IDFA 2010 Survey: Recession and Divorce

The Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts recently completed a survey of it’s membership. Almost two hundred members responded from around the United States.

69% of Certified Divorce Financial Analysts said they had seen clients who could not afford to get divorced because of recession-related financial problems.

When asked to assess the difference that current economic conditions have made to the number of new divorcing clients coming through their doors, 39% say that the recession has not affected the number of cases, and 25% say that the recession has increased the number of new cases they’re seeing (these numbers compare with 43% and 19% respectively the previous year.

The most common reason cited for an increase was the clients’ desire to reduce the cost of their divorce. Other common responses included:

  • Economic climate is straining marriages
  • People are exploring the financial feasibility of being able to divorce before they file or see an attorney
  • An increase in mediated and Pro Se divorces using CDFAs as financial neutral.

The most common reason cited for the decrease was fear: fear of the economy, job loss, losing (or not being able to sell) their homes, and of not being able to make ends meet without their spouses. Other common responses included:

  • People are afraid to divorce while they’re unemployed
  • Clients can’t afford to divorce until the economy improves
  • Not enough money to hire a financial expert
  • People just can’t afford to live apart – especially if the matrimonial home is “underwater” (meaning that they owe more on the mortgage than the house is currently worth).

22% percent of respondents said that the number of clients whose matrimonial homes were “underwater” has increased dramatically over the last year. An additional 34% said that the number had increased slightly, and 24% said that the number had remained the same. Eighteen percent of respondents do not presently have clients with underwater houses, and only 2% report a decrease in the number from the same time last year.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said that the current housing market has forced them to come up with creative solutions to property-division problems when the matrimonial home fails to sell – or would sell for less than what clients still owe on the mortgage. This number is down from 73% the year before. The most common solution is for ex-spouses to retain joint ownership and continue to live in the house (often, he moves into the basement and she lives upstairs) until the market improves, agreeing to postpone final division of assets until after the house is sold.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that the current economic climate has affected the type of assets their clients wish to receive as part of their divorce settlement (compared with 63% the year before). The most common request was for liquid assets only: their clients want cash rather than stocks, investments, real estate, or retirement plans. In other words, “Cash is King.”

According to the survey, Mediation and Collaborative Divorce proved to be the most cost-effective ways for clients to process the financial aspects of their divorce in 2009-2010. Many CDFAs work in two or more models, and they were able to paint a pretty clear picture of expenses incurred by their clients in each.

“These survey results are copyrighted and are used with permission from the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts.  www.InstituteDFA.com

 

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – What does healthcare reform mean for Divorce?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. The complete details are not yet known as many of the provisions require sweeping overhauls to the way medical insurance has been sold and administered in the United States. As is common in bills of such a large magnitude affecting such a vast cross section of the American Public, this legislation will be enacted over a period of years beginning in June of 2010 and culminating with the final legislated change to take effect in 2018. Following is a summary of what I believe, at first glance, to be the most important portions of the reform for Family Law practitioners.

Immediate Access to Insurance for Uninsured Individuals with a Pre-Existing Condition.  This provision provides eligible individuals access to coverage that does not impose exclusions for pre-existing health conditions. In the past, pre-existing medical conditions, whether serious or minor, may have precluded an individual from obtaining medical insurance on the open market. Long term legal separations, delayed divorces and other creative solutions were used by negotiators in situations where an un-employed spouse had pre-existing health concerns. This reform will become effective June 30, 2010 and should provide long term solutions for your clients. Coverage under this program will continue until new exchanges are operational in 2014. The exchanges may even offer more affordable coverage than the COBRA continuation insurance many newly divorced and unemployed individuals opt for today. This new venue will enable comparison shopping for standardized health packages, facilitate enrollment and administer tax credits to make coverage affordable for all income levels.

Extending Dependent Coverage. Young adults age 19 through 29 are the largest growing age group in the country at risk of being uninsured. The growing population of un-employed or under-employed young adults has many of them landing back at home after college. Parents are increasingly making planning for the expenses of their able bodied adult children part of their divorce negotiations. Current medical policies provide dependent care for children until they are 19, or 23 if a full-time student. Purchasing catastrophic or high-deductible medical insurance for the kids has become a common risk management solution for parents to insure against major loss if their child should be in an accident or need expensive medical care. The problem remains the relatively high cost and relatively small number of options. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will require any group health plan or plan in the individual market that provides dependent coverage for children to continue to make that coverage available until the child turns 26 years of age. This takes effect for plan years beginning on or after September 30, 2010 and should allow parents to more effectively arrange for sharing the costs of co-parenting their adult children.

There are many other important and far reaching provisions beyond the scope of my writing. The complete 2,409 page text is available at http://docs.house.gov/rules/hr4872/111_hr3590_engrossed.pdf.

So how are we going to pay for it? Tax increases. The upper middle class and wealthy will be footing the bill for much of the increased taxation. An increase in the hospital insurance tax rate (commonly referred to as Medicare payroll tax) and an additional tax on investment income will take effect in 2013. The Medicare payroll tax will increase from 1.45% to 2.35% and a “Medicare contribution tax” of 3.8 percent will be levied on net investment income (e.g., dividends, capital gains, rents, passive income) for taxpayers with Adjusted Gross Income greater than $200,000 ($250,000 for joint returns).

Increased access to affordable coverage should provide flexibility in divorce settings, reduce the use of risky long term planning scenarios and possibly remove expensive COBRA continuation coverage from our lexicon.  Like any significant income tax changes, those included in the reform will require changes to support guideline calculations and a base-line understanding of how those changes will affect individuals and families navigating divorce. We will learn more as provisions go into effect in the coming years.

 

California Divorce Dictionary: Epstein Credit

Epstein credits are rights to reimbursement to which a party may be entitled as a result of the payment of community obligations since the date of separation. (In re Marriage of Epstein (1979) 24 Cal.3d 76)

Epstein Credits are most commonly incurred when one party pays community debts using their spearate property income.

If you are claiming the credit. – Keep your receipts, bank statements and other records. It is common to see divorce proceedings last years and create a long trail of records. Large bills pile up quickly for financial experts if they must recreate the paper trail.

Seek professional advice if you believe you need to consider this during your divorce.

Social Security, Retirement Benefits, and Divorce

Social Security, Retirement Benefits, and Divorce

Social Security in the United States refers directly to a lesser known federal Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program or OASDI. The program was originally rolled out in the 1930’s in an attempt to limit what were seen as dangers to the American way of life such as increased life expectancy, poverty, and fatherless children. So the Social Security Act, signed in 1935, created social insurance programs to provide benefits to retirees, the unemployed, and as well as a lump sum benefit to the family at death. Many amendments have been made since the original Social Security Act of 1935. Most importantly; Medicare was added in 1965. The Social Security Act of 1965 also recognized for the first time that divorce was becoming a common cause for the end of marriages and added divorcees to the beneficiary list.

When Can I Collect Benefits?

The earliest age at which reduced benefits are payable is 62. The age at which full retirement benefits are available is dependent upon the taxpayers age. An increase of regular retirement age was enacted to reduce the amount of benefits payable. For those currently over age 70 the normal age was 65. Anyone born after will fall somewhere on increasing scale which climbs incrementally to age 67 depending upon birth date. Anyone born after 1960 must reach age 67 for normal retirement benefits. Delaying receipt of benefits will increase a taxpayer’s benefit until age 70.

As A Divorced Spouse What Do I Get?

Divorced spouses are eligible for benefits equal to one half of the worker’s benefit if they were married for 10 years have not remarried and are at least 62 years old. This is called a derivative benefit. A spousal applicant must wait until the worker has reached retirement age, 62, in order to apply for benefits. The worker is not required to have applied for benefits in order for the ex-spouse to apply for spousal benefits. They are not entitled to increases for benefits taken after normal retirement age. If a worker has died and the ex-spouse has reached full retirement age they can receive 100% of the worker’s benefit as survivor benefits.

If an applicant is between age 62 and their normal retirement age; the application for benefits will be based on the applicant’s earnings record. If one half of an ex-spouse’s benefit is greater than the applicant’s benefit on their own record; the applicant can choose to take whichever is greater. If you wait until your normal retirement age and file for spousal benefits you can continue to accrue benefits and enhancements for delaying your own retirement up until your age 70.

An ex-spouse’s receipt of derivative benefits on the worker’s record does not reduce the worker’s benefits. It is even possible for more than one ex-spouse to collect on the worker’s derivative benefits. This could lead to as much as 500% of the original benefit being claimed by the five ex-spouses.

Justin A. Reckers CFP®, CDFA™, AIF®
858.509.2329
jreckers@wellspringdivorce.com

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Our firm does not provide legal or tax advice. Be sure to consult with your own tax and legal advisors before taking any action that would have tax consequences. The information provided herein is obtained from sources believed to be reliable; but no representation or warranty is made as to its accuracy or completeness.

Planning for Post Divorce College Funding and Taxes

2009 and 2010 bring a slew of changes to the structure of tax credits and deductions in the Federal Income Tax system. Today I would like to draw attention to the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The American Opportunity Credit expanded and renamed the Hope Credit for tax years 2009 and 2010. The expanded credit increases the total available credit to $2,500 per year for the first four years of post secondary education. This is an increase of $700 over the old Hope Credit. The Hope Credit was also only applicable to the first two years of school. Adding $700 per year and an additional two years to eligibility make the new credit worth up to an additional Read more