Neal Ashmore is committed to taking a different approach to divorce, child issues and matrimonial law. Considering that – as with so many things in our lives – divorce can be an opportunity for a new beginning rather than a sign of failure, this blog is focused on accentuating the positives.
For the last few years in my practice of Family Law, it seems every case involving children there has been the issue of equal (50/50) possession. I applaud both parents wanting to step up during or after a divorce and share the tremendous rigors of raising kids alone (or, most likely, down the road with a step-parent). When discussion ensues, and it gets analyzed and laid out on the table, you can’t avoid the issue of money – or child support. Why? Well, our Texas Family Code does not address child support and equal possession. Child Support is only provided for in the Family Code if one parent has a standard, or “expanded”, possession Order and the other parent has the rest of the time with the child or children. The question I always get very early in this conversation is “Why am I paying child support if I have them the same amount of time as my ex?”
The Answer? You are paying child support because your income and your ex’s income aren’t the same. The higher income earner can provide a better home, better clothes, more cell phone apps – basically more and better of everything. Therefore, Judges (although not bound to do this by legislation or statute) almost uniformly offset the child support obligations of each. If Dad is making $125,000 a year and Mom is making $50,000 a year, using the Texas Child Support Guidelines, the Court will figure what Mom’s child support would be and then calculate what Dad’s child support would be then offset the two amounts. The bottom line is someone is going to pay and having equal possession will not stop that outcome UNLESS – both Mom and Dad make the same (or close – no definitive definition here on “close” – so beware) income.
So, agreeing to and fighting for, equal (50/50) possession of your kids when you and your ex-spouse do not make the same money can reduce the amount a parent will pay in child support thus reduce the amount a parent will be receiving. Often, (if not most) of the time the higher income earner can survive paying out whatever the amount of support works out to be – but the lower income earner can’t afford to lose the money they would have gotten had a standard or expanded possession order been in place.
Folks that come to see me for consultations about divorce with children are always worried and always have the lingo down wrong. They have talked to their neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, or a family member living in another state who has been through a divorce and they want to know about “joint custody.” They have heard this term being bandied about with their spouse during talks (or arguments) about potential divorce and they want to know if this “shared custody” is going to mean their soon to be ex is going to have the children equal (50%) of the time post-divorce?
First, learn and understand the lingo. There is no legal terminology in the Texas Family Code referring to “Joint Custody.” None. Same is true with the phrases “shared custody” and “equal custody.” The terms get all knotted up in discussions and arguments, and it knots my clients’ stomachs when they hear it. They naturally think it means equal time with the kids between them and their divorcing spouse.
What Texas does have is called “Joint Managing Conservators” (or euphemistically referred to in the legal world as “JMCs.”) That’s what our legislature back in 1973 decided to nickname Mom and Dad after divorce legally. It is merely a label – a name the law has put on divorced parents. It confers nothing on divorcing parents other than the label (and all of you are going to be living within a set geographic restriction of each other after the divorce). The name doesn’t mean there will be equal possession of your kids. It doesn’t say neither parent will pay child support. It doesn’t mean all future decisions about your kids are going to have to be agreed equally. It means none of that. It merely connotes what the law in Texas is going to call you after divorce.
When you know and understand the terms, then the possible fear that shoots through you when you hear your spouse proclaim he/she is going to have “joint custody,” “shared custody,” or “equal custody” shouldn’t affect a single nerve synapse in your body. Instead, you should smile and know that your divorcing spouse doesn’t know the lingo – and you are already a step ahead because you do.
When spouses decide to move on from their marriage, each spouse must wrestle with decisions about the future, affected relationships and about the divorce process itself. Navigating a divorce can be such a taxing process that it can become easy to overlook how relatively routine choices can affect all the other decisions you are trying to make.
When you are trying to decide where to live, how to construct a child custody agreement and which attorney will represent you, your online etiquette may not seem like a pressing issue. For better and for worse however, your behavior online during your divorce may affect your future in more substantial ways than you may imagine.
If a judge, your spouse’s attorney or another interested party finds any of your online activity to be suspect, that activity could affect your divorce settlement, your child custody dispute and your child custody award. As a result, attorneys often advise their clients to temporarily close all social media accounts and to be extra careful when sending emails for the duration of any family law proceedings they are involved in.
If you choose not to temporarily shut down your accounts, it is critical that you treat every word you type and picture you post as something that may be viewed by everyone involved in your dispute. Simply because you enable certain privacy settings does not mean that your information will remain private.
Please take special care not to rant about your spouse online, talk about the process online or post any compromising pictures of yourself or your kids. In addition, do not discuss any large purchases, vacations or property if it may affect the judge’s perception of what could be considered fair in a divorce or child support order.
Divorce can have a significant impact on the tax status of the divorcing parties. The time of the divorce can determine the taxpayer’s bracket and the eligibility for certain credits and deductions, which can impact the amount of income tax paid.
For IRS purposes, if the couple is still legally married on the last day of the tax year, usually December 31, then the couple will still be considered married for that tax year, even if their divorce is finalized before the tax return is filed. If a couple is still legally married on the last day of the tax year, they can choose to file jointly or separately. The benefits of filing separately are that each spouse is only responsible for the tax due on their own income and for the accuracy of information filed on their tax return. The major disadvantages of filing separately are that each taxpayer will likely end up paying a higher tax rate, and it may be more difficult to use certain tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and education credits.
After the divorce is finalized, there are other tax issues that couples should be aware of. For instance, alimony received is taxed as income for the receiving spouse and is tax-deductible for the paying spouse. Also, while most costs of divorce are not deductible, a taxpayer may claim a deduction for legal fees incurred for tax advice related to the divorce and for legal fees incurred while trying to obtain or collect alimony.
Often when couples are considering divorce, they neglect to consider all of the financial and tax consequences of the divorce. This may lead to problems or unintended tax consequences. A divorce attorney may be able to help a client avoid or prepare for these consequences.
Source: Yuma News Now, “How Marriage And Divorce Can Impact Your Taxes”