GOP Tax Proposal eliminates alimony exclusion starting 2019

The new tax bill eliminates the alimony exclusion for the payor of alimony with new or amended agreements after December 31, 2018.

Why does this matter?

For years, alimony paid was subtracted from the payor’s gross income, and was taxable to the recipient.  More most families this lowered the tax bracket for the higher earner, and increased it for the lower earner.  This had the impact in most cases of the parties combined federal tax being lower, and thus more after-tax income available for the needs of the family.

The new law treats alimony like child support:  the payor pays the tax and the recipient pays no tax.

Particularly for families where the higher earner’s income is significantly higher than the lower earner’s income, if divorce is being considered in the short term, you may want to get the divorce finalized in 2018 to maximize the after-tax income available to the family.

For Divorcing Women, Becoming Financially Knowledgeable Is Crucial

By Danielle Andrus in

This article discusses the need for women seeking a divorce to make sure they get solid financial information before consulting with an attorney.

I think that this advise holds for men as well.

Whether you are the primary breadwinner or not (or the husband or wife), getting a solid handle on your financial situation (assets, debts, income and expenses), and understanding how this is likely to impact a financial settlement with your spouse, before you meet with an attorney, can save you a lot of time and unrealistic expectations of what the settlement might end up being.

Click here to read entire article

Divorce Confidential: Silver Linings in Divorce

by Caroline Choi, family law attorney, posted on Huffington Post

“If you’re going through a divorce, there may be many challenges ahead, but regardless of the challenges, there is always a silver lining in every difficult circumstance. ”  The author lists some challenges but also some of the opportunities that may present themselves during this difficult live transition.   She discusses grief, finances and co-parenting challenges.  With a read.

Click here to read full article

How much can a divorce cost?

Here is an interesting article in Huffington Post about the cost of divorce using different processes.  The authors do not quote any sources, so it is difficult to tell how reliable their numbers are.  However, from my experience their ranges seem about right in relative terms.  Committing to be non-adversarial is by far less expensive than the adversarial approach.  And, in many cases, you should be able to get a fair result, without spending a fortune, by using a non adversarial process.

Amazingly, people will spend a lot of money arguing about things to punish their spouse or “for principle”  – spending more money that the issue is really worth.  Sometimes using the litigation approach is necessary – because one (or both) of the parties is being unreasonable, they cannot communicate, trust has completely disappeared, mental health issues, hiding assets or income, abuse, etc.  But,  for many people, however, the adversarial/litigation approach is an unnecessary and expensive complication to an already difficult life transitional event, and often makes it much more difficult for the children because of the additional conflict it can generate for the parents.  I often recommend to people to try mediation first, consulting with attorneys as needed, to see how it goes.  If mediation is not successful, then you can escalate to collaborative, cooperative or litigation.  I think that most people would like to make their own decisions, rather than rely on a third party (Magistrate or Judge) to make life decisions for them.

I have had a number of clients who tried litigation and then came to me,  after spending $100,000  (really!) on legal fees, to resolve the remaining issues through mediation and help them complete their divorce. Sure, by then they were weary of the fight, fed up of the litigation process, and tired of the attorneys not getting things finished.  But they then had $100,000 less for themselves and their children.

Sadly, when people considering divorce talk to friends and family about their impending divorce, they rarely will hear about the success stories, but rather hear the horror stories about bad experiences others have had.  The divorce process does not have to be horrible.  The professionals you hire should be there to help you through the process,  and to make the process easier, not make an already challenging life event even worse.

If you both want to have a dignified divorce, you can.  First, you have to have a positive attitude about coming up with a fair agreement for each of you and most importantly, what is best for your children.  Second, you need to choose, and manage, any professional assistance you hire to make sure they follow your wishes to have a dignified and non adversarial divorce.  Third, you should agreed  some mutual goals about the process and what you want for each other and your children.  Fourth,  see it as a business transaction – not a way to remedy what went wrong in the marriage.  Fifth, getting educated on the law, your financial situation, the options, and the consequences of potential solutions is important.  This allows you to negotiate and make decisions from a basis of knowledge and strength.  Finally, don’t make agreements unless you fully understand them and believe that you making the optimal decisions for yourself, your spouse and your children.  If you need to consult with an attorney, or need help in negotiating your agreement, then, by all means, get the help you need.

Stay-at-Home Mom Facing Divorce? Don’t Expect Alimony? Forbes article is way overstated.

Forbes recently published an article entitled “Stay-at-Home Mom Facing Divorce? Don’t Expect Alimony” in which the author talks about how the trend is towards women not receiving any spousal support, even when they have been a stay-at-home mom for years and have not been in the workforce.Mother and Daughter Baking Together

In my opinion, at least for Colorado, while there has been a trend away from lifetime maintenance, the article is overstating what is actually going on both in the Courts and when people negotiate their own settlements through mediation.

The article implies that someone who has been a stay at home mom and has not worked for years and has no qualifications, and was married to someone who is making $200,000 annually, should be expected to go out and get a job and support herself is, in my experience, an unrealistic expectation.  Certainly, the courts are expecting parents who have teenage children to go to work, but with an income difference as large as indicated by this case, spousal support for some period of time would make sense.

In Colorado we have a new statute that built upon the previous one in that it now provides a formula for a guidance amount of maintenance (including a maximum) and a length of time.  These are for guidance only and are only one factor the Court is to look at when determining a maintenance award.  Other factors include the need of the potential recipient, the ability of the potential payor to pay maintenance, the health of the parties, their earning ability and work history, ages of the parties, lifestyle during the marriage, economic resources available to the parties, and any other factors the court may deem relevant.

If you choose to make your own decisions, rather than rely on the Court to decide for you, then you can take all the factors into account and work out a plan that makes sense and feels fair for both of you and your children.  In my practice, I use financial software to help people understand their financial situation and what the options are for running two households. We can determine after tax cash positions of each person, taking into account their income, expenses and debt payments, which is very powerful for working out whether spousal support is needed and how much.   This often can involve reducing expenses as the combined incomes often cannot afford the previously enjoyed lifestyle.  We can also look at what the future may hold in terms of income and expenses as the situation changes (children getting older, improved incomes, etc) to see if spousal support should change over time, and for how long spousal support will be needed.

To me, it is important that parents think very carefully about what is best for the children in making decisions about spousal support.  Is it best for the children, and make financial sense, for the primary care parent to work full time and put the children into before and after school care?  Does part time work make more sense, at least until the children are a bit older?

To me, the key issue about spousal support is what makes sense for the family moving forward?  What feels fair, and makes sense, given all the circumstances?  I believe that many people have the ability to work this out for themselves, with a little help from a divorce professional, as long as they are willing to “problem-solve” and be fair with each other, rather than go for an “I win- You lose” result.

Don’t Let Divorce Wreck Your Finances

An excellent article from CNNMoney describes many of the issues people need to take into account when planning their divorce.

The key message from the article is that thinking through carefully, not only the division of assets,  but your future cash flow, is critical to your mid to longer term financial health.  As part of both our consulting services and our mediation service, we help people with financial planning for the future so that they have a sound financial footing for moving forward after divorce.

The divorce process can be very expensive if you decide to punish each other in the process, or try to hide assets, or just be unreasonable.  You can often achieve an agreement you both think is fair without resorting to costly litigation, but only if you decide you are going to approach your divorce as a win-win and not a win-lose.

For more, read the entire article by clicking here.

“Gray” Divorces on the Rise

This article from Burlington County Times describes how the divorce rate for American’s over 50 doubled while for the rest of the population, the rate was shrinking.

Financial issues related to the division of retirement plans and working out financially how each party will be able to live separately is a strength of our practice at DivorceFinanceColorado.

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