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What to Know About Changes in Alimony Laws

Coming Changes in How the IRS Treats Alimony

Approximately 400,000 people per year receive alimony payments from their former spouses. Until the first day of 2019, alimony will continue to be treated as a tax deduction for the one who pays it and a source of income for the recipient. However, on January 1, 2019, this will no longer be the case.

Alimony Paid Will No Longer Be Tax-Deductible

Beginning on January 1, 2019, alimony payments will no longer be eligible for a tax deduction. If you are the one making the alimony payments, you are most likely in a higher tax bracket than your former spouse. Consequently, there is a general presumption that you would pay more tax on this money than your ex-partner would. Removing the deduction and shifting the tax burden to the one who makes the payments will most likely generate more receipts for the Internal Revenue Service.

The modification of the tax law could result in significant changes after it takes effect. In some cases, it might be possible to use money from a retirement account to make alimony payments. This could be a way to obtain some tax relief by meeting your alimony obligation with money that will be taxed in the future.

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Alimony Payments Received Will No Longer Be Considered Income

If you currently receive alimony, it is considered income that is to be reported on a tax return. If you’d prefer not to pay taxes on that cash this year, it can be used to fund an IRA or other retirement account. It can also be used to qualify for mortgages, home loans or credit cards. After the tax treatment of alimony changes, it may be necessary to find a job to fund a retirement account or obtain a qualifying income for a loan.

The Law Only Applies to Divorces Effective After 2018

The important thing to know about the new alimony rules is that they only apply to divorces finalized after the last day of 2018. Therefore, if you finalize your divorce at any point in 2018, alimony retains its current tax treatment. Furthermore, if your divorce was finalized at any point in the past, you will also receive the same tax treatment into 2019 and until the alimony period ends.

How Does the Change Impact Prenuptial Agreements?

It is unclear how the change will impact any prenuptial agreement that you have created with a spouse or future spouse. It may be a good idea to consult with a family law attorney who can review the agreement and analyze it in the context of future changes to the law. If necessary, now may be an ideal time to make changes to an existing agreement in order to protect yourself as tax laws are altered.

Make Sure That Payments Qualify as Alimony

Regardless of when your divorce takes place, it is important that any payments made or received qualify as alimony. Many general criteria need to be met. Payments made must be pursuant to a divorce decree or a separation agreement. They must also be made for the specific purpose of helping a former spouse maintain a reasonable standard of living.

If you are making or receiving an alimony payment, it cannot be given to or from someone who lives in the same household. Furthermore, you can’t file a joint return with the person from whom you receive or to whom you give spousal maintenance. Finally, the payment must be made in cash or a similar manner such as check or money order.

The IRS uses strict standards when determining if a person is entitled to special consideration regarding such a payment. These are unlikely to change going forward, so if you want your payments to qualify as alimony, it is important to understand the rules.

If you are looking for a family law attorney to advise you on these matters, contact Stewart Law PLLC at (281) 420-8020 at our practice in Baytown.

Proposed Bills Would Increase Cost of Texas Divorce, Impact Privacy

The Cost of Texas Divorce

Two changes to Texas divorce law proposed by Republican Matt Krause would significantly increase the time and cost involved in a divorce, and would have a devastating impact on the privacy of individuals involved in divorce proceedings. Krause has filed SB 93, which would eliminate “insupportability” as a legal cause for divorce in Texas, effectively doing away with no-fault divorce in Texas. The other proposed statute, HB 65, would extend the current 60 day waiting period to 180 days for couples with minor children. If you need help, contact a Baytown family law attorney about the cost of Texas divorce.

Under the current law in Texas, a party seeking divorce must provide a reason, but can cite “insupportability” as the cause, essentially saying that the bonds of marriage have been broken and the differences are irreconcilable. If Krause’s proposed law is adopted, that option will no longer be available and parties will have to cite one of the following reasons:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment for a minimum of one year
  • Failure to cohabitate for at least three years
  • Commitment to a mental hospital
  • Cruelty
  • Conviction of a felony

Cost of Texas Divorce

Warren Cole, president-elect of the Texas Family Law Foundation, says the proposed statute, if enacted, would necessarily lead to significant increases in the cost of a divorce, as parties would have to spend money to prove adultery, abandonment or one of the other causes. He says that simply making it harder for people to get a divorce doesn’t get at the issue of whether or not the marriage is working, and that forcing parties to stay in an unhealthy relationship because they can’t afford a divorce serves no meaningful purpose. He also notes that parties who cite insupportability often do so to avoid publicly accusing a spouse of infidelity. If the law passes, he says, all that dirty laundry will have to be a matter of public record.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, our family law attorney brings more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-761-6042 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Grounds for Divorce in Texas

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Texas now recognizes “no-fault” divorce, so it’s no longer necessary, to finalize the end of your marriage, that you identify the “grounds” upon which the divorce is based. However, you can still file an “at-fault” divorce complaint in Texas, and may use proof of fault to gain advantage in custody, support and property disputes. Here are the acceptable grounds for filing an “at-fault” divorce in Texas:

  • Adultery-If your spouse engaged in an extra-marital affair, with a person of either gender, it will be grounds for divorce
  • You have lived separate and apart for at least three years-Texas essentially considers the marriage ended if you have not cohabitated for three years and there’s no known intention for you to live together again
  • You abandoned your spouse—If you have not been in contact with your spouse for at least one calendar year, your spouse can use that as grounds for divorce
  • Mental cruelty—If one spouse engages in a degree of mental abuse or cruelty that makes it impossible for the parties to live together, the other spouse may seek an at-fault divorce
  • Conviction of a felony-You can seek an at-fault divorce if your spouse is convicted of and imprisoned on a felony charge, unless you testified against your spouse.
  • Confinement in a mental institution for at least three years-When one spouse is committed to a mental facility with no prospects of improvement, it will be grounds for divorce

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Strategies for a Different Life after Divorce

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For many people, the period of time after a divorce is one of great change, often full of activity. There can be a lot of reasons for that. It may be a way to distract yourself from the painful emotions that come with divorce. You may feel a tremendous sense of freedom and a desire to do things you haven’t done for years. But if you want to ensure that you won’t be back in the same situation in a few years, there are some steps you should take, to help you move toward a happy and productive life.

  • Face your grief-Regardless of how difficult your marriage was, you have still lost something. Be willing to take the time to both acknowledge and feel your loss. That’s best done by yourself or with familyanyone with whom you won’t be tempted to develop an intimate relationship, as you may (subconsciously, perhaps) try to fill the void left by your ex-spouse.
  • Keep it simple—It can be tempting to pack it all in, sell everything and move to Tahiti. But that’s probably not in your best interests. It’s a good thing to minimize the distractions in your life, so that you can get a strong sense of who you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life. Be confident in yourself before you make any major changes.
  • Let the past go—It’s easier said than done, but the reality is that you can’t change it. You can, however, choose how much it will limit you, how much it will define you. Don’t ignore it, but learn from it, rather than being controlled by it
  • Be willing to trust—Trust can be hard in the aftermath of a divorce, but it’s ultimately a choice and a two-way street. When you can’t trust others, they’ll have a hard time trusting you. Life is about risks-but learn from your choices.
  • Seek professional help when necessary

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Parenting Tips During and After Divorce

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It’s seldom easy being a parent and things become a lot more complicated after a divorce. There are, however, some strategies you can employ to help you and your children cope and move forward:

  • Don’t confuse your relationship with your ex with your relationship with your children—The discussions you had and will have with your ex are often best conducted outside the presence of your children. The topics will likely be sensitive and challenging, and your children will only be confused trying to understand the nuances and motivations. When you talk about your children with them there, they are likely to feel in the middle and will often try to act as peacemakers or, worse yet, consider themselves as the source of your conflict. It’s a no-win situation for everyone. Simple topics, such as when to pick up or drop off a child, can be discussed in front of the children, but it’s best, if there’s any disagreement, so simply agree to talk about it by phone at some other time.
  • Be consistent with the rules you’ve established for your children—You don’t help your children by allowing them to engage in behaviors at your house that they couldn’t at the other parent’s house. It only serves to confuse them and make them hyper-vigilant, so that they don’t slip up when they are with your ex-spouse. Talk about the rules you want to set for your children and be willing to listen and compromise to promote the best interests of your children.
  • Always agree on visitation in advance, especially when there will be variations from the norm—Discuss holidays, birthdays and vacations far in advance, and make certain your children know what you have decided, so that they don’t have their own expectations and experience disappointment when the plans are different.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Getting Remarried after a Divorce in Texas

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If you’ve been through a divorce and you’re thinking about getting married again, you need to understand Texas laws governing how long you must wait before remarriage. This blog post sets forth some of the restrictions in Texas for marrying again after a divorce.

Before January 1, 1970 (before no-fault divorce became legal in Texas), if the stated reason for your divorce was cruel treatment, neither party could remarry for at least 12 months. Effective January 1, 1970, you had to wait at least six months after a divorce before getting married again in Texas, though the 6 month period could be waived for good cause. There was no mandatory waiting period for persons wanting to remarry each other (who have been married to each other before).

Effective January 1, 1974, the Texas legislature lowered the waiting period to 30 days, consistent with the Texas rule that a divorce may be reopened within 30 days of the final order by either party. If a person gets married before the 30 day period has expired, the marriage is voidable, which means that your ex-spouse can challenge its validity. Divorcing spouses may still remarry each other at any time.

There are circumstances where you can request a waiver of the 30 day waiting period. Under Section 6.802 of the Texas code, the court may waive the prohibition against remarriage for good cause shown. This may include circumstances where one of the parties is seriously ill, or one of the parties is scheduled to take a permanent duty reassignment in another part of the country or the world.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online . We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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The Financial Side of Divorce

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It can be easy to view divorce with a sense of relief, as a chance to start over again and put the difficulties of a bad marriage behind you. That can be one outcome, but you’ll often discover that such freedom comes with a price. Here are some of the factors to consider:

Child Support

If you are the non-custodial spouse and you have minor children, you can expect to pay child support, even if your ex makes more money than you do. And it doesn’t matter if you are the mother or the father—the award of child support always goes from the non-custodial to the custodial parent. Even if you get custody, you can anticipate raising your children with less money than you had before, as you’ll only have a portion of your ex’s income. Furthermore, you may face challenges actually collecting child support—estimates are that only half of all child support is actually paid.

Alimony or Spousal Support

Alimony is not as common as it once was, but is still awarded in Texas, based on a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties at the time of the divorce, the earning capacity of both parties, and the standard of living to which the parties had become accustomed.

Splitting Up Debts and Assets

Under the community property laws in Texas, all property and debt obtained and incurred during the marriage is equally divided, with a few minor exceptions. Because some items of property, such as a house or car, can’t actually be divided, you’ll have to work out ways that you both get equal value from the marital estate…if you keep the house, you may have to give up your share of the investment account or retirement plan.

Don’t Assume That My Life Was Bad

Many adoptive parents think that children who are up for adoption must have been mistreated, must have suffered, and must have been sad or depressed. As a result, they have the mistaken belief that those children will now be “happy,” as they are with a “good” family. While many adoptees do come from troubled homes, not all do. Even those that do will experience a sense of loss when taken from a birthparent. The best thing you can do is provide a safe place where the child can feel and express all of his or her emotions.

Don’t Whitewash the Past

Regardless of what it is, your adopted child needs to know his or her story. If you aren’t open and honest with them, they’ll create their own story, and it may have no relationship with the truth. There’s an inescapable sense of loss when a child is adopted, and that sense of loss can only be mitigated when the child fully understands and talks about who he or she is. When your child is young, you’ll probably hear the story over and over—it’s how kids process at that age. Be patient and let it feel natural to them.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Should You Keep the House after a Divorce?

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In the aftermath of a divorce, one of the biggest challenges will be dividing the property acquired during the marriage. With the marital home, it’s essentially impossible to divide the property equally as set forth in the community property laws in Texas, so it typically goes to one party and allowances are made in the distribution of other assets to establish some sense of parity. However, a better question can often be—should either one of us keep the house? Maybe we should sell the house and split the proceeds? Here are some questions to ask as you consider your options:

  • Why do you want the house? –Is it for convenience, for the sake of the children, because of the schools or proximity to family? There can be a lot of valid reasons—just be certain you aren’t motivated by anger or a desire to retaliate.
  • Can you afford the house?-You’ll have only one full income, and perhaps some child support. Will the mortgage payments be a significant source of anxiety, or make it difficult to provide for your other needs? What about everything that goes with owning a house—upkeep and maintenance, utilities, lawn care?
  • Is there a better option? Can you find a more affordable place that meets your needs, maybe closer to work or schools?
  • How will keeping the house affect your children?-Will it be a constant reminder of what they’ve lost? Will it keep them stuck in the past? Or will it actually provide a sense of stability, with their friends and other familiar surroundings nearby?
  • Contact Us

    At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Who’s at Greater Risk for Divorce—Doctors, Lawyers or Business Owners?

Who's-at-Greater-Risk-for-Divorce-Doctors,-Lawyers-or-Business-Owners

It’s a cultural stereotype that doctors lead the way when it comes to divorce—the long hours, the high income, and the stress all are considered to contribute to the high rate of divorce among medical professionals. But a recent study indicates that other professions may be in greater peril of marital discord.

According to a study conducted by the British Medical Journal, in which more than 6.5 million divorces were reviewed, including nearly a quarter of a million involving medical professionals, doctors trail many other professions. The research showed that less than one in four (24%) of physicians went through a divorce. Health care executives had a significantly higher rate—31% –and nurses were even higher, at 33%. Though lawyers divorced more often than doctors—27% experienced a marital breakup—the rate for non-medical professionals as a whole was 35%.

One area where medical professionals did experience high numbers of divorces—female doctors. The study found that female physicians were 50% more likely to be a party to a divorce than their male colleagues. Researchers say the challenges of being a working mother in the medical profession account for much of the difference. In an interesting twist, the data showed that the rates of divorce when up for female doctors who worked more than 40 hours a week, but went down for male doctors when they worked overtime.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Tax Tips for Divorcing Couples

In the midst of a divorce, one of the last things you may think about are the potential tax ramifications of ending your marriage, but financial counselors say it’s something you need to address.

Child Support and Alimony Payments

It’s important to understand the tax consequences of both child support and alimony payments. Child support payments are taxable by the recipient. Furthermore, they cannot be claimed as a deduction by anyone paying child support.

Alimony payments are treated differently under state and federal tax laws. As a general rule, alimony is considered income and must be reported as such, provided the payments are made pursuant to a valid divorce or separation agreement, and the payments are made in cash (not in kind). Likewise, if the same conditions are met, alimony payments may be deducted by the payer.

Filing Status

If you are in the middle of a divorce at the end of the tax year, you can choose to file a joint return, or file as “married filing separately.” If your divorce becomes final before the end of the tax year, you must file as either single or as “head of household.”

To claim your children as exemptions on your return, you must be considered the custodial parent. Generally, the parent with whom the child spent the most amount of time will be considered the custodial parent for tax purposes. You can, however, claim your child if the custodial parent waives the exemption in writing.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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