not, maybe it’s working with somebody else, a different professional, or they need to go and take some other course of action. But if all of us could switch our mindset around sales into I need to sell something to bring the income into, I’m solving a problem. Well, that’s how women work. That’s all we do all day long is how are we going to solve the problem for my kids, my neighbor, my parents, for ourselves? That’s an amazing switch. Then what brought you into the divorce world? And how long ago was this? When did you start focusing on divorce?

Donna Cates  06:07

Well, I actually started as a financial advisor in 2000, when the market was going to the heck in a handbasket. And it was literally within two years that I decided that I really needed to focus on the divorce world. And that was because I was being referred clients from divorce attorneys, post divorce, they were sending their women to me, because typically, the woman didn’t have the primary relationship with an advisor if they were working with an advisor at all. And the attorneys said, you know, you need somebody go to Donna. But what I determined was that they didn’t understand how they ended up with what they ended up with post through the divorce process. And they were not making informed choices. And that’s not to for you to blame the attorneys because the attorneys aren’t financial experts. But the clients that I was being with that were being referred to me, they just didn’t know the right questions to ask or the things that they needed to be concerned about, or what impact a certain decision might have on their financial well being. So that’s when I said, Hmm, there’s there’s a gap here, and maybe that’s something that I can fill. So that’s when I learned about this the certified divorce financial analyst designation, and I went wholeheartedly straight into it.

Jessica Weaver  07:34

Wow, again, you’re problem solving when there is a problem, there’s a gap here, what do we need to do? Let me ask you, have you noticed a difference with the women who they come to you after the divorce? With the women who come to you before the divorce? How they’re both feeling after?

Donna Cates  07:51

Oh, absolutely. The ones that come to me after they’re typically depressed, they’re scared. They don’t know how they’re going to make ends meet. They, they just lack confidence, because they still don’t understand anything about the money.

Jessica Weaver  08:07

And are they kicking themselves?

Donna Cates  08:09

 Yeah, yeah, really feeling guilty and blaming themselves, all those things that just create more havoc.

Jessica Weaver  08:19

And the overwhelm, I would just imagine you’re stepping into a whole new world. Now your divorce your whole new life, lifestyle, maybe new house everything, and now getting thrown the money on top of it. It’s just got to be too overwhelming at times.

Donna Cates  08:35

Absolutely. And one of the things that I help people with those that are fortunate enough to come into my world, prior to divorce is literally learning how to define the steps that are involved and breaking it down into itty bitty baby steps. Because the thing is, is we can think of, you know, there’s 10 things I need to do, oh my god, okay, I do one or two, but then I get so overwhelmed with everything that I quit doing anything. So it’s deer in the headlights afraid to do anything, can’t take the next step. Right. So that’s one of the things that that we actually do was break everything down and say, Okay, what are we going to do today? What are we going to do tomorrow?

Jessica Weaver  09:17

I love that just focusing on one step at a time one day at a time, because you look down that to do list and it will just be too much. You’re overwhelmed, but you still understand exactly how these steps are building. 

Donna Cates  09:30


Jessica Weaver  09:31

You’re getting them there. And that is huge. Yes. I always noticed when I get overwhelmed, or my clients get overwhelmed, we avoid things, we procrastinate. We make excuses or any kind of reason to justify avoiding it. Because there’s only so much we can handle in a day. Right. We’re already busy enough to begin with.

Donna Cates  09:53

And add on top of that, the emotions that we’re carrying through all of this decision making that that in itself just weighs everyone down.

Jessica Weaver  10:03

And grieving, you’re grieving, you’re a part of your life a future that you’re not going to have. And I’m sure when you ask them what they want for their life, they can’t even think that far.

Donna Cates  10:16

They just want to know how to get to tomorrow,

Jessica Weaver  10:18

To tomorrow, tomorrow, how do you get them over that hump to now we have to build new goals. We have to build a new life for you. How do you get them over that hump from just being I gotta focus on today, survival mode to thinking, what would it look like for my life? What do I want my life to be like now? 

Donna Cates  10:39

Got it. Well, it is actually a process. So you know, if we’re, if I’m fortunate enough to be working with someone before their divorce is finalized, we’re literally going through and defining what their life looks like right now. And I think one thing that separates me from a lot of financial advisors that I’m not just talking about, where’s all your money? And what’s that look like today? But what’s important to you about your money? What do you want to be able to do with that money. And that actually helps people to make better decisions about what they’re asking for through their divorce, because now they understand the values behind the different pieces that they’re working with. So we do that through the process. And then post divorce, we kind of transition into post divorce financial planning, and I call it you know, rebuilding a strong financial foundation for you and your children. So that you can do the things that are important to you, and impact the world, in your family to the best of your ability. So that again, baby steps, because we there’s a lot of things that have to be done immediately following divorce, especially if you’re receiving or giving up assets. So we have to walk through the process of doing that division, getting things retitled, getting debt settled, it could be getting your wills updated. Oh, my gosh, you mean, you don’t have a will and you’ve got young kids, okay, we got to put that on the checklist. So there’s a whole process to go just in the first month. And then once we get everything settled, now we’re in a position, all of that’s done, then we can take a deep breath and go- Okay, what’s important to me about my future. And that’s where the focus is, is we’ve got to create that dream of what the future is going to look like for you. So we can put steps in place to make sure that that comes to fruition and isn’t just a pipe dream.

Jessica Weaver  12:43

Wow, it’s got to be an empowering moment for them when they do get to that place and that conversation. Or maybe it’s at the other end of it when they Wow, this is I’m doing this right. I’m in control. I’m driving the car now. And I love how you framed it- Why is money important to me? And maybe why was money important to my spouse? Why was money important to my parents? But coming down to me, and this is a great exercise for all of us to do all the listeners to do is to think, what is it about money that I’m so drawn to? What is it about it?  Is it because I want the nice cars, the nice house? Is it’s the security to take care of my family. What is it for you, Donna? Why is money important to you. Put you in the hot seat.

Donna Cates  13:30

I will tell you that it’s kind of shifted, money initially was important to me because I was taught that I needed to make money. We got, we got to have money to live and to pay the bills. But as I’ve grown, you know, through my practice and just as an adult, what I have come to determine is that money puts me in a position that number one, I don’t have to worry about what what’s going to happen tomorrow. But bigger than that, it puts me in a position to have choices to be able to make choices. It also gives me the ability to be a much more generous giver, to my community, to my family, to anything that’s important to me, but it’s a mindset shift I mean, you got to shift that mindset in order to understand that money is just not to pay today’s bills, you got to look beyond that.

Jessica Weaver  14:27

Yes, and I whether this is good or bad. It’s it’s such a sad statement to think of I’m just waking up to go to work, drag my butt to the office, hate my job to come home and pay the bills and what’s left over for me at the end of the day. But when you can create that money, the options, freedom, right, what is the opposite of freedom? It’s feeling trapped because you have no other option, no choice. But for money to be able to do that. I love that I’m very similar. I think money is important to me because opportunities just like you options, and to be able to create those opportunities for other people, as well like with our firm with this podcast and getting these resources out there to more and more women. So I’m right there with you Donna, on that.

Donna Cates  15:18

Well I just recently learned, I learned a new phrase, and it’s rather than retiring, it’s a not when are you going to retire? But when would you like for work to be optional?

Jessica Weaver  15:32

Work optional lifestyle, I love that, yes, we should all embrace that, that we could stop working today. Or in your terms, maybe get out of a bad marriage or a bad relationship. Right maybe to give ourselves that option to be able to walk away from something that isn’t serving me anymore. And to do something that is going to serve me and my purpose. Now, you recently brought on mediation to I call your yours, the divorce shop, that’s how I refer to you, because you help women pre divorce, during, post divorce. You have workshops all throughout the year, you have so many different layers to your business. And now mediation. What do you love about the mediation work?

Donna Cates  16:20

Mediation is awesome, because most people don’t know how to do divorce without controversy. And literally, by doing Divorce mediation, two parties come together with a professional, who is a totally disinterested third party, no skin in the game. But they’re having a conversation with somebody who can coach them and guide them on making good decisions together. So it’s rather than fighting over everything, having an attorney say you have to have this or we need to take him to the cleaners. Now we’re literally working together, all your both parties are working together to negotiate something that’s going to be okay with both parties. Now, the reality is, is when you start with one household, and now you’re dividing it, you know, life is gonna look a little bit different financially. And even you know, where you live and how you live. But the key is, is that we don’t have to get in a litigated conflict resolution situation in order to make decisions about how we’re going to divide everything that we have together.

Jessica Weaver  17:38

So you’re not leaving it up to a judge to make that decision. Whereas your there’s no, there’s no guarantee that you’ll both be happy, or, or fine or Okay, as you put it with it. What do you think are the sticking points that you see with a lot of couples, when it comes to dividing assets? Maybe it’s custody, what do you see a lot happening?

Donna Cates  18:01

Well, and I’m not an expert in the parenting planning and child custody, and that issues always refer those those folks to another professional for mediation as well, because all everything can be mediated. But the big sticking points are the mindset of ownership. And this isn’t a diss against men, but a lot of men I have found over my career, they think that they are entitled to their pension, and their 401 K’s, they earned it, it’s theirs, they’re not going to give any of it up. So that’s a that’s almost always something that has to be worked through. Because the reality is, in most states, the courts are going to go, you get 50/50. So whatever you have as a household is going to be divided. Now the reality is, is when you’re mediating and not relying on that judge that you mentioned to make the decision for you, you now you’re in a power position, because you and your spouse can say, well, you know, I’m really not excited about retirement. I don’t need all that retirement money right now. I’d much rather keep the house and not have to move the kids out of the school system. Now, that may not be the wisest financial decision, but we can do the number crunching to figure out what if the wife kept the house and the equity in the home and gave up any entitlement to the retirement accounts. What would that look like? Would she be okay, would she have time to rebuild? You know, that missed opportunity? So that the retirement I think is one of the big ones it’s kind of like- I earned this I’m keeping it.

Jessica Weaver  19:49

I could see that and I’ve heard that. I would imagine and I know this not so much dividing of assets but the the same thing with alimony 

Donna Cates  20:00

Yes, yes.

Jessica Weaver  20:01

Same type of people complaining about the retirement assets, and the alimony as well and filling this huge burden of having to pay that and the mindset around it. 

Donna Cates  20:14

Well, I will share this with you. I’m working on a case right now, where the soon to be ex spouse, and I’m mediating the case. So they’re both clients. He has definitely said, I don’t even want to hear the word alimony. He has absolutely no intention of paying it. But based on the courts and the rules, the laws that are established, this wife because it’s a long term marriage, and she has been a stay at home mom for the majority of their marriage, she would be entitled to alimony. Well, one of the things that I discovered is that, you know, we can pay that we just don’t necessarily have to call it alimony. Because there’s another option called a property settlement. Same kind of thing. You’re paying money over a certain period of time. But it’s not the traditional alimony payment. So we were able to work around and you and I are going well, that’s just another word, it’s still the same thing. But he’s going to be paying it and he’s going to have to be okay with it.

Jessica Weaver  21:22

And maybe it’s a different pill to swallow. I mean, everyone, different terms resonate differently for people. So taking out alimony, I guess, got them over the hump. What would you say are some common divorce mistakes that you see happening?

Donna Cates  21:38

I’m going to tell you from a woman’s perspective, and this is traditionally women with school aged children , they always automatically say, I’m keeping the house I’m not moving my young kids out of their school system or their house. And the unfortunate thing is, they don’t give any consideration to what that means to them financially. So just a couple of things that I’ll point out without going into all the details, if you’re going to keep the home. Number one, if the house is already in a in a joint, that you’re there’s a joint mortgage, now you’ve got to have that mortgage refinanced in just your name. So if you don’t have earned income, and you’re going to be relying on alimony or child support, or property settlement it’s going to be at least six months to a year before you can even get approved for a mortgage because you got to have income to support the mortgage payment. Right? The bank is not going to underwrite you, if you don’t have a guaranteed source of income. And then the second thing is, is that let’s say that you can you cross that hurdle. But you still have no clue what the cost is associated with running the house, a lot of people think well, I can handle that mortgage payment. I had people tell me, it’s costing me as much to live in an apartment as it is a house. And I say, probably not. Because in the apartment, you pick up the phone and say, come fix my water, or come fix my AC, in a home, you’re calling somebody and paying them to do all of the repairs, you have to pay for the pool maintenance, you have to do yard maintenance, there are all kinds of costs that are associated with a home as well. So that’s one thing I help people with is really digging deep and defining all of those expenses associated with a home. So they truly understand- can I afford to be the sole owner of this property? Or does it make more sense for us to consider selling it, splitting the proceeds, you know, equitable distribution of the equity in the home and maybe buying something else. That’s just that’s one big issue is the mortgage and keeping the house, another is forgoing retirement, especially younger people. They they just don’t appreciate the value of that future money. And that earnings 

Jessica Weaver  24:11

Compounding Interest?

Donna Cates  24:12

 Right, right, the compounding interest of this retirement account that they’re giving up today, and what a difference that’s going to make for them down the road. So you may say, using the example we mentioned a moment ago, that I’m going to give up the 401k because I want to keep the house. Well the equity in the home isn’t going to put food on the table. It’s certainly not going to be right it’s not going to write you a paycheck when you do retire because that’s what the retirement account is doing. You turn off your income spigot now you got to generate your own income. So we that’s why I love doing the divorce financial analysis work because we’re able to literally show people not just what their situation will look like the day of the divorce, but a year from now. Five years now, 10 years from now. So they’re making informed decisions when they say, yeah I hear you Donna, but I definitely want to keep that house and I’m giving up the retirement. They know what they’re up against.

Jessica Weaver  25:13

Yes. Any, we have to give them their choices. We can’t You can’t force anybody to choose any differently. But as long as you educate them, it’s up to them. And they’re, they’re making an intentional decision then, and not making that decision. But you’re right. And you think about how old is the house? Does it need a ton of repairs? Or did we just replace everything? Is it brand new? But I see that all the time, people forget how much house costs, just the maintenance.

Donna Cates  25:42

And I’ll share another bit with you. This is another mediating couple that I’m working with. They literally just got their house sold. And that was probably three months after the mediation and divorce was finalized. But they ended up having to spend, they decided to sell their home and split the proceeds, then they were going to split split those proceeds equitably. So we had already mediated everything. But what ended up happening is the husband who was keeping the home or in the home until it’s sold, discovered that he had to spend about $30,000 to get the house in showable condition. Oh, yeah. And, you know, some bickering ensued, because that was going to use proceeds that had already been divided. Well, that expense had to be divided between the two as well. So they both just got less money, you know, post sale of a home. But yeah, that’s the reality. So

Jessica Weaver  26:42

That’s true. We’re thinking of some of our divorce cases. And its the same thing, if I kept the house, I’d be bleeding money into it. And is it worth it at that point? To keep it and for how long? Very true? Yes. Well, you keep herself a marital home, get informed what what is crunched the numbers? What’s the true cost of running the household and maintaining it? And then retirement assets? You’re kind of trading future dollars for today money. And then how are you building it back up? All very good points Donna. Awesome. Where can people find you Donna and learn more about your mediation practice? Divorce financial planning, as well? Where can they go?

Donna Cates  27:24

Well, they can come to the women’s wealth boutique, and find me there, that’s an easy way. And then for the money mediation, the mediation portion, we can you can see that at navigating-divorce.com.

Jessica Weaver  27:41

Oh, fantastic. Thank you so much Donna, what would be next steps for somebody listening to this? What should they do? They’re thinking about divorce or in a divorce, they’re in it, or they’re trying to get out, finalize and implement the divorce settlement, what should they be doing?

Donna Cates  27:57

I think the best thing to do is to go ahead and reach out to me, the first step of it No, seriously, because what I want to do is to share with you a document, it’s a financial checklist, it’s an exhaustive list of all the documents that you need to be gathering. So when if you go to your first attorney meeting with those documents, your attorneys will go, oh my gosh, I’ve never seen anybody so prepared. But it will put you in such a much better frame of mind because you have at least you know, you have access to the information. So I’m happy to share that with you, just you know book a call with me, we can take 20-30 minutes for a discovery call of where I can learn more about your circumstance, whether or not you’re just thinking about divorce or already in the middle of it. And then that will help us determine what the next best steps would be for you and your situation.

Jessica Weaver  28:52

Fantastic. And you also have events and workshops all throughout the year. Let’s talk about those real quick too.

Donna Cates  28:58

Okay. Awesome. I am participating in the second Saturday, what women need to know about divorce. And just like the name says, every second Saturday of every month, we are doing virtual workshops. They start at 9am Central time and are over at 11:45. And in that time period, you hear from a counselor that talks about emotional issues and divorce, how to take care of yourself how to take care of your children, even your adult children because they’re impacted just like the young children. Then we have a divorce attorney that talks about what the divorce process looks like. Most of us only know what we know about court from what we see on television. And that’s so not the case. And then I talk about the financial data gathering and avoiding common financial pitfalls. So it’s a very resourceful workshop. You’ll get a lot of information from it. 

Jessica Weaver  29:57

Oh, that’s fantastic. It’s not too long, but you are I love that you can meet with different professionals too, all in one setting. I don’t have to go and research all these different professionals, get them myself, I can just show up, hear them talk, know it’s a good fit. No, you’ve done the due diligence to bring them to me. That’s a huge resource. It really is.

Donna Cates  30:16

Jessica I’ll say this to you too, the not having to go research people. This is huge is that if you connect with us, we are very well connected with just about every professional that you would need, from the beginning of the divorce to post divorce, mortgage brokers, health insurance providers, auto and home insurance people, we’ve got those relationships so we can literally turn key and say, What is your need? Here’s who I recommend you reach out to.

Jessica Weaver  30:50

Exactly, that’s a great point and having that connection and knowing Donna’s doing the hard work networking. She lives and breathes this. She’s all about divorce. You’ve been doing it for years, decades. It’s amazing. And it’s so great to have you on the team, somebody who’s a pro at this, just one of the financial divorce experts in our industry. So thank you so much for being on with us Donna for women behind the millions. That’s what we have to do. We have to protect our millions grow it it doesn’t matter if we’re going through a divorce. We still can come out financially secure and knowledgeable about our money. So.. fantastic. Thank you Donna.

Donna Cates  31:25

Thank you appreciate it.