Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Category

Does the Economy Influence Arizona Divorce Rates?

Posted on: February 13th, 2014 by Kevin Jensen

There are many reasons couples decide to get divorced. Over the years as a practicing family law attorney I have heard just about every explanation there is for seeking a divorce. One fairly common reason couples often cite for seeking a divorce is financial strain. There can be no dispute that we live in financially stressful times. One can hardly turn on the news these days without hearing a story about the economy and the impact it is having on some aspect of our daily lives. But, does the state of the economy also influence the decision of whether or not to get divorced?

I recently came across an interesting articlediscussing a recent study that the impact the economy has on divorce rates. The study, which was recently published in Population Research and Policy Review hypothesizes that the divorce rates of couples in the United States actually decreased during the recession from 2009 through 2011. However, as the economy recovers, the divorce rate among couples in the United States has increased. This seems somewhat counterintuitive. Why would couples stick together and tough in out when things are most financially stressful (i.e. during a recession), but when some of those financial strains disappear decide to go their separate ways?

Philip N. Cohen, the University of Maryland sociologist who conducted the research provides some insight. Mr. Cohen found that while there is no doubt that economic difficulty can lead to divorce; during a recession, when couples are often stretched to their financial limits, divorce can be cost prohibitive. Divorcing leads to changes in costs in housing (instead of combining incomes to pay for one house, each spouse becomes responsible, to a certain extent for his or her own housing). Divorce also often leads to legal fees, the need for daycare and other costs associated with having separate homes. Thus, according to Mr. Cohen, a recession can create barriers that make divorce cost prohibitive and also creates issues that may take precedence over marital troubles.

On the other hand, when the economy improves, divorce rates may rise. For some, the improvement in their financial situation provides them the freedom and perhaps security necessary to split up. In other words, according to the study, some people put off getting divorced until they can afford it.

Cohen is clear that the precise reasons behind the rise and fall of divorce rates due to economic conditions is still somewhat murky. This is by no means an exact science. People decide to end their “happily ever after” for many reasons. Financial strain is but one of many considerations many couples may consider when deciding to split up. In a world where so much of day-to-day life is dictated by financial conditions; add divorce to the list of life experiences that may be influenced by the current state of the economy.

Why Do I Need A Lawyer for My Uncontested Divorce?

Posted on: May 24th, 2013 by Kevin Jensen

I frequently provide a free thirty minute consultation to individuals who are contemplating getting a divorce in Mesa AZ. Many of my consultations involve individuals who believe their spouse will agree on everthing and that the divorce will be uncontested. Most people who think their case will be uncontested usually ask the question “do I even need a lawyer for this divorce?”

In most cases, the answer is yes! You are probably thinking “what do you expect a lawyer to say!” However, most divorce cases are not as simple as they might seem on the surface. There are some divorces that probably don’t need a lawyer. These are usually cases where the parties have been married for a short amount of time, do not have any minor children together and have accumulated few, if any assets or debts. In that particular circumstance, because there is so little to divide or argue about the couple can probably get a divorce without an attorney’s assistance. These types of cases are frankly few and far between.

A more typical scenario is a case where the parties have been married five years or more, have one or more minor children and have purchased a house and/or have some substantial debts or assets that need to be divided. These types of cases include a number of potentially complicated legal issues that require a family lawyer’s expertise to properly navigate. Regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, you should always have an criminal defense attorney mesa az when dealing when your case involves the typical scenario described above and especially when the case involves minor children.

An uncontested divorce is one where you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all of the issues in the case and you submit a Consent Decree (settlement agreement) to the judge to sign. This is the preferable way to resolve any divorce case. An uncontested divorce can be finalized in a matter of a couple of months and both parties get to have a say in the outcome of the divorce instead of letting a judge decide for them. However, even if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree on every issue in your case you should still involve a lawyer for a few reasons.

First, an experienced family lawyer can point out legal issues you may not have even considered. One of the primary reasons you settle your case is to avoid having to ever go to court. An experienced family law attorney will help point out typical issues that arise in many divorce cases so you can come up with a long-term plan to avoid disputes down the road. This is especially important in any case involving children.

Second, At a minimum, you will need a lawyer to make sure your settlement is documented correctly. There are free forms that are provided by the court that many people use when they do not use a lawyer. These are simplified forms that do not include many of the issues that experienced family law attorneys address when drafting settlement documents. The common result of drafting your own settlemnt is future return visits to court to address issues that were not properly addressed at the time of the divorce. I have had many cases where parties have hired me after the divorce to help address issues that could have been resolved when the parties were initially divorced and that probably would have been addressed had they hired a lawyer.

Finally, even if you think you can settle your case without the assistance of a lawyer, it may be well worth your while and expense to at least have an experienced family law attorney review your settlement before you submit it to the court. There are some people who try to take advantage of their spouses in divorces. I have had some very sad cases where one spouse has convinced the other to do a quick settlement just to “get it over with” or “so we don’t drag this out.” While that may sound like a good idea, oftentimes there may be an ulterior motive. I have had cases where some spouses signed away their rights to compensation for businesses, or retirement accounts or spousal maintenance. In other words, they agree to a very one-sided settlement. In most cases once a settlement is reached and the judge signs off on the settlement, it is too late. Some people think that the family court judge will look out for them. That may be true when it comes to issues involving minor children, but rarely any other types of issues. Most judges will sign off on any agreement that is put in front of them. The majority of family court judges will take the very reasonable position that the parties know best and will not upset an agreement they have reached on their own. A family law attorney can point out pitfalls in your agreement. At a minimum, you will at least be educated and understand what you may be signing away. You may even decide to hire the lawyer to represent you for the rest of the case to assure you are not being taken advantage of.

There is an old saying that says an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, spending a little money now may save you a lot of money later on. In an uncontested divorce case, spending a little money at the time of the divorce to make sure it is done correctly and documented correctly may allow you to get your divorce much more quickly and, more importantly, may save you thousands of dollars in future litigation.

What is a Divorce Hangover and How Do I Avoid One?

Posted on: February 6th, 2013 by Kevin Jensen

Truth be told, I don’t drink, so I have never had a hangover. I had plenty of friends in high school and college who had them. From my perspective it always seemed to me that having a hangover was a mighty steep price to pay for an evening of “fun” that you couldn’t even remember the next day. What my friends could remember was the pain and headaches and misery that accompanied their hangover. Frankly, the hangover usually made my friends miserable to be around until after they got over it.

As a family law lawyer, I have seen many people suffer from post-divorce hangovers. And, just like my friends who were unpleasant to be around while they were experiencing their drinking hangovers, people with divorce hangovers are unhappy and sometimes difficult to be around. This often extreme unpleasantness can result in unfortunate effects on other family members, particularly children who are often the biggest victims in divorces, as well as other family and friends who are really looking to offer support.

I think the best description of a divorce hangover is found in an article entitled “Taming the Divorce Hangover”. Here, the author talks about the pain and emotion, including anger that often accompany a divorce. There is no shame in having those types of feelings. Divorce is difficult. It is in reality a death of sorts; the death of your marriage. For some people the death of their “happily ever after.” However, when those feelings of pain and anger are allowed to keep going on and on and don’t seem to subside, you are probably experiencing a divorce hangover.

There are numerous problems that can arise from a divorce hangover. One of the big problems I see is that some people just cannot let go. The anger and pain they feel is targeted toward their ex-spouse. In many cases it is very understandable. But this unchecked, untreated anger leads to bigger problems. In my experience, the anger can lead to things such as a belligerent refusal to pay support (“I’m not giving that evil person my money”), refusal to cooperate with decisions regarding children, finding any reason to haul the ex-spouse back into court, damaged relationships with children and other family members and the list goes on. In some horrible extreme cases violence occurs.

So how do you deal with a divorce hangover? That’s a difficult question to answer. I am a lawyer not a counselor, so I’m not in the habit of giving that type of advice. However, counseling may be the very place to start. For many people, the hangover is occurring because they just can’t let go and move forward. In the family law cases I have dealt with involving people who I consider to be suffering from divorce hangovers, in most instances the person with the hangover simply cannot let go and wants the ex-spouse to continue paying the price for what he or she perceives the ex-spouse has done to him or her. Of course letting go and moving forward is easier said than done. Those who find a way to do this are able to have happier and healthier futures. Those who don’t wind up going back to court over and over and over. This results in more misery, more anger and more legal expenses.

The author in the article referenced above provides some good ideas for recognizing and dealing with anger issues, which I recommend for your review and consideration. I believe the first step in overcoming any divorce hangover is to make a commitment to yourself to allow yourself to heal and move forward. Time heals all wounds if you allow it to do so. Like an alcohol hangover, the best remedy is time. After a while, the sickness, nausea and headaches pass and life is good again. A divorce does not have to result in long term suffering. Be proactive in allowing yourself to move on as reasonably quickly as you can. Get professional help if necessary, there is no shame in doing so. The result of avoiding a divorce hangover is a healthier relationship with your ex (which really is a must if you have children together) and a healthier relationship with others in the future.

Deadbeat Parents: How to Enforce Your Arizona Child Support Order

Posted on: January 16th, 2013 by Kevin Jensen

I read an interesting article the other day about a man named Corey Curtis in Wisconsin. Mr. Curtis is the father of nine children with six different mothers. According to the news article, Mr. Curtis owes almost $100,000 in back child support. The fact that Mr. Curtis has multiple children by multiple women and is not paying child support is not what made this story newsworthy. What made this article interesting is that the family court judge, exasperated by Mr. Curtis’ failure to take responsibility for his children by paying his child support, ordered, as a condition of his probation, that he not procreate until he can demonstrate to the court that he can provide for his children. Under Wisconsin law, this type of legal restriction is permissible.

The problem with deadbeat parents is a nationwide problem, including in Arizona. Here in Maricopa County, Sheriff Joe Arpaio conducts an annual deadbeat parent roundup. These sweeps are aimed locating and arresting parents (usually fathers) and criminals who are not providing court ordered financial support for their children. Sheriff Arpaio points out that the purpose of his “Operation Don’t Be a Deadbeat” roundups is to send a message to parents to pay their child support. “As an Mesa Arizona criminal defense attorney this is one of Sheriff Joe’s programs I can support.” Says Mesa lawyer Dana Hogle

The failure for a parent to pay child support can impact all of us. According to a 2011 Census Bureau Report, more than $35 billion dollars in child support was owed nationally in 2009. Among the more than 6.9 million custodial parents who were awarded child support in 2009, only 41.2% received the amount that was due. 29.2% of custodial parents nationwide received none of the child support money they were due. The lack of payment to support these children naturally results in the need for more government programs to assist single parents who do not get consistent support. Other government resources, such as courts and child support enforcement agencies spend millions each year to track down deadbeat parents.

In my experience as an Arizona family law attorney practicing in Mesa and the East Valley, the best strategy to enforce the non-payment of child support is to be aggressive and consistent. State and federal laws make it a crime to not pay child support. Too many single parents, mostly mothers, simply do not have the ability or resources to try to enforce child support orders. One good resource in Arizona is to contact the child support enforcement division of the Arizona Department of Economic Security. AZDES has many resources to assist in the enforcement of child support orders. Among the remedies available to AZDES is to seize assets of a non-paying parent, placing liens on property, intercepting lottery winnings, suspension and revocation of drivers’ licenses and reporting non-payment to credit bureaus.

Another option is to hire an experienced Arizona family law attorney to file a child support enforcement petition and/or motion for contempt. An enforcement or contempt action is brought before a family court judge, usually the judge that handled the original divorce. The process includes filing a petition and serving it on the non-paying party. The court then sets an Order to Show Cause hearing and requires the non-paying parent to come into court and explain why he or she is delinquent in paying their child support obligation and providing insurance. The court can impose any number of remedies under Arizona law, incluidng garnishment, attachment, liens, etc. Status conferences on frequently set so the court can continue to track the progress of the non-paying parent. More significant remedies can be imposed, incluidng jail and criminal charges for failure to pay child support. I frequently hear some individuals threaten to file bankruptcy on back-child support. This is an idle threat because child support is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy court. A child support arreage never goes away and just keeps accruing interest for years and years to come.

Any parent that is owed back child support should take agressive measures to enforce the child support order. Making a non-paying parent stand before a judge and explain his or her failure to take care of his or her children is an uncomfortable thing for most parents. In many cases it is not a matter of ability to pay, it is a matter of motivation. With the proper motivation, many deadbeat parents begin working on the delinquency. Non-payment of child support is a serious matter with serious consequences that effect all of us. The answer to non-payment is not often going to be a court order prohibiting procreation (although it is not a bad idea). A better answer is more accountability and consequences. Agressively enforcing your child support order with court action may be all the motivation your ex needs to do the right thing.

Talking About Children Before Marriage May Decrease Chance of Future Divorce

Posted on: August 21st, 2012 by Kevin Jensen

Mesa Arizona Divorce Attorney

For many couples children are the source of the greatest joy and happiness in their marriages. They can also be the source of the most pain. When a couple decides to divorce, children related matters such as custody, visitation and child support are often the most hotly contested issues in the divorce. The creation of children is the ultimate symbol of the love couples share for one another. However, can the failure to get on the same page regarding children before getting married increase the chances of a couple later getting a divorce, and this is no different with divorce in Mesa, AZ? Some family law attorneys and therapists think so.

In a recent Washington Post Article family law lawyers and therapists were asked how the failure to discuss the issue of children prior to marriage can impact the marriage. One family law attorney suggested that “talking about [whether or not to have children], at the very least, is a good idea before the rings are on.” As a family law attorney in Mesa, Arizona with more than a decade of experience, I have seen many couples struggle with this issue. One the problems that can arise when a couple does not see eye to eye on the issue of having children is that one spouse may resent the other for denying him or her something that is so important. On the other side of the coin, a spouse who is pressured into having a child or children may feel resentful toward his or her spouse this can be devastating to the marriage and the child.

There are many reasons some people do not want children. The financial commitment related to raising children is one of the biggest concerns. The cost of raising a child goes up every year. According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report, a middle income family with a child born in 2011 will spend approximately $234,900 for food, shelter and other necessities to raise a child over 17 years. This amount will continue to rise.

The key to avoiding potential conflict on this issue is to communicate about the issue of children before marriage. Ramani Durvasula, a Los Angeles psychologist states that “being clear on parenting desires is crucial heading into marriage.” According to Dr. Durvasula, failure to discuss the issue of children prior to marriage “can actually be a backbreaking challenge for a relationship because of the high potential for ‘unfixable regret.’”

A successful marriage is the result of hard work, compromise and perhaps most of all good communication. Couples may increase their chances of living happily ever after by openly and honestly communicating about their desires regarding children before they ever say “I do.”

If you have questions about any Family Law Related issues in Mesa, AZ I invite you to contact my office:

The Law Offices of Kevin JensenFamily Law Attorney Mesa AZ

3740 E. Southern Ave.

Suite 210 Mesa, AZ 85206

Phone: (480) 999-2321

Divorce Can Destroy You At Tax Time

Posted on: July 23rd, 2012 by Kevin Jensen

We found this article at dailyfinance and thought that we would share it and give our thoughts.

 

Divorce is one of the hardest things you may ever go through — both emotionally and financially. But while you’re focused on your now-adversarial relationship with your ex, you shouldn’t forget to keep an eye on another entity that may be after a larger chunk of your assets thanks to your split: The IRS. Turns out, divorce has a huge impact on your taxes, and knowing what’s at stake can help you avoid major complications later on.

Here are some of the things to keep in mind as you go through the divorce process.

Filing Status

Checking the box for either married or single may seem like the simplest thing in the world, but it gets complicated with divorce. The IRS wants to know your legal marital status as of the end of the year you’re filing for. So even if you’ve filed your paperwork, if your divorce isn’t final by Dec. 31, then you’ll be considered married for the year.

However, there’s an exception that allows separated parents to claim the favorable head of household status, which gives you greater deductions. To qualify, you must have paid more than half your housing costs for the year, lived apart from your spouse during the last six months of the tax year, and your dependent child must have lived in your home for more than half the year.

Exemptions for Children

The question of who gets to claim exemptions for children can make a huge difference to your tax bill. Typically, the test depends on which parent the child lives with for more than half the year. But divorced or separated couples can essentially pick who gets the exemption for children by signing a written declaration. With the current write-off at $3,700 per child, the decision you make can determine which of you will get up to $1,300 in tax savings.

Alimony, Maintenance, and Child Support

Payments between former spouses under a divorce decree fall into different categories. Cash payments that qualify as alimony are deductible by the person who makes them and are counted as income for the person who receives them. But you can generally agree to reverse that treatment and avoid any tax consequences for payments if you prefer.

Child support, on the other hand, isn’t deductible by the payer or counted as income by the recipient or the child. So as you describe certain payments in your divorce agreement, be careful because the description can change the way those payments get taxed.

Retirement Accounts

As part of a property settlement, a spouse may be entitled to part of the other spouse’s IRAs or employer-sponsored retirement account. For 401(k)s and other employer plans, a qualified domestic relations order can allow you to get benefits from a spouse’s plan and treat them as if they’re your own, thereby avoiding potentially disastrous tax consequences. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to roll 401(k) money into an IRA of your own.

Property Transfers

In general, neither spouse will realize any capital gain or loss or other tax consequences from receiving or giving up property in a divorce decree. But if you later sell property that you received due to divorce, you’ll then have to pay taxes on gains, based on the original tax basis of the property you received.

To be treated as part of the divorce, a property transfer must be complete within a year of the date the marriage legally ended, unless it was specifically provided for under the divorce agreement. In that case, you have up to six years to make transfers, although later ones may still be valid if you can show valid reasons for the delay.

Community Property

Finally, most states treat each spouse’s income as his or her own, even when it’s jointly reported on a tax return. But in community property states, which include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, different rules may apply. As a result, you may be treated as having earned part of your former spouse’s income during the year in which you divorce.

Source: //www.dailyfinance.com/2012/07/23/dont-let-divorce-destroy-you-at-tax-time/

 

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