Financial Investigation Tips for Second Marriages

June 2, 2015

INTRODUCTION by ROBIN GRAINE, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

As a divorce mediator, I am keenly aware that many of my clients will enter into second (and sometimes third and fourth) marriages. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that, within five years of a divorce from a first spouse, a whopping one in five Americans says “I do” a second time.  A two marriage record is OK . . . but a two-time personal divorce statistic is really hard to deal with for most people.

Hopefully, whatever mistakes you made in your first marriage will not be repeated in your second attempt. If some of the problems in your first marriage had to do with money, this article will help you with essential and necessary ways of determining what you are getting into the second time around.

Though it may be uncomfortable to do the investigation necessary to ensure “financial bliss,” successful remarriages need to start with openness, trust, and a mutual value system. If you are concerned about your financial future with your new bride or groom, you may need to open up your tax files as big as you open up your heart . . .  it really should not be a problem.  If it is, there’s your first warning that things might not be as perfect between you as you had thought.

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Graine Mediation’s guest blogger, Julian Block, who is a leading national tax professional and attorney, has this to say about protecting yourself financially before you say “yes” to a second marriage:

Tax Reminders for Couples Contemplating Tying the Knot—Again

As an attorney and author who has written and lectured extensively about the tax aspects of marriage and divorce, I frequently receive questions from couples contemplating marriage.

One of my standard recommendations is that they consider the tax consequences beforehand, especially when one of them or both of them are remarrying. My advice: Before they commit to a walk down the aisle, each should consider whether to ask the other for copies of tax returns. In my experience, it’s particularly important for women to do that.

To illustrate how I would advise them, let’s say it’s going to be a second or third marriage for both John and Marsha—something that’s not uncommon nowadays, judging from the SundayStyles Section of the New York Times.

Something else that’s no longer uncommon is that her holdings considerably exceed his. Possible reasons why she’s wealthier? Much-married and several-times-widowed Marsha inherited assets from her spouses; or a couple of divorces resulted in her receiving several sizable settlements; or she was one of the Facebook staffers who were enormously enriched by its IPO.

Both Marsha and John are old enough for membership in AARP. Their ages matter because the divorce rate is extremely high for people over age 50—particularly for those who remarry.

Mindful of those stats, Marsha had John assent to a prenuptial agreement (just as she did in advance of earlier marriages). What else might Marsha do? I counsel her to ask for copies of John’s federal and state returns. Depending on what they reveal, she might decide that it’s prudent to stay single or, if they do wed, to file separate returns.

Following are summaries of scenarios I created that, albeit unromantic, are based on actual events.

Fear of filing:  It turns out that John hasn’t filed returns, something that’s common across all levels of society. It’s vital that Marsha know his potential liability for back taxes, penalties and interest. Also, he must specify when he will file returns and arrange for installment payments that will square him with federal and state tax agencies.

My advice, should Marsha wed: She files separate returns and doesn’t mix her assets with his assets. Also, she asks John to fill her in on what other shoes might drop.

A less troubling scenario that’s nonetheless problematicWhile John has filed 1040s, he owes considerable amounts in back taxes, and interest charges continue to mount. Marsha’s tactics, assuming they wed: Again, file separately and not comingle assets until he has squared accounts with the IRS. There’s a snag if they file jointly and are due a refund; the IRS can apply the refund to his back taxes.

John has filed returns and owes no back taxes: Marsha should still scrutinize certain deductions and other items on his returns. Let’s focus on some of the easier ones.

 Alimony payments: John’s returns reveal that he makes alimony payments to his ex-wives that he didn’t mention to Marsha;

Dependency exemptions for children not living with John due to divorce or separation: A divorce settlement (or settlements) allows him as a noncustodial parent to claim such exemptions.  He never told Marsha about those children;

Gambling: John’s returns show substantial amounts of gambling winnings for “other income” on line 21 of the 1040 form. Those returns also show offsetting deductions for gambling losses on line 28 of Schedule A. Losses are deductible only up to the amount of winnings. Does he have nondeductible losses that far exceed winnings? Perhaps the amounts wagered indicate that John gambles compulsively;

Schedule C: John files a Schedule C for his dental practice. A cursory review of amounts entered for business receipts and expenses suggests he’s understating gross receipts and overstating expenses. Whereas dentists in his area typically claim expenses equal to about 50 percent of gross receipts, his expenses equal about 75 percent of gross receipts. A plausible explanation for the discrepancy is that John doesn’t deposit currency payments received from patients into the practice’s bank account, and he tells his accountant to use bank deposits to calculate gross receipts. Is John trying to pull one on the IRS?

Schedule A: Line 4 shows he claims hefty itemized deductions for medical expenses (allowable to most persons only for the part above 10 percent of adjusted gross income). Deductions could be easily explained as attributable to payments for insurance premiums and expenses usually not covered by insurance—for instance, dental work, hearing aids, glasses, medically required home improvements or private duty nurses. Or the reason for substantial write-offs might be that, like Tony Soprano, John sees a shrink several times a week. Not to imply that there’s anything wrong with those visits; still—like the restorative powers of chicken soup—it can’t hurt and might help for Marsha to determine how much John has in common with Tony or, worse yet, Norman Bates.

Donations: John’s a chintzy contributor, whereas Marsha is a generous giver. This may not be a deal breaker, but they should discuss charitable donations before marriage.

Withholding: Each year, John receives big refunds, deliberately as a form of forced savings or simply by neglecting to claim enough exemptions on his W-4. But interest-free loans to the IRS are anathema for someone like Marsha, who meticulously monitors her withholding from wages and outlays for estimated payments. Her returns may show small balances due. It’s preferable that they discuss before marriage how they’ll handle withholding.

In the midst of all these thorns, there are some roses. Assume John has a substantial capital loss carry forward and no unrealized capital gains. At $3,000 a year, it will take many years to use up John’s carry forward. She, however, has a substantial unrealized capital gain. Marriage means Marsha can realize the gain and offset it against John’s carry forward.

Similarly, suppose he operates a business that’s unprofitable. He has a hefty net operating loss carry forward; but not enough other income to absorb the carry forward. Marsha has sizable income. Marriage enables him to apply his carry forward against her income.    

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Julian Block writes and practices law in Larchmont, N.Y. and was formerly with the IRS as a special agent (criminal investigator) and an attorney. He is frequently quoted in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, and has been cited as: “a leading tax professional” (New York Times); “an accomplished writer on taxes” (Wall Street Journal);and “an authority on tax planning” (Financial Planning Magazine). This article is excerpted from “Julian Block’s Tax Tips for Marriage and Divorce,” available as a Kindle at Amazon.com and as a print copy at julianblocktaxexpert.com. Law professor James E. Maule, a professor at Villanova University School of Law and Graduate Tax Program, praised the book as “An easy-to-read and well-organized explanation of the tax rules.”  The National Association of Personal Financial Advisers says it is “A terrific reference.”

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.


Home Again? Better Known as “Failure to Launch”

May 19, 2015

Graine Mediation is pleased to introduce Terri R. Adams, MSW, LCSW, BCD, as our guest blogger this week. Ms. Adams is in private practice in Fairfax, Virginia with the Fairfax Counseling Group. http://fairfaxcounselinggroup.com Ms. Adams has helped many parents of young adults to successfully achieve a stronger relationship with their young adult children and recapture their own future.

INTRODUCTION by Robin Graine, JD: Many parents come into divorce mediation with a particular “problem” on their hands which does not, necessarily, have a legal solution: “What are we going to do with our adult child, who is living in the family home, once we separate?” This is an issue not easily resolved by Virginia divorce lawyers in the family court system. Nothing in the law supports “child support” for adult children (unless that child is disabled in some way that disallows independence). However, it is clear to the parents who provide a roof over these “20-something’s” heads that they are expensive to maintain. The broad question is then: Should parents be providing full support, both financial and otherwise, for these adult children? It is a big question in the divorce context and in our culture as a whole.

HERE IS WHAT OUR GUEST BLOGGER, TERRI R. ADAMS, MS, LSW, BCD, of FAIRFAX COUNSELING GROUP, HAS TO SAY . . .

failure-to-launch-509f70c708f73Have you seen the movie, “Failure to Launch”? Two desperate parents conspire and create a plan to entice their 35-year-old son to finally move out of the house. Hoping they can encourage him to become an upstanding citizen on his own two feet, they set him up with a lovely young woman, hoping that this will motivate him to become independent.

Does this seem familiar? Just when you had adjusted to being empty nesters, here comes your wayward offspring, home to roost. Maybe, your son or daughter went off to college and pursued partying rather than academics and is now home again. Maybe you experienced the joy of college graduation and with sincere anticipation allowed him or her to return to actively pursue a job hunt. But now, a year later, your young adult child is still with you, languishing, direction-less, unmotivated, enjoying all the comforts of home without contributing much to the domestic landscape. HELP!

So, let’s be real. What can you do? What are reasonable expectations? In the Washington, D.C. metro area, the cost of living is high, adding to a young person’s challenge in getting a job that can support him or her. And, that almost certainly won’t be in the style to which they were accustomed growing up. So, face it, home is better. And, frequently, it’s free. What could be better?

Whether the return to home was due to a slacking economy, a relationship bust up, poor employment prospects or college challenges, rectifying the situation begins at home. First, you need to know the scope of the issue. Can you determine what is going on? Is it avoidant behavior due to low self-esteem? Is it lack of drive? An inability to cope with stress? Drug use or alcohol abuse? Or, just a bad attitude? Once you can state the troublesome behaviors, you have something to work with.

Living at home, your young adult has responsibilities as part of the household. It is important to have clear, reasonable expectations that are communicated and that have natural consequences if they are not achieved. If needed, offer a coach who can be hired to help your young adult accomplish job goals, breaking each one down into manageable tasks (a resume, interview skills, etc). Regular family meetings can help set up the tasks to be achieved and the coach can handle the follow through with your son or daughter.

Young adults in their twenties should be creating a vision for their future, learning new skills, meeting new people, striking out on their own. Many of the young adults who return home do not have the drive or the vision. Instant gratification (think video games or smoking weed) trumps working on long-term goals and they avoid, relying on their parents to provide the basics. If there is a substance abuse issue, get help as soon as possible. Go to Al-Anon or engage a therapist to help you, if you are stuck. If you sense depression in your young adult, turn to the professionals. Based on research, the most successful treatment is psychotherapy combined with medication.

Ultimately, these “boomerang kids” need some extra support at home and beyond to develop their own desire for autonomy. Invite them to experience the world and utilize resources available to help launch them into a successful adulthood.

Terri R. Adams, MSW, LCSW, BCD is in private practice in Fairfax, Virginia. She has helped many parents of young adults to successfully achieve a stronger relationship with their young adult children and recapture their own future. http://fairfaxcounselinggroup.com/Fairfax_Counseling_Group/Welcome.html

 

COMMENTS by Robin Graine, JD:

“FAILURE TO LAUNCH” IN DIVORCE MEDIATION CONTEXT: Usually, in such a situation, the divorce mediator learns that only one, or sometimes neither, of the parents believes that the adult child actually needs parental caretaking. The mediator’s role, then, often moves into facilitating a plan of action for “launching” the adult child into independence. This is even more the case when the family home must be sold to accommodate the divorce. The divorce is often a catalyst for such action, which is not, if done with compassion, necessarily a bad thing for the adult child.

FUNDING THE MOVE TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: Unless the plan is to immediately “kick out” your “failure to thrive” adult child, helping to move him or her toward independence requires money. Decisions will need to be reached on the financial contributions of the parents toward the support of the adult child in terms of both amount of money and the period of time in which it will be paid. Adult children can be very expensive, too, if there are problems that need to be addressed prior to “launch”. This “funding” piece can get very complicated when there are other minor children in the home for whom an actual child support obligation is supposed to be used. Care needs to be taken in these situations to account for the needs of all members of the family.

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.


Does an Ex-Spouse get an Ex-Spouse’s Social Security Benefits?

July 9, 2013

Ex-spouses are often entitled to receive social security in the amount of 50% of the value of their living ex-spouse’s benefits.

You can begin receiving 50% of the value ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits after divorce, depending on a few qualifications.

  • You must have been married for 10+ years
  • If you have not remarried (see exceptions below)
  • You must be 62 years old (or older)
  • The benefits from your ex-spouse must be more than the benefits you would receive on your own (or there is no point in applying)

It should be said that your ex-spouse must first be eligible to receive Social Security benefits before you will be considered to receive your 50% share.  If your ex-spouse is 62 or older and has not applied for benefits, but the two of you have been divorced for at least two years, you may still receive your share of his or her benefits.  Further, you will be entitled to receive 50% of your ex-spouse’s full social security benefits if you wait to begin collecting when you are due for your full retirement (between 66-67 years old, depending on when you were born).

Not all marital situations will make you ineligible for the 50% share of your ex-spouse’ social security benefits.  If you wait to get married until your are older than 60 years old, or if you are older than 50 but entitled to disability benefits, your marriage will not be regarded as a disqualifying factor for receipt of your share of your ex-spouse’s social security benefits.

NOTE:  The amount of benefits received by you from your ex-spouse’s social security will have no bearing on the amount of benefits received by your ex-spouse and his or her current spouse (if there is one or is going to be one).  Strange, but true.

Ready to apply? Check out these government websites:

http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm

http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/299/~/qualifying-for-divorced-spouse-benefits

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Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator with Jane Baber

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.


What is the Purpose of Child Support?

June 4, 2013

money-childParents often are confused about what their child support obligation is supposed to cover.   Like many things that involve the legal system, there is no clear or definitive answer to this question.  There is agreement, however, among divorce professionals, that child support should cover more than just the bare necessities.  It is meant to be applied more broadly and almost always includes school and extracurricular fees for certain activities, some medical expenses, entertainment, etc.

When working on an agreement with regard to child support, courts do not like to get involved in micromanaging how child support is spent.  The courts assume that the parent receiving child support is paying for expenses which are necessary to care for the child  (unless, of course, there is evidence of neglect).

Below is a list of the major categories that most divorce professionals agree should be either covered by the monthly child support amount or otherwise factored into the agreement :

Basic Necessities – Food, Clothing, Shelter (a non mathematical portion of the rent/mortgage, utilities, clothing & grocery bill)

Health Insurance – Usually factored into the child support guidelines

Out of Pocket Medical Expenses – Usually each party is expected to pay a percentage (often  pro rata* share)

School Fees, Supplies, Related Costs

Work Related Childcare – Usually each party is expected to pay a percentage (often pro rata* share)

Transportation/Travel – Basic transportation and travel costs (gasoline, car payments, insurance, etc)

Entertainment – Computers, Camping, Movies, Amusement Parks, etc.

Extracurricular Activities – How this is paid for varies widely.  Often times, each party is expected to pay a percentage

*Pro rata share refers to each party’s respective percentage share of the parties combined gross incomes.

Posted by Kristina Duncan Hoeges, Freelance Paralegal

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.


What Virginia Divorce Courts Consider When Dividing Property & Debt

October 13, 2012

Imagehttp://www.grainemediation.com

In Virginia, the courts are required to consider very specific statutory criteria when dividing property and debt pursuant to a divorce.  Like most states (all on the east coast), Virginia is in equitable distribution state.  That means that courts must make decisions on how to divide property and debt based on what the judge feels is “fair” (equitable) . . . and  “fair” does not, necessarily, mean “equal”. In mediation, we consider the very same set of criteria, with emphasis on those areas that our clients feel are most important to their case.  This list is straight from the Virginia Code, Annotated §20-107.

  1. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  2. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of the marital property of the parties;
  3.  The duration of the marriage;
  4. The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
  5. The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage
  6. The time period and circumstances of when and how specific items of property were acquired;
  7. The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities;
  8. The liquid or non-liquid character of all marital property;
  9. The tax consequences to each party under differing distribution options;
  10. The use or expenditure of marital property, by either of the parties, for a non marital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and
  11. Such other factors as the parties deemed necessary and appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable distribution of their marital property and debt.

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.

 


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.


Divorce Leave You Looking for a job? Read this comparison of Indeed.com and Monster.com

September 11, 2012

Monster.com and indeed.com are popular websites used to find employment, research jobs, and make career related connections.  Monster.com is a more robust site than indeed.com, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily better for all job seekers.  Monster.com receives much more traffic than indeed.com and has more job listings.  Both offer jobs that are primarily “office jobs”, such as administrative/clerical, business related fields, and sales/ marketing.   Monster.com however, is used significantly more than indeed by people who have graduate degrees.  Indeed.com appears to be used more by people without a college degree and people with undergraduate only.

Searching for a job on both websites provides different experiences.  Indeed.com gives a much more in-depth description of the job, including duties, qualifications, benefits, all on different tabs, as well as a link to the company website.  Indeed.com also provides step-by-step instructions about how to apply for the job.  Monster.com, on the other hand, provides only brief job descriptions, qualifications, and an excerpt from the company who is offering the job.  Monster.com also has a link to the company website.

Both websites are great tools to find out what types of jobs are being offered — where the needs are. Job seekers may prefer indeed.com because of the organized layout of the website. Indeed.com is useful for those looking for jobs and are not sure what to expect.  The details provided by indeed.com are in-depth.  Indeed.com could be great website to be used by someone re-entering the working world after years of not working.  Those reinterring the working world after a divorce may find indeed.com especially useful with the clarity it provides and the manner in which indeed.com makes it very clear what is expected of the applicant.  On the other hand, if the jobseeker has a higher level of education and has a well-established resume, moster.com may be the appropriate choice.   Also job seekers may prefer monster.com for its straightforward approach by keeping descriptions short and only providing the most important information.

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.

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