The Differences between Family Law and Other Types of Litigation

Family law litigation is a unique field.  In other types of litigation, the disputed facts relate to a single event in the past.  In family law, the facts are constantly changing.  Here are some of the bigger differences:

  Civil Litigation: Family Law Litigation:
Issues in Dispute Few (2 or 3) legal issues are in dispute at the same time Many (5-15) legal issues are in dispute at once.
Facts in Dispute Facts are fixed in time (car accident, business transaction) Facts change over time, especially with child custody, business income, etc
Client involvement Client provides documents and attorney almost all other work Client continuously produces updated financial and child custody information
Procedure and process Everything leads up to a single trial or settlement Case can be split into separate trials; conditions change even after the trial
Court hearings Rare, and when required, the attorney usually goes alone Frequent, client usually needs to attend alongside attorney
Trial Either party may demand a trial to a jury No jury is allowed
Attorney’s fees Standard rule: each party pays their own attorney’s fees No standard rule: party with better access to resources may pay all fees
Duties between litigants No special duty exists, except in specific kinds of cases. Each has affirmative obligation to watch out for other’s interests
Attorney Aggressiveness Each party’s lawyer can be as aggressive as he or she deems fit Aggressiveness, if not carefully packaged, can be grounds for penalties

Because of the many moving parts, the personal and emotional ties between the parties, and the complex and ever-changing landscape, family law cases can be difficult and expensive.  For this reason, you should always be looking for the simpler and more efficient way out, while at the same time, working to protect yourself and your family.

Zero Alimony Deduction for a Split Bonus, Tax Court Says | AccountingWEB

I do not think anybody actually likes paying income taxes, no matter what they say. True, the many benefits of taxes include things like roads, police, and even my beloved courthouses, but it is hard to part with a portion of every cent I earn.

In a divorce, child support and spousal support issues have different tax consequences.  In general, a child support payment is considered the paying party’s obligation to support his or her child, which every person in the United States has an obligation to do from their net income after paying income taxes.  Because of this, child support payments are not tax deductible, though dependent children are.

On the other hand, payment of alimony (or, in California, “spousal support”) is considered the sharing of income before the earning party has the opportunity to enjoy it.  Because spousal support is the income of the party who is receiving it, and not the obligation every parent has to help support children, the paying party has traditionally been able to claim spousal support as a tax deduction, and the receiving party must pay regular income taxes on spousal support received.

In this article, a tax court considered whether to allow a paying party to claim deductions to taxable income write off alimony payments made before a court made orders requiring the paying party to pay alimony.  The court made the following conclusions:

To qualify for a deduction, alimony must meet the following requirements:

  • The payment must be made under a “divorce or separation instrument.”
  • The instrument can’t specify terms that the payment is nondeductible and nontaxable.
  • The parties can’t be living in the same household when the payment is made.
  • The payor’s obligation to make the payment must end at the death of the recipient.

In other words, the IRS and tax courts will want a formal written order (even if agreed) that mandates the payment of spousal support before the paying party can deduct alimony payments from his or her taxable income.  Such agreements are relatively simple, and there are forms on the California Courts website that you can use, but they do not always fit what a specific couple needs.  A simple spousal support order should cost relatively little if you need to consult an attorney or a legal document preparer.

Source: Zero Alimony Deduction for a Split Bonus, Tax Court Says | AccountingWEB

How To Keep A Divorce From Wrecking Your Finances

This is an interesting new technology that claims to eliminate a lot of the legal and emotional turmoil of a divorce.  I am interested to see whether it gains any popularity.

Divorce is always sad, but when it turns ugly, it’s terrible. You may remember The War of the Roses, the dark comedy where Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas start out as a perfect couple and end up destroying their possessions — including their luxurious house and cars — because they can’t agree on who gets what. That movie is unfortunately hitting home for plenty of boomers and Gen X’ers.

Source: How To Keep A Divorce From Wrecking Your Finances

Vacations and divorces.

University of Washington sociologists have found what is believed to be the first quantitative evidence of a seasonal, biannual pattern of divorce filings. The researchers analyzed filings in Washington state over a 14-year period and found that filing consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays.

This is an interesting study by U-Dub, which has motivated us from our long silence to make some observations.

Our experiences are similar to those shown in the study, with some notable differences: We have seen that people come to us seasonally, with divorces coming during January and February, child custody disputes showing up about April or May, and another, smaller swell of divorces and support cases about fall.  Our observations of these seasonal phenomenon are:

  1. “I stayed for Christmas with him/her, hoping that we could make it good for the kids.  It was awful and I just can’t do it again.” This is a — slightly sanitized — summary of the statement that often accompanies our new clients in January.
  2. (a) “Our son/daughter is not doing well in school and we need to change schools for next year” (b) “I need to move for my job, and I want to get that done before school starts next year.”  These are often the explanations we get from our clients in April and May of each year before engaging in a child custody proceeding.
  3. “I was hoping that our family vacation would bring us closer together, but…” We hear something along these lines occasionally with the fall divorce.

What makes our experience different from the data studied at the University of Washington?  Possibly their weather?

Financial dos and don’ts when divorcing – Fidelity Investments

I stumbled across this while I was doing some research for a client regarding her 401k account.  It offers a lot of solid financial advice for those facing divorce over the age of 50.

Financial dos and don’ts when divorcing – Fidelity Investments.

7 Top Divorce Fails by Women From a Lawyer Who’s Seen It All | The Stir

This article has some really good advice for women and men going through divorces.  The bottom line? Be aware of your ongoing finances and rights when you go through the divorce process.  At the very least, pay a lawyer for some advice about what is possible before negotiating the terms of your judgment for divorce.

Here is a link to the story:

7 Top Divorce Fails by Women From a Lawyer Who’s Seen It All | The Stir.