The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

The Second Most Important Decision You’ll Ever Make

It’s the romantic line in an intense RomCom – this is the most important decision you’ll ever make.

Of course, in that context, the actor is likely referring to the decision to marry someone. I’m well-versed in what may be the second most important decision you’ll ever make: choosing a divorce lawyer.

Yeah, it’s a bit sour grapes to put these two ideas together, but I got your attention, didn’t I? And even more importantly, both statements are true.

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Choosing a Life Partner

Many people marry when they are young and idealistic. Choosing a life partner at that stage can be a crap shoot. Maybe it works out, and maybe it doesn’t. It takes a lot of hard work and an enduring commitment from both partners.

What long-time married folks will tell you is that a more important decision than whom you marry is the decision you make every morning when you open your eyes and glance over at the snoring lump in the bed beside you: the decision to look for the good in your partner every day to ensure that you stay married, and enjoy doing so.

When to Choose a Divorce Lawyer

Unfortunately, many people have not gotten the memo on this important decision. Successful marriages are not made by romance or luck or choosing well. They’re made by overlooking the things that annoy you about your spouse and focusing instead on the qualities you appreciate about them.

When you can no longer do this, it’s time to make another important decision: choose a divorce lawyer to walk alongside you through the process of ending your marriage.

So, how do you make that right choice? With four easy steps:

Ask for referrals.

Friends, family, colleagues, neighbors. Ask around for recommendations of family law attorneys hired by people you trust. When they give you a name and a number, ask more questions – what, exactly, did you like about this person? What do they do well? What is NOT their expertise?

Decide on your divorce path.

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This requires research and knowledge. Do you want a Collaborative Divorce? Litigation? Mediation? The most amicable divorce on the planet? Your chosen approach will lead you to people who specialize in practicing the way you want to go. And while you’re researching, check out the credentials and reviews of the lawyers referred to you. Anyone with a besmirched reputation should be crossed off the list.

Conduct interviews.

While your best friend might have loved her attorney, you might find out that the personality doesn’t match yours once you meet. Most attorneys will give free consultations where you can try each other on for size, and see if you’ll work well together. Take advantage of this, and take your time will doing so. Once you lock in on something, it can be gazelle-intense into the process.

Set a budget.

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I’m the first to admit, legal representation is not a cheap endeavor. Be realistic with yourself and your potential attorney regarding how much you have to spend. This can be an important deciding factor that determines what path you take or whom you hire.

Are you looking for a family law attorney? Set up a free consultation with me, and we’ll see if it’s a fit!

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New Alimony Tax Laws

New Alimony Tax Laws

New Alimony Tax Laws

This year brought new tax laws, following President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. In my world, the biggest impact of these new tax laws is how it impacts divorcing couples where alimony is involved.

Read about it here.

It used to be that when a divorced spouse paid alimony, the payor could claim 100 percent of that payment as a deduction against earned income. It also meant that the recipient had to pay taxes on that money as income, but presumably at a lower tax rate than the payor.

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New Tax Law Deductions

That’s no longer the case! The new tax law removes the tax deductions and implications on both sides. So, the payor is paying taxes on those monies he or she actually earned. It used to be that tax laws in divorce shifted the tax to the lower-income earner. We are no longer able to shift the tax burden.

This lands the entire family in a situation where there is less money to go around.

New Territory

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During the last half of 2018, clients were eager to finish their divorces so they fell under prior tax laws. Now we’re in new territory, and our negotiations have to change. There was so much stress and tension surrounding the idea of the impending changes, trying to figure out how we needed to change the details of divorces going forward. The fact is, these are the facts, this is the situation we have, so we have to make the best of it.
Frankly, divorcing couples must change their expectations for the way their divorce is going to unfold. In my practice, I always tried to look at alimony in real dollars – what a client might receive after paying taxes, or how much of a deduction a client might have when paying alimony. It’s a total pot of how much money you have, and it remains so. Like I did in the past, I continue to give my clients a more realistic number, so they can see the full picture.

Negotiations remain the same as they always were. Now, we are trying to find ways to still derive a tax benefit, and thus far, we’ve found one workaround that works in some cases.

Ultimately, we must work with financial professionals who are skilled in tax law as it applies to divorce, to figure out a new solution, get creative, and find creative solutions to make things better for our clients.

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With any change, we must get used to the new way things are, and accept the change as a different way of doing things. It’s not like we have a choice, after all! Making peace with the details is one step toward healing the dissolution of a marriage and stepping wholeheartedly into the next phase of life.

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Even in the worst of marriages, we try. We work on the relationship. We offer to go to counseling. We try to hear our partner’s viewpoint. We have compassion. We work and we work and we work on getting along, on finding common ground, on seeing the other side.

When we split up, our relationship is frozen in time. There’s no more work, no more understanding the other person. No more attempt, even, to see from their perspective.

And since many divorced couples are still intertwined through their children, that’s not such a good thing.

In marriage, we find ways to compromise when we are in situations we don’t like. I give, you give, and we meet somewhere in the middle.

A divorce freezes us in the stagnant place of how we used to be, even as we, as individuals, progress and develop and become better in every other area of our lives. In this relationship, we stay stuck.

That makes divorce more challenging than it already is!

Is there any alternative? Is it unreasonable to think there are things we can do to better that post-divorce relationship? It is a different relationship, after all.

Recently, a couple that had been divorced for seven years met for coffee to discuss some parenting time planning. It was the first time since their divorce that they finally had a tenable peace to allow it to happen.

It is never too late. We must be realistic: it takes time to cool off, but down the road, what can you do to help that relationship?

You’re not married anymore. You can’t change parenting styles even as you continue to co-parent. At a certain point, you have to let go of the need to control and realize that there will always be areas where you need to connect and it IS worthwhile to work on the relationship in whatever way you can muster.

I love this compelling blog by Jackie Pilossoph in the Huffington Post about melting away all the bitterness and hatred for her ex when their son was rushed to the ER with a head injury. “The incident brings you back to what is truly important in life, and it makes you realize that the pettiness and the hate and the anger are a waste,” she writes.

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