Mr. Laubacher is a graduate of the American Bar Association Domestic Relations Litigation Institute. The Cleveland bankruptcy attorneys at Laubacher & Company are committed to helping people to get a fresh financial start.
While establishing parental rights in a divorce has traditionally focused on the concepts of custody and visitation, increasingly, the family law courts in Ohio are emphasizing the idea of “parenting time.” Although the underlying legal principles are still the same – focusing on establishing parental rights and responsibilities in the child’s best interests – the shift to the idea of parenting time is meant to emphasize the importance of both parents playing an active role in their children’s lives.
When it comes to establishing parenting time, divorcing parents have a variety of options. With regard to scheduling, they can alternate weeks, maintain a more-traditional schedule of the children spending every other weekend with a non-custodial parent, or choose another schedule that meets their needs while also serving the best interests of their children.
With regard to the method of parenting and the level of interaction between parents, divorcing parents can formally establish parameters through the use of either co-parenting or parallel parenting.
What is Co-Parenting?
In a co-parenting arrangement, both parents jointly play an active role in their children’s lives following their divorce. They jointly make day-to-day decisions about their children’s education, extracurricular activities, privileges, and needs, and they may even jointly participate in child-centric events (such as games, competitions, recitals, and holidays).
In order for a co-parenting arrangement to work, both parents need to be willing to commit to the approach, and it will be important to develop a comprehensive co-parenting plan during the divorce process. From establishing a “home base” for your children’s belongings to making decisions regarding cell phones and curfew, there are lots of questions that it will be best to answer up front in order to avoid potential disputes down the road.
What is Parallel Parenting?
Parallel parenting is in many ways the opposite of co-parenting. In a parallel parenting arrangement, each parent operates fully independent of the other with regard to their assigned parenting time. This approach is generally reserved for high-conflict situations where divorcing parents are harboring feelings of resent, disrespect, or hostility, and where there is not a reasonable expectation that the parents will be able to make even relatively-inconsequential decisions together.
As with co-parenting, however, a comprehensive parenting plan is critical to establishing a successful parallel parenting arrangement. The parents should use the divorce process (including mediation or arbitration, if necessary) to come to terms on as many child-related issues as possible, and establish clear lines of delineation for when each parent has decision-making authority.
Choosing an Option More Similar to Joint Legal Custody
If you think of co-parenting and parallel parenting as two ends of a continuum, many divorcing parents will find that what works best for their situation falls somewhere in the middle. When developing a parenting plan during your divorce, what is most important is not the label you place on your arrangement, but rather ensuring that your arrangement works for everyone involved.
As with the other aspects of your divorce, the more effort you put in to developing a parenting plan, the more certainty and confidence you will have once the process is over, and the less likely you will be to face disputes with your former spouse.
Schedule a Free Initial Divorce Consultation at Laubacher & Co.
If you have children and are thinking about filing for divorce in Cleveland, OH, one of our attorneys would be happy to meet with you in person to discuss your options in confidence. To schedule a free initial divorce consultation at Laubacher & Co., please call (855) 522-5569 or send us a message online today. Evening and weekend appointments are available.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (DHHS) Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) releases updated statistics on children in foster care and public adoptions. The statistics shed light on some noteworthy trends, and the annual reports are worth reviewing for anyone who is considering or has questions about the benefits of public adoption.
National Foster Care Public Adoption Statistics
The following statistics are based on data for the period from October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, which are currently the most-recent data available:
The average age at which a child enters foster care is 7.3 years. However, nearly one in five children enter foster care under the age of one, compared to 20 percent for children of all ages between 14 and 20.
The average age of all children living in foster care is 8.6 years. However, more than a third of all children living in foster care are under the age of five—the largest percentage of any five-year age group.
The number of children in foster care has increased in each of the past three years. In 2012, there were just over 397,000 children living in foster care in the United States. In 2015, this number increased to nearly 428,000.
The leading reason for removal of children into foster care is neglect. According to AFCARS, nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of all children living in foster care have experienced neglect. The next-leading reasons for removal are: parental drug abuse (32 percent), caretaker inability to cope (14 percent), and physical abuse (13 percent).
The number of children who exited foster care decreased in two of the past three years, while the number of children entering foster care has been increasing consistently.
The number of children living in foster care whose parental rights have been terminated has fluctuated over the past five years, from a low of 58,187 to a high of 61,904.
For 25 percent of all children living in foster care, the case plan goal is adoption. This far surpasses all other goals with the exception of parent or caretaker reunification.
In 2015, more children were adopted out of foster care than in any of the previous four years. In fact, 2015 saw an increase of more than 15,000 public adoptions over the previous four-year high.
On average, a child will spend 20.4 months in foster care before being reunited, adopted, emancipated, designated for long-term foster care, or finding a permanent home through other means.
More than two-thirds (68 percent) of adoptive parents are married. Twenty-six percent are single females, while unmarried couples and single males each account for three percent of public adoptions.
Ohio Foster Care Adoption Statistics
In addition to publishing national foster care and public adoption statistics, AFCARS releases annual state-specific figures as well. Here are some of the most recent statistics for Ohio:
The average age at adoption in Ohio is 4.8 years. This is significantly lower than the national average of 6.2 years.
Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of adoptive parents in Ohio are married. Slightly less than 20 percent are single females, and just 1.4 percent are single males.
In Ohio, the average length of time between the termination of parental rights and public adoption through a foster care agency is 15 months. This is slightly longer than the national average of one year.
Contact the Cleveland, OH Adoption Attorneys at Laubacher & Co.
The attorneys at Laubacher & Co. provide experienced legal representation for prospective parents seeking to adopt in Ohio. If you are planning to adopt and would like more information about the steps involved, we invite you to call (855) 522-5569 or contact us online for a free consultation.
In situations involving domestic violence, establishing parenting time during a divorce requires consideration of a unique set of factors. When there is a concern that one parent may be abusive toward a child or former spouse after the divorce becomes final, the Ohio courts use a Parenting Plan Continuum to determine what type of arrangement will serve the best interests of the children involved. As summarized in Domestic Violence & Allocation of Parental Rights and Responsibilities, published by the Supreme Court of Ohio:
“The presence of domestic violence impacts meaningful allocation of parental rights and responsibilities and enforcement of the parenting plan. The Parenting Plan Continuum offers guidance for each type of parenting-time arrangement, including the level of violence, risk factors, and safety concerns relevant in allocating parenting time. Generally, shared parenting . . . or unsupervised parenting time [is] appropriate for families where there is no significant history of or only isolated acts of domestic violence[, while] suspended contact or supervised parenting time is recommended for families who have experienced serious abuse, coercive control, and stalking.”
Establishing Parenting Time Using the Parenting Plan Continuum
The Parenting Plan Continuum recognizes five specific types of parenting time arrangements that may be appropriate in circumstances involving domestic violence. Any one of the five may be considered most appropriate depending on the circumstances involved, and parents who have experienced domestic violence should carefully review their options with an experienced divorce attorney.
The five types of parenting plans available in divorces involving domestic violence include:
Under the Parenting Plan Continuum, co-parenting may be appropriate in circumstances where there is a “low risk of lethality to a parent and child.” Lethality risk factors include (but are not limited to):
Access to firearms or other weapons
Jealousy or obsession
Threats and stalking
According to the Supreme Court of Ohio, co-parenting is most likely to be successful if the parents’ circumstances involve:
No significant history of violence, abuse, or threats
“Isolated minor acts of violence” at separation
Evidence of remorse or accepting responsibility
Successful completion of substance abuse or mental health treatment or counseling, if ordered
Low conflict and continuing ability to communicate
Recognition of the children’s needs and similar approaches to childrearing
A “civil and child-focused” post-separation relationship
2. Parallel Parenting
The Parenting Plan Continuum describes parallel parenting as a custody and visitation plan in which “each parent has separate and specific responsibilities,” and states that this option is generally best where there is “moderate to low risk of lethality to a parent and low risk of lethality to a child.” This may be characterized by:
Isolated acts of violence not characterized as coercive control
No current violence or explicit threats of violence
Evidence of accepting responsibility
Successful completion of substance abuse or mental health treatment or counseling, if ordered
Incompatible approaches to childrearing
3. Unsupervised Parenting Time With or Without Supervised Exchanges
In circumstances where a non-custodial parent presents “moderate to low risk of lethality to a parent and child,” unsupervised parenting time with or without supervised exchanges may be most appropriate. According to the Supreme Court, this is likely to be most successful if:
There is a history of violence, abuse, or threats but the non-custodial parent does not present a risk to the safety or well-being of their children while parenting
The offending parent has accepted responsibility for the violence, abuse, or threats
The offending parent is actively participating in or has successfully completed any court-ordered treatment or counseling
The risk of fear or violence only arises during parent-to-parent interactions
There is a moderate level of conflict between the parents
There is no present risk of child abuse and the child does not fear the non-custodial parent
The parenting plan includes “[c]learly defined and readily enforceable parenting terms and conditions, tailored to provide safety.”
4. Supervised Parenting Time
The Ohio courts have taken the position that it generally in a child’s best interests to spend time with both parents, even in circumstances where a non-violent parent would typically want to seek sole custody without visitation. The Supreme Court generally recommends supervised parenting time in circumstances where a non-custodial parent “poses high to moderate risk of lethality to a parent and child.” This may be characterized by:
A history of violence, abuse, and threats
Ongoing violence, abuse, and threats
Failure to take full responsibility
Current substance abuse or acute mental illness of the non-custodial parent
Kidnapping threats and/or an established risk of child abuse
The child exhibits fear of the non-custodial parent and/or has been traumatized by abuse
A structured environment for supervised parenting time is available in the community
5. Suspended Contact
Finally, in cases involving a high risk of lethality, the Ohio courts may order parenting time which involves “no physical contact and limited, if any, communication between parents.” Factors that may entitle a custodial parent to seek suspended contact include:
A significant history of violence, abuse, and threats characterized by coercive control
Ongoing violence, abuse, and threats characterized by coercive control
Domestic violence resulting in serious physical harm
Limited or no remorse and no willingness to change or accept responsibility
Severe current substance abuse or mental illness and little or no participation in treatment or counseling
Proven instances of child abuse and/or kidnapping attempts
Fear of the non-custodial parent or refusal to visit the non-custodial parent due to severe trauma or abuse
Non-compliance with the terms of supervised parenting time.
Speak with a Cleveland Family Law Attorney Today
If you are considering a divorce and would like more information about the protections available to you and your children, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To speak with one of our experienced Cleveland family law attorneys in confidence, please call (855) 522-5569 or tell us how to reach you online today.
Whether you are considering a trial separation or you are planning to live separately from your spouse while you go through the divorce process, it is important to make sure you have a clear understanding of all of the ways your separation will – and won’t – impact the divorce process. While this overview is not exhaustive, it should help you to begin thinking about the types of issues that can come up during a separation.
Of course, married couples separate all the time, and there are no inherent legal reasons not to separate. All of the issues discussed below can be overcome, whether through a postnuptial agreement or otherwise; and, just like a divorce, protecting yourself during a separation involves making informed decisions with your long-term best interests in mind.
Legal Considerations for Spouses Contemplating a Separation
If you are considering separating from your spouse, here are some important legal considerations to take into account:
1. Joint Liability for Debts
As long as you are legally married, any debts your spouse incurs will generally be joint debts. This includes spending on existing credit cards as well as new debts such as car loans and lines of credit – even if your spouse incurs them in his or her own name. If your spouse does not pay, the creditor will likely be entitled to seek payment from your joint assets; and, in the event that you proceed to a divorce, your spouse’s separately-incurred debt may be subject to division.
2. Equitable Distribution of Newly-Acquired Property
The same general principles apply to any property you acquire during your separation. Under Ohio’s law of equitable distribution, all assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage (with only limited exceptions for things like gifts and inheritances) are subject to division during their divorce. This includes assets you purchase independently during a separation.
3. Evasive Action by Your Spouse
While you may be committed to seeing out your separation in good faith, your spouse may have other ideas. Or, even if you are both on the same page now, it is very possible that feelings could change over time.
Hiding assets, moving out of state, and interfering with your relationship with your children are just a few examples of the types of conduct that can lead to stressful and challenging issues during a separation. While these actions may have negative ramifications for your spouse as well, if you are forced to deal with them, they could lead to additional costs and headaches during your divorce.
4. Growing Apart
If you and your spouse are currently on speaking terms, separating could cause you to grow apart. The longer you are separated, the easier it may become for your spouse to take a less-amicable approach to your divorce. While it makes sense for some spouses to separate in an attempt to reconcile, if your separation drives you even further apart, this could make it more difficult to reconcile your differences regarding property distribution, financial support, and child custody.
5. Changes in Tax and Divorce Laws
Changes in the law can drastically impact the outcome of your divorce. For example, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax treatment for alimony payments will be reversed for divorces finalized after 2018. If you are preparing for your divorce based on the law as it exists today, going through a separation could have the unintended consequence of allowing unfavorable law changes to come into play.
Questions about Your Separation or Divorce? Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you live in the Cleveland area and you are contemplating a separation or divorce, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To discuss your options with one of our experienced family law attorneys, call us at (855) 522-5569 or request a confidential consultation online today.
Whether you were expecting it or not, being served with divorce papers can be a sobering experience. Once you have been served, the divorce process has formally begun, and there are now deadlines you need to meet and requirements you need to follow in order to avoid negative consequences for the outcome of your divorce.
So, you’ve been served. What now? Here is a brief introduction to what you need to know.
What to Do (and What Not to Do) After Being Served with Divorce Papers in Ohio
1. Read All of the Documents Carefully.
You need to read all of the documents you received very carefully. We know this can be difficult, but it is extremely important. Included with your spouse’s Complaint should be a number of standardized forms, and the information contained in these forms is really what matters most at this stage of the process.
2. Pay Particular Attention to the Deadlines and Automatic Restraining Orders.
In particular, you need to be aware of (i) your deadline for submitting a response (called an “Answer”), and (ii) the automatic restraining orders that go into effect upon service. In Ohio, you have 28 days from the date of service to file your Answer, and the automatic restraining orders prevent you from:
Interfering with your spouse’s access to your children;
Disparaging your spouse in front of your children;
Removing property from your home, disposing of assets, or modifying insurance coverage;
Making withdrawals from joint accounts (with an exception for regular payments from a retirement plan or pension); and,
Incurring joint debts.
3. Keep Your Thoughts to Yourself.
Regardless of how you feel about your spouse’s request for a divorce, right now, you need to do your best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Making offhanded comments to your children, texting with friends (or your spouse’s friends), and posting on social media are all mistakes that should be avoided. Professional help is available if you need someone to talk to, and conversations with your healthcare providers can be kept confidential.
4. Do Not Act Out of Emotion or Attempt to Retaliate.
This point cannot be emphasized enough. Acting out of emotion or in an attempt to retaliate against your spouse will very likely involve a violation of one or more of the automatic restraining orders listed above, and this can have serious ramifications for your divorce. Trying to keep your spouse from seeing your children, hiding assets, and disparaging your spouse are a few examples of the mistakes you need to avoid.
5. Start Collecting the Information You Need to Respond and Make Informed Decisions.
As part of your initial response, you will need to prepare a Financial Disclosure Affidavit (a blank form should have been included in the documents you received). To complete the Financial Disclosure Affidavit properly, you will need various pieces of information about your assets and income. Collecting the necessary records can take some time, so it is important to begin this process promptly. For more information about preparing for your divorce, we encourage you to read:
6. Schedule a Free Consultation with a Local Divorce Attorney.
Finally, whether you think you and your spouse will be able to resolve your differences amicably or you think your divorce may end up in court, one of the first steps after being served with divorce papers should be to schedule a free consultation with a family law attorney.
There are lots of issues you will need to consider, and an experienced attorney will be able to guide you through the process of protecting your rights during your divorce.
An experienced attorney will also be able to explain the options that are available for seeking an amicable resolution, and help you make informed decisions at every step along the way.
Schedule a Free Initial Divorce Consultation at Laubacher & Co.
Have you been served with divorce papers in the Cleveland, OH area? If so, we invite you to contact us for a free initial divorce consultation. Evening and weekend appointments are available, and we can schedule your appointment at a time that is convenient for you. To speak with one of our experienced divorce lawyers in confidence, call (855) 516-1397, or send us your contact information and we will be in touch soon.
For many divorcing spouses, co-parenting offers a flexible solution that allows both parents to remain actively involved in their children’s lives outside of the confines of a traditional custody and visitation schedule. Co-parenting requires commitment, and both parents need to be willing to work together in order to address unexpected issues when they arise.
But, while some unexpected issues are inevitable, with careful planning and the benefit of hindsight, divorcing spouses can proactively address the vast majority of issues that are likely to arise in a co-parenting relationship. Even if this does not mean making a decision now, it can mean putting a structure in place to allow for amicable decision-making when the time eventually comes.
Important Issues to Address in a Co-Parenting Plan
What restrictions (if any) will you place on your children’s use of the Internet and social media?
How will you schedule vacations during spring and summer breaks?
How will you divide time during the holidays (or will you spend holidays together)?
Which parent (or parents) will attend recitals, games, and other child-centered events?
How will you address situations where one parent needs to travel for work during his or her scheduled parenting time?
When should your children be able (or required) to apply for jobs?
When will your children receive driver’s education? What driving privileges will they have?
What curfew will you enforce?
What will you do if one of your children wants to join the military?
What will you do if one of your children wants to get a piercing or tattoo?
What will you do if your child gets caught using drugs or alcohol?
What will you do if you and your co-parent are unable to agree regarding a decision affecting your children?
As you can see, putting together a co-parenting plan takes work. But, when a co-parenting plan works, it can be well worth the emotional and time investment. While each family’s needs and preferences will be different, consistency is key (i.e. both parents should generally enforce the same curfew); and, when the process is over, both parents should be comfortable adhering to the terms of their plan.
Speak with an Experienced Cleveland Divorce Attorney in Confidence
With decades of experience in divorces and custody-related matters, we offer practical advice and experienced legal representation for divorcing spouses who are interested in co-parenting in the Cleveland area. If you would like to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our divorce lawyers, please call (855) 522-5569 or request an appointment online today.
For divorced parents, planning for spring break can present a variety of difficult challenges. Depending on your children’s ages, whether you (or your children) want to travel, whether you work full-time, and a variety of other factors, making arrangements that satisfy everyone can seem like a struggle of epic proportions.
When planning for spring break after a divorce, one of the first things you need to do is take a close look at your custody agreement or parenting plan. What does it say, if anything, about spring break? Does it address holidays or time off from school generally? Does it give you (or your former spouse) the right to travel with your children; and, if so, under what stipulations or conditions?
Co-Parenting or Separate Parenting After a Divorce: Spring Break Travel and Expenses
Whether you and your former spouse have agreed to a co-parenting arrangement or you have agreed to largely parent your children separately, spring break is a time when many divorced parents need to come together to make decisions regarding their children. Some of the most-common types of issues to be resolved include the following:
1. Daycare and Transportation
If neither you nor your former spouse will be traveling with your children, what will you do about daycare and transportation? Will one of you stay home while your children are off from school; or, will you need to pay for daycare or a sitter? If the latter, who will be responsible for making sure your children get where they need to be on time? For parents who are not traveling and who are unable to take time off from work, spring break can often feel more like a hassle than a vacation.
2. Traveling with You
If you want to take your children on vacation during summer break, do you have the legal ability to do so? Even if you have custody or visitation rights during the week, you may still need to separately make sure that you can take your children out of the state under the terms of your arrangement with your former spouse.
3. Traveling with Your Former Spouse
If your spouse wants to travel with your children, he or she may be subject to the same restrictions as you. Or, if you each have different custody and visitation rights, your spouse could have more or less flexibility depending upon the specific terms of your divorce. If you are opposed to your former spouse’s travel plans, you should determine whether you have the right to object; and, generally speaking, it will be best to raise the issue sooner rather than later.
4. Traveling with Friends
What if your children want to spend spring break with their friends? What if your former spouse is okay with it and you are not (or vice versa)? Depending upon the terms of your custody agreement or parenting plan, this may be a decision that one of you has the right to make independently; or, it could be a decision that requires your mutual agreement.
Once again, these are all questions that, ideally, will be addressed in your custody agreement or parenting plan. If not, you and your spouse will need to come to terms, and you will need to be careful to avoid anything that could potentially violate the terms of your divorce settlement.
For example, if you travel out of state with your children in violation of your custody agreement and without your former spouse’s consent, this could potentially give your former spouse grounds to pursue legal action against you.
Questions? Speak with a Cleveland Family Law Attorney at Laubacher & Co.
If you have questions about your parenting rights, or if you need to enforce the terms of your custody agreement or parenting plan against your former spouse, the attorneys at Laubacher & Co. can help. To schedule a free consultation at our Cleveland family law offices, please call (855) 522-5569 or tell us how we can help online today.
Going through a divorce is a process that involves change in virtually all aspects of your life. Coping with Divorce or Separation, a guide published by the federal government, highlights six types of change most individuals experience following a divorce, and it offers a variety of tips for coping with the psychological effects of the upheaval of a divorce.
Coping with Divorce or Separation
The six types of change highlighted in the guide are:
Change in Identify
Change in Finances
Change in Family Structure
Change in Relationships
Change in Social Life
Change in Responsibilities
As you prepare to go through a divorce, or as you begin the process of moving on from your married life, following these tips can help you cope with the various changes involved:
1. Acknowledge that Change Causes Stress
Experiencing stress during and after a divorce is common, and ignoring the symptoms of stress can make it more difficult to take positive steps toward moving on. Understanding that you are likely to experience stress, and knowing what you can to do manage your stress (including seeking professional help if necessary) can be important to your physical and emotional wellbeing.
2. Find Ways to Maintain (or Establish) Stability
“Maintaining stability can provide a sense of security and safety, which is beneficial to healing.” When making decisions during or after your divorce, and when working on structuring your post-divorce life, finding ways to maintain stability (or establish new stability) can assist you greatly with the process. This starts with making informed decisions about issues such as property division and child custody during your divorce, and continues with financial, child-related, and other decisions after your marriage is over.
3. Prioritize and Set Realistic Expectations
When you are on your own, there is only so much you can handle at any one time. From preparing meals to planning work trips, “[o]ver-extending yourself may eventually lead to exhaustion and/or resentment. Taking time to think about your priorities and set realistic expectations can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
4. Focus on Constructive Problem Solving
Any time spent worrying about the future is time not spent on formulating an actionable plan. While it is natural to have an emotional response to your divorce, it is important not to let your emotions become paralyzing. Once again, seek professional help if you think you need it (or even if you aren’t sure), and start with small steps toward achieving your larger goals.
5. Seek Help from Friends and Family
From moving or reorganizing your home to avoiding feelings of isolation and loneliness, going through a divorce is a time when your friends and family are there to help. It never hurts to ask; and, while you may feel like you are imposing, the vast majority of the time your loved ones will be more than happy to lend a helping hand or reassuring voice.
6. Keep a Positive Outlook
Without downplaying the potential effects of divorce, it is also important to acknowledge that, in many ways, divorce offers a new lease on life. Although initial struggles are common, you will eventually feel comfortable moving on, and looking forward to a bright future can help you maintain the positivity you need to keep progressing and get through more-challenging times.
7. Don’t Focus Solely on Your Divorce
While getting a divorce and dealing with the aftermath of a divorce can be time-consuming, it is important not to let your divorce take over your life. Whether you take a break for an hour or an entire weekend, exploring new interests, rekindling old relationships, and finding other ways to grow personally can provide a much-needed respite so that you feel reenergized in all aspects of your life.
Laubacher & Co. | Cleveland Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
Laubacher & Co. is a Cleveland divorce and family law firm that provides experienced representation for divorcing spouses throughout the Cleveland area. If you have questions or need help and would like to speak with one of our attorneys, you can call us at (855) 522-5569 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.
Congress’s struggle to reform the nation’s tax laws brought a proposal from House Republicans (referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), which includes a sweeping change that has drastic implications for spouses going through the divorce process. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates the current federal income tax deduction for alimony payors, and makes alimony payments tax-free for the recipient.
Under the Internal Revenue Code as it stands today, “Alimony is deductible by the payor spouse, and the recipient spouse must include it in income.” The IRS has enforced this rule for years, and it has consistently played a central role in divorces where alimony is involved.
With the tax break for alimony payors, divorcing couples have been able to make strategic use of alimony to maximize financial benefits for both spouses; and, since alimony is (generally speaking) intended to serve as a substitute for earned income, it has made sense for recipients to pay income tax on alimony received.
The proposed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would reverse the current federal tax treatment for alimony. As proposed, it would apply to divorces finalized in 2018 or later, and would not affect spouses who finalized their divorces on or before December 31, 2017.
Benefits of Proposed Alimony Income Tax Reform Not Clear
According to Reuters, the ultimate goal of the reversal of the income tax rules for alimony is not clear:
“[E]xperts said it was not clear that the House tax reform proposal would generate more revenue. It could, instead, make alimony rarer, and lower the amounts paid.”
Currently, the tax break for alimony payors provides a significant incentive to agree to alimony during the divorce process. However, if alimony payors are required to pay tax on income that they immediately hand over to their former spouses, this incentive goes away. If the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act becomes law, amicable divorces involving alimony could become less common; and, as the Reuters article suggests, it is reasonable to suspect that alimony payments would decrease overall.
One explanation for the proposal is that it is intended to address the issue of alimony recipients not reporting their taxable income. According to IRS statistics (as reported by Reuters), in 2015, 12 million Americans claimed tax deductions for alimony, while only 10 million reported alimony income. However, if total alimony payments decrease as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as anticipated, it appears that neither the government nor divorcing spouses stand to benefit.
Payments Constituting Alimony
Not all post-divorce payments between spouses constitute alimony for federal income tax purposes. The most notable exception is child support; however, there are numerous other exceptions as well. Under current IRS regulations, a payment constitutes alimony only if:
The payor and payee do not file a joint return and do not live in the same household;
The payment is made by cash, check, or money order;
The payment is made pursuant to a final divorce decree;
The divorce decree does not designate the payment as “not alimony;” and,
The payor’s obligation to pay ends upon the payee’s death.
Forms of payment that are not considered alimony include:
Non-cash property settlements
Payments out of community property income
Use of the payor’s property
Payments for upkeep of the payor’s property
Voluntary payments (i.e. payments not required pursuant to a final divorce decree)
If you are preparing to go through a divorce and are expecting to pay or receive alimony, it will be important for you to have a clear understanding of the current tax laws as well as the proposed changes that could have a significant financial impact on the outcome of your divorce. For more information, we encourage you to schedule a free consultation.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Cleveland Divorce Attorney
If you would like to speak with an attorney about alimony and the other financial considerations involved in getting a divorce, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a free consultation at our offices in Cleveland, OH, please call (855) 522-5569 or inquire online today.
Divorces involving minor children inherently raise unique considerations, many (but not all) of which have to do with establishing child support and child custody. While child support determinations are largely directed by the Ohio child support guidelines, there is far less rigidity around the establishment of parents’ custody and visitation rights.
That said, parents in Ohio are not free to structure custody and visitation plans as they desire. There are limits to the options that are available, and all custody determinations must be made in the “best interests” of the child or children involved.
If you live in the Cleveland area, have minor children, and are preparing to go through a divorce, here are five key facts you need to know:
1. What Matter Most – “Best Interests” Factors
Under Ohio law, there are a variety of factors that must be considered in determining the best interests of a child. While the parents’ and the child’s wishes are all relevant, they’re not necessarily determinative.
Spouses who are negotiating an amicable divorce must give due weight to all of the relevant factors; and, if they cannot reach a mutually-agreeable resolution, a judge will apply these same factors to decide what is in the best interests of their child or children.
When most people use the term “custody,” what they are actually referring to is the concept of “physical custody.” In Ohio, physical custody is the right to physically reside with a child and provide for his or her basic needs. However, there is also “legal custody,” which is the right to make decisions about a child’s health, education, religion, and developmental needs.
Physical and legal custody can both be either “sole” or “shared.” When one parent has sole physical custody, the other will typically have visitation (or “parenting time”) rights. However, shared physical custody is an option as well; and, unless there is a strong justification to the contrary, divorced parents will commonly share legal custody in both sole and shared physical custody arrangements.
3. If Necessary, You Can Seek Temporary Custody During Your Divorce
If you are your spouse have separated, you can obtain a temporary custody order that establishes your respective parenting rights while your divorce is pending. It is important that you not try to prevent your spouse from seeing your children in the absence of a court order.
Likewise, if your spouse is interfering with your relationship with your children, it will be important for you to obtain a temporary order upholding your legal rights.
4. Your Parenting Plan Should be as Comprehensive as Possible
If you and your spouse are able to work together, your divorce will culminate with the creation of a “parenting plan” that establishes your respective rights and obligations.
Once your plan receives court approval, it will become binding, and both you and your spouse will need to strictly comply with the terms as agreed.
In order to avoid unnecessary disputes after your divorce, you will want to make sure that your parenting plan is as comprehensive as possible. This includes special provisions for holidays, methods of communication, and transportation-related expenses.
5. Your Parenting Plan Should Be Considered Final
While life changes happen, with regard to establishing a parenting plan, you want to approach the process with as much foresight as possible.
Although it is possible to modify a parenting plan, the courts only allow modifications under limited circumstances, and you do not want to find yourself in a position where you are forced to live with an untenable custody arrangement.
Speak with a Cleveland Divorce Attorney at Laubacher & Co.
If you are preparing to go through a divorce with children, our attorneys can help you make informed decisions about custody and parenting time. We offer free initial consultations, and evening and weekend appointments are available. To schedule an appointment at your convenience, please call our Cleveland family law offices at (855) 522-5569 or send us a message online today.