“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.

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Living Separate and Apart – What does that Mean?

November 14, 2011

With the tough current ecomonic times, many couples who are planning for a divorce are making the choice to remain under the same roof, in the marital residence, during their legally-mandated period of pre-divorce separation.  This is probably not what the Virginia legislature intended when they wrote the law about living “separate and apart” before divorce, but this is where we are at in these shaky financial times and the courts have found themselves having to creatively define what “separate and apart” means.

In Virginia, the law states that, before being granted a no-fault divorce, parties must “live separate and apart, without cohabitation and without interruption, for one year”.  If there are no minor children, and if the parties have a written and signed settlement agreement, their period of living separate and apart is just six months.

The reason for the one-year separation rule is public policy: The state wants married couples with children to be absolutely sure that divorce is what is best for their family.  In order to determine that, the legislature has forced families to go through all of the holidays, birthdays, seasons, etc. before they are even allowed to make that final decision to divorce.  Living under the same roof does not truly meet those public policy mandates, but if that is what you plan on doing (and many peope do, these days), here are some guidelines that may help you in determining how to live separate and apart while under the same roof:

  • One spouse should deliver a formal letter to the other stating the intention to live separate and apart as of a certain date.*
  • To establish separate households, you should not engage in the following activites:
    • Sexual Relations
    • Sharing of Food (keep food separate in pantry and refrigerator)
    • Sharing a Room
    • Shopping and Cooking for each other
    • Cleaning Up or doing each other’s Laundry
    • Giving Gifts to each other
    • Attending (arriving at) Social or Family Functions Together
    • Holding Yourselves Out as a Married Couple
  • Spouses should separate and secure Computer, Phones and Email Accounts*
  • Spouses should consider dividing Bank Accounts (close joint accounts)*
  • Spouses should consider paying off and closing Joint Credit Cards*
  • Spouses need to Agree On Division Of:
  • Household Expenses
  • Household Duties
  • Living Arrangements
  • Childcare
  • Other tips:
  • Let others know you are separated
  • Choose a friend of famly member, who visits frequently, as your independent witness.  In Virginia, you will need someone to testify as to your living separate and apart.
  • Be prepared to explain, in a way that is comfortable for you, the reasons for living separately in the same residence to your family, friends, neighbors and children.

*These are bold pre-divorce financial moves that should not be attempted without the advice of legal counsel.

This article is not intended to take the place for legal advice from an attorney.  This blog is for informaitonal purposes only and is not legal advice.

Source: From Virginia State Bar, Family Law News – Fall 2010 (Vol.30 No.3) with personalized comments and suggestions by the blogger, Robin Graine

 


New to single parenting? It’s exhausting.

October 20, 2011

New to single parenting? It’s exhausting. Relax with one of 11 movies about your new life. http://ow.ly/73Tel


Family biz makes divorce complex…

October 16, 2011

Family biz makes divorce complex and very expensive. Huff Post lays it out at http://ow.ly/6YAaG


Staying marrried is usually better than divorce

October 15, 2011

Staying marrried is usually better than divorce. “How to Manuel” by Prof Krasnow of Amer Univ has shocking secrets. http://ow.ly/6YzXF


CHILDREN of DIVORCE: Do They Have Shaky Relationship Skills as Adults?

September 22, 2011

We all know that divorce can be a very traumatic time for the children who get caught in the middle. For years, though, there has been loud rumbling that “if mom and dad keep it friendly, everyone will be OK.”  Is that true?  Not really, say the experts.  Though the damage may not appear in acting out behavior, plummeting grades or depression, you need only to look at your own children to see that children learn most about life – at least as far as their parents are concerned – by way of watching what the the parents do, not what they say.  That should make it easy to see, then, that kids who live through a divorce are probably more likely, as adults, to experience their own divorce.  Monkey-See, Monkey-Do.

According to Nicholas H. Wolfinger, in his book Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in their Own Marriages, there is clear statistical evidence that “divorce is transmissible from parents to children and that it continues, in many families, to cycle through generations.”  “The crux of the idea”, says Wolfinger, “is that the family structure of origin powerfully affects marriage formation and marital stability in the adult offspring of divorce.”  Wolfinger and colleagues found that:

Among adults whose parents had two or more failed marriages:

67% divorced, 26% two or more times.

Among adults whose parents divorced and remarried only once:

58% divorced, 19% at least twice.

Among adults raised in intact homes:

41% divorced, 9% two or more times.

What to do if you are contemplating or are in the middle of divorce?  Try your best to use the divorce as a learning tool to help our kids develop mature, seasoned conflict resolution skills.  Sound trite?  Maybe.  But, at least it will keep you focused on your kids and not your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s idiot behavior and post-divorce financial blues.  It will help you, too, blossom into the level-headed and child-centric negotiator that you need to be at this complex and emotional time.


Divorce & Taxes Series: Part 2

September 11, 2011

Tax Snippet #3 – The Exemption for a Dependent – Who Gets to Keep It? The IRS will, in most circumstances, dub the person with whom the child lives the majority of the time as “The Custodial Parent”.  This is true unless your settlement agreement and/or divorce decree clearly states otherwise, e.g. one parent is officially named the “primary custodian”.2 Why is it important, for tax purposes, which parent the IRS views as the “custodial parent”?  Because, the custodial parent, by default, gets to keep the child exemption for a dependent child – a good savings for most people.

What happens if your settlement agreement/divorce decree states that custody be “shared equally” by the parents?  Confusion and trouble, if you don’t make some decisions.  To help in these situations, the IRS has implemented default criteria to determine who, in fact, is the “custodial parent”.  The IRS looks at whether:

  • Your child is under age 19 at the end of the year (or under age 24 at the end of the year if a full-time student);
  • Your child has lived with you for more than half the year;
    and
  • Your child has provided less than half of his/her support for the year.

The trouble comes when two taxpayers meet all of the criteria above and their settlement agreement/divorce decree is silent as to which parent gets the dependency deduction.  What to do?  The IRS has made a tiebreaker for these circumstances:

  • The custodial parent is the one with whom the child spent the most number of nights in the tax year in question.

But, what if the parents truly shared time with their child (ren) on a 50-50% basis?

  • The IRS will grant custodial parent status on the parent who has the highest adjusted gross income.

Is the dependent child deduction “bargainable”?  Yes.  Some people trade off the exemption (every other year), some split up the children (e.g., dad takes the boy, mom takes the girl), some negotiate the deduction in exchange for something else of value, and some couples (smart ones) go to an accountant to see what the true benefit would be to each of them before making proposals and engaging in negotiations regarding the dependent child exemption.

As of this writing, the IRS requires the custodial parent to complete and sign IRS Form 8332 and have it attached to their and the other parent’s tax return if the primary custodian is giving away her/his right to the deduction.  (This has not always been the case and you should check on the rules each and every year that you file your taxes to see what the IRS has cooked up on this one.

__________________________

2Of course, if your child’s living situation directly contradicts your divorce paperwork, this can create lots of problems and you may want to consider renegotiating your written parenting arrangements sooner rather than later.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Tax Snippet #4 – Head of Household.  Somewhere in between “married”, “married filing separately” and “single” is the divorced taxpayers’ best friend: “head of household” status.  What is that?  Filing as “head of household” usually nets you:

  • A lower tax rate than if you claim a filing status of single or married filing separately;
  • Allows more liberal income limits before the IRS puts a damper on your child tax credit (same for retirement account contributions);
  • You may be able, if you are still married, to claim certain credits (such as the dependent care credit and the earned income credit) that you cannot claim if your filing status is married filing separately;
    and
  • It increases the income limits that reduce your child tax credits.

You must meet the following criteria to be eligible to file as “head of household”:

  • You file a separate return (if you are still married);
  • Your spouse did not live in your home during the last 6 months of the year (whether or not you are yet divorced);
  • You paid over half the cost of keeping up your main residence;
  • You qualify to claim your children as dependents (whether or not you have kept or given away the dependency deduction to the other parent); and
  • Your home was the main home of your child for more than half the year.

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. 


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