Archive for the 'Divorce' Category

Things to Consider When Hiring a Divorce Attorney

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Hiring a divorce attorney is a very important decision. The following are a few important considerations when hiring a divorce attorney.

> The experience of the lawyer. Any divorce attorney should have substantial experience in handling divorce case; he or she should practice primarily in the field of divorce law. An experienced attorney knows what to expect of the judges in his or her jurisdiction and should be able to use this to a client’s advantage.

> Client Testimonials. Former clients are a good source of insight into the attorney. An attorney should be willing to provide client references.

> Communication skills. One of the most common complaints about a divorce lawyer is that clients are unable to communicate with him or her. A divorce attorney must be accessible and prompt in responding to phone calls, emails, and requests for meetings. This is another area where prospective clients can best assess the divorce attorney by hearing what former clients have to say.

> Attorney Costs. Some attorneys do brief initial consultations for nothing; however, most experienced divorce attorneys will charge between $100 and $200 as a consultation fee, and much more for their normal hourly rate. It is a good idea to ask about the attorney’s hourly rate, what the up front retainer is, whether any portion of the retainer is refundable if it is not used, and the billing cycle, if any.

> Comfort Level. A client must have a comfort level with a divorce attorney. A divorce case is too important to entrust to someone who does not inspire complete confidence.

The Personal Things a Divorce Lawyer Needs to Know

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

In a divorce action, lawyers need to know everything about their clients. Everyone has secrets and in divorce secrets have a way of percolating to the surface. In a divorce, particularly an angry contested action, nothing is sacred, or secret.

Things that even a close friend may not know — a torrid affair, for example — have an uncanny way of coming out in a divorce. The secrecy of these little tidbits — embarrassing, illegal, or wrong things that many people have done — allow people to look at others with a straight face.

With luck, these will not be launched into the cyber-world by the other spouse, or come up in a custody evaluation, or play out in the courtroom; when custody is in dispute, everybody and everything seems to be fair game. A client needs to anticipate that a secret will not remain so, and trust his lawyer with the skeletons in the closet. A lawyer need to know about any past or present illegal drug use and/or addiction issues; the use of any anti-depressants or mental health diagnoses or treatments; romantic involvements; childhood trauma, such as molestation, or a juvenile delinquency history; any income tax evasion; any unusual sex desires; any criminal acts and what the spouse knows about them spouse knows about them.

To be effective, the divorce lawyer needs to help the client properly characterize these items and not let them be used to obscure the merits of a legal position. The last place lawyer wants to hear about any of thee transgressions is from someone other than his client. Without a good rebuttal, the case may be lost.

Younger Children Feel Lasting Effects of Divorce

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Young children have a more difficult time establishing close relationships with their parents later in life, according to new research.

The research, which was published online June 28 and in the September 2013 issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, concludes that children whose parents divorced when they were between birth and 3 to 5 years old had a greater level of parental insecurity than children whose parents divorced when they were older.

“A person who has a secure relationship with a parent is more likely than someone who is insecure to feel that they can trust the parent,” said R. Chris Fraley, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author of the study. “Such a person is more comfortable depending on the parent and is confident that the parent will be psychologically available when needed.”

Fraley and graduate student Marie Heffernan completed two studies that analyzed the effects of divorce on children’s relationships with their parents. They surveyed 7,735 people about their personalities and close relationships, and more than one-third of those surveyed came from homes of divorce.

Fraley explained the importance of these findings in determining how people form close relationships after witnessing the end of their parents’ marriage.

“People’s relationships with their parents and romantic partners play important roles in their lives,” Fraley said. “This research brings us one step closer to understanding why it is that some people have relatively secure relationships with close others whereas others have more difficulty opening up to and depending on important people in their lives.”

Marital Debt

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Just as a divorcing couple must divide what they own, so they must divide what they owe. The piper must be paid.



Credit card companies are not bound by a divorcing couple’s property agreement. In all jurisdictions, joint credit card debt is jointly owned because each spouse has joint and several liability for the obligation. Even when one spouse agrees to take on a debt, if it has the other spouse’s name on it — or in some cases, even it does not — the creditor has the right to come after both spouses for payment.



When debt cannot be paid off, it must be divided. The classification of debt, like the classification of assets, is a preliminary to the distribution. Most jurisdictions hold that the debts must be allocated between the spouses. In distribution, courts consider who incurred the debt and who benefited from it; which spouse is better position to pay it off; and the debt’s relation to a particular asset.

As a rule, secured marital debts must be offset by the value of the asset they encumber. Unsecured marital debt is allocated so that each spouse receives an equitable share of the net balance of the estate. 

Generally, only marital debt is divided, which means any debt incurred for the joint benefit of the parties during the marriage. Joint benefit does not necessarily mean joint use. Debts incurred in the hope of creating marital property are marital.

Debt division depends upon whether the divorcing couple lives in a community property or equitable division jurisdiction. In a community property state, a spouse is responsible for debts incurred during the marriage and it does not matter whose name is on them. In an equitable distribution state, debts in one spouse’s name are his or hers alone, but a spouse is responsible for debts taken in his or her name, even those without his or her consent.

Disposition of the Family Home

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

For most couples the place they called home can be emblematic of the marriage. In the emotional tsunami of divorce, couples often act out melodramas of vindication that makes the house the symbol of the home, which now moves into the realm of a bittersweet memory of what was but is no more.

Letting go the house means letting go of the past, and that can be very difficult when a person’s world seems to be unraveling. The disposition of the family home can be charged with emotion, particularly for the wife who makes the home a nest for child rearing. Both home and house refer to a place of dwelling but differ in psychological and emotional affective connotations. A house is a building of bricks and mortar, wires and pipes, wood and tile; a home is a state of mind and a habit of the heart. People invite loved ones and friends to make “make yourself at home” and speak of nursing homes; members of Congress meet in the House of Representatives.

A modest bungalow where a loving couple nurtures each other is a warm and loving home; a McMansion occupied by a loveless husband and wife is just a big house. A home is an abode that provides peace, comfort, happiness, security and confidence — qualities not expected in a house of bricks and mortar. A home creates emotional attachment because of the feeling of ownership and shelter if provides its members.

A family living in a house for a time accumulates emotions and memories associated non-rationally with the abode that is their home, so when divorce shatters the status of the family, the home itself seems at emotional risk.

The affective connotation of the word home can steer a divorcing couple down a cul de sac to financial trouble. The decision to keep the house that had been the marital home demands both long-term and short-term thinking.

Many times, women who keep the marital home find themselves house poor, and a woman should throw a cold eye on a settlement that gives her the house, particularly if the settlement is short on liquid assets on her side. Judges are very inclined to award the house to the wife so that school-age children experience the least disruption (particularly in states where the courts enjoy discretion in the equitable distribution of property). This means that the equitable distribution of property may result in the marital home going to a mother, but the person awarded the marital home should be certain that he or she can afford to keep it. A house is a barren asset that pays nothing until it is sold and costs money to maintain.

For many couples, the home is their most valuable asset, so sale is often the only option if both parties are to receive an equitable share in the distribution of joint assets. In general, therefore, couples have three choices. They can 1) sell the house and split the proceeds; 2) agree to have one spouse buy out the other’s interest as part of the overall settlement; or 3) continue to own the house jointly. Each of these approaches has advantages, depending upon the situation of the divorcing couple.

Selling the house, the most common course, raises possible tax considerations, the problems of renting versus buying, and getting a new mortgage. At the least, both parties should know the basis for the property — the original cost, minus improvements. Under current tax laws, each spouse may exclude up to $250,000 (or $500,000 as couple) from any capital gains tax if they have lived in the house for any two of the last five years.

A buy out by one spouse requires that the house be appraised independently. In this routine, after an appraisal, some couples dividing marital property often use a property settlement note. In this arrangement, one spouse pays the other a sum for a negotiated length of time at current interest rates.

A buy out gets one spouses name off the title, but it normally leaves his or her name on the mortgage. This may have an impact on a party’s credit rating.

Joint ownership often appeals to spouses who want to keep their children in the same house until they finish school. In this arrangement, when the divorce happens, the couple become tenants in common, which means they each own half the house. Normally, the couple works out arrangements whereby one party, the one who stays in the house, pays the mortgage, while all other costs are split evenly. When the children finish school, the parties sell the house and split the proceeds.

If the house must be sold, the provisions of the sale should address how, when, by whom and in what manner that sale is to happen.

Imputed Income

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Questions of imputed income arise when a person’s income diminishes while his earning capacity remains the same. Sometimes in a divorce, one party (usually the husband) may reduce his income in a bid to dodge alimony or child support. For example, the Wall Street powerhouse who quits the world of finance to become a street musician in New Orleans may raise questions of imputed income in his divorce.

In some cases, imputed income is used in child support cases when a judge believes a parent has deliberately become unemployed or underemployed for the purpose of lowering his child support payments. In such a case, the judge may impute a reasonable amount of income to that parent. This basically means the judge evaluates child support obligations based on the amount of income he believes that parent should have.

Income must be imputed for child support purposes; however, in most jurisdictions the court is not required to impute income for alimony. Since child support is determined based on a statutory schedule calculated using the incomes of both parties, the imputed income issue must be resolved before child support can be determined.

As with alimony, a trial judge may find several reasons not to impute income. The legal justification for not imputing income for child support is the same as for alimony. Generally, alimony is based on the need of one spouse for it and the ability of the other to pay it. The standards of living, as established by the parties during the marriage, usually defines part of the need portion of the equation. Offsetting the need is the amount the receiving spouse earns or could earn. The potential amount is called imputed income. That is, the trial judge may impute to the receiving spouse some amount of monthly income and calculate the paying spouse’s requirement to pay as though the receiving spouse was actually earning that amount.

The basis for the determination of the amount of imputed income is not a simple mathematical calculation. It also may, and often does, require the testimony of expert witnesses. Vocational evaluation experts examine the spouse requesting alimony to determine if he or she is capable of working.

Remorse and Regret

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Remorse and regret is not at all uncommon among couples that call it quits. “Scientific literature suggests that a good three quarters of people who divorce regret it. Maybe not immediately, but 10 years later, they do.

‘I should never have done it’ is the kind of thing usually uttered privately after a divorce. And after the papers have been signed, the property divided, the child custody settled, and the emotional pain still lingering, it’s usually too late to go back,” according to Laura Schlessinger, the socially conservative commentator and marriage and family counselor.

In general, Dr. Schlessinger says, the time after divorce is filled with remorse. “Half of women and a third of men stay angry at their former spouse after a divorce. They mentally just don’t move on. They have to deal with a host of things: loneliness, painful memories, having to get new friends, uncomfortable changes, uncertainty about how they are going to pay their bills (people don’t usually go up in economic standing after their family is torn apart).”

“We live in a society today where marriage and family are no longer seen as sacred, permanent and unconditional. This lack of stability hurts the entire country. The increasing number of second marriages, the resulting stepfamilies, and the even higher divorce rates occurring after the stepfamilies are created all contribute to the problem. It’s not just the dissolution of the nuclear family that’s so destructive – it’s what happens afterwards,” says Dr. Schlessinger.

The past cannot be reclaimed, so someone passing through divorce remorse should remember three things.

> People experiencing divorce remorse can backslide into dependency on the former partner. Reconciliation is not impossible, but trying to do so shortly after the marriage invites trouble.

> After a divorce, people must learn to be “comfortable with the silence of being single.” And when someone is not comfortable with silence, he or she is not comfortable being alone, which means it’s not a good time for a new relationship.

> A person should “try to keep any past wrongs from ruining any future rights.”

Serious Marital Misconduct

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Dissipation describes marital funds wrongfully expended, for example, when marital money was used to purchase expensive gifts or trips for a spouse’s girlfriend or boyfriend or when one spouse expended large amounts of money on something unrelated to the marriage without the knowledge or consent of the other spouse.

In such cases, the court can order the spouse who wrongfully spent the money to repay the marital estate. However, the expenditures must have occurred after the marriage was irretrievably broken down and without the acquiescence of the other spouse. Extravagant spending, gambling or excessive borrowing or fraudulent conveyance to third parties – all are dissipation.

Courts look with disfavor on the dissipation of assets, which is the most common form of economic misconduct, and some judges consider it serious marital misbehavior. Very often, when one spouse contemplates a divorce, he or she hides assets that might otherwise be part of the property settlement. In this, wives are at a disadvantage because the husbands often manage the money. The machination of dissipation becomes quite complicated and requires a forensic accountant.

One common form of dissipation is the expenditure of marital funds for a girlfriend or paramour.

Very often courts deal with dissipation via unequal distribution of the remaining marital assets in favor of the victim spouse. The most common way is to treat the dissipated assets as marital property, and then distribute what is already gone as that party’s share of the marital pie. For instance, an alienated spouse who squandered money in the casinos may find the losses negatively credited to his or her share of the marital estate.

Helping Kids Cope with Divorce

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Divorce is agonizing when kids are involved, but parents can help them cope. Parents must remember that the child needs the parent now more than ever. Reassurance, hope, and stability - all can help ease the effects of divorce on children of all ages.

Parents should shield children from “adult concerns,” such as worries about money.

“Bad mouthing” a former spouse also exposes children to conflicts and frustration.

A custodial parent should never pry or quiz a child about the other parent or a child’s visits to the other parent.

Major changes in a child’s life can be very dislocating; family routines and community bonds should be maintained, if possible.

A parent who feels guilty about the divorce should not shower his or her children with gifts. Children appreciate firmness and consistency more than presents.

The custodial parent should encourage kids to call the other parent when there is school news or just to chat.

A family therapist or professional mediator can help when the spouses cannot talk without anger. Likewise, a child having trouble coping with divorce may show regressive behavior, such as excessive clinginess or bedwetting, or he or she may be angry, aggressive, withdrawn, or depressed. Problems in school are also common.

Isolina Ricci, PhD, a family therapist and author of Mom’s House, Dad’s House, says that love makes the world go round for the child of divorce.

“When children are free to love both of their parents without conflict of loyalty, to have access to them both without fear of losing either, they can get on with the totally absorbing business of growing up, on schedule,” says Dr. Ricci.

Helping Kids Cope with Divorce

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Divorce is agonizing when kids are involved, but parents can help them cope. Parents must remember that the child needs the parent now more than ever. Reassurance, hope, and stability - all can help ease the effects of divorce on children of all ages.

Parents should shield children from “adult concerns,” such as worries about money.

“Bad mouthing” a former spouse also exposes children to conflicts and frustration.

A custodial parent should never pry or quiz a child about the other parent or a child’s visits to the other parent.

Major changes in a child’s life can be very dislocating; family routines and community bonds should be maintained, if possible.

A parent who feels guilty about the divorce should not shower his or her children with gifts. Children appreciate firmness and consistency more than presents.

The custodial parent should encourage kids to call the other parent when there is school news or just to chat.

A family therapist or professional mediator can help when the spouses cannot talk without anger. Likewise, a child having trouble coping with divorce may show regressive behavior, such as excessive clinginess or bedwetting, or he or she may be angry, aggressive, withdrawn, or depressed. Problems in school are also common.

Isolina Ricci, PhD, a family therapist and author of Mom’s House, Dad’s House, says that love makes the world go round for the child of divorce.

“When children are free to love both of their parents without conflict of loyalty, to have access to them both without fear of losing either, they can get on with the totally absorbing business of growing up, on schedule,” says Dr. Ricci.