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Arlington Family Law Blog

New tax law means changes to child support and exemptions

It's generally not advised that people in Virginia, or any other state for that matter, rush to end a marriage, especially if children are involved. However, couples clearly aware that a legal split is in their future may want to attempt to beat the clock before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) changes officially takes place in 2019. The reason is changes affecting child support and exemptions and alimony.

Elements of the TCJA eliminate the value of many of the personal and dependent exemptions that commonly applied to child support. The comprehensive law also increases standards deductions for all filing statuses, with one of the most notable ones being head of household (HOH). This means whichever newly single parent gets the HOH status following a divorce would have a significant advantage for tax purposes. To claim HOH, a filer must be unmarried, pay for more than half of the household expenses, and have a dependent who lives with them more than 50 percent of the time.

How gender ratio at work affects divorce risk

Married spouses in Virginia might be more likely to get divorced if they work in environments with many people of the opposite sex. These were the findings of a Stockholm University study that examined demographic data from Denmark. The study examined people born since 1945 who married between 1981 and 2002.

The study found that men working in male-dominated fields had a lower risk of divorce. However, the opposite was true for men who worked around more women. The highest divorce risk fields were those with heavy social interaction, such as the restaurant and hotel industries. Farmers and librarians had the lowest risk of divorce.

How is a separation agreement beneficial?

There are times when a marriage is over, yet a Virginia couple may be facing a lengthy divorce process and an extended period before the process is final. When divorce could take a while or a couple prefers to live apart first, a legal separation agreement can prove useful. If you think this could be a smart choice for you, you would be wise to seek the necessary guidance to draft a valid separation agreement.

There is much more involved with a legal separation than just moving out. If you wish to separate rather than divorce, it would be beneficial for you to know why this could be a prudent choice and what you should do to protect your interests. For some, drafting a separation agreement offers both financial and practical benefits.

Health and economic effects of divorce on older people

People in Virginia who are 50 and older and who are getting a divorce should take steps to protect their health. Expert say that divorce is one of the most stressful life events for people at any age. The chronic stress and depression can worsen conditions including diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and high blood pressure.

Divorce is on the rise in this age group as well. Experts theorize that contributing factors are the economic independence of women, longer life spans and shifting expectations that marriage should be more fulfilling. Unfortunately, despite that economic independence, women may suffer more financially than men after a divorce. Men, on the other hand, may be more likely to lose their social networks and become more isolated after a divorce.

What couples in Virginia need to know about prenups

The recent secret wedding of Justin Bieber and model Hailey Baldwin may not be of interest to all Virginia couples. However, the fact that the pop singer has considerably more wealth than his bride illustrates the importance of planning ahead when a marriage involves noticeable net worth discrepancies. The pair reportedly did not consider a prenuptial agreement, which could result in a big payday for Baldwin in the event of a divorce.

The purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to establish how a couple will divide assets in the event of divorce or one spouse's death. Typically, such an agreement has to be as fair as possible and based on a full disclosure of each party's assets. However, "fairness" depends on specific circumstances. For example, if a marriage ends after 20 years, it would be reasonable for the higher-earning spouse to ensure that the lower earner is appropriately provided for.

School year planning following a divorce

Divorced parents in Virginia can help their children with the transition by planning for the school year ahead. They can start by sitting down with them to talk about academics, relationships, jobs and extracurricular activities. Children may also have certain challenges ahead they can discuss with their parents.

To get the school year started right, parents can help their children create a list of their three top goals. It is best if this conversation can happen with both parents present. If that is not possible, it's important for a child to meet with each parent separately. Parents may also need to think about expenses that are not covered by the child support agreement. This could include things such as extra school supplies or special occasions such as homecoming. Other expenses could be unexpected health care costs if the child is sick.

Wedding dates: choose with care

When couples in Virginia decide to get married, one of their first considerations is their wedding date. In many cases, wedding dates are chosen on the basis of family schedules as well as the availability of preferred reception sites. However, some couples decide to schedule their weddings on "special" dates, such as Valentine's Day or a date with a matching series of numbers, such as February 22, 2022 (2/22/22).

However, a recent study indicates some problems with this approach. Researchers found that couples that intentionally got married on a "cutesy" date may actually have a higher rate of divorce. The problem likely has less to do with the data itself than it does with the attitude of the people who get married. If somebody chooses to marry on Valentine's Day or a once-in-a-blue-moon numerical date, he or she may be more concerned with having the "perfect" wedding than with the actual hard work of marriage.

Why divorce may be 'contagious'

While divorce may not be medically contagious, couples in Virginia with separated friends are more likely to end their marriages. Studies out of Harvard, Brown and the University of California at San Diego show that spouses are around 75 percent more likely to get divorced when they have a friend who is divorced. Furthermore, a spouse is 33 percent more likely to split if a friend of a friend gets divorced.

According to a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, the reason for this phenomenon is that a friend ending their marriage alerts others in the social group to the possibility of getting a divorce. Many married couples avoid divorced people for this reason. When one couple slits up in a group of married friends, there is often a sense of shock followed by retreat.

Financial issues after divorce

The financial unknowns that occur after divorce can lead to a lot of stress. Virginia couples who are splitting up can help alleviate some of the anxiety they may be experiencing by getting a clear picture of their financial accounts. This includes their liabilities, expenses, income and assets.

Savings accounts, cash, stocks, checking accounts, mutual funds, savings bonds, money-market accounts and real estate investment trusts are all different types of financial assets that couples may have. For unemployed partners or those with low incomes, these assets may be particularly important as they can be helpful in covering living expenses.

Dividing debt during your divorce

Aside from issues concerning your children, one of the most contentious elements of a divorce is the division of marital property. In Virginia and in most states, marital property is any asset you acquired from the date of your marriage. This may be a house you purchased together, appreciation of your spouse's business or interest you earned on your individual checking account. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement to keep those items separate, they are on the table during a divorce.

Following the same principal, a Virginia family court will equitably divide all joint debts accumulated during your marriage. Equitable division does not necessarily mean equal, and you may end up responsible for paying on a joint credit card or other debt your spouse acquired alone. Likewise, a judge may rule that your spouse will take over the mortgage payments, for example, even though the loan is in both of your names. This is a risky situation you want to avoid.

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