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This Month's Hot Topic For Children:
When Parents Relocate:
Moving Away and Long-distance Parenting
Our society is certainly a mobile one. The average North American family changes residence every five years and many families move even more often than that. Some families just move around the corner or across town so they don't experience disruption in their lifestyles, habits or relationships. Others, however, move across the state, across the country or beyond, and everyone involved has to make major adjustmentments.
No one worries when a Mom and Dad who live together decide to relocate their family. Children, particularly teenagers, may object to moving but they are usually able to successfully adapt. It is a different story when parents live apart and one of them proposes to move their children so far that school, activities, relationships and parental contact are disrupted.
Parents planning a move are generally confident their reasons are good ones; parents opposing a move are usually equally certain they are not. Children may embrace a move or resist it. They may find parental disagreement an opportunity to manipulate their parents, or use it to avoid appropriate parental control. Children are vulnerable in such circumstances. While they eventually adjust to the new situation, children are often stressed or emotionally harmed if conflict between their parents persists.
Q: Why do parents want to move with their children?
A: There are as many reasons as there are parents. Some of the more common ones are:
These are all valid reasons to consider a move. The question, however, is not whether the reason for the move is valid, but whether the move meets the needs of the children. If you were not the moving parent, would you want your children to move? What effect will long distances have on your son or daughter? Remember to think more about what your children think and feel, and less about what you want as an independent adult. If you do move, consider ways to reduce risk that accompanies the loss of attachment. Remember that your children are depending on you to make lifelong decisions for them.
- A job transfer or promotion.
- A new job or business opportunity.
- For education or vocational training.
- Marriage to someone living far away.
- A new partner is being transferred for work.
- To move close to family where there will be support.
Keeping the focus on the children
Parents can move whenever they wish. However, moving with your children requires input from both parents. Before you move you should talk with the other parent. Try to focus on the issues related to moving, not other adult issues. If you cannot communicate effectively with the other parent, consider using mediation such as that offered by Nathan L. Rosenberg, Esq., to resolve the issues and work out the details.
Once it has been decided that one parent will relocate, both parents will need to decide how each of them will continue to be involved in their children's lives. Maintaining and promoting the parent-child relationship at a distance requires commitment and cooperation from both parents. Although it isn't easy, it can be done. Remember, your child has a right to have a relationship with both parents.
Parenting at a distance
Parents who live far from one another might find it helpful to develop a parenting plan that details the obligations and responsibilities of each parent and addresses the unique issues of parenting at a distance. A mediator may be able to help you develop a parenting plan. Some questions you may want to address in your parenting plan may include:
Q: When will each parent spend time with the children?
A: The frequency and amount of time children spend with each parent may be based on the distance between the parents' homes, the ages of the children and the cost of transportation. If the distance is shorter and the travel affordable, parents may decide they are able to see their child on a frequent basis. If the distance is great and travel costly, parents may decide that it is best for their children to spend large blocks of time with the non-residential parent, such as during summer vacation or winter holidays.
Q: What will be the mode of transportation when the children travel between homes?
A: Children may need an adult to accompany them on the trip because airlines, passenger trains and bus companies have age requirements for independent travel. Regardless of age, some children are better able to travel alone than others. Sometimes transportation can be linked with personal or business travel, or upcoming court dates.
Q: Who will bear the cost and responsibility for making travel arrangements?
A: Travel is expensive and fares can vary widely, depending on travel dates, days of the week and overnight stays. Connections to smaller cities can be very expensive. Will one parent pay for travel or will the costs be shared? It is important for both parents to help make travel arrangements as convenient, safe, comfortable and inexpensive as possible. Both parents should have a copy of the itinerary in advance of the actual travel.
Q: How will parents and children communicate from a distance?
A: In this high-tech age, parents have found creative ways to maintain contact with their children. Depending on the age of your children, telephone, e-mail, instant messaging, webcams, faxes, photos, videotapes, mail and audiotapes offer ways to stay connected to your children from a distance. Make sure to discuss who will be responsible for the cost of any long distance calls, internet service or other charges for communication.
Q: How will parents communicate with one another from a distance?
A: Living a long distance from one another does not eliminate the need to communicate about your children. You need to define the nature of your communication. Will you have regular, scheduled contact or only when something out of the ordinary arises? Will communication be by telephone, e-mail or another method of communication? What information will be shared? You will need to exchange school, medical and legal data, and information about the children's activities.
Parents usually find this type of information easy to obtain when both are in the same community but it can be quite difficult to acquire from a distance. Regular contact with a former partner may feel artificial or uncomfortable, but communicating only about problems may fill contacts with tension. Consider which will work best in your situation. Remember to keep the focus on the children's needs, not the parents' relationship. Access affordable online courses: Click Here
Q: What opportunities will each parent have to develop new family traditions?
A: Living at a distance will result in changes to old family habits. Try to establish some permanent holiday plans or other new traditions so the children will have these important anchors. And whenever possible be supportive of your children exploring new places and things to do when they are with the other parent, expanding their horizons and building their interest in new people and places.
Last Month's Hot Topic For Children:
Children and Divorce:
When Parents Fight Over the Children
Many families in the United States are touched by divorce. The current divorce rate is calculated to be between 40 and 60% for those recently married and up to 10% higher for remarriages. A majority of divorces occur in families with children under the age of 18.
Divorce propels adults and children into numerous adjustments and challenges. While great diversity exists in children's adjustment to divorce, and a majority of children weather the transition and become competent adults, up to a quarter of children whose parents divorce experience ongoing emotional and behavior difficulties (as compared to 10% of children whose parents do not divorce).
Spouses divorce each other, but they do not divorce their children. A majority of former spouses are able to establish a relatively conflict-free parenting relationship for the benefit of their children. However, about a third have difficulty in establishing a workable parenting relationship, even years after the divorce. Parental conflict can hinder children's adjustment and good co-parenting skills are very important to a child's adjustment.
Attorney Nathan L. Rosenberg brings decades of experience to the task of promoting good co-parenting skills in consultation with his clients.
One of the most disturbing developments when households split up involves one parent staking out territory as the "custodian" of the children, and proceeding to set arbitrary limitations and restrictive rules which block the other parent's access to one or more of the children.
Q: Why do otherwise loving parents act to cut children off from the absent parent?
A: The most common reasons are:
While these causes of discord and obstructive behavior may make sense, they almost never amount to a satisfactory or legally defensible reason to cut a parent off from children or - more to the point - cut children off from a parent.
Most parents who have a difficult relationship with their ex-spouse but who want to co-parent start out with "parallel parenting." In this arrangement, each parent assumes total responsibility for the children during the time they are together; there is no expectation of flexibility, and little contact with the other parent. As time goes on and anger dissipates, parents may develop some version of "cooperative parenting." In this arrangement, parents communicate directly and in a business-like manner regarding the children and co-parenting schedules. Marriage and family therapists can be helpful to families as they formulate or define their post-divorce parenting relationships.
Q: How can you help your children?
A: Tell Children about the break up together,
if possible, and:
- Disputes over non-payment of child support or other bills
- Perceptions of children as "property" to be shared only after certain adult-centered issues are resolved
- Fears of the absent parent abducting or removing the children to some secret location based on mere suspicions or empty threats made in anger
- History of domestic violence in a relationship at the hands of the absent parent regardless of whether the children were victims or observers or would themselves be in harm's way during visits
- Uncontrolled substance, abuse, suddenly perceived as diminishing the absent parent's judgment, skills, or commitments to the children's safety or welfare after a history of such problems which went on while the parents were together
- Concerns that the absent parent may expose the children to harm or erratic conduct whether or not this has materialized in the past, or to a new love interest relationship
- Gender bias or beliefs that young children "belong" with their mother, or male adolescents "belong" with their father
- Cultural value systems leading to similar biases
- Undue influence from grandparents or others who are convinced they know better than the parents how to react to separation or conflict, but whose view is too subjective or emotional
Q: How do you know when to seek help?
A: When your child shows signs of stress:
- Answer children's questions honestly, avoiding unnecessary details
- Reassure children they are not to blame for divorce
- Tell children they are loved and will be taken care of
- Include the other parent in school and other activities
- Be consistent and on time to pick up and return children
- Develop a workable parenting plan that gives children access to both parents
- Guard against canceling plans with children
- Give children permission to have a loving, satisfying relationship with the other parent
- Avoid putting children in the middle and in the position of having to take sides
- Avoid pumping children for information about the other parent
- Avoid arguing and discussing child support issues in front of children
- Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent or using the child as a pawn to hurt the other parent
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- acts younger than their chronological age
- fear of being apart from parent(s) or unusual "clingy" behavior
- acting out
- sadness and depression
- sleep or eating problems
- change in personality
- academic and peer problems
- irrational fears and compulsive behavior
When you or your partner begins to:
Q: What help is available for divorcing parents and children?
A: You should consider all the following resources:
- use the legal system to fight with you endlessly
without any resolution
- put down or badmouth the other parent
- use the children as message carriers or to spy on the other parent (children feel caught in the middle)
- engage in high levels of conflict and children repeatedly try to stop the fighting
- rely on the children for high level of emotional support and major responsibilities in the home
- experience depression or anxiety
During separation and divorce, family members experience uncertainty, emotional upheaval, and changes in their family roles and rules. Family therapists can assist in the process of redefining relationships and addressing family members' responsibilities and needs. Likewise, an experienced Family Law attorney such as Nathan L. Rosenberg can carry much of the burden of bringing order into an otherwise chaotic family relationship, whether by efforts to promote peace within the family, or by application for relief to the local courts, or by some combination of the two. Mr. Rosenberg for the past quarter century has advised hundreds of Coachella Valley families struggling with the challenges of a high conflict parenting relationship, and encourages such parents to contact his firm for a consultation when in doubt as to the appropriate remedy for the kinds of parental concerns addressed in this article.
- Court-connected divorce education programs for parents and children. Programs for parents and, sometimes, children are recommended or required in over half of the counties in the United States. Call your local family court for more information
- School programs for children. Some school systems offer small groups for children during the day or after school. In these groups children learn that they are not alone in their experience of divorce and learn coping strategies
- Family therapy (available through public and private mental health centers, university family therapy centers). Marriage and family therapists are mental health professionals who treat a wide array of disorders, working with individuals, couples, and families. Marriage and family therapy clients report that they are highly satisfied with the services they have received, and research shows that marriage and family therapy is a cost-effective short-term, and results-oriented form of treatment.
- An experienced Family Law attorney sensitive to your needs. Access affordable online courses: Click Here
This Month’s Hot Topics On Property & Debts In Divorce
● BASIC PROPERTY CONCEPTS
Q: What are the most common types of assets in a California divorce?
A: Let’s take a look at the most common categories:
Financial Assets: Financial assets include checking accounts, savings accounts, Certificates of Deposit, money-market accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, savings bonds and cash. These assets may be more important to the non-working or lower-income-earning spouse, who may need to use them to cover some of his or her living expenses; such spouses commonly report worries about future financial security as their number one concern in a separation.
Retirement Assets: Remember that not all assets have the same tax consequences. Retirement assets are generally “before tax” assets. This means that in order to access the money, you have to pay income tax on any distributions you receive. In some cases, you may also have to pay a penalty on the distribution in addition to any income tax. For example: Mary suggested to Gus, “You keep your retirement assets, valued at $100,000, and I’ll take the money-market account, valued at $100,000.” Gus agreed because it sounded like an equal division of the assets. However, when Gus retires, in 2015, he’ll pay tax on the distributions. So if Gus pays tax at a rate of 25%, then he would end up with only $75,000 versus the $100,000 that Mary received.
In the U.S. there are many different types of retirement assets, including defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, IRAs, and Roth IRAs. You need to determine how defined benefit plans, such as pensions, will be divided between you and your spouse; this is generally spelled out as a percentage of the retirement benefit at the time of the divorce. It is also imperative for the agreement to state if the employee’s spouse will be entitled to survivor’s benefits if the employee dies. If you’re the non-employee, you must find out whether you qualify for survivor benefits; if not, you may be better off with another asset.
Defined contribution plans include 401(k) plans, profit sharing plans, simple IRAs, and other types of contributory plans. Generally, these can be divided today, and the non-employee spouse can take the percentage that is awarded and roll it over an IRA or perhaps maintain it as a separate account in the same plan. The agreement should specify the percentage that you and your spouse will receive.
IRAs or Roth IRAs are also easily divisible. Remember that distributions from Roth IRAs will generally not be taxed, while distributions from IRAs will generally be taxed. As a result, $10,000 from a Roth IRA is probably a better asset than $10,000 from an IRA.
Employee Benefits: In addition to retirement plans, many employers provide other fringe benefits and incentives to their employees. These benefits include year-end bonuses, accrued vacation time, accrued sick time, health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, expense accounts, stock options, and more unusual benefits.
Some of these benefits may be included in your list of assets, other benefits may be included as income, and some may not be included at all. Determining if a benefit should be treated as a marital asset, income, or nothing at all can be very subjective. Different jurisdictions and judges may view the benefits differently. As a rule of thumb, if the benefit is guaranteed, then it should be included as an asset or as income. A year-end bonus could arguably be an asset, an income item, or nothing at all if it is not guaranteed. For example: Barbara and Jeremy were married for 15 years. Jeremy, the employee-spouse, received a bonus every year. Barbara could certainly make a reasonable argument that it is an asset or income for purposes of calculating child support and alimony. Vested stock options would also be an asset; with the changes in the market, they may not have any value, while unvested stock options, on the other hand, may not be an asset.
Personal Property: List your personal and household possessions, particularly those that are important to you, and note how they are going to be divided. This would include big-ticket items, such as cars, boats, and motor homes, as well as items such as expensive jewelry or furniture (note: most furniture will be assessed at garage-sale prices, so that leather sofa is now worth $200, not $2,000).
Keep the value of these assets in perspective – and recognize when it is time to give up the fight. We have all heard of those cases where parties spend thousands of dollars fighting over an asset that’s worth less than $300.
Each spouse should keep copies of joint tax returns. We recommend that you keep at least the past five years; in addition, you will need records to calculate the cost basis for any assets that you keep, such as escrow files from the purchase or sale of a home.
Real Estate: Real estate includes your marital home and any other homes, lots, vacation properties, timeshares, and rental properties – commercial and residential – as well as any business property. The properties should be listed, and the divorce agreement should address how they are going to be divided. If the property is going to be sold, the following issues need to be addressed:
* Who is going to pay the expenses until the property is sold?
* How will the proceeds be divided?
* Who determines details such as listing brokers and list price?
Closely-Held Business: A closely-held business can be in the form of a sole proprietorship, corporation, general or limited partnership, or limited liability company. Before one spouse agrees to take a business interest, he or she has to make sure there are no restrictions on owning the interest. There could be legal or contractual restrictions on which spouse could own the business interest.
For instance, if the business is a professional corporation (as defined by state law), then one spouse may be legally restricted from maintaining an ownership interest. Here’s an example. Joe is a physician and Barb is an accountant; in many states, only Joe would own his medical practice and only Barb could own her accountancy practice. Another restriction may exist if there is a liquor license or taxicab medallion that is only transferable with government approval.
A “buy-sell” agreement is an example of a contractual restriction that may preclude a transfer to a spouse. If the “non-owner” spouse is awarded the business interest in the divorce, then the spouse may be forced to sell the business interest at a substantial discount. For example, Joe owns 25% of a business that has a total value of $100,000; his share is valued at $25,000. If the buy-sell agreement requires Barb to sell her interest at 50% of the value, and if she is awarded the stock in the divorce, she would be required to sell her interest for $12,500.
Other Assets: Some other assets to address in the divorce agreement include: Annuities, Frequent Flyer Miles, lottery or other prize winnings, club dues and annual membership fees, inheritance and gifts (part or all of which may constitute separate property and not be subject to division; ask your lawyer about this), and trusts naming one spouse as a current beneficiary.
Keep in mind the assets listed in this article are not by any means exhaustive. You and your spouse may have other assets that could make a huge difference to your post-divorce life, so take the time to list them carefully and discuss the financial impact of keeping one asset over another with your Divorce Legal Advisor.
That being said, you should make every effort to negotiate your divorce agreement rather than fight over every item in court. Such agreements have several benefits over a judge’s ruling, including: they take less time; they reduce the financial and emotional costs; and the parties are more likely to abide by the terms of the agreement.
● DEBTS IN DIVORCE
Q: What should I know in general about protecting myself from unfair or improper division of our marital debts?
A: Generally, the person who takes the property will be expected to pay the mortgage or debt related to the property. Does this mean that the other spouse has no financial obligation for a joint debt: Absolutely not. Unless the spouse who takes the property refinances the mortgage, both spouses will still be obligated to pay the debt.
Q: Can a divorce court in its orders or final decree wipe out my individual obligations to creditors or taxing agencies?
A: The divorce decree cannot terminate a financial obligation to your creditor: in the case of joint debt (mortgage, joint credit-card, etc), even if the divorce agreement specifies that one spouse will be responsible for paying the debt, this does not release the other spouse as far as the creditor is concerned. If one spouse refuses to or cannot pay, then the creditor will come after the other spouse to pay the debt no matter what the divorce agreement states. If only one spouse is obligated on a debt (e.g., credit card in husband’s name only), however, then the other spouse cannot be held liable for it outside divorce court.
Rules for reimbursements, credits, and payments by one spouse to the other inside the divorce can be very complex, requiring sound legal advice and counsel.
If you’re currently going through a divorce, thinking about one or are already divorced, now is the time to take the necessary steps to get your financial house in order to ensure you enter into single life with a good handle on your personal finances.
Q: What should I do first?
A: Obtain a Credit Report: While divorce discussions may have revolved around custody, alimony and division of assets, it’s often difficult to decide who will be responsible for the debt you have incurred while married. In order to do this, you will need to know how much you owe, individually and as a household. Start by taking a look in your wallet to see how many credit cards you share with your spouse, and stop using any joint accounts. The last thing you want to do when creating a new financial identity for yourself is to add more joint debt.
It is also a wise idea to get a copy of your credit reports. You can obtain your credit report(s) from one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian in the U.S. and TransUnion and Equifax in Canada. The reports list your financial liabilities and if you are paying your creditors on a regular basis. Take extra care when reviewing your reports to make sure there are no secret accounts waiting to surprise you. When a marriage begins to fall apart, it is not uncommon for one spouse to run up debt without the other knowing.
Even if you completely trust your ex, or soon-to-be ex, taking this step will give you a better understanding of where you stand financially.
Q: How might I begin to understand how debts will be divided/distributed to each spouse?
A: Debts: Ours, Yours or Mine? Next, take the time to go through your credit reports carefully to identify which debts are shared and which debts belong to you as an individual.
When you are approved for a credit account in your name only, you become the primary account holder. This means that you alone are responsible for any debts incurred. Even if your ex has been piling on debt as an authorized user on the account, you are still liable for the full amount.
If you are joint account holders, you are both responsible for the debt and any defaults or late payments will show up on both of your credit reports. When it comes to joint accounts, it’s important to know that your agreements with any creditors are separate from the terms of your divorce settlement. Even if your divorce decree orders your spouse to pay a particular debt, creditors can still demand payment from you as a joint account holder – leaving you with a financial headache down the road.
Likewise, if the court orders your spouse to pay a debt that is solely in your name, you can still find yourself on the hook for the debt. If your ex defies this court order by not refinancing or failing to make payments against the debt, there usually is no real legal recourse against him or her without incurring great expense. Again, the creditors are only concerned with who owns the debt – not who has been assigned responsibility through the courts.
Beware of Unexpected or Hidden Debts/Costs of Divorce: While enveloped in the emotional aspects of divorce, you my overlook some hidden or unexpected costs. This may result in financial trouble for you down the road: If you have to sell your home and terminate your mortgage early, you may have to pay a penalty to your lender. If your home has increased in value, you may have to pay tax on your capital gains. These deductions need to be taken into consideration.
If you have co-signed on an auto lease or loan with your spouse, it is a wise idea to have yourself released from the obligation. Failure to release yourself could lead to serious debt or even legal action if your ex fails to make payments, as well as take a toll on your future credit rating.
Similarly, it is a wise idea to review any life insurance or health insurance policies that covered your matrimonial household. If you are not listed as an owner on these policies, your ex may try to cancel or alter the policy without having to disclose this information to you. This can be detrimental to certain divorcees who may find it difficult to get insurance coverage later in life.
One of the biggest items often overlooked in the emotional turmoil of separation and divorce are the tax implications. Child tax benefits, dependent tax credits and child care credits will no longer be added to the household finances. Instead these will be paid out to one party or the other, potentially leaving you with an unexpected reduction in income.
Q: Why is all this planning needed if our debt situation is under control?
A: In order to enter your single life with a good handle on your personal finances.
If you collect alimony, be prepared to claim it as taxable income. On the opposite side of this, the individual paying the alimony or spousal support can write it off as a tax deduction.
If you are taking a disproportionately large amount of marital property, you may be required to pay your spouse a sum of money (sometimes referred to as an “equalization payment”) to even out the financial split. Situations that might require an equalization payment could involve a valuable work of art or a pension plan that cannot be divided, or one party taking on a large majority of the marital debts.
Seek Legal and Financial Advice. Once you have a better handle on your financial situation, it is a good idea to consult with both your legal advisor and your financial advisor. At the end of the day, divorce is not a simple process, and you will want expert advice when it comes to dividing assets and debts.
If you find yourself struggling to make ends meet, or if you’re having a difficult time managing your debts and don’t know where to start, try contacting a trained, credit counselor, they will put you on the right track. They can help assess your debt and provide you with options to make debt repayment a priority in your single life.
Free yourself from debts that are not yours and create a new financial identity. Divorce can be devastating for individuals and families – especially when it comes to your finances. While the legal aspects of the dissolution of marriage may end when the divorce is granted, the financial implications may last for years to come.