Professional Designations

What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)?

By  Brian Thorp

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Going through a divorce can be one of the most emotional and challenging life experiences for many people. When it comes to navigating both common and complex financial issues that arise during a divorce, you’ll find it comforting to know a growing number of professionals are specializing in helping people skillfully tackle these money matters through this difficult time.

Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA) help people going through a divorce (and their lawyers) understand how their financial decisions will impact their future finances. This credential is issued and overseen by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA), which has been around since 1993 and offers specialized training to accounting, financial, and legal professionals in pre-divorce financial planning. 

Let’s take a closer look at what this financial certification is, what it takes to earn it, and how you may benefit from working with a CFA. 

What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)?

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) focuses on how divorce will affect the long-term financial situations of their clients. They are highly knowledgeable in a variety of areas such as property division, child support, spousal support and calculating the future value of retirement funds. 

When clients first meet with a CDFA, they’ll start by gathering and organizing important financial information to gain an understanding of the values of their assets and debts. During the settlement negotiations, a CDFA can work with clients to estimate their ongoing financial needs, evaluate various settlement proposals and design new ones, in addition to analyzing short and long-term cash flow for both parties involved.  

CDFAs differ from traditional financial advisors because their primary goal is not to make recommendations for retirement, college savings and other long-term financial priorities. Instead, they perform detailed analyses to support clients with high conflict situations. There are often a lot of emotions and stresses associated with their work. In some cases, CDFAs may be asked to testify in court. 

Should You Hire a CDFA?

A CDFA has specialized financial knowledge that may help you if you’re going through the process of divorce. They may solely work with you or act as a mediator between you and your spouse. You can trust them to help you divide assets and ensure you understand how they’ll affect your financial situation down the road. 

With a CDFA’s guidance, you may also design a feasible monthly budget and figure out how you’ll manage your finances going forward. They will take your future into account so that you don’t make choices and mistakes that impact it negatively. 

A CDFA is particularly beneficial if your divorce is financially complicated because you’ve owned a business or significant assets with your soon to be ex spouse. They can give you the peace of mind of knowing you’re negotiating in a way that protects you during a divorce settlement. 

If you’re thinking about hiring a CDFA, it’s important to do so as early in your divorce process as you can. This way you’ll have enough time to gather all of the documents and information they’ll need to best serve you. 

It’s essential to note that while a CDFA can be a crucial part of your divorce team, they’re not a replacement for a lawyer and will not offer comprehensive legal advice. You should consider hiring a CDFA to support you alongside your lawyer. They can help you save time, money and headaches in the future. 

And once you’re through the divorce process, a financial advisor who specializes in serving divorced women may be an ideal guide to help you feel confident and optimistic for your future.

What Does it Take to Earn and Maintain the CDFA?

Those who hope to earn the CDFA designation must fulfill certain requirements set forth by the  IDFA. Here’s a brief overview of what’s required:

CDFA Education and Experience Requirements

To sit for the CDFA exam, candidates must hold at least an undergraduate degree. The IDFA also requires that applicants have at least three years of financial planning or legal work experience. Those who do not have a degree can still pursue the CDFA as long as they have at least ten years of experience. 

CDFA candidates are also required to complete a four-step modular program which focuses on the financial and tax issues of divorce and is based on divorce settlement case studies. 


CDFA candidates need to pass a certification exam, which consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and covers these subject areas:

  • The basics of divorce laws and procedures.
  • The financial aspects of divorce.
  • The tax implications of divorce.
  • Case studies with a focus on negotiating divorce settlements and finding errors in them.  

To pass, they must earn a 72% or higher at a Pearson VUE testing center. The exam takes about four hours to complete. 

CDFA Continuing Education Requirements

CDFA holders must fulfill 15 divorce-related continuing education hours every two years. This way the IDFA can ensure they’re up to date with the laws and tax codes associated with divorce financial planning. They are also required to pay an annual renewal fee. 

CDFA Code of Ethics 

Those with the CDFA designation must abide by the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility adopted by the IDFA. It states that they’ll practice integrity, competence, objectivity, fairness, confidentiality, professionalism and compliance. 

How To Find The Best Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) For You 

With thousands of CDFA designation holders across the US, you’re likely to find several well suited to help you navigate the financial issues of your divorce and any unique circumstances you may be facing.

You’ll find a growing number of CDFAs featured on Wealthtender this year and you can also search the directory of CDFA designation holders on the IDFA website.


How can I confirm the financial professional I’m working with holds the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst designation?

Visit the directory of CDFA designation holders on the IDFA website.

What if I have a complaint about the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst I’m working with?

You’ll find detailed information about filing a complaint on the IDFA website.

Where can I learn more about other professional designations held by financial advisors and coaches?

Refer to this list of popular financial certifications prepared by Wealthtender to help you learn more about each designation. You’ll find a brief description of each certification, plus links to in-depth articles if you want to learn more about a particular designation.

About the Author
Brian Thorp, Founder and CEO of Wealthtender profile picture

About the Author

Brian Thorp

Brian is CEO and founder of Wealthtender. He and his wife live in Texas, enjoying the diversity of Houston and the vibrancy of Austin.

With over 25 years in the financial services industry, Brian is applying his experience and passion at Wealthtender to help more people enjoy life with less money stress.

Connect with Brian on LinkedIn

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.

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