How to Assure that Cash-based Business Income Is Included in Your Divorce

Written October 23rd, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Finances

ID-10081104Divorce is complicated. We know that. But in the end, when the case is finalized, things will work their way into a new normal and life can be better. The challenge comes in getting to that point. For the spouse who has supported the bread-winner, usually the wife, though caring for a household and children, there are ways to make sure that she gets her fair share.

In an article for Forbes.com, Jeff Landers suggests several avenues to explore to see if there might be hidden assets from a spouse’s business, namely cash.

Much of the service industry in the United States is conducted by cash transactions, even in Palm Beach County.  Lunch at the bistro, piano lessons for your daughter, a groom for Fido, are just a few of the occupations that see a great deal of cash for services. So, if your spouse has a business that might be in this arena, he or she may not always claim the cash as income. This will most likely affect how a judge awards spousal support.

Cash is easier to hide than transactions with a paper trail such as using checks or credit cards. So how can you find out if your spouse is hiding revenue from cash transactions?

Landers says, “Cash is often used to buy luxury items that can add significantly to a person’s net worth, without ever having been reported to the IRS as income.”

By understanding your spouse’s business and how it is transacted, it may show an unexplained increase in net worth. But to discern the truth, hire a forensic accountant to complete a thorough Lifestyle Analysis. He or she may show that the standard of living is disproportionately high compared  to the actual income shown on the books.

Besides understanding his business, simply paying attention to spending habits and other behaviors may help identify a problem. “During the marriage, there may have been a time when cash was paid for items in [your] presence. . . and the owner may have even bragged about this particular shortcut “saving” money on taxes,” says Landers.

If this happened during your marriage, it seems likely that your spouse may try to continue during divorce proceedings.

If you are concerned that he or she might be, consult a professional today.

 

 

Image courtesy of posterize/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Does a Poor Economy Affect the Divorce Rate?

Written June 26th, 2013
Categories: Divorce

“If you think it is expensive to get married, you should try divorcing…” is a sentiment that could be heard in Delray or the PalmBeaches.

Suzy Brown, contributor for About.com Divorce Support pages reports that researchers are trying to determine how the economy affects marriage, but finding a correlation is tricky. “Whether a downturn in the economy increases or decreases the likelihood of individuals divorcing depends on many factors.”

Sociologists from Ohio State University published a study in August 2012. They found that many couples cannot afford to divorce and increasing numbers are choosing long-term separations instead. Dmitry Tumin, co-author of the study said, “Separation may not be their first choice, but they may feel it is their best choice.”

Beginning in 1979, researchers surveyed 7,272 men and women age 14-22 and followed their marital life for nearly 30 years. Of married couples who separated during the study years, almost 80% reported getting divorced within 3 years.

Fifteen percent of separations didn’t lead to divorce or reconciliation within 10 years. Couples in these long-term separations tended to be racial and ethnic minorities, have low family income and education, and have young children.

When Tumin and his co-author Zhenchao Qian compared this study to other research, they found this trend. “The number of people who choose separation seems to be declining, but the time spent in separation seems to be increasing.”

A separate Ohio State University study found that unemployed men are at a high risk for divorce. According to author Liana Sayer, “not being employed not only increases the chances that his wife will initiate divorce, but also that he will be the one who opts to leave. Even men who are relatively happy in their marriages are more likely to leave if they are not employed.”

Census reports on marriage have shown that states with the highest divorce rates are also the poorest. Data pointed out that men and women living in Southern states, where average incomes are lower than much of the country, had higher divorce rates. Even factoring out higher marriage rates for these states, 24/7 Wall St. reported “a high correlation between poverty and divorce.”

It’s clear that a challenged economy impacts divorce numbers. But how it impacts it seems to be in question. In some cases, couples are now opting for long term separations to save the money but mild disruption in economic stability may be increasing the likelihood of divorce.

Preparing for Divorce over 50

Written June 19th, 2013
Categories: Divorce

Divorce attorneys from Jupiter to West Palm Beach recognize that the number of men and women divorcing over fifty, the so called Graying of Divorce, is increasing. This fact seems to hit women harder than men but either way, actually preparing for a divorce can help you transition. Vibrant Nation, an online resource for women over 50, put together a list of 7 important areas. Men and women should find this list helpful.

  1. Career: If you are not working, evaluate the skills used in raising a family, running a household, planning, budgeting, and volunteering. Update your resume. Make sure your command of technology is strong and take a course to beef up your knowledge if needed. If you are currently working, it might be a good time to delay major transitions.
  2. Retirement: Your retirement is not far off. Keep an eye on retirement accounts, real estate and any other issues that affect that stage in life. If you don’t have a financial planner, it might be time to enlist one to help you envision a financial life alone.
  3. Social Life: Most of your friends are probably part of both you and your spouse’s circle. To extend your group of friends, consider finding a group that participates in a favorite hobby or volunteer for a cause that matters to you.
  4. Home: Research where you’d like to live. Consider family, immediate and extended, as it may dictate your boundaries. If you are able to have a plan in place before asking for a divorce, it can reduce a lot of friction.
  5. Imagine: “Imagine, as clearly as you can, what your ideal existence would be like, and what you must accept within your budget.” It may help to journal about what is important and is not.
  6. Finances: Get a clear picture of your financial life. “Locate and make photocopies of bank statements, insurance information, mortgage statements, life insurance policies, two months worth of bills of all types, your spouse’s paycheck stubs, five years’ worth of income tax returns, health records and all outstanding debt such as car payments, home equity loan, etc.” Divorce360.com suggests requesting a copy of your credit report from all three agencies. If you do not have much established credit, apply for a credit card to begin building some while you are still married.
  7. Law: Research your state and find a board certified attorney to help you through the challenging process.

For most of us, divorce is an ocean of uncharted waters but by approaching it prepared, you can navigate it more easily.

How to Propose Collaborative Divorce to Your Spouse

Written June 12th, 2013
Categories: Divorce

Realizing your marriage is headed for divorce or being told it definitely is by your spouse is no easy moment. Divorcees from Wellington to Jupiter are looking for more peaceful ways to get through an awful process. Many lawyers are assisting divorcing individuals with collaborative divorce.

If you decide that collaborative divorce is best, broaching the subject with your spouse can bring new challenges. In a recent article, Erin Brit, a Collaborative Divorce Lawyer from Illinois, shares tips about how to approach the idea.

  • Begin by letting “your spouse know that you wish to negotiate a fair settlement” through a collaborative divorce. He or she may not understand what that means so be prepared to share information such as books, pamphlets or online articles.
  • Communicate the benefits of having a collaborative divorce. Share your desire to resolve issues in a positive way. Collaborative divorce allows both of you to:
    • stay out of the court system, saving time and reducing stress in the process
    • negotiate respectfully, working towards solutions not spending time blaming
    • remain anonymous—collaborative divorce settlement particulars are not filed with the courts
    • obtain the help of professionals who are trained in collaborative divorce, such as specialists in finances and child psychology
    • focus on the future and make changes more easily than with litigated divorce
    • save money and time on many levels in the process
    • work out the details in a way that is best for children and allows for co-parenting
    • Encourage your spouse to speak to a collaborative divorce attorney.
    • Let your spouse have some time to think about the idea and “make an appointment” to talk some more about it.
    • Be specific and “invite your spouse to participate in a collaborative divorce rather than engage in litigation.”

No divorce is easy and taking on a collaborative process is no exception. But by working hard with a team of collaborative divorce professionals to help you stay focused on results and keep the children as a central focus, it just might be a little more productive and peaceful.

What About the Alienated Parent During A Divorce?

Written June 5th, 2013
Categories: Divorce

With media and advocacy groups educating people about Parental Alienation, the word is getting out. Families and individuals fromJensenBeachtoBoynton Beachare beginning to understand its complexities and consequences for children. Little is said, however, about the alienated or targeted parent. Let’s look at some of the problems that a targeted parent might endure.

Alienated or Targeted Parents may:

  • Suffer verbal abuse, often “being berated, ignored, defamed, and slandered” and in response they use a great deal of energy trying to stay strong under this acute anger and hatred. (source[E1] )
  • Undergo lengthy legal proceedings that are not always understood by the courts. This is especially true in high conflict divorce where alienation takes place.
  • Endure grief with no closure. As the child is living but out of reach, they grieve as with a death but never progress psychologically through it.
  •  Manifest psychological disturbances such as substance abuse, low self-esteem and other emotional problems.

Dr. Karin Huffer, “a nationally recognized author, associate professor in counseling and forensic psychology . . . and consultant” has spent her career being dedicated to “humanizing our legal system for those most vulnerable among us.” (source[E2] ) In this case, those susceptible are the alienated parents and children.

She believes that targeted parents suffer because of “corrupt or poorly managed court situations that perpetrate and destroy another person with false allegations,” and that this leads to a type of Post-Traumatic Stress she has termed Legal Abuse Syndrome or LAS. She is quick to clarify that it is not a mental illness but psychological pain “that develops in individuals assaulted by ethical violations, legal abuses, betrayals, and fraud.” (source[E3] )

It is clear that parental alienation injures all involved: children, parents and others connected to the child through the targeted parent including extended family and even some friends. Getting educated about this subject can help identify if this is happening and to seek help from a qualified attorney.


 [E1]http://southbury.patch.com/blog_posts/pas-and-the-affects-on-the-targetedalienated-parent

 [E2]http://www.equalaccessadvocates.com/

 [E3]http://southbury.patch.com/blog_posts/pas-and-the-affects-on-the-targetedalienated-parent

Divorce: Career Bust or Boost?

Written May 29th, 2013
Categories: Divorce

It’s in all the papers. Tom and Katie are divorced. Yes, the Hollywood giants, Cruise and Holmes, finalized their divorce several days ago and some are wondering how it might affect their careers.

Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian says Holmes lost momentum when she got into the relationship with Cruise but the split could be the beginning of a fresh start. “Whatever her next project is, there will obviously be a curiosity factor. But at the end of the day, she’s got to do good work.”

Elinor Robin, a family mediator of Boca Raton, would probably agree that good work is the key. “In the long run, divorce may ultimately prove to be a career booster,” she said. “When the focus is off the marriage, the focus can be on the career.”

Unlike Cruise and Holmes’ speedy settlement, divorcing takes time. Couples litigating through the separation often consume 18 months working towards the final decree. In the meantime, careers can feel like they are on hold.

In Florida, for example, divorced parents with shared custody cannot move more than fifty miles from a residence at the time of their agreement. Many divorce lawyers have had clients who turneddown a promotion because the job is out of state.

Complications are often magnified especially if spouses share a business. Losing a business that you have spent years growing can be difficult to build again and reinventing yourself is not easy. Once you get back on your feet, some focused energy on career development and training can be useful tools.

Divorce at any age and any stage of work life is devastating. It can wreak havoc on families and put careers and other life plans on hold. It takes some digging deep but there can be many positive changes that happen after a divorce.

Is the US ready for Divorce Hotel?

Written May 22nd, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Trends

Experienced divorce attorneys from Palm Beach Gardens to Boynton Beach constantly seek innovative ways to assist their clients.  However, an enterprising business person has created an innovative way for couples to become divorced.  “A Dutch entrepreneur is planning a luxury destination for couples who want to take a permanent vacation from each other.” (source)

Inspired by a college friend’s divorce, Dutchman Jim Halfens is spearheading a business to allow married couples an “un-do” almost as quickly as a Las Vegas wedding.

“He was losing weight, he was unable to have fun in life and the couple were fighting every time you saw them,” says Halfens. “I was convinced. There has to be another way.”

Halfens, who already has the program in 17 boutique-style hotels in the Netherlands, understands the clientele could be huge in a country where the divorce rate, although recently declining, hovers around 50%. At the same time, he “concedes that only one of every three couples that apply for his program is accepted.” In an effort to help the couples succeed, his staff works to establish that both partners really are willing to divorce and are ready to work with specialized mediators. (source)

The idea is simple says Janet Morrissey, reporter for the NY Times: Couples “check in on Friday, married. Then, with the help of mediators and independent lawyers, check out on Sunday, divorce papers in hand, all for a flat fee.” (source)

Couples attending a weekend stay in separate accommodations and are able to meet with professionals in the law, mediation, finance, psychology and more. Hotel staff is primed for their arrival and trained to walk the delicate line of what they need in the way of discretion and professionalism.

Halfens also “wants to take the idea to the next level by filming couples going through the whole process. He has written a book . . . and has approached high-end hotels in Germany, Italy, England, and the United States as possible location backdrops for the program.” (source)

Whether or not this sounds appealing, one thing is for sure, getting in touch with professionals in law, finance and other areas is a wise decision if ending a marital relationship.

 

Is A Divorce Auction In Your Future?

Written May 15th, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Trends

The auctioneer sported a pair of rugged jeans, well-worn chambray shirt and a visor. He hawked a collection that included leather couches, mahogany furniture, artwork, kitchen gadgets and more. He and his wife who helps in the business, live in a small town north of Denver, Colorado, and he’s selling the entire contents of a home whose owners are divorcing.

Divorce auctions are not known by this name in West Palm Beach.  However, CJ Pratt, the warm and welcoming auctioneer said, “Divorce auctions are relatively common, although they’re not often billed as such.” He’s been auctioneering for more than 30 years and this is the first time he advertized a divorce auction. He was wary, thinking customers would be put off by the fact that items came from a divorce. The stigma that may or may not be felt by shoppers didn’t keep them away. The parking lot was full.

So how does a couple come to this decision? Often it is from their indecision. Some couples can’t agree on who gets what or what its worth. They put their household goods up for auction, bid against each other for things they really want and collect proceeds of the rest of what sells. Other divorcees may want to start with a clean slate, sell it all to subdue memories associated with those items. Occasionally, says Pratt, the auction is court ordered when a judge gets tired of a couple not coming to an agreement.

The popularity of divorce auctions has increased in recent years. Pratt thinks it is partly due to the media. The Sex in the City movie included Samantha attending a divorce auction in search of a jeweled butterfly ring.  In addition, the popularity of auction reality tv series may generate more interest, like A&E’s “Storage Wars”.

If you are interested in attending a divorce auction, looking online is a great source for those located along the coast of southeast Florida. If you are divorcing and are interested in considering this as a way of dividing assets, contact a qualified lawyer to help you understand what might be involved.

 

10 Signs of Parental Alienation During a Divorce

Written May 8th, 2013
Categories: Divorce

10 Signs of Parental Alienation During a Divorce

Whether you live in Jupiter or Wellington, as a parent you have a special relationship with your children.  Alienation during a divorce can damage this important relationship. Parental Alienation is an action or actions by one divorcing parent that forces an alienation of the other parent from their child (or children). It is perpetrated, consciously or not, by a parent who desires to punish the other parent for the situation. Most commonly, it is the mother who is the perpetrator but increasingly, fathers are alienating as well.

According to Southern England Psychological Services, there are a number of indicators that may help identify when parental alienation is happening? Here is collection of some of them. Remember, this is just a short list of what is certainly an issue with many layers and most of the indicators interact with others in some way.

The list should be viewed not in isolation but in combination with many elements that go into the complexities manifested in some divorces:

  1. An alienating parent often keeps the child from communicating with and visiting the alienated parent and may destroy letters or presents sent to the child.
  2. The alienated parent becomes the reason for all that has broken down in the relationship.
  3. The alienated parent is portrayed as being “despicable, faulty and deserving of being rejected permanently.”
  4. A child behaves beyond their years in the way they speak about an alienated parent. They are mimicking the alienator’s words and feeling.
  5. When wishing to spend time with or say something good about the alienated parent, the child fears rejection by their close parent. The child may also experience guilt for just wanting to be with the other parent.
  6. The parent with the child “is viewed as all good, all wise, and all powerful by the child who becomes dependent[E3] ” through various manipulation tactics with no questioning from the child as being right or wrong.
  7. The child may describe false or exaggerated abuse by the alienated parent.
  8. An alienated child’s mind no longer discerns what is true and what is false.
  9. A child who suffers from alienation will likely also be alienated from extended family.
  10. An alienated child will often not remember the happy memories they did have prior to the alienation.

Keep in mind, it may not be what an alienating parent says but rather the way they say it that generates the psychological injury. Mom may say, “Dad wants to take you to a ballgame.” Whether she says it with “joy and enthusiasm indicating positive expectations or . . .  with venom indicating negative feelings” can dramatically change how the information is perceived and whether it constitutes abuse or not. (source) During the emotional upset that occurs during a divorce, parents should monitor carefully what they say about each other and how they say it.

She’s Over 50 and Divorcing, What About Her Retirement?

Written May 1st, 2013
Categories: Divorce, Divorce Finances, Divorce Property Law

Understanding retirement accounts, how they work, and how and when they pay you, as most divorce attorneys in West Palm Beach acknowledge, is a complicated endeavor. Then add the factors of  being over 50 and divorcing and it can be paralyzing. For women, this can mean a challenging road financially. Statistics show that women tend to take a larger financial hit than men during a divorce.

Traditionally, women have been the center of the home and many did not work until it was necessary. When it was imperative due to finances, a spouse’s death or divorce, they were not experienced and finding work was nearly impossible. Even when they acquired work, many found it difficult to attain the income that men had at the same stage in life, reducing their ability to accrue retirement funds. Even with the shift to more working and winning all levels of jobs, women still struggle for equal salaries. All this combines to make the post-divorce financial picture look bleak for women.

Jeff Landers, a contributing writer for Forbes.com, reminds us, “It’s only natural for you and your husband to plan for retirement together. Contributions to 401K are made via deductions from salary, pension plan benefits are a function of years on the job and salary earned, and it makes perfect sense that you start ‘counting on’ that money for when you and your husband reach your Golden Years.” (source) If you know the two of you won’t be sharing those Golden Years, it is time to consult a qualified attorney.

In regards to retirement, your team of divorce professionals can help you understand the difference between marital and separate property, what your state laws require and how it all applies to your retirement. In its simplest form, marital property is anything that either or both of you acquire during the marriage after the wedding. It all belongs to both spouses and must be divided in a divorce according to the law. Separate property is anything that belonged to one of the partners before the marriage and is generally not subject to division.

In order to have peace of mind for your retirement while going through a divorce, make sure your attorney will “clearly spell out how the assets are split and how those funds will be transferred.” (source)

Once you understand that, you are well on your way to making plans for the future.