Head of Household Requirements – 2013

November 26, 2013

taxesThere is no getting around the fact that divorce triggers lots of tax questions.  One of most befuddling of those new tax dilemmas for divorcing couples is the availability of the Head of Household filing status.  To clear up some of the mystery, here is some up-to-date information to help you decide what you should be negotiating for in your divorce settlement:

You can only claim Head of Household if:

You are unmarried or considered unmarried (see below under “Terms”) on the last day of the year,

  • You have paid more than half the cost of keeping a home for the year,** and
  • One or more qualifying persons lived with you in the home for more than half the year.

There are two exceptions to the residency requirement for temporary absences and for dependent parents:

Temporary Absences: During the period of temporary absences due to “illness, education, business, vacation, or military service,” the taxpayer and the qualifying person are still considered to be residing in the same household. To count as a temporary absence, “It must be reasonable to assume the absent person will return to the home after the temporary absence.  You must continue to keep up the home during the absence.” (IRS Publication 501)

  • Dependent Parent(s):  A parent can be a qualifying person even if the parent does not reside at the same home as the taxpayer.  The taxpayer must pay more than half the cost of keeping a home that was the main home for parent(s). (IRS Publication 501)

TERMS:

Unmarried: Taxpayer is legally separated (no such thing in Virginia), a decree of divorce/final order of divorce or a decree of separate maintenance has been issued by the court [IRS Code §7703(a)].

Considered Unmarried: A taxpayer may be “considered unmarried” for the purpose of qualifying for Head of Household tax status if:

  • he or she has a child, stepchild or foster-child residing at his/her home for more than half of the year for which he or she is entitled to a deduction (pursuant to IRS Code §151, 152) (even if deduction is given away with IRS Form 8332) [IRS Code §7703(b)(1)]
  • he or she provides for more than half the cost of maintaining a home for him/herself [IRS Code §7703(b)(2)], and
  • he or she is legally married, but has lived in a separate residence from spouse for the last six months of the year (July-December) [IRS Code §7703(b)(3)]

Deductions: A married person who files as Head of Household may choose either the standard deduction or itemized deductions (regardless of which method is used by the other spouse, if still married, which is the opposite of how the IRS does things when spouses file as “married filing separately” (where the two spouse’s choice of standard of itemized deductions must match).   (IRS Publications 501 & 504)

  COMPARISONS:

 Standard Deductions:

Single or Married Filing Separately: $5,950

Married Filing Jointly (or Qualifying Widow with Child): $11,900

Head of Household: $8,700

Tax Basis Comparisons

$30,000 Gross Income

Single 15%      HH 15%

$40,000 Gross Income

Single 25%      HH 15%

$50,000 Gross Income

Single 25%      HH 25%

$60,000 Gross Income

Single 25%      HH 25%

$70,000 Gross Income

Single 25%      HH 25%

$80,000 Gross Income

Single 25%      HH 25%

$90,000 Gross Income

Single 28%      HH 25%

$100,000 Gross Income

Single 28%      HH 25%

$125,000 Gross Income

Single 28%      HH 25%

$150,000 Gross Income

Single 28%      HH 28%

 

Posted by Elizabeth Downing Revell, Mediation Assistant and Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

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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What Happy People Do Differently

November 12, 2013

“One of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that the key to satisfaction is doing things that are risky, uncomfortable, and downright unhappy!”

group-of-happy-people-2            The question “How can I be happy?” is a source of continuous pondering and countless research studies.  One of the latest compilations and statistical analysis of data on this topic appeared in the August 2013 issue of Psychology Today, “What Happy People Do Differently” (by Todd B. Kashdan, George Mason University and Robert Biswas-Diener, author of The Courage Quotient).

The pursuit of happiness is a billion dollar industry, and for good reason.  In a recent study by Ed Diener (University of Illinois) and Shieghiro Oishi (University of Virginia)—that included a whopping 10,000+ participants, from 48 countries—Diener and Oishi concluded that being happy ranks higher, as a desirable personal outcome, than other “old fashioned” measures of well-being, such as: feeling that you have true meaning in your life, finding your way to prosperity, and even getting into heaven!

Happiness is a State of Mind (not just an emotion)

            The authors of this Psychology Today article assume, like most contemporary psychologists, that true happiness is more than a mere emotion – it is, instead, a state of mind.  As such, happiness can be cultivated by intentional and strategic acts and thoughts, much like changing a habit.

In other words, only a small portion of what most of us consider “happiness” has to do with how we feel at any given moment.  Instead, the sense of being a “happy person” has to do with a person’s cognitive reflections, expectations, ideals, and acceptance of what you cannot change”.

40% of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.

— Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of CA, Riverside

            Most striking is Diener and Oishi’s finding that the unique habits of those that are happiest in life point toward engagement in activities that lead people to feel uncertain, discomforted, and even guilty!  “Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counterintuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.”

Curiosity

            “Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like.  It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone.  Happy people are, simply put, curious”.

Happy people tend not to view being uncomfortable and vulnerable as the end of the world.  Instead, they see such feelings as temporary and a sure-fire way to becoming stronger and wiser.  “Curious people, it seems, invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher psychological peaks”. (Based on a 2007 study by Todd B. Kashdan, George Mason University and Michael Stegger, Colorado State Psychologist).

Blissfully Inattentive

            I have always thought that teenage boys are some of the happiest people on the planet.  Now I know why!  Your chances of being happy are greater when you are somewhat “out of it”!

Happy people tend not to pick apart other people and situations.  They are less skeptical than their more unhappy counterparts. The most bliss-filled among us tend, also, to be uncritically open toward strangers and may even appear naïve. (Based on a study led by Joseph Forgas (University of New South Wales)).

Happy folks are less likely to be analytical and detail-oriented. Depressed people, however, are more likely to reflect on and process (over and over again) their experiences – for which they pay a big emotional price. (Paul Andrews, Virginia Commonwealth University).

At school, work, and in relationships, too, the happiest among us, say Oishi and Diener, are not the A students, the best performers on the job, or the individuals who strive for smooth sailing in their relationships.  Strict expectations of ourselves or others do not, apparently, bode well for a happy state of being.

“Sweating the details seems to be a job for the miserable . . . and they better get to it . . . because all of the happy people already went home!”

Be a Cheerleader 

            The happiest people among us are the ones who are present when things go right (not just wrong) for others.  This is because we are actually buoyed by others’ good fortunes.  After all, don’t we all know that two positives make a positive?

“When romantic partners fail to make a big deal out of each other’s success, the couple is more likely to break up.  On the flipside, when partners celebrate each other’s accomplishments, they’re more likely to be satisfied and committed to their relationships, enjoying greater love and happiness”.

                  — Shelly Gable, University of California, Santa Barbara

Feelings as Radar

            The most psychologically healthy people recognize that “emotions serve as excellent feedback – an internal radar system providing information about what’s happening (and about to happen) in our social world”.  (Kashdan and Biswas-Diener) Hiding from negative emotions is not where it’s at, in terms of attaining and sustaining a sense of well-being.  Instead, acknowledging emotions and being able to intuitively utilize that information to better your situation (as opposed to allowing those same emotions to exhaust you), and balancing your emotional reaction, depending on the circumstances, is what will put you on the fast track to developing positive happiness habits.

Thick Skin

            Happy people tend to be pretty thick-skinned.  Though some people are born this way, even the thin-skinned among us can learn to toughen up a bit.  The authors of this article suggest that those of us with thin skin should practice simply tolerating an emotionally challenging feeling for a little bit. No judgment.  No acting out. No numbing. No ramping up. Just deal with it.  Over time, your ability to withstand day-to-day negative emotions will expand and, since you cannot avoid them, your “skin will thicken” and you will have the emotional energy to shift it to the positive!

Balancing Pleasure with Purpose

People who are happiest, says Steger, tend to be “superior at sacrificing short-term pleasures when there is a good opportunity to make progress toward what they aspire to become in life”.

Further, making advances toward achievement of our goals causes us to feel more engaged while, at the same time, helps us tolerate any negative emotions that arise on the journey. (Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin, Madison).

Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.

                                                               – Eleanor Roosevelt

Posted by Elizabeth Revell, Mediation Assistant and Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

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.


50/50 Joint Physical Custody: Effect on School Enrollment in Northern Virginia

November 5, 2013

appleFairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)

Parents may register a child to attend a particular FCPS if the student spends the majority of his or her “school nights” with the parent who lives within that particular school district.  (This policy also applies to situations where the child’s custodial care time is split between a parent who lives in Fairfax County and a parent who lives outside of Fairfax County.)

Fairfax County defines “school night” as overnights on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.   For FCPS to consider that a child spends the “majority of his or her school nights” with a particular parent, that child must spend at least 3 nights with that parent.

If FCPS suspects that they are receiving less than an honest accounting of the custodial care plan for a child enrolled in one of its schools, they are not shy about sending out someone to monitor the comings and goings of the people at the residence in question.  FCPS will sometimes allow a child to stay in a particular FCPS school, even if he or she spends less than 3 school nights per week with the out-of county parent; but, in such a case, they may charge tuition to the parents of that “out of county” student.

FCPS bifurcates parental responsibilities for enrollment and registration: The “enrolling parent” is the parent that lives in Fairfax County and/or resides in the particular school district where the child goes to school/intends to go to school.  The “registering parent” can be either parent.

Prince William County Schools (PWCS)

PWCS does not have a specific rule with regard to school enrollment for a child who resides, part time, outside of  Prince William County or outside of the particular district where the child attends school/intends to attend school.  In order to enroll a child in PWCS, a parent need only show proof of residency.  The county trusts the parents to provide the accurate information to PWCS.  This policy applies to both in-county parents and parents who both reside in Prince William County, but in different school districts.

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS)

LCPS leaves it up to the parents (if both reside in Loudoun County) to decide upon the preferred district for school enrollment for their child.  When only one parent resides in Loudon County, the LCPS still leaves it up to the parents to decide whether their child will attend a LCPS or a school in the other parent’s county.  The determinative factor for which school is the child’s “home school,” in Loudon, seems to be whichever parent registers the child first.  In other words, if there is a conflict, after a child has been registered, Loudon’s policy is that the child will stay in the school in which he or she is currently enrolled, until the parents reach an alternative agreement (or the court intervenes).

Posted by Elizabeth Revell, Mediation Assistant

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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