The pitfalls of do-it-yourself property division

Who doesn’t want to save money? For many Florida residents, the prospect of divorce is closely associated with concerns about financial losses. Some couples choose to take a do-it-yourself approach to their divorce, rather than handing over their hard-earned money to a family law attorney. While this is an understandable concern, going it alone can mean hefty financial losses, especially when it comes to issues related to property division.

For example, consider the division of retirement assets. Even couples who agree on how to split retirement accounts can make costly mistakes that result in thousands of dollars in fines and tax penalties. A family law attorney can help a couple sort through all available property division options in an effort to reach a resolution that is agreeable to all parties. They can even help run the numbers to demonstrate the likely outcome of various approaches. 

If the goal of a DIY divorce is to save money, refusing legal advice is a questionable course of action. If mistakes are made, the resulting financial losses can far exceed the cost of a simple and collaborative divorce. It should also be noted that a great deal of DIY divorce advice available online is misleading at best and flat-out wrong at worst.

Hiring an attorney is not tantamount to waging war. A legal professional serves as a trusted advisor in all matters related to divorce, including property division. Plenty of amicable divorces are guided by attorneys. For those in Florida who want to work together to divide assets, a divorce attorney can be an invaluable resource.

Source: stltoday.com, “Splitting retirement accounts is tricky for DIY divorce“, Beth Pinsker, Nov. 26, 2017

Prenuptial agreements: Some include more than financial agreement

Some Florida couples decide to make decisions about their marriages before they begin. Some may choose to legally bind the decisions in a prenuptial agreement. Not only do prenuptial agreements allow couples to make financial decisions before a marriage begins, but some agreements also include stipulations about sexual and romantic decisions, family boundaries, and financial responsibility decisions while married.

Some celebrity couples have made specific clauses in their prenuptial agreements that involve more than their finances. Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are reportedly worth $74.5 billion and reportedly agreed on a romantic clause prior to their marriage. They agreed to one date a week and 100 minutes of alone time outside of their home and work. Nicole Kidman was aware of her husband’s struggle with alcohol and drugs prior to their marriage. Reportedly, Keith Urban will receive $600,000 for every year that he does not excessively indulge in either vice.

It is rumored that couples like Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel have infidelity clauses within their agreements. Justin and Jessica are reportedly worth $248 million, allegedly Biel will receive $500,000 if Justin is unfaithful. Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z reportedly have clauses for Beyoncé to receive $5 million for every child they have in their marriage. In addition, they have reportedly updated their prenuptial agreement with a post-nuptial agreement to establish trust funds and custody agreements in the event of a separation.

While some skeptics may feel that prenuptial agreements are unromantic and an indication that a couple may not have faith in the longevity of their relationship, many couples find them useful to legally decide sensitive financial discussions prior to marriage. Family law attorneys in Florida can advise couples of considerations to be included in an agreement. In addition, attorneys can facilitate discussions between a couple with significant wealth or other concerns that may be difficult to discuss on their own. 

Source: businessinsider.com, “The surprising ‘prenups’ of America’s richest couples“, Rachel Gillett, Nov. 17, 2017

Republican tax plan could cut alimony deduction

Many Florida spouses are carefully watching the progression of the Republican tax plan. There are numerous controversial aspects of the plan, but one that has sparked debate involves the elimination of the alimony tax deduction. That could change the financial landscape for hundreds of thousands of Americans, which is an unwelcome change in many households.

Currently, the spouse who is tasked with making alimony payments is able to deduct those payments from his or her taxable income. The recipient, on the other hand, is required to claim alimony payments as income and expected to pay the appropriate taxes. This differs from child support, which is tax neutral in either direction.

Being able to deduct alimony payments can help sweeten what, for many, is a bitter pill to swallow. If the currently proposed tax bill should pass, that would mean an increased tax burden on all spouses paying alimony. Recently, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers came out in opposition to the proposed changes. Many taxpayers across the nation have contacted their representatives to voice their opinions against eliminating the alimony deduction.

As the Republican tax bill moves through the legislative process, Florida residents will likely pay close attention. Losing the alimony tax deduction would deliver a serious blow to many middle income earners. It could also, many fear, create acrimonious divorce negotiations as couples struggle to offset an increased tax burden on the paying spouse. Divorce is challenging enough without adding an additional layer of financial stress to the negotiation process. 

Source: cbsnews.com, “GOP plan to cut alimony tax deduction has some divorcees on edge“, Nov. 16, 2017

3 questions to ask before starting a divorce

In your anxiousness to be free of your spouse and make the process as quick as possible, you may want to jump right into a divorce. However, simply knowing you both want a divorce is not enough to begin the process.

The approach you take will set the tone not only for your divorce proceedings, but also for the years after. Therefore, it is wise to sit down and ask yourself, as well as your spouse, these three questions first.

1. Do you have hostile feelings?

Feelings of hostility and a desire for revenge only lead to pain and suffering for everyone involved, as well as for your wallet. If you harbor resentment toward your spouse, seek professional counseling to work through those feelings so you can approach your divorce from a more stable emotional state and cooperative attitude. Divorce does not have to entail ugly court battles.

2. What do you want from the divorce?

Understanding what you want from the divorce can help you decide on the right method and uncover any adversarial feelings you may have. This involves a third-party facilitator who helps you and your current spouse agree on the terms of your divorce. If you desire cooperation but also want to ensure your rights or have many complex issues to navigate, collaborative law is a better choice. Each of you and your lawyers will meet together to negotiate an agreement out of court. If you desire safety from an abusive spouse, then litigation is an appropriate choice.

3. Is your attorney on board with your wishes?

You and your spouse may be on the same page, but if either of you hires an aggressive lawyer, then your civilized divorce is unlikely. Make sure you find the right fit in the person who will represent you. Your attorney should understand, respect and work toward your goals.

 

Proposed tax plan could reduce alimony deduction

As Florida residents debate the recently proposed GOP tax cuts, they may want to take a close look at the provisions within the proposal. One of the ways that Republican lawmakers plan to pay for tax cuts is by eliminating the tax deduction for alimony payments. That can make a big difference in the bottom line for many Americans.

Currently, individuals who make alimony payments are able to reduce their taxable income dollar for dollar. If that tax deduction is eliminated, estimates suggest that the government will gain nearly $8 billion over the next 10 years. That could change the negotiation tactics used in divorce cases across the nation.

On the flip side, spouses who expect to receive alimony payments would no longer need to declare those payments as income. That could lead to a tax bill reduction for alimony recipients. It is unclear how this change could impact the calculation of child support, which is often tied to alimony negotiations. That said, the issue could certainly complicate divorce negotiations, since the paying party may want to recover his or her lost tax savings through other means. 

It’s also important to note that many states have guidelines and laws concerning spousal support that are based on the fact that those payments are tax-deductible. If the tax deduction goes away, it’s likely that those laws would need to be readdressed. For Florida spouses who are considering how the currently proposed tax bill could impact their own alimony scenario, it may be helpful to contact a family law attorney.

Source: bloomberg.com, “The GOP Tax Plan Could Make Your Divorce More Expensive“, Tom Metcalf and Christie Smythe, Nov. 8, 2017

Collaborative law can be a great fit for Florida families

Many Florida couples are looking for a non-traditional path to ending their marriage. Long gone are the days when divorce followed a very narrow path. Today’s couples have many choices when it comes to processing the end of a marriage, including collaborative law. This approach harnesses the best intentions of both parties toward seeking a mutually beneficial settlement.

Collaboration is also a great fit for parents, who can begin to construct their co-parenting relationship as they navigate the ins and outs of their divorce. With the shared goal of making the situation as beneficial as possible for shared children, couples can often resolve issues with far less contention than in a traditionally litigated divorce. This can lead to outcomes that are better for everyone involved.

Collaboration also provides an excellent example for a couple’s children. When kids see their parents working together to resolve their differences in a respectful manner, they will take those lessons to heart. Kids might also be comforted in the knowledge that their parents are still looking out for their best interests, even as they transition out of a romantic relationship.

For Florida families who are considering collaborative law as a divorce option, it can be helpful to sit down with an attorney who practices this type of divorce law. Arrive armed with questions and concerns, and be ready to provide an overview of family dynamics and goals for divorce. This is a great way to embark on a path of collaborative divorce and transition into the next phase of life. 

Source: The Huffington Post, “The Collaborative Divorce: A Litigator Explains“, Robi Ludwig, Nov. 2, 2017