FAQs

Candidates become CDFA professionals by completing the four self-study modules with a 70% or higher:

Module One: The Fundamentals of Divorce

  • 169 pages
  • Exam = 100 question multiple choice, taken at an approved testing center.

Module Two: The Financial Issues of Divorce

  • 169 pages
  • Exam = 100 question multiple choice, taken at an approved testing center.

Module Three: The Tax Issues of Divorce

  • 127 pages
  • Exam = 100 question multiple choice, taken at an approved testing center.

Module Four: Working as a CDFA – Case Studies

  • Two case studies with 50 questions pertaining to information learned in Modules 1-3.
  • Exam = 50 question, multiple choice, taken at an approved testing center.

Candidates become CDFA professionals by completing the four self-study modules with a 70% or higher.

No, the CDFA program is not changing. You can continue to use your designation. IDFA™ will continue to certify CDFA professionals and promote the CDFA designation to family lawyers and the general public. The ADFA designation is a completely new designation geared towards people who are heavily involved in litigation and spend the majority of their time testifying in court.

The CDFA designation is available to individuals who have a minimum of three years’ experience — as a financial professional, accountant, or matrimonial lawyer.

For purposes of obtaining the CDFA designation, IDFA considers a “financial professional” to be someone who has worked in the financial industry for at least three years. The financial industry encompasses a broad range of organizations that manage money, including banks, credit unions, stock brokerages, investment funds, accounting firms, insurance companies, consumer finance companies, and some government sponsored enterprises.

Financial designations recognized by IDFA include: CFP®, PFP, RFP, CPA, CA, CGA, CMA, M.Acc., DABFA, EA, ChFC®, CFA, PFS, CFE, CFF, CFM, CLU, CPCU, CIMA, CIMC, CBV, CVA, and ASA.

Divorce-industry experience (other than that listed above) will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

We often are asked: “How long should I plan on it taking me to get through all four modules?” Unfortunately, the answer is: “it depends”. It depends on your background in financial-planning issues, tax law, and domestic-relations law. Most of our graduates are CFP® professionals, CPAs, CAs, CGAs, or lawyers. We require that you have three years of experience within the financial or legal industry. We suggest that you allow three to four weeks of intensive study time (between five and ten hours per week) per module. On average, most of our candidates complete all four modules in three to six months.

The CDFA program is designed to be completed in one year. You will have one year from the purchase of the complete program or the purchase of the first module to complete the program.

If more than 12 months have passed and you wish to continue with the program, you may purchase a one-year course extension for a fee of $395. This course extension can be purchased one time only. If you have not completed the course after 24 months, you must purchase and retake the previous passed Modules to receive the certification.

Read each Module thoroughly, then complete the “Sample Test Questions and Answers” sections in Modules One, Two, and Three in order to prepare for your exams. The study time for each Module is typically about 20 to 25 hours for most candidates.

The first three Modules each have a two-hour computer exam, which consist of 100 multiple-choice questions each. You will have two hours to complete each exam. You will also be given an additional 15 minutes to take a tutorial, which will explain how to access the tax table and life expectancy table. It is very important that you take the tutorial.

Module Four contains a set of comprehensive case studies designed to teach you how to apply the knowledge acquired from the first three Modules. The exam for this Module contains 50 multiple-choice questions. You will have two hours to complete the exam.

To become a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® you must receive a minimum score of 70% on each of the four exams; you may retake an exam if you do not pass.

The exam fee is included in your tuition. There is no additional charge to take the exam. If you fail the exam, you may retake it for a fee of $150 each time you retake the exam. There is no limit on the number of times you may retake the exam. However, there is a 10-day waiting period after failing an exam. You must complete the waiting period before retaking the exam.

Candidates will need to set up an account with the approved testing provider for IDFA. You will receive information on how to set up your account, as well as authorization codes and voucher codes when you register for the course.

Contact us to reschedule your exam at info@institutedfa.com or 800-875-1760.

If you are not satisfied with any of the modules within 30 days of receiving your materials, you can get your money for that module back by:

  1. notifying us before you take the exam for the module you currently have
  2. returning all materials that you received for that module.

NO refund will be given after 30 days.

For more information regarding refund, complaint, and/or program cancellation policies, please contact our office at 1-800-875-1760.

Your Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®) designation is valid for one year from your date of certification, after which an annual renewal fee of $245 applies. Additionally, you must obtain 15 hours of divorce-related continuing education (CE) every two years and remain in good standing with IDFA. The two-year period starts the first day of the month in which the participant completes the course and is awarded the CDFA designation. For instance, if you complete the course on 9/18/2015, then you must report to IDFA 15 CE credits for the time period from 9/1/2015 to 9/1/2017. You must report another 15 CE credits for the time period from 9/1/2017 to 9/1/2019, and so on.

One hour of CE credit will be granted by IDFA for each actual hour attended on the topics listed below. Additional CE credits may be obtained by teaching classes on divorce or by completing courses on the subject of divorce. A course or webinar may only be submitted one time per renewal period. In the event that continuing education hours are not accepted, you may request review of the material by emailing proof of attendance and an outline of the material presented to info@InsituteDFA.com. Incomplete requests for review will not be considered. Continuing education hours must be reported on the IDFA website prior to reinstatement date. Courses related to the following topics are suitable for continuing education credit:

  • Professional responsibilities
  • Divorce law and legal terminology
  • Property and taxation
  • Retirement plans and taxation
  • Social Security and other government benefits
  • Spousal and child support and taxation
  • Insurance and risk management
  • Debt, credit, and bankruptcy
  • Financial analysis and planning
  • Specialty areas (e.g., military, same-sex, special needs, late-life divorce, disabilities)

The IDFA also offers an annual conference where you can obtain CE credits for the CDFA designation. This is a great opportunity to:

  • Get updated on the latest trends and issues related to the financial issues of divorce.
  • Listen to and interact with various experts in the areas of divorce, mediation, employee pension and retirement plans, employee benefits, QDROs (U.S. only), and financial and tax issues of divorce.
  • Meet and interact with other CDFA professionals from all over the country.
  • Learn new techniques for developing, growing and enhancing your CDFA practice.
  • Obtain continuing education credits.

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is not a lawyer, and he/she cannot provide legal advice. Practicing law without a license is a criminal offense! If you do not have a license to practice law, you may not give legal advice or practice law in any other way. As a CDFA professional, your work should be limited to the financial analysis relating to the divorce – leave the legal interpretation and advising to the lawyers.The role of the CDFA professional is to assist the lawyer with financial issues related to the divorce – not to replace the lawyer. The CDFA should always recommend, if not require, that any client should hire legal counsel. It is critical that clients seek their own legal counsel to ensure their interests are properly represented.

A CDFA professional's role is to take information provided by the clients and their lawyers, analyze the proposals, and show them the results of the analysis. A CDFA will also show the financial results of different options that are suggested by their clients and/or lawyers.

A CDFA professional needs to be flexible. There are many different roles they will play in their work with lawyers:

  • Strategist/Litigation Support
  • Financial Expert
  • Data Collector/Budget Preparer
  • Client Expectations Manager
  • Evidence Presenter

Not only will a CDFA professional be a member of the team, but he/she will be a critical member of that team. At any point in the process, they may play any one or all of the roles depending on when they get involved in the divorce process.

  • Strategist/Litigation Support: Before the case is even filed, the CDFA can be used as a strategist in the litigation process. The lawyer needs to know what the financial implications are for different divorce settlements. Once you prepare this analysis, it will give the attorney the ammunition he/she needs to negotiate the most advantageous settlement for your client.
  • Financial Expert: In the divorce process, the client and his/her attorney will view you as the financial expert. You will be called on to review and give input on investment data, retirement plans, benefit programs, business records, tax returns, and all other financial data.
  • Data Collector/Budget Preparer: A key support role you can play to the client and his/her lawyer is to help them collect data to prepare the financial affidavit and pre and post divorce budgets.
  • Client Expectations Manager: This is probably one of the most important roles that a CDFA professional plays in the process. Many clients come in with unrealistic expectations; clients often need a reality check. For instance, there was a case where a woman was getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. The children, two girls, were just about out of college. The woman had expectations that when she became divorced from her husband, who was earning about $95,000 per year, she would essentially be taken care of for the rest of her life. She needed to know, from a financial planner’s perspective, the reality of what was going to happen. Even though her husband earned a significant salary, she did not have a realistic view of what could be expected as a result of the divorce. They did not have very much property, and they had spent almost everything they had earned during the marriage. In addition, she had not worked much outside of the home. It was very important for someone with an extensive financial planning background to give her a realistic expectation of the future.
  • Evidence Presenter: In meetings with the client; the client and his/her attorney; the client, spouse and the lawyers; mediation sessions; arbitration hearings or the trial, the CDFA professional is often asked to present evidence to show the financial impact of different settlement options or information related to financial, tax, investment or retirement plan issues.

As you can see, there are many roles that the CDFA professional may play in assisting his/her clients and their attorneys achieve the most advantageous settlement. But to be effective in these roles, the CDFA® must have a strong working knowledge of the financial issues related to divorce.

There are many designations for a financial expert, including: financial planner, Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified General Accountant (CGA), accountant, and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®).

The role of the financial planner, CFP®, or ChFC® is to help people achieve their financial goals regardless of whether they are divorcing or happily married. After determining the client’s goals, the next step is to take an inventory of current assets and liabilities and then the planner looks at what needs to be done to achieve the client’s goals.

These goals can be from one year to 50 years in the future. To look that far into the future, certain assumptions need to be made. Assumptions include income, expenses, inflation rates, interest rates, and rates of return on investments. The assumptions need to be reviewed on a regular basis. If during the review process the planner determines that the client is not on track, the planner will then make recommendations as to what changes need to be made to get back on track. In other words, the financial planner looks at financial results in the future based on certain assumptions made today to see if the client is on track to meet their stated goals and objectives.

Conversely, an accountant typically looks at the details of the scenario as it is today and makes no future projections. In a divorce, they are hired to calculate the tax effect of dividing property and the effect of spousal and child support for one or two years. They typically do not project further into the future. They may also be retained to perform an audit of account activity or to perform forensic accounting functions to help find “hidden assets”.

To best meet the needs of divorcing clients, you need a blend of these two ideologies; the CDFA designation was created to fill this need. The role of the CDFA professional is to assist the client and his/her attorney to understand how the financial decisions he/she makes today will impact the client’s financial future based on certain assumptions.

A CDFA professional is someone who comes from a financial planning, accounting, or legal background and goes through an intensive training program to become skilled at analyzing and providing expertise on the financial issues of divorce. The CDFA professional:

  • Becomes part of the divorce team and provides litigation support for the lawyer and client on financial issues such as:
    • The short-term and long-term effects of dividing property;
    • The tax issues;
    • Analyzing pension and retirement plans;
    • Calculating the present value of a pension;
    • Determining the cost basis and capital gains on the sale of the marital home;
    • Determining if the client can afford the marital home, and if not, what he/she can afford;
    • Evaluating the insurance needs of the client, and determining if the client qualifies for COBRA;
    • Determining earning capabilities; and
    • Establishing assumptions for projecting inflation and rates of return.
  • Brings an innovative and creative approach to settling cases.
  • Provides the client and lawyer with data that shows the financial effect of any given divorce settlement.
  • Appears as an expert witness in court or in mediation or arbitration proceedings.
  • Is knowledgeable about specific tax laws that apply to divorcing couples.
  • Has knowledge about the legal issues in divorce.
  • Is trained to interview clients to:
  • Collect financial and expense data;
  • Help them identify their future financial goals;
  • Develop a budget;
  • Set retirement objectives;
  • Determine how much risk they are willing to take with their investments;
  • Identify what kind of lifestyle they want; and
  • Determine what kind of education they want for their children.

IDFA’s Ethics Committee investigates complaints against Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) professionals. All letters of complaint should be sent to:
Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts
Attention: CEO
2224 Sedwick Road, Suite 102
Durham, NC 27713
Email: Click Here
Subject: Complaint against CDFA professional

To determine whether an individual is currently a member in good standing with IDFA, please search the IDFA database at www.institutedfa.com/cdfaSearch.php

IDFA has adopted a “Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility” (“Code”), which establishes minimum standards of acceptable professional conduct for individuals entitled to use the CDFA certification mark and the marks CDFA and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (collectively, “the marks”). A CDFA designee’s use of the marks is a proclamation to the public that the CDFA designee is a person that members of the public can trust for advice regarding the financial aspects of divorce. A CDFA designee will be true to that trust, will hold inviolate the confidences of the client, and will competently fulfill his/her responsibilities to the client. Adherence to the Code is mandatory for all CDFA designees, and its provisions will be strictly enforced by the IDFA. Non-compliance may result in certification revocation.

Investigation Process

  • All complaints against a CDFA designee must be submitted in writing to the IDFA. No information will be taken over the phone.
  • The chairman of the Ethics Committee will request that the CDFA designee forward all pertinent information to the chairman within 30 days. Failure to comply with an information request within this time may result in disciplinary action.
  • The chairman will evaluate the validity of the complaint and make a disciplinary recommendation.
  • Should the CDFA designee disagree with the chairman’s decision they may appeal the decision in writing within 20 days.
  • The Ethics Committee will review the information and decide the appropriate course of action within a reasonable period of time.
  • The Ethics Committee’s decision is final and binding.

Grounds for Disciplinary Investigation

  • Failure to follow the CDFA Code of Ethics and Practice Standards.
  • Conviction of criminal violation of state or federal law whether or not the violation occurred while working with a client.
  • Such other circumstances as deemed appropriate by the IDFA.

Forms of Discipline

IDFA action as a result of a complaint can result in the following forms of discipline:

  • Dismissal – After examination the Ethics Committee chairman has determined the complaint is without warrant and the charge against the CDFA designee has been dismissed. No further action is needed and the matter remains confidential.
  • Private Censure Letter – The ethics committee chairman has determined that a letter of censure will be placed in the CDFA designee’s file. There is no further action required and the matter remains confidential.
  • Suspension.
  • Revocation.
  • Such other discipline as the IDFA determines is appropriate.

The disciplinary action to be taken by the IDFA will be determined by the IDFA on a case-by-case basis in its discretion.

Reinstatement After Discipline

  • Reinstatement After Suspension: Upon expiration of the period of suspension, a CDFA designee must file with the IDFA, within 30 days of the expiration of the period of suspension, an affidavit stating that the suspended CDFA has fully complied with the order of suspension and with all applicable provisions of the order.
  • Revocation shall be permanent and there shall be no opportunity for reinstatement.

Confidentiality of Proceedings

Dismissals and private censures shall be handled confidentially, to the extent possible. The IDFA will make such disclosures as are required in order to satisfy the requirements of law or the lawful orders or processes of the court or other governmental body or agency or as reasonably required for any regulatory compliance. Suspensions and Revocations will be made available to the public at the discretion of the IDFA.

NOTE: This Policy shall be administered in the sole discretion of the IDFA. The IDFA reserves the right to modify this policy at any time in its discretion. This policy replaces any prior policy or policies regarding the same subject matter.

IDFA will waive annual CDFA dues for any members of the military while they are deployed to active service. However, these CDFA professionals must complete all CE requirements to remain in good standing.