Need to keep divorce costs down? Collaborative law might help

The number of “gray” divorces has continued to climb. Unfortunately, the costs of dissolving a marriage later in life can be a significant factor in the decision to file a petition for divorce. Though Florida residents who are preparing for a divorce after a lengthy marriage may worry about the costs, there are ways to reduce the expense, including choosing a collaborative law approach.

It is estimated that a divorce for those aged 50 and older may run about $50,000 to $100,000. There are ways that spouses can cut these costs significantly. One of the first is to try to avoid the courtroom trial approach. There are other ways to seek a divorce that can help cap the expenses, depending on a particular situation. Those who can work cooperatively through separate attorneys may find that a collaborative law method can keep costs to a minimum compared to a trial divorce.

Along with choosing a less-combative approach, spouses may lower costs by communicating with attorneys through email rather than personal meetings or phone calls. Those who can compile all financial information efficiently also can save time and money. Working together to decide on the division of marital property and retirement assets is another way to reduce costs.  Spouses are encouraged to reach an agreement on the value of possessions and property when possible, rather than seeking a professional appraisal, which adds to the total costs.

The process of seeking a divorce is often emotionally and mentally draining. When significant assets are at stake, the process can take a toll on one’s financial stability. Florida residents who decide that a divorce is their best option may wish to consult with an attorney who is well-versed in the collaborative law approach in order to seek the most cost-efficient and equitable settlement that will best meet their needs.

Changes in tax laws may bring surprises to those who pay alimony

Last year, changes were made to the Internal Revenue Code, some of which took effect in 2019. One of the most debated changes involves alimony tax rules. Now that the changes are in place, Florida residents may be in for a few surprises when they file their 2019 taxes next year.

Up until last year, spouses who were ordered to make alimony or spousal maintenance payments to a former — or soon-to-be former — spouse could deduct the amounts paid from their income for tax purposes. Furthermore, recipient spouses were required to include these monies as income on their own taxes. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the paying spouse can no longer take a deduction, and the recipient spouse is no longer required to report these payments as income.

If a couple finalized a divorce before the end of 2018, then they likely settled under the old rules. However, if agreements were modified after the end of 2018, and the terms of alimony payments were changed, then the current rules may apply. A modification before the end of 2018 would follow the previous rules. Any changes to a previous agreement would need to change the alimony amounts or terms, or specifically state that the new tax rules would be applicable before the 2019 tax code would take effect.

Spouses who have entered into an agreement that requires alimony payments likely have not yet felt the effect that these changes will have on their 2019 taxes. Alimony agreements are often a vital part of divorce settlement negotiations. In marriages where one spouse was the primary wage-earner, a divorce may have a devastating impact on the finances of a lower-earning spouse without the support supplied by alimony or separation support payments. Florida residents who are concerned about how their divorce will affect their financial stability may be best served by working closely with an experienced divorce attorney who can help them reach a satisfactory settlement agreement.

Prenuptial agreements growing trend among millennials

When a marriage ends, one of the most difficult tasks is deciding how to divide marital assets. In the past, the majority of couples would choose to pool their assets once they married in order to meet their shared goals as a couple. However, younger couples are electing to keep assets separate in the hope of avoiding the difficulty of dividing them. In reality, one of the best ways for Florida residents about to marry to protect their assets is to enter into prenuptial agreements.

According to recent financial surveys, spouses are seeking to avoid the animosity of property division negotiations by choosing to deposit their individual assets into separate accounts in addition to a joint household account when marrying. Unfortunately, this does not guarantee that assets will be considered separate should the marriage end. Likewise, keeping property in just one name also will not prevent such property from being declared marital property in a divorce. 

For couples who are each financially independent, simply keeping finances and property separate may be enough to ensure that each partner will retain the majority of their assets in a divorce. However, when only one spouse works outside the home, settlement negotiations may quickly become complicated. According to financial professionals, the best way to avoid contentious discussions is to have a prenuptial agreement.

Reportedly, millennials are more inclined to consider the merits of prenuptial agreements as a way to combat the financial landmines that often occur during a divorce. These marriage contracts also promote healthy discussions about finances that may enable the couple to avoid future problems. Furthermore, these contracts can be revised if circumstances warrant. Florida residents contemplating marriage may benefit from seeking the guidance of an experienced family law attorney who can help draft a contract that fits the client’s particular needs. 

Are you and your spouse good cooperative divorce candidates?

You and your spouse worked as a team throughout your marriage and in raising your children.

Now that your marriage is coming to an end, can you still use the principles of teamwork in a cooperative divorce?

How it begins

Many divorcing couples dislike the idea of possibly contentious litigation where a judge makes decisions that will affect their future and the future of their children. Cooperative divorce puts more control into the hands of the participants. It is an alternative that, compared to traditional divorce, is more respectful, less time-consuming and certainly less expensive.  

Working together

In a cooperative divorce, the parties work together with the help of their respective lawyers to craft a settlement agreement that will satisfy them both. They negotiate and cooperate in good faith and find ways to resolve their differences.  To this end, they will list all assets, disclose all pertinent financial information and promptly provide any additional information that either side requests.

The main difference

Cooperative divorce is much like collaborative divorce. Both types are favored by parties who feel they can work as a team toward a fair compromise in a civil manner. The main difference is that in a collaborative divorce, the attorneys must withdraw from participation if problems remain resolved. If this occurs, the couple must engage new attorneys to take the case to court, which will add time and expense to the divorce process. In a cooperative divorce, the attorneys work with the parties, sometimes in four-way sessions, to achieve the looked-for results and will proceed to court with them if any sticking points remain.

Looking ahead

Experience has shown that litigation is often hard on the children of the marriage due to the long process and the bitterness that may surface between the divorcing parents. One of the reasons that cooperative divorce has gained in popularity is that it is much less stressful for everyone, including the children. It also sets the foundation for continued communication among family members even as the former teammates reach an agreement and go their separate ways.

Collaborative law divorce can provide 2 most basic needs

When spouses realize that their relationship has run its course, there are two basic needs for each party to have during a divorce. These are: someone to advocate for their needs and extensive documentation. Florida residents who are preparing for a divorce might meet both of these needs through a collaborative law approach if their situation lends itself to such a process.

One of the first thoughts when planning to divorce is whether to engage the services of an attorney. This is valid, as everyone needs an advocate when going through this legal process. However, one does not necessarily need to prepare for a bitter court trial if the spouses are still capable of communicating. A collaborative law approach entails each spouse obtaining the services of a separate attorney who will engage in negotiations to arrive at the most agreeable settlement solutions.

Once the type of divorce has been decided upon, the second requirement is to carefully and thoroughly document everything. The first area that needs to be supported with written records is a listing of all marital assets and liabilities. Providing complete information regarding the marital finances ensures that the subsequent settlement will be as equitable as possible. Along with all financial information, it is important to have some form of written communication concerning every other aspect relating to the divorce. When children are involved, written schedules concerning visitation and holiday plans can provide back-up in the event one parent disputes agreed-upon plans. 

While not every detail must be formally documented, even a simple email communication can help clarify an issue, whereas a verbal agreement can be challenged. A divorce takes a mental and financial toll. Spouses who ensure that the two most basic needs are addressed will likely fare better throughout the ordeal. Florida residents who believe that a collaborative law approach can help ease stress may seek out an attorney who is experienced in this type of proceeding.