Remember the Pets?

The beloved family dogs or cats are often overlooked in a divorce. I think it is really important to address the family pets upfront in mediation or during the divorce. Couples are often focused on the emotions of divorce, deciding how to split assets, determining the parenting schedule, and perhaps having panic attacks over cash flow. Their pets are often the very last thing divorcing couples want to consider, if they even think about them at all. After all, they are just animals, right? Actually dog trainers and animal experts tell me that family pets are extremely sensitive and easily affected by their owners’ emotions. Studies indicate that many pets (especially dogs) are extremely tuned into their owners’ emotions. Moreover, changes in the environment, such as one person frequently away, loud arguments between their owners, receiving less attention and other disruptions may have an impact on a pet. Dogs, especially, may become lonely, depressed or anxious. If behavioral issues result, the owners may want to consider consulting with their veterinarian. In the worst case, one owner may not be able to keep pet because of cash flow problems, and might need to find the pet another home, or leave them with an animal shelter. Talk about depressing!

Posted in Collaborative Divorce, Divorce Mediation, General Divorce Issues | Leave a comment

The Deadbeat Spouse – Is It Always the Man?

During my mediation career, I have seen many men who were supposed to be deadbeats. Some had pretty much given up looking for jobs or working in their businesses. Sometimes they truly were the drunks or loafers. Some engaged in their various hobbies, such as riding their bikes all day, hiking, or watching TV. Deadbeats? Maybe. But isn’t this a bit sexist? What about the wife who plays cards, shops, watches TV, goes to her Yoga Class, has lunch with friends, and, yes, could even be a bit of a lush? The children may be out of the house or in school, and perhaps the wife is taking care of household tasks. But perhaps not. I have seen all kinds of situations, and it is now my opinion that yes, both sexes can be deadbeats and non-contributors, not just financially but otherwise. Not a good situation to engender respect and a loving relationship. The downturn in the economy no doubt contributed to the non-employment situation. However, it seems to me that an honest discussion about options and expectations might help, especially prior to the situation becoming a crisis. If that ship has sailed, then the not-deadbeat may wish to consider their options, from doing nothing, to a frank discussion, to therapy, or even terminating the marriage. Remember – all options have their pros and cons!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Remember the Pets!

The beloved family dogs or cats are often overlooked in a divorce. I think it is really important to address the family pets upfront in mediation or during the divorce. Couples are often focused on the emotions of divorce, deciding how to split assets, determining the parenting schedule, and perhaps having panic attacks over cash flow. Their pets are often the very last thing divorcing couples want to consider, if they even think about them at all. After all, they are just animals, right? Actually dog trainers and animal experts tell me that family pets are extremely sensitive and easily affected by their owners’ emotions. Studies indicate that many pets (especially dogs) are extremely tuned into their owners’ emotions. Moreover, changes in the environment, such as one person frequently away, loud arguments between their owners, receiving less attention and other disruptions may have an impact on a pet. Dogs, especially, may become lonely, depressed or anxious. If behavioral issues result, the owners may want to consider consulting with their veterinarian. In the worst case, one owner may not be able to keep pet because of cash flow problems, and might need to find the pet another home, or leave them with an animal shelter. Talk about depressing!

Posted in Divorce Mediation, General Divorce Issues, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Men are Always at Fault, Right?

In a divorce, one party often portrays their spouse as a villain. This stereotype has continued, and even grown over the years and even though many women have jobs, knowledge, access to information, and are empowered much more than in the past. I have mediated a lot of cases, and in the matter of affairs, I must say that it truly is not always the man. Take the matter of extra-marital affairs. It seems that it takes two people to have an affair and interestingly enough, the straying partner is not always the man. My understanding is that about 50% of married people who bed-wander are married women. Part of this is probably the modern job situation, where excuses are more easily contrived, women are required to travel and spend more time away from home, and frankly, there is more access to temptation if a woman is not always home with the children. In other working environments, I have also seen the occasional notorious women who prey on married men. These women (some themselves married) reportedly like the challenge of luring married men, and find them easier to manipulate – the married man has a lot more to lose, these women think, and therefore won’t be a problem to dump or mistreat. Or so several of these morally questionable women have told me in the past. However, it doesn’t mean that men can’t and don’t use their brains. Many are too smart to fall for this sort of clichéd tawdry affair, or are not inclined to stray. No, men are not always to blame, and there is plenty of blame to go around anyway.

Posted in Blogroll, Divorce Mediation, General Divorce Issues | Leave a comment

Don’t Sacrifice Your Future – Part 2

When looking at a divorce settlement, the entire package should be reviewed as a whole, because all too often, the different parts affect each other. One of these parts is the parenting plan. People tell me “we want to share the children 50/50”, which is wonderful. Both parents should be in the lives of the children. However, when calculating the number of overnights, most years have 365 days. Therefore, one parent will have the child one more day each year. The person who financially contributes the most to the child (generally the parent with the most overnights) gets to have the Head of Household designation, which can help reduce income taxes.  If there are two or more children, each parent could have at least one child designated one more overnight each year, and thus both could have Head of Household. The Child Exemption can be used either parent, and traded off between the years.  So –being really insistent on having the child or children on precisely the same parenting schedule can potentially increase the taxes paid by one person.

Other related settlement parts are those of child support and maintenance (formerly called alimony). Neither child support nor maintenance is dismissible in bankruptcy proceedings. However, maintenance is deductible by the payer and taxable to the payee on their respective income taxes. Child support has no tax-deductible status. Child support is reduced by the amount of maintenance paid, but there are other very arcane tax traps, such as maintenance recapture (where maintenance payments are not deductible) and other tax oddities waiting to snare the unwary. Be sure to consult with a qualified divorce consultant, divorce financial analyst or a CPA who is fully aware of all of the unusual rules to avoid tripping yourself up in a tax trap

Posted in General Divorce Issues, Money and Divorce | Leave a comment

Don’t Sacrifice Your Future – Part One

The month of April is known to most Americans as “tax month”. In honor of this dubious distinction, I thought discussing some of the various divorce tax traps and issues would be useful to my readers.

Have you heard the expression, “you don’t know what you don’t know”? This adage is even more true when dealing with divorce finances. All too often, one or both parties focus only on the short-term picture. Limited-time goals or actions often revolve around cash flow, keeping the house for emotional reasons, or taking whatever assets your spouse doesn’t want- all  just to get through the process.

So, you think you are ever-so-clever to divide brokerage account with you taking the investments that have grown the most or you like the best? Sounds wonderful right? Maybe, maybe not. You might want to look at the date of purchase and the original cost basis, and not just the dollar amount, because you could be eating more taxes than you expect on the sale of the investments. Have a rental house that you want for income, or maybe to convert to your own home to live in? Upon future sale, you will probably have to pay depreciation recapture, as well as possibly capital gains tax. Yikes! And speaking of keeping the house, be aware that generally speaking, if you sell the marital house, any gain of more than $250,000 than you paid for it, may be taxed – if you are single. I think these three examples might convince you that taking a good look at the long run might be worthwhile. Spend some time reviewing the potential consequences of each decision, from both the short run and long view. It is a way to potentially make better decisions at a time when emotions tend to sway decisions, sometimes disastrously.

Posted in Blogroll, Divorce Mediation, General Divorce Issues, Money and Divorce | Leave a comment

Just When You Think It is Safe To …

No, this is not the movie “Jaws.” However, it can be just as scary when it is getting close to the divorce becoming final. Being on the end stretch of the road to divorce does not mean that the track will be completely smooth going forward. I have found that even the best of clients and mediation sessions can be amicable and people are working well together, but towards the end and before the divorce is final, things can veer south. People are tired, they want it over, they are hurt, impatient, distrustful, and it is not uncommon for meltdowns or explosions to occur. People may use poor judgment, have affairs that they then tell their spouse about, tell the kids how horrid the other party is, and trash the other spouse with friends, neighbors, or relatives. No matter what the temptation, at least wait until the divorce is final. And even then – think twice before discussing the divorce, the other party, or engaging in such behavior. It can damage any already-fragile relationship you may have with the other person, and you never know when you may really need a favor, such as claiming the child deduction when it is not your year to have it, having the ex take the kids on New Year’s Eve when the ex is not scheduled for such overnights, or other such boons.

Posted in Blogroll, Divorce Mediation, General Divorce Issues | Leave a comment

5 biggest divorce mistakes financially

Check out my story about divorce mistakes on USATODAY.com: http://usat.ly/1BShBhA.

Posted in Divorce Mediation, General Divorce Issues, Money and Divorce | Leave a comment

Divorce – Not a Bed of Roses But Doesn’t Need to Be the War of Roses

Do you remember the movie, “The War of the Roses”? Danny De Vito was the divorce attorney, who, while advising his client, told the client about the Roses and how their divorce descended into a downward spiral, culminating in a totally destroyed house and their deaths. I say this because I understand how difficult it can be to NOT retaliate in kind when the other party engages in nasty behavior. Emotions can run very high, and things can get ugly very quickly. Don’t let things escalate from reasonably lukewarm to cold and vicious. Just do not engage in any type of destructive vengeful behavior. Sometimes I suggest that people NOT talk with their soon-to-be ex-spouse except through text messages or emails because a telephone or in-person discussion can rapidly degenerate into meltdowns, fights, screaming matches, and more intense hostility. Mediation can provide a forum to explain your side of the story to the other person in a safe atmosphere, you can vent privately to the mediator, and the structure allows you to focus on resolving the issues at hand to get to an agreement more smoothly.

Posted in Blogroll, Divorce Mediation | Leave a comment

Lonely Hearts Club – Automatic Enrollment For Those Over Age 50?

Some years ago, I remember hearing that women were more likely to be killed in an airplane crash (or other any other forgettable but statistically unlikely event) than they were to remarry after age 50. Wasn’t that an uplifting and cheery message? Not very inspiring to those newly-single who a approaching that age!

Personally, I think romance can blossom at any age, and I see it happen all the time. However, romance is unlikely to come knocking at your door. I am not a therapist, but I do have some sensible advice, based on what former clients have told me.

1. Recovery from divorce should be your priority. Consider allowing yourself to heal first instead of trying to be a social butterfly or, worse, engaging in destructive behaviors (and you probably know what these behaviors are!) You might seek therapy or attend a divorce support group to help you to transition into your new life.

2. Keep yourself open to new experiences and people. Be active, go places, but don’t try too hard. Coming across as needy does not make a great first impression.

3. Being single has a lot of advantages.  You can meet new people, you can try new experiences, and you can live a full and happy life without being married.  It can be a great time for growth and taking on new challenges.

4.  Be yourself and have fun! You have a new life ahead of you!

Posted in Blogroll, General Divorce Issues, Uncategorized | Leave a comment