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Mistakes Couples Make When Divorcing!

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Divorce is not something you planned for when you walked down the aisle. Imagine also having to manage your family and finances during this sad, turbulent time. Now more than ever it’s important to make good, sound decisions!

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The problem is many couples do lose sight of their family and finances during a divorce. I encourage clients to stay focused and to address all the important aspects of divorce. Just because the marriage didn’t work out, doesn’t mean your family and finances have to fall apart! Divorce is not a time to think with your heart, it’s a really an important time to think with your head. We can all agree that is easier said than done!

Here’s what I encourage you to keep an eye on:

1) Family:

Family first! Once you have decided to divorce, look at your children first. Always think “in the best interest of the children” as you make your divorce plans. This can include co-parenting, visitation, talking with the children, meeting with a family therapist and most important, reassuring them you both love them and always will. Try not to bad-mouth the other spouse. It will only hurt your child!

2) Finance:

Pay attention to your finances. Now is not the time to seek revenge or get even with one another. Be responsible about the family finances. Don’t start draining bank accounts, or racking up credit card bills. Don’t do something that causes you to spend thousands of dollars on divorce attorneys. You and your family will suffer financially in the end. It’s not worth it.

3) Lifestyle:

You may have grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle. Now that there will be two households instead of one, that may have to change. Time to look at your budget and make the necessary adjustments. No need to keep things status quo if you can’t afford it. You are already under enough stress!

4) Home:

If you own a home together consider whether keeping it is financially in the best interest of all. Maintaining the family home when one spouse is gone can be stressful and financially difficult. If downsizing or having a tenant helps, consider it. Be creative in how to keep your home.

5) Settlement Agreement:

It’s important to have a really well-executed settlement agreement. Make sure your attorney/mediator has included everything of importance to you. You don’t want to have to go back and forth to court. It’s stressful and costs money!

My unique divorce process can help you make better divorce decisions. Call me if I can help. 212.734.1551

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Divorce. With or Without Lawyers

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I am so excited to share with you the development of my new book “Divorce: With or Without Lawyers!” I have been educating clients and the public for many years on how divorce doesn’t always have to be down and dirty. Divorce can be handled in a variety of ways. I can help you explore your options. You can litigate, negotiate or mediate!

Most divorce attorneys won’t tell you this. They will say, “go to court, spend money and fight!” Sometimes going to court and fighting is the only solution. I too say, “when all else fails, fight!” I always fight for my client’s rights regardless of which path they choose, but not before evaluating the couple’s psychological dynamics and the law; not before trying to help them establish a productive means of communication and formulating strategy; not before telling them what to expect if they do go to court, helping them and their children create some type of normalcy through a very difficult life experience, and not before showing them how to keep their money in their pockets. My successful divorce process is a people-based alternative! It embraces your relationship dynamics, your personality traits, your situation,and includes psychology, emotions, thoughts, behaviors and the law. It is not a one-size-fits-all divorce!

My medical background with training in psychology/psychiatry and my legal skills have given me the special tools to evaluate the dynamics of a marriage, both legally and psychologically; and based upon those findings, I direct couples towards the best solution for them. Even when couples are fighting and think they can’t talk to each other, it is possible to create the opportunity for each of them to be heard and supported both legally and psychologically. During this process a couple has explored all the options, is better informed, and they know they have choices.

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Divorce under the best of circumstances is never easy. But the path you choose can be less painful, less expensive, and over faster so you can both move on with your lives. If you are interested, you can answer my marriage personality questionnaire to discover the dynamics of your marriage and how that can help determine the path you should take if you are considering divorce. Click on this link- divorcelawyerny.com.

Remember, if you are thinking about divorcing, it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Don’t overlook your options. Don’t let attorneys tell you there are none!

Please call me if you would like to learn more! 212.734.1551.

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Top Ten Reasons You Should Have a Prenuptial Agreement

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Here are the TOP TEN REASONS YOU SHOULD HAVE A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT!


1  It Can Strengthen the Relationship


In order for prenuptial agreements to work, you both have to be completely transparent with one other about your existing financial matters. This means fully disclosing your assets and your debts to one another. Get the difficult conversations out of the way as soon as possible. Trust us, the best time to talk about that maxed out credit card is not after the honeymoon.


2  Avoiding Discussions About Financial Matters is a Start on the Wrong Foot


Almost a third of divorces are the result of financial problems. We know you’ve heard this one before, so why not address this in advance? The more communicative you are in planning your future together, the more likely that future will be “till death do us part.” Part of your prenup discussion may include discussions about marital roles and obligations of each partner. There is nothing unromantic about smart planning.


3  You Acquired Property Before your Current Relationship


One of the things that we have found is that many couples interested in a prenuptial agreement typically have acquired property prior to starting a relationship with their current partner. This is particularly true with people getting married a second time. Oftentimes, a couple may want to keep some of their property separate, especially if they have children from a previous relationship. The idea here is that couples would like to see their separate property, or even a certain percentage of it, used for the benefit of their children in the event of a sudden death or divorce.


4  Divorce is Very Expensive


Divorces are quite pricey and while we know that nothing can be further from your mind, the reality is that about 50% of marriages in the U.S. end up this way. Think of your prenuptial agreement as something of an “insurance policy” that will save you both a lot of pain and money by predetermining who gets what at a time when you are not angry at one other.


5  Assurance for Your Children


Second and third marriages are increasingly a common occurrence in the U.S.. In some cases, children may feel their new step-parent will not honor the same inheritance wishes of their biological parent. A prenuptial agreement sets clear guidelines regarding what a spouse is entitled to, while ensuring your children’s peace of mind that they will be taken care of.


6  Financial Independence


You’re single, you work hard, and you’re probably used to managing your finances. However, during the course of a marriage, you are likely to share certain financial responsibilities together. If maintaining a certain level of financial independence is important to you, a prenup can help set those parameters for you. One way to do that is to outline your obligations to each other and define where the lines are in terms of maintaining your own earnings.


7  Protection from Creditors


Maybe your partner attempts a business that ultimately fails, or maybe your partner brings a lot of debt to the relationship. Things happen, and we get that. A prenuptial agreement can often protect your finances from creditors. This allows one partner to step up and help maintain your relationship while the other bounces back.


8  Planning your Life in Advance


There is nothing wrong with that. By outlining specifics about your future together, a prenuptial agreement gives you a roadmap to keep you both on track. It makes you think things through. It also brings the tough decisions to the forefront of your relationship to make sure they don’t trip you both up later.


9  Keeping a Business on Track


Do you have a business partner or some other significant business interest? A prenuptial agreement can help keep that business intact in the event of an untimely death. That does not mean that your spouse cannot or should not benefit from your hard work, but your agreement will help clarify issues surrounding ownership of the business.


10  Spousal support


You could end up living a long time, but only be married for a number of years. Should that relationship end in divorce, you could be on the hook for a lifetime of support even if your relationship did not last as long. An agreement could alleviate this and mitigate these obligations.


If you or a loved one is considering a prenuptial agreement, please feel free to call me at 212.734.1551.

 

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Postnuptial Agreement

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Getting Married is very exciting!   Spring is that time of year when brides are eagerly gearing up for their June weddings and all the glitz, glamour and drama a wedding brings.

But what about after the wedding day? Are you truly prepared for the marriage? Many couples find once married there are some important issues that weren’t discussed. However, it’s never too late. That’s why we have postnuptial agreements.

Postnuptial agreements came into acceptance in the U.S. in the later portion of the 20th century. It was in the 1970’s that postnuptial agreements were met with wide acceptance motivated by what many think was the increase in divorce in the 70’s.

A postnuptial agreement is a written contract executed after a couple gets married or have entered a civil union. The purpose of this contract is to address and settle a couple’s affairs in the event of a separation or divorce.

When crafting a postnuptial agreement, I suggest you consider the following:

  1. Assets, liabilities, income
  2. Expectations of gifts and inheritances.
  3. The status of gifts, inheritances, and trusts either spouse receives or benefits from, whether before or after marriage.
  4. How post-marital debts will be paid.
  5. Decide who, or if both of you, will own or occupy the marital residence and secondary homes in the event of death or divorce
  6. What happens to your marital property in the event of death or divorce.
  7. what happens to property-real estate, jewelry, artwork, antiques etc.
  8. Alimony, maintenance, spousal support, children
  9. Death benefits- what you will provide for in your will.

To learn more about postnuptial agreements call 212.734.1551

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Divorce and Childhood Obesity

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Childhood Obesity 300x181 Divorce and Childhood ObesityDIVORCE AND
CHILDHOOD OBESITY

The impact of divorce is truly a family affair. This is very evident in the expanding waist lines of children of divorce.

As a family law attorney and medical professional I hear the horror stories from clients all the time on how their divorce is impacting their children, not only psychologically, but physically.

In a recent San Franciso State University news release, lead researcher Jeff Cookston, chair of Psychology stated, “When families separate, one of the things that is most impacted for kids is their day-to-day routines. Separation and divorce can cause significant stress for children and sugary drinks are an easy and accessible “quick fix” for dealing with that stress.” This study was published online recently in the journal Childhood Obesity.

In my practice, during the divorce process, whether mediating or litigating, I stress to divorcing parents the importance of maintaining routines especially for their children. I have found even when parents are trying to shelter their child from what is going on, children feel scared, sometimes alone, and often turn to food and sometimes other devices for comfort. I suggest you speak with your child (depending on their age) and share with them not the gory details of
our divorce, but give them reassurance everything will be okay and that both mom and dad love them!

A client of mine was so concerned about her ten year old daughter’s weight gain during the family’s divorce that she shared her concerns with me. I suggested she not only get some therapy for her daughter, but also suggested they meet with a nutritionist who could help the family get back on a nutritious program.

My recommendation to parents is to maintain a family routine, no matter what is going on. This includes three balanced, scheduled meals, after-school activities, exercise, play dates and family activities.

Your child deserves only the very best while your family is going through divorce. It will also make you feel better if your child is happy, feeling well and thriving.

For more help with your divorce call me at 212-734-1551. I will be happy to guide you towards the divorce process that is right for you!

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Divorce and Taxes

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Here are Tax Tips to help you!

1) Alimony or Child Support Deductions:
If you are awarded alimony in a divorce it is stipulated in your separation agreement. If you are the party
paying alimony, you can usually deduct alimony on your tax return, unless you agree otherwise. If you are
receiving alimony, you have to report this as income on your tax return. Child support is different from
alimony. Child support is not deductible for the person who pays it and is not taxable to the recipient.

2) Dependency Exemption:
A child can only be claimed on a tax return by one parent. As part of the separation agreement it will be
determined who will claim the child as an exemption. It is often the party paying the larger amount of
child support.

3) Divorced Filing Status:
If you are not officially divorced before the end of the year, you can still file a joint tax return. Once
divorced you can no longer file a joint tax return.

4) Medical Bills and Expenses:
You can include your child’s medical bills on your tax return if you continue to pay them after your divorce.
These costs can be included in your medical expense deductions if your child meets the tests for
dependency. This applies whether you have custody or not.

5) Payments Made to Your Former Spouse:
Alimony payments to your spouse are a tax deduction and do not need to be itemized. As long as this
payment is truly alimony and in your stipulated agreement the IRS will recognize payment as a deduction.

6) Transfer of Assets :
Property is often transferred from one spouse to the other as equitable distribution in a divorce
settlement. If this occurs, the recipient does not pay tax at that time on the transfer. However, if you
receive property from your spouse in a divorce settlement and you sell it later, you will be responsible to
pay capital gains tax on the appreciation after the transfer from the initial acquisition.

7) Sale of Home:
If you and your spouse decide to sell your home when you get divorced, there could be capital gains tax.
You can avoid tax on the first $250,000 of gain on the sale of your primary home if you have owned and
lived in it for two out of the past five years of ownership. But if you sell after your divorce and the two
above provisions have been met, both you and our spouse can each exclude up to $250,000 of gain on
each of your returns. If you receive the house in your divorce settlement and sell it some years later, you
can exclude up to $250,000.

8) Transferring Retirement Assets:
When divorcing be careful how your retirement funds are transferred. If it is agreed that you will give your
401 (k) to your spouse in a divorce settlement the transfer can take place from either an IRA rollover or
QDRO. To avoid taxation a retirement transfer should be executed under a qualified domestic relations
order (QDRO) which allows for your spouse to access the funds without your having to pay taxes. During
a divorce, it is important to carefully handle your retirement savings.

For more help with your divorce call me at 212-734-1551. I will be happy to guide you towards the divorce process that is right for you!

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Divorce Proof Your Relationship

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Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Traditionally couples in the millions get engaged on this day. Being in the field of family law as an attorney for more than thirty years, I expect that fifty percent of those Valentine’s Day engagements will end in divorce—which is sad and unfortunate. There has to be a better way to ensure that all of the love and affection showed on February 14, lasts a lifetime. In fact there are several issues I see as a common thread that lead to divorce. Here are four tips to help you divorce-proof your relationship from the very outset, so that the shine of that new engagement ring doesn’t blind you to some of the very basics of a long and successful marriage.

Discuss Finances:
Before marriage, couples discuss where they’re going to live,children, careers, and what side of the bed to sleep on… but never money. Some people have anxiety, guilt, and even shame about the way they handle money. Do you really want to tell a potential spouse you’re an overspender? Not exactly the topic of discussion you want to have before you are walking down the aisle.  Have an open and honest conversation with your future spouse about it and know your “marriage money style.”

Be Aware of Abusive Qualities:
You don’t have to be “hit” to be abused. Name calling, playing the blame game, emotional manipulation, and attacks on your character and abilities are all signs of emotional abuse. Of course, if your future spouse actually physically abuses you then that is an immediate sign that it’s time to call off the engagement. Violence never solves anything and you don’t deserve any kind of physical abuse doled out to you.

Get a Prenuptial Agreement:
Not just for the rich and famous, a prenup forces you to have in depth conversations about uncomfortable but important marital issues
with your future spouse. Money matters, what religion you plan to raise your children, family business ownership, and planning for inheritance are just several crucial topics that are brought to the forefront when discussing a prenuptial agreement. Speak now or forever hold your peace.

See a Therapist:
This person should be an objective, non-partisan third party concerned only for the emotional well-being of you and your future spouse.
A therapist is someone who will talk you and/or your soon-to-be spouse through the logistics of making decisions and compromises where there are no losers, and help you navigate the peaks and valleys of being in a healthy marriage.

Within the scope of a relationship, respectful communication is key—honesty with yourself and your future spouse. Communication helps ensure that you don’t marry the wrong person and that you stay married to the right person.

If you have any other questions about relationships, prenups, or therapist referrals; please feel free to call me at 212-734-1551.

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Divorce Without Lawyers

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DIVORCE WITHOUT LAWYERS

Mariah Carrey, Katey Perry, and  Robin Thick come to mind.  We’ve all heard the horror stories from friends, newspapers, blogs and tabloids.  The typical divorce can be a nightmare, and everybody loses.  Except, maybe, the divorce attorneys, who get paid for their time while divorcing couples fight over money, houses and children.

This is the way it’s been ever since the founding of our country, when we imported the British legal model for divorce – the adversarial system.  Now that one in every two marriages in this country ends in divorce, the devastation caused by the system has come under question.  Divorcing clients often ask me as a New York Divorce attorney,  “Is there a better way?”

My answer is, “ Yes.”   It’s called “Divorce Without Lawyers.”    New on the radar for the last few years, it is now becoming more widely known.  It was previously employed in labor negotiations, but its use has been expanding to include family law problems.

Here’s how Divorce Mediation works:  The divorcing couple hires one individual, instead of two opposing divorce lawyers, to help them resolve their differences.  The divorce mediator is an independent, unbiased individual, trained in mediation (usually a lawyer or a mental health professional), whose job is to facilitate an agreement on all issues between the husband and wife.  The results are astonishing, and are achieved often in hours and weeks, instead of months and years.

How does this happen?  The answer is in the process, and in the skills of the divorce mediator, which include a good knowledge of negotiating, creative problem-solving, and psychology.  What happens when divorcing couples  use the traditional adversarial system?  Each spouse hires a divorce lawyer, often paying from $5000 to $ 25,000 as an initial retainer for each gladiator.  This down payment will be used up at the rate of from $150 to over $700 per hour, for the lawyers’ time, depending on the location (state, city), and the expertise and reputation of the lawyer.

Since it is the divorce lawyer’s job to represent a client “zealously” within the bounds of the law, the divorce attorneys usually embark upon their mission enthusiastically, with the intent to “win” for their client, whatever the definition of “win” might be in the situation.  This creates instant conflict, even between couples who may have disagreements, but are not necessarily adversarial.  The nature of the legal system requires the participants to be adversaries.  The name of the game is to make things as difficult and uncomfortable as possible for the other “side.” (Even the nomenclature is adversarial).  This is done by such methods as refusing to pay family bills, like the mortgage and utilities, refusing to supply needed spending money to a dependent spouse, and/or refusing to allow the other parent to visit freely with the children.  This behavior does not always happen, of course, but it happens often enough, fueled by anger and hurt as to why the marriage is ending, that it has become infamous for the pain it inflicts.  The goal of sparring divorce lawyers and clients is to make someone so vulnerable that they will settle the entire matter on terms advantageous to the other side.

Not every divorcing couple starts out wanting to hurt each other by withholding money or children.  Ultimately, judges will make decisions about who gets what, but not until many months or even years go by, and thousands of dollars with delays, adjournments, the slowness of the beauracratic system, until justice delayed is justice denied, with enormous financial and emotional cost of the entire family, especially the children, who are sometimes used as pawns.  Control is no longer with the couple, but in the hands of a stranger-the judge and the divorce attorneys.

When couples see a divorce mediator, they have a strong tendency to talk about their grievances during the marriage – what happened in the past.  There is plenty of blame and name-calling to go around.  What divorce mediators know, and use in their work, is that talking about the past does not result in an agreement.  In fact, it often prevents agreement.  Part of the role of the divorce mediator is to direct the couple to talk about what they want for the future.  This feels sort of strange to the couple who is used to arguing about past behavior.  The divorce mediator will summarize, emphasizing useful information and ignoring irrelevant and emotional comments.  Another technique is “normalizing” by which the couple is reassured that their problems are not unique, and that other people have struggled with the same issues before and have successfully resolved them.

The divorcing couple  are advised that they may each consult a divorce lawyer at any time. This knowledge can be reassuring to a timid spouse who feels he or she will be bowled over by a demanding partner.

To learn more about Divorce Without Lawyers call for a complimentary phone consultation 212.734.155.

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Holiday Co-Parenting Tips!

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holiday tips Holiday Co Parenting Tips!
The greatest wish of many children of divorce during the holidays is that Mom and Dad will get back together. Even though the sad truth is that this is probably not going to happen, you as responsible parents can cooperate, and make the holidays as happy as possible for your child. Children tend to worry about the parent they won’t be with during the holidays. They often have conflicting feelings of sadness, anger and guilt. They are not sure how to act or who to please.

Here are five helpful co-parenting tips on how to help your child through the holidays:

TIP ONE:
Always Make Your Child a Priority!
No matter how old the child, consider their feelings and what they want as well as what is arranged. Let them feel as though they are part of this decision-making process. Keep your children out of parenting disputes!

TIP TWO:
Consider your Child’s Feelings!
Remember many children of divorced families will have conflicted feelings during the holidays.
Help them so they don’t default to feeling responsible for the divorce. Encourage them to have a good time with the other parent. Don’t bad talk the other parent. It is the worst thing you can do at any time in a divorce situation, but particularly so during the holidays. Help them get ready for their holiday visit with the other parent. When they come home, be interested in what they did and ask questions about the time spent with the other parent. This behavior will help your child feel less anxious and hopefully, happier.

TIP THREE:
Plan well in advance.
Discuss and share information with the other parent. Make plans with the other parent. Make some of those plans to all be together for part of the holiday season, if possible. Try to coordinate gifts with your ex so your child receives a normal amount of presents and no duplicates. Conveying a strong united front helps a child feel secure and more loved especially during the holidays. Remember, you divorced your spouse, not your child. A strong co-parenting relationship is the best gift you can give your child this holiday season!

TIP FOUR:
Be flexible.
Good co-parenting requires compromise to be successful. Sometimes planning holidays around visitation schedules can be chaotic. But if this is not possible, Compromise! Compromise! Compromise! You will be helping your child.

TIP FIVE:
Make the Most of It!
This means take the necessary steps to ensure your child has a wonderful holiday while keeping your sanity at the same time!

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image of a house divided by different colors

Have You Got FINANCIAL “DIVORCE SMARTS”?

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FINANCIAL  “DIVORCE SMARTS”

Divorce lawyers stoke anger and fear in their clients, knowing that as long as the conflicts remain unresolved the revenue stream will keep flowing.’ – Craig Ferguson

Even if you are not quite ready to get divorced, or know someone who might be, you need to be informed and Financially Smart.

Deciding to Divorce is a complex process.   Deciding how easy or difficult the process will be depends on you and how your spouse responds.  How well or ill prepared you are emotionally and financially will dictate how smooth or turbulent the divorce obstacle course will be.

Depending on the make-up of your marriage, here are 10 legal, emotional and financial suggestions with which to equip yourself so that you have (or get) “Divorce Smarts”.

Consult with an attorney and a mediator, or an attorney who is also a mediator.

It’s a good idea, especially if you have children or assets. Choose the right person for you.  Someone who represents who you are and your divorce style.  If you don’t have easy access to the family funds, start putting some money aside so you can afford to pay an upfront retainer, which is often required.  It is best not to navigate a divorce on your own.  You wouldn’t perform your own open heart surgery.  Would you?  Ask lots of questions.  Choose the attorney or mediator who will listen and pay attention to your wants and needs.  See someone before you are ready to do anything so you don’t make some common mistakes.

Make Copies.  Make Copies.  Make Copies.

Photocopy every important, relevant financial document you can get your hands on.  I would say go back and make copies of  documents for the last three years of your marriage. This should include: tax returns, bank statements, pension, stock, portfolio statements, credit card statements and pay stubs to supply your lawyer or mediator.

Avoid Damaging Credit Problems.

If you are using a joint credit card, you are still responsible for any charges made by your spouse.  If charges are not paid, those charges can end up on your credit report. Establish credit cards and accounts in your own name to build and protect your credit.

Make Sure You Have Medical Coverage.

Medical insurance coverage usually ends at divorce. If you are on your husband’s insurance plan, you should be able to continue coverage for up to 36 months under COBRA.  Under this plan someone has to pay the premiums.  These premiums can be very expensive so you may want to consider shopping around for different coverage.  Today there are insurance carriers with lower premiums than offered by COBRA.

Take Home and Asset Inventory.

Know what you have!  Write down your assets, debts, and what is in your home.  It’s helpful to compile lists. The more information you have, the better.  Your attorney or Mediator will thank you.  You may want to consider taking photos or videos of your home contents.  This may help in the division of personal property.  You may want to make copies of family photos and CDs.  You would be surprised how the division of these items can sometimes cause arguments and stress.

Divorce Has Tax Consequences.

There are important tax ramifications with real estate, deferred compensation and other assets.

If a stock is valued at $3,000, it may only be worth $2,600 in cash after capital gains taxes are paid.

It would not be the same as receiving $3,000.00 in cash in a divorce settlement.  In fairly dividing the assets, you must consider the tax consequences before the division.  Consult with your accountant to discuss the tax ramifications of your possible asset allocation.

Fully Understand the Assets You Choose.

When you are choosing which assets you want, choose carefully.  If you want the house, educate yourself about the fair market value.  Keep in mind, you have to make mortgage payments, pay taxes, interest, insurance, utilities etc.  Will you be able to afford this once the divorce takes place?

Pensions are usually taxable when you take out the funds.  Choose wisely!

Stay in Your Home.

Unless you fear physical or emotional harm,  don’t move out of your home.  Talk to your lawyer or mediator before you make your move.  Leaving the marital residence can have major ramifications.

Consider Different Professionals to Help You.

In some cases you will need experts such as an accountant, appraiser, or therapist.  A good attorney and/or mediator will be able to recommend these types of professionals to help you. Divorce in more of an emotional issue than you may realize.

Choose your Friends Carefully.

When you have developed relationships as a couple, you never know who may end up on your spouse’s side and turning on you or even testifying against you later. Consult with a therapist who can keep you thinking clearly in order to focus on your divorce plan.  Confide in your therapist and let the friends that were part of your life before your marriage be part of your healing process, not necessarily part of the divorce process.

Divorce can take its toll on you emotionally, financially and legally.  Being prepared will give you the tools and the strength to make better decisions.  My advice?  Try to make your divorce as uncomplicated as possible!

 

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