Posts

Proposed Tax Changes – Impact on Divorcing Couples

Major changes to the U.S. tax code have resurfaced as part of the nightly news during most modern election cycles. However, the new administration appears to be intent on pushing through some form of change, parts or all of which may soon come to pass. For couples who may be considering divorce, some of those changes could have far-reaching effects on one or both spouses.

The IRS has a post on their blog ominously titled “The Tax Consequences of Divorce.” Tax law is challenging enough before throwing divorce into the mix. A fair settlement is important, but divorcing couples need to carefully consider the effects of their actions on the long and short-term financial stability of both parents, and on their children.

The New York Times has a set of charts that help explain the proposed tax plan. Some of the potential changes to the current tax code will affect exemptions available to one or both spouses. The possible reduction in the number of tax brackets may also change the income level with which either partner identifies, creating financial strain where none may have previously existed.

One of the most important issues currently under consideration is tax implications of alimony. Under current tax law, alimony is deductible by the spouse who pays out the alimony payments and included as income to the recipient. Under the proposed changes, the payments would no longer be deductible. If the payer is also reclassified under a higher tax bracket their financial impact may be much more dramatic than expected.

Other tax implications, such as dependency exemptions and child support, may not be under consideration today, but that does not mean they will be completely ignored. Although child support is currently not taxable to the spouse receiving the payments, this should be carefully watched for any changes.

With or without tax code changes, there are many reasons to consult a West Michigan accountant who is familiar with divorce implications on taxes. It is also important to discuss the effects of current tax obligations and potential adjustments with a qualified Grand Rapids divorce attorney, such as Johnsen Wikander, before filing any paperwork.

Please contact Johnsen Wikander today and let us help guide you through the many challenges of divorce.

The Effects of Parental Conflict on Children

During a divorce, parents can become increasingly angry and far more stressed than they were before reaching the decision to separate. Asset distribution, custody issues, parenting time plans, and many other difficult decisions can create tension in the home or any place that divorcing parents are brought together. Any fighting that may occur can leave a lasting impression on the children involved.

Children of divorced parents are affected by fighting both at the time of the argument and years into the future. According to WebMD, children’s emotional development is likely to be affected by heated conflict between their parents. A child’s emotional security is especially affected, often creating depression and anxiety when parental conflicts are unresolved.

Modern studies have shown that divorce can be a relief for children caught between fighting parents because they no longer live in the middle of the constant conflict. According to adolescent psychologist Nancy Cahir, “conflict between parents can be just as damaging as physical abuse.” Parental conflict can also lead to trust issues and difficulties with attachment.

Fighting parents can cause an unexpected issue for their children. A child’s sleep pattern can be negatively affected by parental conflict, causing the loss of 30 minutes or more of sleep per night. If this loss occurs in the middle of regular sleep patterns it can be even more disruptive, leading to irritability and other behavioral issues. Parental conflict can even lead to physical illness in extreme cases.

Studies by psychology professor Patrick Davies have shown that children exposed to fighting between parents do not get used to the conflict over time. Instead, they become more sensitive to it. Parents who stay together for their children’s sake are more likely to have a negative effect on them. Children exposed to conflict very often expressed the wish that their parents had divorced sooner.

Children’s emotional and behavioral stability and growth is negatively affected by their parent’s hostility, however, unresolved conflict is much worse. Although parents should do their best to avoid exposing their children to conflict, they can reduce potential impact by allowing their children to see the issue end with compromise or resolution.

Please contact leading Grand Rapids divorce attorneys Johnsen Wikander to discuss available solutions before your children are affected.

Choosing Sides: The Impact of Divorce on Friendships

West Michigan residents tend to be very social, developing strong relationships with people in and out of work, organizational, or religious environments. As social beings, almost all people want to feel like they are part of a group, and friendships provide the natural support system that goes with being an accepted part of a larger whole.

Divorce proceedings can create stress for the people on the outside of the relationship as well as the divorcing spouses. The process often pulls friends and acquaintances into the middle, forcing people who had allegiances with both partners into the uncomfortable position of choosing who they will continue to socialize with when divorce proceedings are complete.

People who choose to remain friends with adversarial divorcing spouses may find it difficult to maintain an allegiance with both. These people may find themselves caught in one partner’s struggle for information about the other, or victims of one’s jealousy regarding the other’s relationship.

Psychology Today reports that married couples rarely stay friends with either divorced partner, and divorced singles rarely remained friends with a strong couple. The married relationship often reminds the divorced individual of what they had lost and creates feelings of remorse or depression.

For couples, remaining friends with a divorced partner is often identified as the source of their own marital strife. New lives, new situations, and new opportunities can be attractive to one or both spouses who are having doubts about their own situation, and they may decide to abandon their friendship as a defensive measure.

Divorcing couples need to remember that people are not an asset to be divided, like furniture or capital. Friends of both partners may naturally choose to remain as part of one spouse’s life or another, but putting them in the middle or demanding they pick a side will almost certainly drive them away.

Friends are natural support systems and few situations create more stress or challenges than divorce. In times of need, we all want a shoulder to cry on or strong back to help us move forward. However, it is important to let other people find their own way through your divorce and come out wherever they feel safest.

That may mean they follow the other partner, keep their distance, or decide to simply disappear. In any case it’s best to let them stand where they are the most comfortable, even if it means the loss of a best friend.

Divorce is difficult, but an experienced divorce attorney can help. Please contact us at Johnsen Wikander in Grand Rapids with your questions and allow us to be your support system during your time of need.

Cohabitation After Divorce: A Growing Trend

In most modern marriages both spouses work to support their family and to move toward common goals such as children’s college expenses, a larger house or retirement. During marriage, most costs associated with housing, cars, and other resources are shared between husband and wife.

Aside from the emotional impact, divorce, whether it takes place in West Michigan or anywhere else, can create another layer of hardship when both partners suddenly find themselves house or apartment hunting, or in need of another car. The resulting financial challenges can add to the stress of an already difficult situation.

These days, many couples are choosing to live together after divorcing for several reasons. Children have the largest effect on strategic and financial decisions during, and after, a divorce. Staying close together, or even under the same roof, to provide parental continuity has led many couples to simply sleep in separate bedrooms in their existing home once divorce proceedings are finalized.

Real estate also plays a major role in the decisions made after separation. When a house or property has been purchased as an investment, or real estate has dramatically decreased in value, it may make more sense to live under the same roof until the market bounces back or a project home is completed.

Another reason couples will live together is to prevent upheaval. A single parent may not be able carry the costs associated with the current family home. However, if both parents continue to shoulder the mortgage, utilities, and taxes together they can ensure their children stay in the same home and the same school with their established friends and teachers.

In many cases, custody or visitation arrangements mean the children are packed up and shipped between their parent’s separate houses. This can result in two sets of belongings, and even friends. When spouses choose to stay under the same roof, the effects of the divorce on the children may again be reduced by eliminating the need for children to shuffle back and forth.

This situation can also impact fighting over custody and over who gets to see the children on which night or weekend. When the children of divorced couples stay put and both parents come to them, the situation’s impact is less severe.

Cohabitation after divorce is by no means an easy solution. Aside from the agreements put in place by the spouses and their respective divorce lawyers, rules and boundaries must be set. This is not a simple roommate situation, especially when old emotions resurface or one former partner begins dating.

Like any other situation, cohabitation after divorce has pros and cons. It may not be possible for everyone, but it could provide an easier solution to financially challenged partners and may allow parents to spend more time with their children.

Cohabitation may not be for everyone, but there are plenty of success stories about parents who have amicably divorced and made cohabitation work. The children of divorced parents appear to reap the most benefits, but it could provide a better financial and structural solution for the parents as well.

Options aside from litigation include mediation and Collaborative divorce. An experienced divorce attorney can help you find the best path forward, so please contact Johnsen Wikander for a free consultation today.

Stress Management and Divorce

The decision to divorce is usually reached after the most difficult period in a marriage. During this time, it is important to pay attention to your own well-being to help maintain clarity and manage the stress that accompanies the end of a relationship.

Even a mutually accepted decision to separate is accompanied with stressful tasks, such as financial and property distribution, and child visitation decisions. Changing bank account and credit card information can disrupt work and create additional layers of complexity, all of which may lead to more stress.

Children Know

Children are far more aware of divorce-related stress in their parents than they are often given credit for. Heated arguments, unexplained absences, and stormy relationships do not go unnoticed, often leading to feelings of guilt for children caught in the middle of their parent’s divorce proceedings.

It is important to maintain a clear head through difficult times, which can prevent snap decisions or heated arguments over less important details. Life must go on for parents and children alike, making stress management an important part of the divorce process.

Balance the difficulties of divorce with uplifting activities to help reduce stress. Here are some ideas to try. Go alone to recharge, or take your kids and use the time to help them through their own divorce related challenges.

Find Distractions

Go to the beach. It’s hard to beat the sound of crashing waves and the feeling of sand between your toes. Michigan has some of the best beaches in the world so why not try a walk along the water’s edge. The beach is even beautiful in the winter when the ice chunks pile up along the shore.

See a movie or read a book. There is nothing like an exciting storyline and strong characters to provide a distraction. A good book can transport the reader to beautiful, distant, and even imaginary places where the burdens are carried by someone else.

Get Away

Take a day or weekend trip. Michigan has so many incredible destinations within easy reach. The renaissance taking place in Detroit has made it an attractive destination for food and entertainment. Chicago is only a few hours away too, with Michigan Avenue shopping or the city’s world-class museums all within walking distance from most hotels.

Experience local culture. It’s often easy to overlook the closest attractions. Think like a tourist and visit some of the local tourist draws such as Art Prize in Grand Rapids or the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo. Or, visit one of the many wonderful exhibits at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Let Us Help

The end of any relationship weighs heavily on everyone involved. Please call or email us today and let Johnsen Wikander help reduce the stress of your divorce.

Divorce and Well Being

A study from the National Institutes of Health and other evidence shows that divorce may be necessary for the wellbeing of the individuals involved. There are times when the relationship between adults is frequently in conflict, and that can spill over into larger familial relationships, having a potentially negative impact on children, as well as the personal well-being of each spouse. Read more

Divorce Rate Goes Down, Acceptability Goes Up

Contrary to common belief, the national divorce rate has been falling, reaching its lowest point in decades. At the same time, the percentage of U.S. adults who say that divorce is morally acceptable is at a new high, reaching 73% according to this summer’s Gallup Poll. Read more

Oddities in Divorce- a 2017 Recap

Divorce attorneys know that cases are as unique and varied as the individuals and families we serve. The opportunity to help people resolve their divorce, no matter the circumstance, makes every day a new challenge for our team.

Even with the knowledge that we should expect the unexpected, we still come across stories about divorce that grab our attention. Often times they are stories with a positive twist, and others feature headlines that seems too strange to be true. Here is a quick recap of some of those offbeat stories we have seen so far this year!

Unanswered Texts

A Taiwanese woman was granted a divorce over unanswered text messages. Over the course of six months, her husband rarely responded to her messages even though the phone showed he had read them. It took the woman being hospitalized after a car accident for him to send a message. The judge, however, found that the message “was about matters related to their dog and notified her there was mail for her, but he didn’t show any concern for her.” The court sided with the woman, citing the marriage was beyond repair.

Nearly One Million in Damages

This story started in 2014, when a Japanese woman admitted to breaking and entering her ex-husband’s home following their separation. It was not until this year, however, that the extent of her damage was discovered. Her ex-husband, a violin maker, had an extensive and expensive violin collection. She is suspected of destroying 54 violins and 70 bows while he was away on a business trip. The total damage according to police was $950,700.

Divorce Hotel Opens

The process is never easy, but a new Divorce Hotel in the UK hopes that a weekend away can help. Couples looking to divorce in a positive way can book a weekend at the hotel. They will stay in separate rooms but spend the weekend working with mediators and lawyers to finalize the terms of their divorce. Paperwork is typically filed before they leave, with the courts finalizing the process in the following weeks.

Though we do not have a hotel, we do know how beneficial mediation and Collaborative Divorce can be, and we have been helping Grand Rapids families through the process for years. If you want to learn more about how it can help you, contact our team of attorneys today!

Uncontested Divorce: What You Need to Know

Our team follows a simple commitment with every person we meet: we are determined to find the best legal solution for your family. Each case is unique, so our first step will always be to get to know you and your story. If there are no unresolved or disputed issues between you and your spouse, an uncontested divorce may be an option. Here are the fast facts: Read more

Health Care Debate Putting Divorces on Hold

The news cycle has been dominated for weeks by the debate on health care in our country. Recently, financial planners and divorce attorneys have taken notice of a new trend: some separating couples are delaying their divorces due to the uncertain future of health care.

Read more