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Jefferson County, West Virginia, Family Law Blog

Protect your retirement from your second property division

Finding love after a divorce can be a truly wonderful experience. However, as most people already know, retirement can take a hard hit during that first divorce, sometimes making it feel more difficult for that second marriage to truly succeed. In order to fully protect retirement, West Virginia couples should consider addressing retirement savings, marital assets and property division in a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle.

Second marriages usually come with a bit more baggage than the average first marriage. Many people have financial obligations from previous relationships, such as alimony, already-divided assets, child support and more. In some situations, couples might not realize the reality of their retirement situation until the retirement age is right around the corner, and they do not have enough savings.

Is separate maintenance right for you?

Divorce is not the only option for unhappy couples in West Virginia who are ready to end their relationships. If you and your spouse want to separate but remain legally married, you have the option to do so. The act of separate maintenance has many benefits and can also simplify the divorce process should you later on decide that you are ready to end things for good. 

Separate maintenance is, in many ways, quite similar to divorce. This legal separation will have you living what is basically a divorced life while remaining legally married. You will still have to address many of the same issues, particularly if you plan to maintain separate residences. Common topics you should expect to handle include: 

  • Child support and custody 
  • Alimony 
  • Asset division 
  • Potential grandparents' rights 

Alimony attorneys consider impact of tax law changes on clients

As West Virginia readers know, several new tax laws will be in effect at the beginning of the year. Very soon, couples walking through divorce will have to rethink how spousal support payments will work and what they could mean for a person's taxes. Alimony attorneys understand how important it is to adequately prepare clients for what these changes could mean for them.

For some, it will cost more to divorce in 2019 than it did in 2018. Previously, the person paying spousal support would be able to deduct that amount when filing taxes. Additionally, the party receiving the alimony would have to pay taxes on the amount received. However, that will no longer be the case once the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve.

Can a long commute affect my marriage?

Marriage can be an enjoyable prospect, enhancing the quality of your life and making your days better. It can also be a challenge. Added stressors like children, work schedules, household responsibilities, money and extended family can create difficulty in any marriage. But what about your commute time - does that affect your marriage?

An article on Forbes.com says yes. A study mentioned in this story suggests that a 45 minute or longer commute contributes to a higher possibility of divorce by 40%. This might not be true if you’ve been doing it for a long time (five years or longer) or were commuting before your relationship, but the study finds longer commutes do affect marriages.

Pets and property division -- staying out of court might be best

Most pet owners in West Virginia would agree that their pets are not property -- they are family. However, for the purpose of property division, state family law treats most people's four-legged babies as little more than another asset that must somehow be divvied up during proceedings. As attitudes towards animals are rapidly changing, some couples are opting to deal with their pet woes outside of the courtroom.

Of Americans aged 30 to 39 years old, 75 percent own a dog. Nationwide, dog owners of all ages and backgrounds spend an average of $1,000 annually for their pooches. While this certainly represents a significant financial investment that most people would not want to lose during divorce, it also represents the deep, emotional connection that owners have with their pets. Despite that emotional connection, pets are still property.

Remarrying after divorce? Consider a prenup

Ending a marriage can be an overwhelming and difficult process, and some who have been through the experience in West Virginia come out the other side feeling as if they are done with marriage. With time these feelings often fade, and many go on to find new love after divorce. However, by the time people reach their second or even third marriages, they usually have more wealth to their name. Protecting that wealth before saying "I do" for the second time is important, so keep the following in mind.

Talking about money before tying the knot is essential. Soon-to-be-married couples should be sure to not only disclose their assets -- even their debts -- but should also discuss how they plan to handle their finances. Will separate property stay that way? How will joint finances be handled?

Could a lump sum alimony payment be right for you?

For many people, getting a divorce is much like letting out a big breath of relief. However, after realizing that they will have to pay monthly alimony, all of that relief can quickly disappear. Those in West Virginia who are uncomfortable with the idea of remaining connected to their ex through spousal support or who simply would like an alternative to monthly payments, a one-time payment might be a good option.

Lump sum payments for alimony are not as commonly utilized, which likely comes down to two factors. One, few people are aware of this option. Two, to make a lump-sum payment, a person must have the financial resources to do so. The second is especially important as, in general, lump sum alimony payments must equal the same amount as all of the combined future payments. In short, there is no discount for paying upfront.

Property division may not be what you expect

Most people are quite attached their property, and understandably so. Whether it is the perfect couch that one spent months shopping for or a favorite book that holds a great deal of sentimental value, a person's property often feels like an extension of him or herself. This can make dealing with property division during divorce -- an already emotionally-trying process -- incredibly difficult. However, understanding how the process works in West Virginia can help ease most people's worries.

Only marital assets get divided during a divorce. This means that a person's separate property -- including personal gifts and assets they accumulated before marriage -- will not be subject to property division. Marital property will then be split up according to equitable distribution, which is probably different than what most people expect.

What happens to my retirement account if I get divorced?

As the divorce rate of baby boomers, otherwise known as “gray divorce,” continues to climb, divorce questions regarding retirement savings are being added to a conversation that previous revolved around child custody.

There are some situations in which the retirement accounts you have worked to build may be separated between you and your ex-spouse if you choose to divorce. Here are a few helpful guidelines to help layout your expectations.

Joint child custody and support -- how does it work?

Parents usually understand how important it is to focus on their child's best interests during the divorce process. When deciding on child custody matters, data and research seems to support that most children benefit from joint custody situations. While this might vary based on unique family needs, many West Virginia families are now utilizing joint custody. However, this raises some understandable questions regarding child support. 

If a child's parents share joint custody, they may spend equal amounts of time physically caring for their child. This means that both parents are buying groceries, paying for housing and other daily costs associated with child-rearing. Does support really come into play in these situations? In the end, most likely. There are still those non-daily costs to consider, such as school fees and health care that one parent might end up unfairly shouldering more than the other.

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