Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Category

Who Pays for Health Insurance in the Event of a Divorce?

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

If you and your spouse are on the same health insurance plan it is possible you may lose this insurance, since a person’s ability to get health insurance through your spouse is often predicated on the fact that you are married. In the event that this is the case, it doesn’t always mean that your spouse will no longer have to include you in their health care coverage. In the state of New York, under the Domestic Relations Law, section 236(B), the court has the ability to intervene. In certain instances, a court will issue an order that a party must not only purchase their former spouse a policy of insurance but also maintain that policy. This can be the case in regards to providing benefits for health, hospital care, and the like.

While the court does have this power and exercises it regularly, the “maintaining” of the insurance is not for an indefinite period of time. There is a limitation for how long a court can require an individual to cover the health insurance of their former spouse. This duration is set forth by the court during the divorce, and by law, this duration of time cannot exceed the length of time that spousal support (maintenance), or child support payments have been ordered.

If you are required to pay for your former spouse’s health insurance, COBRA is a plan that has been utilized by many and is a good option for you to obtain the needed benefits. It should be noted that in the state of New York if you are to be not eligible for COBRA benefits, for any reason, this alone will not be enough to be relieved from your court-appointed obligation to your former spouse.

However, a court can just as easily rule that both parties must be responsible for their own health care coverage. In this case, neither party would be obligated to cover the other’s health insurance. Mitigating factors such as income and children can also play a role in whether or not a court will order health care coverage.

Am I Required to Disclose Everything in a Prenup?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

A prenuptial agreement is a good tool to use to avoid a lengthy and costly divorce later. Of course, no one plans on getting divorced before they even get married, but if you have valuable assets or plan on acquiring ones, and you don’t want to risk losing them in the event of a divorce, a prenup is something to consider. However, many are under the wrong impression that the finalization of a prenup is a simple signing of a contract. In reality, before a prenuptial agreement can be approved, both parties must complete a financial disclosure statement, identifying all of their assets and debts. The parties will be viewed to have a confidential relationship which brings with it the duty to disclose, mutually attributed to each party.

A lack of complete disclosure may result in the parties’ agreement being invalidated., especially where there is an obvious inequity between the parties’ assets. A big part of the court approving a prenup is if they consider it to be fair to both parties. In order to avoid any potential issues, later on, full disclosure must be in writing. Each party should draft a financial disclosure affidavit, which will be attached to the prenuptial agreement as an addendum. This schedule should clearly demarcate, and thereby disclose, all of the party’s assets to the other. There should be a listing of the party’s assets, along with how much it is valued; any current outstanding liabilities, the amount/sources of the party’s income, any interests in businesses, partnerships, and any expectations of inheritances or gaining of another asset.

After this, the party’s will review and sign the section of the agreement that states that both parties have read each other’s financial disclosure affidavits, understand it, acknowledge reading it, and have had the opportunity to consult with their attorney about it prior to signing. This protects both parties from the other claiming they never had the chance to review or look over the documents. However, it is important to keep in mind that in the event you are getting a divorce, if you can prove your spouse did not fully disclose their income or assets at the time you signed the prenup, you may have grounds to have the agreement thrown out.

What to Do if You File Jointly but are Getting Divorced

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Until a divorce decree becomes final, you and your spouse have the option of filing as “married joint” or “married separate”, both of which have positives and negatives that will be explored in this article. One thing to remember is whatever your marital status is as of December 31, is what will be reflected in your taxes.

If you are unable to file a joint return, you can file as head of household, which has benefits in itself, but that would only be permissible if you have a dependent living with you for more than half the year, and you paid for more than half of the maintenance for your home. Your filing status influences your tax rate and determines which credits you can claim. Filing together can result in a lower tax bill as opposed to filing separately, so the IRS has recommended calculating your tax liability as single and joint filers to learn which offers you both the most savings from the options available.

Filing jointly could have risks as well, since you now share the responsibility for any taxes due, along with associated penalties and any accrued interest. That means if your estranged spouse skips out on his or her taxes, it is now you who is responsible for paying them. Additionally, the IRS may or may not relieve you from your partner’s tax debts, depending on the investigation.

Because it is known that sometimes your tax burden can be lower by filing jointly, depending on your specific incomes, deductions, and credits, filing status can be used as a negotiating tool, because, in most scenarios, both spouses must agree to file a joint return. However, a court will not order unwilling spouses to file a joint return. In rare circumstances, the IRS will accept a joint return signed by only one spouse, but you would have to consult with a tax attorney to go about this particular filing process.  

What Do I Do if I Acquire Assets I Want To Protect After We Get Married?

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Usually, if someone has personal assets, such as stock options or an inheritance, they have to come to an agreement with their soon-to-be spouse to sign a prenup, which details the separation of marital assets in the event of a divorce. The term “protect” is used in the sense that by signing a prenup, you can protect your assets from being considered marital, thus ensuring they are not available for distribution upon divorce.

Is it too late if we are already married?

In some cases, a person may not acquire assets that they consider are worth protecting until, for example, 8 months into the divorce. At this point, you are no longer able to draft a prenup, as that is an instrument only available before the marriage. In this instance the couple would require a postnup, which achieves the same goal as a prenup, it is just signed after the individuals have married.

Enforceability and Disclosure of a Postnup

Something important to keep in mind is that full and fair disclosure is an important part of a valid and enforceable postnup. When each party enters into the agreement, they both must completely disclose to the other party of their assets, liabilities, and income. This should also include assets you are reasonably aware you will be acquiring in the near future, such as the situation listed above. If the information that one of the spouses provided was not transparent, the agreement will not be enforceable when the time comes to get divorced.

Alternate Reasons

Postnuptial agreements are sometimes made in reaction to an event or pattern of behavior after the initiation of marriage, that gives cause to creating a plan for divorce. Excessive gambling, drug or alcohol abuse and financial hardship are common catalysts for spouses hiring attorneys to draft postnups, but as stated before, it does not always have to be in reaction to a negative event.

What Does “Contested” And “Uncontested” Mean, And How It Can Affect Your Divorce

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Generally speaking, there are two different types of divorces that you can get. Deciding between the two depends a lot on the circumstances of your case and the relationship between you and your spouse.

Matters like property division, child support, child custody, visitation rights, and spousal support are often the things that spouses will disagree on, which will bring your case before a judge. This situation shows the difference between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce.

Contested Divorce

It is important to note that an uncontested divorce is not equivalent to no issues that are disagreed upon. The real point of an uncontested divorce is that the spouses are able to work together, at least to the point where a judge does not need to be involved to decide for them. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses would meet with a divorce lawyer to go through the steps of their case, with equal and impactful input from both sides. This differs heavily from a contested divorce, wherein the spouses are often not able to come to an agreement on the main issues, and they require a judge to preside over the case and rule for them. To put it into simpler terms, the person who initially files for divorce will include the terms under which they would like to end the divorce, including things like child support amounts, distribution of assets, and the like. If the other spouse doesn’t agree with these terms, they are “contesting” the divorce under these terms. That is when it goes before a judge, who decides for them.

Uncontested  Divorce

Because of the financial and emotional toll that courtroom divorces often impose on couples, many find it to be very beneficial to end their marriage through mediation, or an uncontested divorce. Not only is it much less expensive, but an uncontested divorce means the parties can avoid the drawn-out court procedure that comes with it. It is ultimately up to the spouses involved in the divorce to decide whether or not they can work amicably enough and come to enough of a consensus to have an uncontested divorce, or if it is the case that they are so far apart on the issues that a judge is required to come in and decide for them.

My Spouse Is In The Military, Is There A Special Procedure To File For Divorce?

Monday, December 17th, 2018

Although there is some overlap between military divorces and civilian divorces, the differences between them are distinct, and fall under the scope of matters regarding compliance with support payments, methods of service/process, residency, and relating filing requirements, or the division of military pensions. Jurisdiction is decided on by different rules as well; while the state the party resides in has jurisdiction in civilian cases, jurisdiction may be the place where the person holds legal residence, even if the service member is stationed somewhere else when it comes to a military divorce. However, most states will allow service members or their spouses to file for divorce, in the state in which they are stationed, regardless of whether or not they are legal residents of that state.

Similar to civilian retirement benefits, military pensions are subject to division, sometimes via equitable distribution, between spouses in a divorce proceeding. Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA):

“State courts may treat military retirement pay as either sole or community property depending on the state.“

While the USFSPA doesn’t provide a formula for dividing the amount of retired pay, the amount is generally determined and awarded under the specific state laws. In addition, payment of the former spouse’s portion of the military retirement is paid straightaway by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) to the former spouse, only if there were at least 10 years of marriage that overlapped with 10 years of military service (known as the 10/10 rule).

In addition to military pension benefits, spouses of former military are also eligible to obtain full medical benefits, and exchange privileges after a military divorce, under the following scenarios:

  • The couple was married for 20 years or more;
  • The service member has performed at least 20 years of creditable service to retirement pay; and
  • There was at least a 20-year overlap of marriage and military service.

With regard to spousal and child support, the military is focused on ensuring a service member’s family support obligations after the divorce. A court also may require the providing spouse to maintain life insurance that would cover child or alimony support payments for an allotted period of time.

Can A Prenuptial Agreement Protect Future Earnings?

Monday, December 10th, 2018

A prenuptial agreement, or “prenup”, is a tool utilized by both parties to protect their individual rights, as well as obligations, in the event of a divorce. Moreover, prenups cover the distribution and handling of property, real and personal, marital and separate. For example, if one party owned a house prior to marriage, they are likely to include a provision stating:

  • Which party will the property be retained by,
  • Who will be responsible for the costs of maintenance of the property,
  • How money obtained either through the selling or leasing of the property will be distributed between the parties.

Another use for prenuptial agreements is to protect future earnings. Although a party may not have any significant assets before or during the marriage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t expect to acquire significant assets in the future. With a prenup, the spouse can pre-emptively protect any earnings from their professional career in the event of a divorce. A good example could also be someone who expects to inherit or take over a “family business” prior to getting married, and so this planning in advance negates a possibility of that ownership being in jeopardy.

In order for the prenup to protect your future earnings and potentially gained assets, the prenup should be drafted by an experienced attorney, who knows how to correctly articulate what you want protected and preserved in the event of a divorce. The last thing you would want is for a vague and unclear prenup to be drafted and agreed upon, only for the judge to interpret it differently than you had planned. The prenup must be in writing and signed by both parties. The enforceability of a prenup is decided upon by the court, so long as the agreement was signed by both parties voluntarily, and the prenup is considered fair to both parties, it will be enforced.

What If My Ex Died Before A Divorce Settlement Was Fully Paid?

Monday, November 12th, 2018

If, in the event of a divorce, there is a settlement agreement drafted and signed by both parties, it stipulates and sets forth how the parties will operate post-divorce. This includes assigning custody of the child or children, child support, visitation, and spousal support. But, if the spouse paying child and spousal support dies, how can the other parent receive any support at all?

If the Court issued a financial Order, then there has essentially been a “debt” assigned, and therefore can be sued due to an unfulfilled obligation. In this scenario, the executors of the deceased spouse’s estate will be responsible for determining in what amount the estate will pay out.

If the divorce settlement and proceedings are finalized, and, for instance, the deceased spouse did not change the beneficiary from their spouse to another person in their Will, then that Will shall be enforced upon the conclusion of the divorce proceedings. In the event that there is no such Order issued, it is harder to argue that there was a “debt owed”. You can bring a claim under the Provision for Family and Dependents Act 1975, wherein the Court will determine based on these considerations:

  • the financial resources and needs of the applicant

  • the financial resources and needs of any other applicant
  • the financial resources and needs of the beneficiaries
  • any obligations and responsibilities of the deceased towards any applicant and any beneficiary

  • the size and nature of the estate of the deceased
  • any physical or mental disability of any applicant or beneficiary

  • any other matter, including conduct, which the court may consider relevant.

Beyond this, there is not much else the surviving ex-spouse can do. The Court will definitely take into account what could have been reasonably expected to have been received in the event of a divorce, without the death of the former spouse.

Will Dating While My Divorce Is Pending Affect The Outcome?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

By the time the divorce action gets entered into court, and the proceedings begin, it is not uncommon that one, or even both, of the spouses are either engaged in a new (or sometimes pre-existing) relationship, or at the very least they have started to “get out there again” and going on dates. Although most spouses who are getting divorced are separated, many wonder if having romantic and intimate relationships with other people will negatively impact their case in court. After all, they are still married, and many people become concerned that the judge may find this to be a reason to rule in favor of their soon-to-be ex spouse.

The answer to this question is complicated, because while there is no written rule of whether or not dating is allowed, their can be many ramifications that come as a result of the fact that you are dating, and so it is important to be mindful of the impact these relationships may have. For example, judges are not known to punish a spouse for dating other people, especially after they have become physically separated from their spouse. But, because you are still married, it is very likely that your current spouse will take some issue with this – even if they themselves are dating! Some go as far as accusing the “dating spouse” to have begun the relationship before the divorce was started, which would be an affair, and not look good to a judge.

Some rules of thumb to follow revolve around how and when you should go about dating. For instance, as mentioned earlier, it is more appropriate for you to start dating after you and your spouse have physically separated. Not only for how it would look with respect to your marriage with your spouse, but it helps keep it away from the children, who would not benefit in any way from witnessing it, nor should they meet your new person. Keep in mind that divorce is an emotionally taxing process and experience, and it may be wise to just refrain from engaging in an emotional relationship until things are more calm, stable, and when you are able to confidently and comfortably re-enter the “dating game”.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

Friday, August 10th, 2018

To many of those who are exploring options for divorce, Collaborative Divorce, a recent addition to the list of ways spouses can get divorced, sounds a lot like mediation. In some ways it IS like mediation, except that in a Collaborative Divorce, both parties still retain their own attorneys to represent them. However, unlike in a traditional divorce setting, both attorneys are working with the mindset of getting the best possible outcome for both parties, as opposed to just representing and fighting for their clients interest only. In fact, the lawyers that specialize and practice in this type of divorce are bound by a different set of rules than those who do not, like putting what is just and fair before their client’s interests. Moreover, if the process breaks down, neither attorney is allowed to represent their client when the case goes to court.

A Collaborative Divorce is a great option for couples who feel that they can work out a divorce settlement amicably amongst themselves, but still want to have an attorney present, to protect them from agreeing to something they don’t understand, and might come back to haunt them later. In addition, much like with mediation, a Collaborative Divorce can be useful in ending the marriage while, in some capacity, preserving and retaining a functional relationship. The process is very organized, and an agenda/plan is set up in advance so that both parties have ample time to prepare for each meeting, in which they will discuss and negotiate (and hopefully compromise) on all the key issues and subjects that must be dealt with in order to move towards a divorce. If you and your spouse have a working relationship, and want to avoid a costly divorce, you should definitely consider a Collaborative Divorce.