Did coronavirus break your marriage? A reality check on divorce – Press Enterprise

Did coronavirus break your marriage? A reality check on divorce – Press Enterprise

While flipping stations on the car radio one day, I heard the familiar voice of one of my clients call into a pop psychologist’s program about her marital problem. She explained that her husband had recently retired from the Air Force and that during their 20 year-long marriage, they had spent very little time together, and that had turned out to be a good thing.

They had missed each other immensely during his long assignments away and very much enjoyed the romantic but short reunions in between. Now that he was home all the time, she said he was driving her crazy, and she fantasized about divorce.

As we emerge from our domestic cocoons and to the re-opening of society, it is apparent that even those with the strongest of marriages faced challenges they could have never expected due to the pandemic.

Not only did couples learn more about each other than they ever thought possible by spending 24/7 together for almost three months, but they also faced the challenges of homeschooling, provisioning food, setting up home office tech, caring for aging parents and facing economic hardship.

Whether it was the final breaking point of an already shaky marriage or wanting a new life after the trauma of it all, some are now looking seriously at ending their marriages.

Before announcing your plans

If you are contemplating divorce, please consult with more than one divorce attorney before taking action, and before saying something to your spouse you might regret later. Ask friends for referrals and follow up with an online search to look at reviews. Be open to advice and go on a listening mission.

Attorneys handle cases like yours every day, and some will give you honest advice that will save you time and money. The average divorce costs more than $15,000. Take advantage of the free or hourly initial consultations.

I am an accountant and not an attorney, but here are some observations from thirty years of watching couples suffer the divorce process, especially as it relates to spousal support.

It is not like TV

First, understand you will not get vindication (or vengeance) in court. The judge will not care how he or she did you wrong. California was the first to become a “no-fault divorce” state.

You will not get your day in court to testify about why your marriage failed, and it will probably not impact your settlement.

Expect a lower standard of living

Next, realize your standard of living will probably go down.

According to most studies, the average couple needs 30% more in additional income to keep the same standard of living they had before a divorce. Two homes cost more to maintain. Often, couples realize they cannot afford two households, and this can lead to very awkward living arrangements.

The Dissomaster (or other similar programs) is used by almost all family law professionals to determine guidelines on child and spousal support payments in California. Use the program before filing to determine an estimate of how much income you can expect to have during separation and possibly after the divorce.

You can find a calculate online to do it yourself. A family law attorney or legal aid can also help you. (You may decide to go for marriage counseling instead of filing for divorce after this exercise.)

It is not ‘alimony’

Spousal support has not been called alimony in California for a long time, it is usually not paid forever and it is no longer tax-deductible.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, alimony or separate maintenance payments are not deductible from the income of the payer, or includable in the income of the receiving spouse if made under a divorce or separation agreement executed after Dec. 31, 2018. In other words, if you expect to pay spousal support, you will now also be paying your ex-spouse’s taxes on their behalf.

It may not be forever

One experienced divorce judge said that people who worry about whether or not something is fair will have a more difficult time during divorce proceedings.

A long marriage is not a guarantee of spousal support forever. A judge reduced the separate maintenance on a 62-year-old client, with several health issues, whose husband left her after 40 years and five children. The judge ruled that she was capable of partially supporting herself even though she had never worked.

A judge will look at the marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment, when determining the length and amount of spousal support.

An attorney friend said that all a client in a divorce could hope to win is resolution. If you are in a healthy relationship that has gone awry due to recent circumstances, it might be a good idea to wait until life returns to normal before deciding to file those divorce papers.

Michelle C. Herting, CPA, ABV, AEP specializes in estate taxes and business valuations. She has three offices in Southern California and is president of the Estate Planning Council of Riverside County.

Source link