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Divorce and financial planning

Many couples in California who hoped that their marriage would last a lifetime end up getting divorced. Divorce can be quite costly. There are several ways that divorcing spouses can avoid setting themselves up for future financial failure.

Divorce litigants should consider what they can really afford when they are making decisions regarding a divorce settlement. It is very tempting for many to want to keep the marital home. However, this may not be feasible after reducing a household with two incomes to one.

How parents can help their children during divorce

Divorce does not automatically mean trauma for children. While it can be a difficult time for both parents and children, parents in California can also help children build resilience during divorce and find happiness.

One important element is keeping as many things in the child's life as stable as possible while the upheaval of divorce is happening. This reduces the number of changes the child must adjust to. Parents can help by agreeing to a set of consistent expectations even if their parenting philosophies differ. If the child is upset by something the other parent has done, as long as it is not harmful to the child, a parent can listen to the child talk about it without expressing an opinion about the other parent. The parent can also encourage the child to talk to the other parent about the situation.

Alimony, child support and the TCJA

Couples in California who are considering getting a divorce may need to consider how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will impact their lives after their divorce if their divorce agreement is signed after 2018. There are number of provisions in the legislation that include changes to deductions, exemptions, federal tax rates and the Alternate Minimum Tax limit. However, there is also language in the TCJA that divorcing couples should be particularly aware of, specifically those dealing with alimony and child support.

For individuals whose divorce agreements are signed on or after Jan. 1, 2019, they will no longer be required to include any alimony they receive as part of their taxable income or be able to deduct any alimony they pay to an ex-spouse from their taxable income. The payment of alimony will be considered a simple transfer of property in accordance with divorce and will have no income tax consequences.

Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements promote communication

Prenuptial agreements have emerged as an acceptable method for couples from all types of backgrounds in California to talk about financial issues. Poor communication and money disputes represent two of the top motivations for divorces. However, discussing divorce issues prior to a marriage gives partners an opportunity to express their views free of the emotions and stress that accompany the end of a marriage.

The prenuptial agreement forms a contract that becomes active if the spouses choose to divorce. In essence, each party negotiates terms meant to protect their individual interests. The contract could pursue goals like exempting an inheritance from a marital estate, allocating debt payments or paying spousal support. Prenup discussions allow people to enter marriage with clear understandings about their financial backgrounds and goals. However, an agreement cannot fully address child support or parenting time. The law manages those determinations at the time of a divorce based on the best interests of children.

Reasons for divorce among older couples

Statistics suggest that more and more older spouses in California are considering divorce. The divorce rate for adults 65 and older has tripled since 1990. For the 50 and older age group, it has doubled during the same time frame.

While some might assume that this dissatisfaction is tied to life events such as retirement and children leaving home, studies show that this is not the case. Like couples in other age groups, older adults tend to divorce when they are no longer fulfilled in their relationships. However, there are a few factors that make divorce more likely. Second marriages are more prone to separation than first marriages. Shorter marriages are also more vulnerable to divorce. In addition, children of divorcees are more prone to divorce themselves.

How the kids of divorced parents can deal with a new school year

At the start of every school year, California kids have to deal with a host of new challenges. Unfortunately, children of divorced parents face additional hurdles as they begin the school year. By planning ahead, however, divorced parents can help to minimize their children's anxiety.

A major source of stress for children at the start of a new school year is homework. If there are two different sets of household rules regarding schoolwork, a child can feel overwhelmed. Good planning on the part of the divorced parents will include working together to lay out a uniform set of rules regarding homework. When this cannot happen, a divorced parent should not try to promote their parenting choices over those of their ex-spouse. Instead, they should help their kids get the most out of their education regardless of the environment.

How child support cases may differ

When parents in California get a divorce, one may be required to pay child support. In some cases, a parent will pay support directly to the other while in other cases, payments may go through the state child support system. There are actually several different kinds of arrangements.

In some cases, a custodial parent may need help from the child support enforcement agency. This could range from locating a father and proving paternity to making sure child support is paid and more. This is known as an "IV-D" case. In "IV-A" cases, the custodial parent is receiving government assistance. The Office of Child Support Enforcement collects child support from the other parent in this situation.

Using bankruptcy to get back on track with child support

When California parents of young children, it is likely that one parent will be responsible for paying a certain amount in child support, and in some cases alimony, every month. However, should those parents unexpectedly lose their job or otherwise experience a financial downturn, they might turn to bankruptcy in order to get some relief from some of their obligations.

It should be noted that child support and alimony obligations cannot be eliminated by declaring bankruptcy. However, if a parent is in extreme debt and cannot get caught up, bankruptcy can potentially help. In some cases, filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can allow parents who large amounts of past due child support and alimony to get a handle on manageable payments without facing serious legal consequences.

IRAs grow in importance in property division

As the tax laws change regarding alimony for divorces concluded in 2019 or later, many people are looking toward individual retirement accounts as a way to create fair settlements that preserve tax benefits for both parties. When the shifting of the tax burden for alimony goes into practice, the current environment that encourages generous support payments through a valuable tax deduction will change considerably. However, both parties will still be looking for a solution that provides a measure of tax protection for the paying former spouse while providing needed funds to the recipient.

The division oof IRAs is one way to accomplish this goal, especially as they can be divided tax-free. Of course, the division of retirement funds is nothing new in a divorce. In many cases, retirement accounts are among the largest assets that a couple has, especially when the couple involved has been married for some time. These valuable investment accounts can be a major part of a wealthy couple's asset portfolio. However, in most cases, individually owned IRAs are the ones involved in a divorce, and they are split according to a court order.

Keeping the home after a divorce becomes more expensive in 2019

For many California couples, considering getting a divorce may be a major step towards the realization that their marriage is about to end. While former couples should never rush to divorce unless there is violence or abuse in the marriage, waiting to get a divorce finalized in 2019 versus 2018 could have an impact on the former couple's finances, especially if one person wants to keep the family home.

Although not all former couples decide to keep the family home, a person may want to hold on to this asset especially if the former couple has children. Keeping the home potentially means that the children do not have to change school systems and that their transition from one family unit to two family units may be a bit easier. Under the 2018 tax laws, the person who kept the family home was able to deduct a certain amount of the property taxes and a certain amount of the interest on the mortgage.

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