All Your Friends Are Doing It: Is Divorce Contagious?

divorce contagious

Is divorce contagious?

A lot of us have experienced it or at least witnessed it in some way. One neighbor or co-worker decides to get divorced and the next thing you know you’re the last married couple on the block.

Or maybe you’re not.

The point is, one month you might think that everyone is happily married and the next, divorce is spreading around you like a virus.

This actually makes sense. Groups of couples often meet and become friends because the kids go to the same schools or have other things in common. Similar income and wealth levels are also a factor in most friendships. As children grow and begin leaving the nest, the urge to “stay together for the kids” gives way to “I must take care of my own happiness.”

A group of families can very easily find themselves in this position all at the same time. Once the first couple calls it quits the remaining members of the group get a glimpse into just how divorces happen and what life looks like on the other side.

Is the grass really greener?

Fear of the unknown is a big reason why some people hesitate to get divorced. Will I be able to maintain my lifestyle? Will I have to go back to work even though I’ve stayed home with the kids for years? How will this affect my retirement? What about the house? The kids? What will my family think?

However, as friends or family navigate the divorce process and transition to life after, the process might seem less daunting. The shared experience serves to remove ambiguity. Suddenly the divorce process itself and life as a single person seem less frightening and a Divorce Bubble pops.

Come on! Answer the question.

Because there is a study about everything for everything you might be interested in an academic paper titled Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too: Social Network Effects on Divorce in a Longitudinal Sample.

The title of the paper may lead you to assume findings are supportive of divorce contagion but we find other interesting data from the study including a possible suggestion on how to better a marriage. The abstract states the goal “to explore how social networks influence divorce and vice versa.”

“Divorce is a collective phenomenon that extends beyond those directly affected.” Friends and family may be called upon for emotional support during the process. In some cases, the still married couples are placed in the middle and asked to choose sides. Surprisingly the paper finds “attending to the health of friends’ marriages may serve to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship.”

However….

Data show clusters of divorce extending to two degrees of separation in a social network. In other words, a person’s tendency to divorce depends not just on a friend’s divorce status, but also extends to friends’ friends. A divorced friend or family member who lives hundreds of miles away may have as much influence on risk of divorce as one who lives next door.

According to the study “People who have a divorced friend are 270% more likely to divorce themselves.” Coupled with previous research concluding daughters of divorced parents are 70% more likely to divorce themselves I think we have our answer.

DIVORCE IS CONTAGIOUS!

 

wellspring divorce advisors

Wellspring Divorce Advisors helps individuals and couples address the financial aspects of divorce in a civilized, equitable, and efficient manner by providing expert divorce financial planning and advice. Contact us to find out how we can help you through this process.

Client Question: Can an IRA be transferred to or from my former spouse?

IRA

Great question.

YES. Many divorce settlements require the transfer of some amount of funds in an IRA account from one party to the other.

Here are our recommended steps for completing the transaction.

We suggest this process be started immediately. This way, you may be sure you have control of the assets you fought so hard for during the divorce process.

Open a new account.

In order receive the funds we suggest the transferee open a new IRA account in their individual name. If you already have an IRA account it can be used to receive the funds.

Prepare paperwork for transfer.

Some custodians require a simple letter of authorization signed by both parties and a copy of the divorce judgment to complete the transfer. Others require signature guarantees on the letter which must be obtained from a local bank. The letter should provide the source and destination account numbers. We suggest opening the new account from step one at the same custodian as the currently existing account. It will make the transfer process easier because the custodian remains the same.

Make sure you don’t….

No matter what you do… DO NOT take a distribution out of the IRA.  If you are under age 59 1/2, you will end up paying taxes and penalties on the distribution. The process we want you to complete is called a trustee to trustee transfer. It may help to contact the current custodian and simply tell them the transfer is pursuant to divorce and you would like to complete the transfer in this format.

Update your beneficiary designations.

An IRA passes to the named beneficiary if you should pass away. Make sure you have removed your former spouse if you do not want them to inherit your share of the assets.

If you follow these steps there should be no taxes or penalties on the transfer.

Let us help you.

Wellspring Divorce Advisors provides comprehensive post-divorce transition management services for our clients and can assist you with the transfer of IRA accounts pursuant to divorce settlements. Let us know if we can help in any way. We also offer long term financial advisory services through our sister companies.

 

wellspring divorce advisors

 

Wellspring Divorce Advisors helps individuals and couples address the financial aspects of divorce in a civilized, equitable, and efficient manner by providing expert divorce financial planning and advice. Contact us to find out how we can help you through this process.

 

Retirement Accounts & Divorce: Why you need a QDRO

QDRO

QDRO: Qualified Domestic Relations Order

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is the court order required to give notice to a retirement plan administrator that an Alternate Payee is entitled to a portion of the plan. Without a QDRO the plan administrator cannot legally make payments to the Alternate Payee.

Retirement plans such as 401(k)’s and defined benefit pension plans are often among the largest assets to be divided during the division of a martial estate. Many of these plans are governed by a set of federal laws known as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 or ERISA. ERISA allows an Alternate Payee such as a former spouse to receive a portion of the employee’s benefits with a court order.

Who should draft my QDRO?

The drafting of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is an important step in the divorce financial planning process and should be drafted by an attorney familiar with this subset of legal practice.

Financial planners have specific and far reaching knowledge of retirement plans and the underlying laws that govern them but are ill-equipped for drafting the actual Domestic Relations Orders as they are usually not attorneys.

Do I REALLY need an attorney?

For a QDRO to be valid and accepted by both the court and the plan administrator it must contain specific requirements under the law as well as be tailored to that specific plan. Retirement plans may even reject court certified orders that were not pre-approved by their own staff. For this reason it is necessary for a draft to be sent to the plan administrator for pre-approval prior to seeking court certification.

Wellspring Divorce Advisors suggests the qualified domestic relations order be drafted and pre-approved prior to finalizing the global financial agreements. We have seen many individuals still fighting to get their share of the retirement plans awarded to them years after settlement because the other party refuses to sign. See more on the QDRO Process here.

The Deposition: How to keep surprises to a minimum during your divorce.

deposition

What is a deposition?

In a deposition, one party or that party’s lawyer conducts face-to-face questioning of the other party or a witness to the dispute.

The person being questioned (the “deponent”) must answer under oath, and the answers are recorded by a court reporter or possibly on video for later use at trial. If the deponent cannot testify at trial, the questions and answers might be read as evidence. If the deponent does testify and gives different answers at trial from those he gave during the deposition, the questions and answers can be used to show the jury that the witness changed his story bringing his credibility into question.

When a witness loses credibility it will tarnish the believably of his entire testimony.

When should a deposition be used?

Depositions can be under utilized in divorces…but possibly for good reasons. In situations where parties are amicable and have equal access to financial information, depositions are a waste of time and money. They should be used only in cases where the opposing party or their financial expert has information you want and need and are not freely providing it.

Some jurisdictions refer to a deposition simply as “testimony before trial” which is a much more descriptive term.

Why is a deposition important?

A deposition is a great tool to find out, in advance of hearing or trial, what a witness is likely to say in the future. You can find out:

  • What a financial expert testifying for the opposing party will testify to at the hearing.
  • How they rendered their opinions.
  • If they have any financial documentation not yet in your files.

All of these realizations can and should assist your attorney and financial expert in preparing your case before it is argued in front of a judge.

How can Wellspring Divorce Advisors help with this process?

Your Wellspring Divorce Advisor can even attend the deposition of your former spouse or their financial expert and assist your attorney in questioning the witness. Depositions can be a powerful means of gathering financial information when one party is at a disadvantage.

You Need a Game Plan: 10 strategies to help you during your divorce.

strategies

Throughout our experience as Certified Divorce Financial Analysts we have developed a passion for strategic thinking during financial negotiations of divorce. Every case presents different challenges, opportunities and client goals. No two negotiations are the same but we find some financial strategies during divorce important to consider in every case.

Here are 10 strategies to help you during your divorce.

1. IRS rule 72(t)

This allows hardship withdrawals without the 10% penalty from 401(k) plans during divorce. Consider this strategy to help with cash flow problems during dissolution proceedings.

2. The Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision

These are federal Social Security rules that often unexpectedly reduce Social Security retirement benefits in divorce situations and may cause inequity.

3. Consider that an apples to apples comparison may not be possible…

…for before tax and after tax dollars from an individual brokerage account versus an IRA. Agreeing to an equal offset of accounts with different tax ramifications may result in inequity.

4. Know the value

Comparing the present value of a currently available liquid asset such as a savings account versus the future value of a non liquid asset such as a pension may result in inequity.

5. Child contingency and Alimony recapture laws

These are hard to analyze and often missed in setting support awards but can cause unexpected tax ramifications of great magnitude if left without review.

6. Capital gains

Unrealized capital gains that may cause future taxes should be included in estimates of value when considering asset division. Agreeing to a division where each party receives an asset of equal value but one has a large capital gain built in will result in inequity.

7. Know what has cash value now

Dependency exemptions and tax filing status may have real cash value now and in the future and can be used as bargaining chips for financial settlements.

8. What about the life insurance?

Life insurance placed as security for support payments should be positioned before a final settlement is reached to ensure a policy will be available with an efficient cost structure.

9. Retirement plans

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders necessary to divide retirement plans should be drafted and approved by the plan administrator prior to the divorce being final to avoid delays common post divorce.

10. Don’t forget the real estate

Consider the advantages of deferring capital gains taxes on real estate assets by using a 1031 exchange or converting a rental property to a primary residence for tax purposes.

 

As your partner and with a little guidance from attorneys, we will help you reach an equitable solution. Call Wellspring Divorce Advisors today to begin the journey towards your future.