In Divorce, Men and Women Suffer in Different Ways

September 17, 2012

Divorce affects men and women differently.   Men going through divorce are more likely to suffer emotionally.  Women are more likely to suffer financially.

Studies find that “men were six times more likely to be depressed following a separation or divorce than men who remained married. That was nearly double the likelihood of divorced or separated women undergoing a similar episode compared to women whose marriages were intact”1.  One reason for this seems to be the result of men losing daily contact with their children. Losing daily contact with one’s children is a huge source of anxiety, which can lead to depression.  Often times, even in cases where man has only been peripherally involved in the day to day activities during the marriage, losing that daily opportunity for contact with ones children can be overwhelming.

Women, on the other hand, suffer financially.  Women are about “three times more likely than men to suffer a substantial loss in household income after their marriage broke down.”2  Studies have reported that women “experience a 73 percent drop in their standard of living during the first year following divorce. Men, on the other hand, often fare better in terms of the financial effects of divorce.”2 According some statistics, men “enjoy a 42 percent rise in standard of living within the first year of divorce.”2  Although most women do receive child support, and in some cases spousal support, it still very expensive to run two households and, in most cases, men seem to fare better in these circumstances. As a result, most divorced women have to find a new means of establishing financial security.  This new financial stress and, often times complete upending of a women’s lifestyle (e.g. stay at home mom going back to full time work) can cause extreme anxiety.  Divorce is difficult for men and women for different reasons.

When mediating a divorce settlement, good mediators encourage parties to step in each other’s shoes.  Thus, when going through mediation, men will do well to think about the serious financial anxiety their soon-to-be-ex-wives are experiencing.  Women, on the other hand, would do well to recognize the extreme anxiety their soon-to-be-ex-husbands are dealing with as regards the children.

1http://divorce.clementlaw.com/divorce/psychological-and-economic-effects-of-divorce-men-and-women-affected-differently/

2http://www.divorce-lawyer-source.com/html/law/effects.html

Posted by Jessica Wilds, Graine Mediation Intern

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Virginia Support Calculations – Comparing Child and Spousal Support

April 23, 2012

Divorce is extremely expensive. For most people in Virginia, raising a family in two separate homes (as many divorced people do these days) will cost one or both of you and your children plenty in terms of ability to maintain lifestyle and, even, to simply pay the bills. One of the primary ways that Virginia families make this all work is by the payment and receipt of support: Child Support and Spousal Support (Alimony).

Below is an outline to help you understand how these two methods of support work in Virginia.

(1) Child Support Calculations represent barebones, bottom line child support based on gross incomes, number or children, cost for health insurance and cost for work-related childcare.

- Parents can always choose to have child support be more than the calculations, and often do.

- Many parents, too, leave the basic child support calculation as is and share the cost at an agreed upon ratio (or have the wage earner pay) for particular items necessary for the children, e.g., expensive out of pocket medical care/therapy costs, extracurricular activities, camps, back to school wardrobes, Christmas Gifts, etc.

- Many parents also choose to have child support based on the guidelines and any additional support necessary for the family to be in the form of spousal support (tax deductible to the payer – more on this later)

(2) Spousal Support Calculations (pendent lite) are designed to be temporary amounts of spousal support to help get the non/lower earning spouse through that time period between separation and the actual divorce. (Courts do not want to have a full evidentiary hearing two times – once before trial and one at trial). However, many people chose to use these calculations as their spousal support amounts, particularly since they are calibrated for Fairfax County proper (unlike child support, which is state wide).

(3) Spousal Support is considered income to the receiver. It is taxable. It is deductible for the payer. It is important to understand that, when a parent receives spousal support, that amount is considered as her/his income for purposes of calculating child support; and, the payer of spousal support’s income is reduced by the spousal support amount. Thus, when there is an award of spousal support, the child support number changes (goes down).

(4) Child Support is always reviewable by the courts based on a “change in circumstances”, e.g. incomes go up, incomes go down, children’s needs change. (“The courthouse doors are always open for matters concerning children.”), whereas . . . )

(5) Spousal Support/Alimony may be reviewable depending on how the Settlement Agreement is written. Spousal Support is usually awarded for a specified period of time.

(6) Children receive child support for the duration of their minority (until they turn 18 years old, unless still in high school at 18. (In that situation, children continue to receive child support until they graduate, but not beyond their 19th birthday unless they have particular special circumstances. Adult children who are not able to live independent lives, too, may receive child support well beyond their 18th minority.), whereas . . .

(7) There is no set time for duration of a Spousal Support award. The “Rule of Thumb”, however, in cases where circumstances are such that spousal support is appropriate, is that it is awarded for 50% the length of the marriage (but that is not the law)

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

3 Golden Rules of Visitation

April 23, 2012

Check out The 3 Golden Rules of Visitation Vlog and learn what’s most important when spending time with your children.


What Factors Influence an Individual’s Willingness to Cheat?

January 26, 2012

There are four factors that seem to have the greatest influence over whether a spouse will cheat or not. These factors are pretty basic and probably won’t surprise many people. They are the same factors that probably influence caveman and women, too. Human nature just doesn’t seem to change!

Good Looks, Charisma & Wealth – Just like the peacock, men with beautiful plumes often get their choice of pea hen.  For women, those described as “sex-pots” and “hottie’s” are often sought after by men – ring or no ring.   No new information here. That’s why people tell you that, if your middle-aged hubbie is suddenly sporting a new look, you might want to start asking some questions; and same guess for a middle-aged women. Better to marry dowdy and shrek-like than dapper and gorgeous, charming, and rich no explaination needed here.

Opportunity and Free Time – Couples that lead fairly separate lives – social lives, careers, travel – are more likely to cheat than couples that spend most of their time together.  Of course, couples that spend every minute together can get awful sick of one another and may never grow as people.  Somewhere in between suffocation and total freedom is probably best.

Risk Taking Personalities – People who like a thrill tend to get themselves involved in extramarital affairs more than homebodies and cautious people. If you’re married to one of those adventurous types, better look into couple’s sky diving or bungee jumping… or you might be in for a sad surprise.

High Sex Drive – Obviously, if you don’t like sex, you will be less likely to seek it out!  People who love sex, and those that have an “addiction” to the excitement, thrill and titilation of “the kill” are at great risk of cheating.  No matter how wonderful the sex life of a married couple, it can be hard to compete with the “new” (for some people!)

Feeling Neglected, Unappreciated – Of course, unless the cheater feels somehow entitled to a harem or stable of studs, most individuals engaged in extramarital sex are truly unhappy in their marriage.  They often feel neglected, both physically and emotionally.  They talk of being unappreciated, misunderstood and unloved. This is open door for extramarital affairs. Love the one you’re with!


The Three Golden Rules for Visitation After Divorce

January 16, 2012

Spending uninterrupted time with your child or children after a divorce can be the only thing that feels right in the aftermath of  a divorce.  Though divorce is not recommended, it often wakes parents up to the idea that time with their children is precious and that their children’s youth is fleeting.  That’s a good thing. If you are divorcing and want to help your children become well-adjusted and able to handle to trials of their life ahead of them, it is important that you remember that children tend to learn from what they see, not what they are told.  They mimic what you do, not what you tell them they should do.  Therefore, in order to maximize good modeling for your children — assuming both parents are good role models — the children will need to spend time with both their mom and their dad.

There are Three Golden Rules, a far as I am concerned, as to why there should be liberal time spent with both parents post divorce:

First, time with your children will, hopefully, provide joy and pleasure for your children.  This is especially true if the non-custodial parent had been, before the divorce, sort of a “hands off” parent.  You can begin to “make-up” time not well spent in the past (at least as far as the children are concerned). Most children will just love the attention and they are very forgiving of an awkward parent learning how to cook, keep track of tiny clothes and navigate through a craft store for a last-minute school project.  Kids like to see grown-ups learning new things.  Keep your cool.  It’s fun to learn how to take care of the little things in your children’s lives and they appreciate it . . . eventually!  Beware of bigger kids, however, as they might find pleasure and joy only in things that do not involve either parent.  Be patient.  Maybe back off a little but always let your child or teenager know how much you love and admire them just as they are.

The second sound reason for  custodial care time with your child or children is to promote a parent-child relationship — a bond – that cannot ever be made up for if the opportunity is lost. Sometimes parent-child bonds do not take well.  That is a sad story.  However, if there is no opportunity presented for a bond to develop, that is beyond sad.  It is a tragedy.  The child is then without the support of one of his or her parents and that child is left to wonder why he or she has been so neglected.  Kids need both parents, if at all possible, for their developing sense of self.  Self-esteem, in other words, is very much wrapped-up in the child’s relationships with his or her parents.

Third is the ability to influence your children.  If you are a good person, this is good.  If you are bad, uh oh.  Still and yet, it is your natural right as a parent — and one of the primary reasons that people have kids in the first place: to raise them and influence their worldview, attitudes, tastes and values.    It is natural to want to have children grow up and have sensibilities that are similar to ours. Children learn by watching you navigate through your life. You are their most important teacher.

 


In a Bind? A Few Ways to Get Money from an IRA Penalty-Free

December 12, 2011

Lost your job?  Unexpected HIGH expense?  Unless you have a good nest egg put away for a rainy day, you might be scrambling for funds to cover unexpected expenses, and your IRA might be a place to look for that needed cash.

Are you aware that funds withdrawn from an IRA are taxable, and if you are under 59-1/2, you will pay a federal penalty of 10% and possibly a state penalty too?

Withdrawing funds early from your IRA will affect your standard of living when you retire.  We hope that you never have to do that, but if you do, here are a few ways to beat the early-withdrawal penalty.  (Of course, you still need to deal with the IRS and income taxes – no way to get around that)

·       Annuitize: Under IRC Sec. 72(t) you can avoid penalties by taking a series of substantially equal periodic payments until you are 59-1/2 (but not less than five years). To estimate how much you can withdraw each year, use the 72(t) calculator at Bankrate.com (See:: http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/72-t-distribution-calculator.aspx

·      Buy a Home:  If you have been renting, had alternative living arrangements, and have not owned a home for at least two years, you can withdraw up to $10,000 to buy a house in your name or in the name of a spouse, child or grandchild.

·      Pay for Education: You can go back to school, or withdraw funds for college tuition and related expenses (books, materials, fees) for your spouse, children or grandchildren.  Be aware that certain income limits apply.

·      Cover Medical Expenses: If your medical expenses (for you, your spouse or dependant) exceeds 75% of your income, you can withdraw from your IRA penalty-free.

·      Pay Medical Insurance Premiums: If you have been unemployed for at least twelve (12) weeks, and receive unemployment compensation, you are eligible to withdraw funds to pay for your medical insurance premiums.

·      Pay Back Taxes to the IRS:  If the IRS has placed a levy against your IRA, you can withdraw funds to pay the back taxes.

·      Disability: If you are “totally and permanently disabled” by IRS definition, you can take distributions from your IRA without penalty.

·      Death: Did you know that when you die, your beneficiaries must begin taking distributions from your IRA, and there will be no penalty to them.

This blog is written based on my observations and experience.  I am and not a CPA, tax planner or tax attorney.  I am a mediator and former family law attorney. All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. wpthemesplugin.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.



GOOD NEWS – I am Divorced and Can Still Claim My Ex-Spouses Social Security

December 2, 2011

There can be good news a about divorce!  Did you know that if your marriage lasted at least ten years, you can claim social security benefits on the entire earnings history of your ex-spouse?

Here are a few important qualifiers you need know:

  • You must be unmarried. If you remarry, you cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record until your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).
  • You must be 62 years old or older.
  • Your ex-spouse must, him or herself, be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
  • Your own personal social security benefit, based on your own work, must be less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

It’s an either-or situation – you’ll get your own Social Security benefits, or one-half of your ex-spouses benefits (“derivative benefits”), whichever is greater.  Of course, the amount of benefits you get has no effect on the amount of benefits your ex-spouse or their current spouse may receive. (Their benefits are not reduced because you get ½ of your ex-spouse’s benefits!)

How you ask?  Below are a few answers to questions you may have:

1. How many ex-spouse’s can claim derivative benefits?
As many ex’s as there are, as long as each marriage lasted 10 years.  Mickey Rooney’s seven ex-wives got left out since none of the marriages lasted more than 10 years, but three of Johnny Carson’s marriages lasted over 10 years and all his ex’s were eligible for benefits.

2. If my ex-spouse dies, do my derivative benefits end?
This has good news and bad news. The bad news: If he/she dies, the derivative benefit ends. The good news is that now you can collect survivor benefits, which are 100% of his benefits, not just 50%.

3. Can I receive both public employee benefits and social security?
Under the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), benefits received from a non-Social Security covered job (teacher or other civil service job) may cause Social Security benefits to be reduced by several hundred dollars. The Government Pension Offset (GPO) applies to derivative benefits, which will be reduced by 2/3 of the pension benefits received by an employee from a job not covered by social security.  (This is where you really need to talk with a knowledgeable representative at the Social Security Administration.)

4. Can I receive benefits on my ex-spouse if he/she has not yet filed for benefits?

If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

As in any case where government benefits are involved, these rules are subject to change. So, when you are ready to claim social security benefits, be sure to let the Social Security Administration know that you were married for more than ten years, and be prepared to furnish your ex-spouse’s full name and social security number.

The Social Security Administration will be able to calculate what benefits will give you the highest monthly payment, and will recalculate those benefits if your ex-spouse dies while you are collecting benefits.

For more information visit the page “If You Are Divorced at the Social Security Administration’s website.

All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Graine Mediation and its owner, Robin Graine, make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

 


“Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”

November 18, 2011

Liar, liar pants on . . . pants off?  Just how much cheating is going on these days in the United States?  I have seen statistics everywhere from 25-60% of married individuals having engaged in or being immersed in a life rife with extramarital affairs. The statistics are all over the board because, of course, not everyone raises their hand when asked if they “did it” with someone other than their spouse.  Even at 25%, though, this is a big number.  Having spent years in the divorce business, though, I’m not surprised. I can tell you from experience that I could play country music in my office lobby and at least half my clients would feel that they were singing about them!

Who are these cheaters and what factors lead to this disruptive act? Many experts believe it is not so much the individual’s character but is, instead, a natural instinct.  For men, it makes biological sense.  For women, I’m not so sure, but who knows? Most experts say, for the philandering-woman, she sleeps with other men because she is looking for “emotional” support where there is none at home. When it gets right down to it, though, men also play around to get attention when their wives are too busy with all of the details of life and work and mommy-ing to give the attention and affection those men need. Everyone seems to be looking for love – in all the wrong places!

Many experts believe that the only reason the statistics aren’t higher is because some married individuals are simply never presented with the opportunity to cheat!  Some of the factors inhibiting the animal in all of us are:

    • how much free time you have out of the sight of your spouse;

    • the number of members of the opposite sex that you run into each day;

    • your bond to your spouse (that’s the best one),

    • whether you have a vast wealth of moral character; and

    • where you fit in on the scale of ugliness and charm!

Photo Taken by Lars T Schlereth

If you are thinking about “putting your boots under the wrong bed”, get a divorce first.  Otherwise, you are will end up being the “bad guy” or “bad girl” even if your heart felt it had no choice.  Talk with your spouse.  Get some therapy.  Or, suffer the consequences.  Divorce is tough and no divorce is tougher than when adultery is the big angry elephant in the room.


Divorce & Taxes Series: Part 3

September 16, 2011

Tax Snippet #6 – Alimony (Spousal Support) has a Big Tax Affect; Child Support is a Wash.  It’s boon and bust with alimony.  Alimony is a boon to the payor, because it is deducted right off the front page of his/her 1040, thereby decreasing his/her Adjusted Gross Income (taxable income) by the amount of the alimony paid.3 Of course, that means that the receiver of alimony gets taxed on the money received, just as if it were ordinary income (like a salary).

In contrast, child support has no tax affect.  It is not considered income to the recipient or a write-off for the payor.  Instead, the IRS views the payment of child support simply as money spent for the support of one’s children – money that would have been spent on the kids whether or not there had been a divorce.  Therefore, the payor does not get to take a deduction for child support (like he/she would have for alimony) since it is usual and ordinary for parents to support their children with post-tax dollars from their employment with little opportunity for write-offs, etc.  Similarly, the recipient of child support does not have to categorize child support as income, for tax purposes, because child support is supposed to be used, as directly as possible, for the support of the kids and, of course, that money was already taxed at the payor’s end.

How does this matter to parents in the middle of a divorce situation?  My experience is that it matters a great deal – or, perhaps, should matter a great deal — to many people.  It can mean big dollars for some divorcing couples and is an excellent tool in the divorce settlement negotiator’s toolbox.  Determining how to divvy-up support between the child and spousal support sides of the ledger can add civility to financial settlement negotiations.  Why is that?  Because a positive tax benefit to one parent does not necessarily create a negative tax burden to the other.  It’s just does not always work that way.  Do the math with your accountant, bring it to the table, and you may be able to allow both parents to walk away with something good in the deal.

The Tax benefits to the payor of spousal support may turn a spouse, who is otherwise emotionally resistant to the concept of alimony, into a willing participant.  Many people do not like paying alimony.  It rubs them the wrong way.  A little massage by Uncle Sam, though, can turn that frown into a smile.

With all this negotiating over tax bennies and smacks, is the IRS standing by idly and waiting for your numbers to come in.  Of course, not.  Where there is play in the tax code, there is the taxman overseeing the game.  Be aware that questions bearing on whether dollars sent from one household to the other, post-divorce, are actually “alimony” or “child support”, are usually answered with the IRS’s default: “Child Support”.

As long as a legal amount of child support is clearly being awarded in a divorce case (in Virginia and most other states there are statutory guidelines that must be met), the characterization of support as “alimony” or “child support” is often negotiated in divorce settlement talks.  Be aware, however, as the IRS may not always agree with your and your ex-spouses characterization of support as “alimony” or “child support” regardless of how fair the two of you think the deal is.  And, they are the boss when it comes to taxes.  See Tax Snippet #7, below and, of course, your CPA, if there any questions on this slippery area of divorce tax.

_________________

3A deduction is an exact dollar amount by which your gross income (income that is taxable) is reduced.  In other words, deductions lower the final amount of income that Uncle Sam can tax.  After subtracting deductions from gross salary (page 1 of your Federal Tax Return – Form 1040), the dollar amount remaining is referred to as your Adjusted Gross Income. (Other deductions include IRA deductions, certain educator expenses, health savings account contributions, student loan interest, moving expenses, and a few others.) Deductions are not the same as credits.  Credits are taken off the top of what you would have owed to the IRS if you did not have the credits.  Credits do not lower your taxable incomes.  Instead, they lower the actual tax bill owed to Uncle Sam. (Page 2 of your 1040) The IRS allows, as credits, certain child and dependent care expenses, the child tax credit, residential energy credits, and a few others.)  To further confuse you, the Fed’s also have one more deduction that has a different name: Exemptions.  Exemptions (page 1 & 2 of your 1040) include the tax breaks you receive for: (a)  just being a human being and; (b) for the other human beings who are your dependents (children, dependent relatives).

*  *  *  *  *  *

Tax Snippet #7 – Don’t Mess with the IRS when it comes to Labeling Support as “Child Support” or “Alimony”.  Many parents feel that the minimum guidelines for child support in their state could not possibly meet their child’s needs, but the tax affect of child support (being a wash) does not sit well with the payor.  In these cases, divorcing couples often negotiate a division in the characterization of support into both camps: The Minimum Statutory Guidelines Amount = Child Support; The rest of the Support Money = Spousal Support.  This can often work well, financially, for divorced parents.  Beware, however, that the IRS does not always go along with parents’ tax planning decisions.

In particular, divorcing parents need to be careful where a big change in the amount of alimony is automatically triggered around the time (within 6 months) of a major event in a child’s life (such as graduation from high school).  In those cases, the IRS may very well re-characterize those alimony payments as child support and come looking for the payor to pony up.  Remember: Don’t mess with the IRS.  See your CPA and your divorce attorney.

These Tax Snippets are written based on my observations and experience.  I am and not a CPA, tax planner or tax attorney.  I am a mediator and former family law attorney. These are, however,  some of the key issues that I see over and over again with my clients.  This series of articles is intended to help you “get your feet wet” in this mucky area of divorce.  If you think any of these issues might affect you, see your tax professional for up-to-the-minute and personally-tailored tax advice.


Mediation is Best for Building & Maintaining Relationships Between Non-Custodial Parents & Their Children

August 30, 2011

 If you are posturing for, or in the middle of a custody dispute, try mediation. This is especially true if you are the parent who thinks he or she may end up as the non-residential parent (non-primary custodian).  As a non-residential parent, your odds of building a strong and long-lasting relationship with your children — by being a part of their lives while they are growing up –  is much greater if you opt for mediation over litigation.

            Dr. Robert Emery, author of the highly acclaimed book, The Truth About Children & Divorce, conducted a 12-year study which supported this claim. Dr. Emery followed numerous families, who were all involved in high conflict custody disputes, for a 12-year period of time (commencing from their divorce settlement negotiations, through their divorce and for the remainder of time that they were raising children as co-parents). Those families were randomly assigned either a mediator or a lawyer for the resolution of their case. Dr. Emery made two very interesting findings: In cases where custody disputes were mediated versus litigated, the non-residential parents saw their children, on a weekly basis, at least 19% more than their litigation counterparts (28% versus 9%) and spoke on the phone with them, on a weekly basis, at least 38% more (52% versus 14%).

Dr. Emery’s study also found that non-residential parents scored much higher in many areas — including discipline, grooming, religious and moral training, running errands, celebrating holidays, taking part in significant events, school and church activities, recreation, vacations, and problem solving as related to their children — when scored by the residential parent (primary custodian) where custody disputes were mediated.  What does that matter?  Tons.

The primary custodian of your child is, obviously, in a position of tremendous influence over that child.  This often includes the child’s beliefs and feelings about the other parent.  With poorly developed communication skills and negative feelings between the parents (both of which are matters that mediation tries to remedy), this is often a recipe for disaster — at least in terms of building parent-child relationships with the non-custodial parent.

Good communication skills and a positive relationship between co-parents, however, tend to help build the bond between the non-custodial parent and child.  How does mediation fit in?  The process of mediation helps parents focus on their children and not on each other.  Good mediators are able to encourage parents to respect one another (as much as possible) and support each other as parents.  After all, most experts agree that children deserve and have the right, when at all possible, to have two involved parents in their lives.  It helps them become stronger adults.

You only have one shot to raise your kids.  Mediation helps you sort through the issues and make good choices for your children in your new life as a two-home family.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 358 other followers

%d bloggers like this: