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Entries in costs of divorce (12)

Tuesday
Jul312018

Pre-Divorce Checklist: The Rational Preparation Before an Emotional Journey

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerCertified Family Law Specialist

 

 

 

by Vanessa Soto Nellis

818.907.3274

  

Divorce is rarely easy for anyone. But if you’re serious about terminating your marriage or partnership, there are some steps you can take to legally, financially and emotionally prepare. Taking these steps first can make the process easier for all.

Choosing a Divorce Lawyer

Before making any major decisions, meet with and retain a family law attorney. You should retain a lawyer who listens, makes time for you, is responsive, and with whom you are comfortable talking to.

Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • What is your hourly rate?

  • What is your retainer? Does you retainer get applied to the monthly bill? If so, how much will be needed to replenish it?

  • Is the retainer an Evergreen retainer? An Evergreen retainer is applied to the final but not monthly bills. You will be expected to pay your bills monthly.

  • Do you have people who assist you? For instance, paralegals have lower hourly rates, as do associate attorneys.

Financial Preparations

For some, it may be tempting to just pack a bag and leave. That’s a natural, emotional response in some situations, but don’t do it.

It takes at least six months for a divorce to finalize in California, and sometime after moving out a party will almost always decide there are certain assets worth fighting for. Without proof that those assets are community/quasi-community, separate, or commingled property, the divorce can take longer depending on how long the parties want to fight over them.

Here is the rational response:

  • Photocopy all financial information such as bank statements, 401k, tax returns for the last five years, credit card statements, appraisals, and insurance policies.

  • If you are self-employed, make sure you have any documents you need to run your business – put them on a flash drive so you have a backup.

  • Take photos of anything valuable you may need to leave behind.

  • Gather all important documents: passports, social security cards, photos, baby books, and birth certificates.

  • Aside from the “big ticket items” like cars, homes, business interests, stock accounts and bank accounts – you should also make a list of retirement accounts, employee benefits, investments, life insurance, intellectual property, frequent flier miles/points, club memberships, season tickets, collectibles, jewelry, and proof of gifts.

Be prepared for a lot of paperwork. California Family Code §2100 mandates both preliminary and final Declaration of Disclosure forms stating all of your assets, debts, income and expenses under penalty of perjury.

Prepare the disclosure forms like tax returns. Sit down with your records and a computer, and set aside several hours to fill out everything as completely and accurately as possible. Engage someone to help you if necessary. The more thorough you are, the less your attorney will need to do, which keeps your fees down.

Emotional Preparation

Decide what your goals are, so that you are less reactionary and more proactive as the divorce progresses. Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:

  • Who should have physical and legal custody of the children and/or the family pets?

  • Do you want to stay in the marital home, or would you prefer a clean start?

  • Can you afford to stay in the marital home?

  • Which assets are most important to you?

  • What sentimental items are most important to you?

Have a support system in place: friends, family, a therapist. You will grieve the relationship. Divorce will not be easy but you will get through it.

Dealing With Your Ex

Keep your communications with your soon to be ex-spouse short and respectful. In other words, do not engage in emotionally driven texts, emails, phone calls or social media posts. Also remember that you do not need to respond to every communication, and that often, waiting a day to reply gives everyone better perspective.

Stick to the facts and do not explain yourself. For instance, if your spouse says: “I can’t believe you did not practice with our daughter before her big math test and she did poorly. She should not go to your house before a big test.” 

An appropriate response might be: “We did practice but she really needs more help than just the night before. Would you agree to split the cost of a math tutor? I think she would really benefit from one. Please let me know by Friday.”  

Pick and choose your battles. Ask yourself: “Is it really worth the cost of attorneys’ fees to fight about this?” The more belligerent the parties, the longer the divorce takes. And that can be costly for all. 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a California Family Law Certified Specialist and the Chair of our Family Law Practice Group.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Mar132015

Tax Filing During a Divorce: Separate or Joint Returns?

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerDivorce Attorney

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

 

Couples going through a divorce should remember this regarding taxes: You can still file a joint return, so long as you were still married as of December 31st.

Taxes During DivorceEven if you separated from your spouse and moved out of the house on  January 1, 2014 – if you did not receive a divorce decree by December 31st, you're still considered married in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS considers same-sex couples married, if the couple was married in a state where same-sex marriages are legal. So here in California, no distinctions are made in terms of whether a heterosexual or same-sex couple is considered married or divorced – all follow the same rules.

For most couples, filing jointly will result in more tax savings. If your divorce finalized before December 31st, you'll have to file singly, or as head of household – the latter could garner you more tax savings if filing that way. Talk to your accountant to figure out what's best for your situation.

Speaking of accountants, the IRS allows you to deduct some of the fees paid for expert advice regarding tax planning and obtaining or collecting spousal support. Thus, you may want an itemized statement from your attorney.

Separated & Filing Taxes

No matter what the relationship status, couples should always communicate. That holds especially true for separating couples at tax time. Consider these questions: 

  • Are you Married, Filing Jointly; or Married, Filing Singly?

  • Which of you is the custodial parent?

  • Who claims the children as dependent exemptions?

  • Will one of you file as head of household, while the other claims the dependent exemptions? 

Divorce Finance Attorney

If you are legally separated in California, claiming head of household means you have dependents and pay for at least half of the costs of maintaining a home. So if your child(ren) live with your spouse in a home that you mostly pay for – you could file your taxes as head of household, rather than singly.

If you and your spouse each have 50 percent custody of your child(ren), you'll really need to communicate in terms of deciding who gets to claim what on the tax returns. If there is only one child, it might make sense to alternate the tax deduction annually. Alternatively, the tax deduction may benefit one parent more than another. It is important to make sure you are in sync so that you do not get audited.

There are many options to consider when separated and filing taxes. The best thing to do in these situations is to get help from an expert.

 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Divorce Attorney in our Family Law Practice Group. Contact her via phone:818.907.3274; or by email: vnellis@lewitthackman.com for more information.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Apr112014

Divorce Mediation - How is it Better?

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerDivorce Mediation Attorney

by Vanessa Soto Nellis

818.907.3274

 

Recently, actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay front man Chris Martin announced the demise of their marriage. But rather than calling the split a separation or divorce, they've labeled their breakup a "conscious uncoupling".

This may sound a bit abstract, metaphysical, or just plain weird to some people, but it seems they have the right intentions: To realize they still have emotional bonds though they can't live together, to avoid the publicity fiascos of a celebrity divorce under a social media microscope, and to co-parent their children.

Anyone can do the same – make a conscious effort to avoid the bitter court battles many couples of our parents' generation undertook – we just label it differently: divorce mediation.

Divorce mediation is a smart move for anyone seeking a divorce who wants to remain financially and emotionally intact. Let's do a side by side comparison:

 

Overall, family law mediation is definitely the better way to get divorced in terms of time, money and stress. Plus, it gives you more control over the outcomes affecting your children and your property, and your relationship with your ex, particularly if you plan to remain on good terms for the sake of your families.

Be sure to hire an attorney for the job though, as you want to ensure the agreement reached is enforceable by California law. Additionally you should make sure you hire an experienced mediation attorney, to reduce the risk of the lawyer having biases (expressed or not) for one side.

 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Divorce Mediation Attorney in our Family Law Practice Group. Contact her via email: vnellis@lewitthackman.com

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Jan172014

"Divorce Corp.": What's Missing From This Picture?

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerFamily Law and Mediation Attorney Los Angeles

 

 

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

San Fernando Valley Custody Lawyer Los Angeles

 

Let's face the facts: For most people, divorce is ugly. But let's not make it uglier than it has to be.

Case in point, Divorce Corp., a film currently in theaters, whose creators are calling it a documentary, depicts the worst possible case scenarios of family law. One of the movie's trailers begins with a voiceover that states, "Death is easier than divorce." That sounds more like melodrama than a documentary.

Another trailer talks about false claims of domestic violence and other crimes, so false accusers can gain financially, or have their spouse thrown out of the house.

The problem with this film is that it only depicts the negative aspects of family law court. There was not one example of a family law litigant who was helped by the family law system. Such examples exist. I recently attended a volunteer appreciation lunch hosted by the Van Nuys Judicial Officers, which recognized the many programs implemented by volunteer attorneys and the countless hours they spend helping people through the legal system.

A Variety reviewer, Justin Chang, says Divorce Corp. is:

…a vigorous but clumsily argued expose of the corrupt family-court practices that have turned one of life’s more painful experiences into a $50 billion-a-year industry. Chock-full of slick graphics, smart talking heads, one-sided emotional appeals and flailing accusations of judicial misconduct…

Yes, divorce is expensive, and maybe it is a $50 billion industry when you consider that half of all marriages in the nation end up in divorce.

This film however, fails to take into account certain facts, and that many couples are able to settle their divorce through mediation. Or that most spouses don't resort to framing their partners for crimes they didn't commit. Yes, there are hurt feelings and some people are vengeful. Not many people wind up in jail or lose their children, just because their marriage went awry.

The one lesson we all can take from this film is this:

Stay reasonable and be willing to compromise. If you can stay reasonable, you can participate in divorce mediation proceedings, eliminating the need to fight over custody or money.

 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Shareholder in our Family Law Practice Group. Contact her via email: vnellis@lewitthackman.com. 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Wednesday
Aug212013

Bad Pennies: Financial Arguments Top Predictor of Divorce

Encino Tarzana Divorce LawyerSpousal Support Attorney

 

by Vanessa Soto Nellis
818.907.3274

 

Money.

According to a recent study at Kansas State University (KSU), arguments about finance are top ranking predictors of divorce.

Divorce and MoneyThe actual causes of divorce are a bit more complicated. Recent Census Bureau statistics cite education levels, income, religious beliefs and other elements that may be contributing factors. And every person will have a different opinion on why s/he is divorced, saying infidelity, growing apart, unrealistic expectations, or irreconcilable differences are the causes. Those last three can cover a wide range of problems, including financial arguments.

So back to predictors: Sonya Britt, program director of the Institute of Personal Financial Planning and assistant professor of Family Studies and Human Services at KSU, conducted the study of 4,500 couples. She has a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, and a doctoral in personal financial planning. Britt states, "It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It's money – for both men and women."

Britt found that couples arguing about money early on in the marriage have a good chance of dissatisfaction with their relationship. A couple's income level, debt obligations and net worth didn't matter – the financial arguments were the common denominator for predicting divorce.

She's not alone in her findings. Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project says, "Couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were over 30 percent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times per month."

Even for couples who stay together to avoid the costs of divorce (that happened quite often during the recent economic recession, if you'll remember), constant financial bickering leads to more stress on the relationship. Britt says it takes longer to recover from money arguments – more so than any other kind of argument – because the parties use harsher language and the disagreement lasts longer.

It's not all bad news, for couples who argue about the finances. Britt recommends young couples see a financial planner, pull credit reports and discuss how each spouse will handle their own and shared economic responsibilities.

Prenuptial agreements are an obvious option for some couples. And postnuptial agreements can actually save a marriage when money worries get to be too much. Read my blog, Postnuptial Agreements Relieve Pressure for more information.

Divorce Lawyer

The important factor in surviving financial arguments with your spouse or soon-to-be spouse, is the same factor in addressing other issues:

Recognize the problem, and then take steps to correct it. If both parties have completely different financial management styles, there are going to be arguments, unless each party can either compromise or find a way to adjust.

As a family law attorney, I work with financial planners and family therapists regularly – contact me if you need a referral.

 

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Divorce and Mediation Attorney at our Firm. Contact her via email: vnellis@lewitthackman.com.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
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