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Dependency Exemption Non-Custodial Parents

The Internal Revenue Service released a memorandum in 2009, clarifying the rules governing non-custodial parent’s ability to claim a dependency exemption for their child.

Previously, the Service allowed a non-custodial parent to claim an exemption for a child if the custodial parent signed a written declaration releasing claim to the exemption and the non-custodial parent attached that declaration to their return. IRS Form 8332 is available to document this release.  In Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, the Service has stated that a non-custodial parent may attach certain pages of a divorce decree or separation agreement, instead of Form 8332, if the attached pages include the information required on the form. Click here for more information from the IRS.

The Problem

A problem arose in the ambiguous language of the actual code.  It stated the release of a claim must be on Form 8332 or, if not on such form, must “conform to the substance of such form.” The ambiguity begat creativity and family law attorneys began drafting the declarations into settlement agreements. Taxpayers would then simply need to attach a copy of their divorce decree. This eliminated the need for Form 8332 and therefore, the need to speak to your ex-spouse every year requesting a signature.

The recent memorandum was directed specifically at the question whether it was allowable for a non-custodial parent to prove their right to the exemption by submitting proof of satisfaction of a condition in a divorce decree. The condition was that the non-custodial parent may only claim the exemption if current in his or her support obligation. This raises the problem of substantiation.

In the 2009 memo, the Service concluded the release must be on Form 8332 or must be a document conforming to the substance of Form 8332 and has as its only purpose the release of a claim to exemption. A divorce decree, separation agreement or parenting plan allowing a non-custodial parent to claim an exemption for a child, only if a condition is met, does not conform to the substance of Form 8332.  For tax years beginning after July 2, 2008, a settlement agreement, decree or judgment may not be used by a non-custodial parent to substantiate a dependency exemption for a child.

These regulations reflect the Service’s concern about substantiating a claim to a dependency exemption for a child and are intended to avoid problems of proof, minimize controversy, and minimize costs to parents.  The change does not preclude a non-custodial parent from claiming the exemption; it simply requires more care be made to make sure this is accomplished.

It may be helpful to include language stipulating the custodial parent will execute Form 8332 on a yearly basis. This follow up challenge can be alleviated by insuring the newly single parents consult a financial advisor with specific experience in the field of divorce financial planning. Two parents claiming an exemption for the same child will end in IRS audits for both and possibly bring a settled case back into the courtroom.

6 Financial Steps to Preparing for Divorce in 2017

financial steps

Are you planning to divorce in 2017?

Take a look at our recommendations for 6 Financial Steps to Preparing for Divorce in 2017.

1. Keep an eye on the mail-box.

Every financial document that hits your mailbox in the month of January is worth your time. You should gather Bank and Brokerage account statements showing year end balances and the year end spending summary sent out by most Credit Card companies. You may also start to see tax documents being sent.

If you aren’t sure whether the document is pertinent to your Divorce in 2017, keep a copy anyway just in case. Financial knowledge will equal power for your Divorce in 2017. The more you can get now the more prepared you will be to advocate for yourself and obtain the most financially advantageous settlement possible in the new year.

2. Make copies of all financial files in your home.

This includes 5 years of tax returns, Brokerage and Bank account statements, business ownership documents such as partnership agreements and wills and trusts. Again, if you have any reason to believe the financial document will be important to your Divorce in 2017; you should keep a copy. It is always better to be over-prepared.

3. Educate yourself about your divorce options.

We believe most couples can resolve their differences outside of court. Make an appointment with a Wellspring Divorce Advisors advisor who will educate you about the process options available for your Divorce in 2017. Staying away from the court system will save emotional and economic resources and should result in a more advantageous financial settlement.

4. Consult with a lawyer or two or three or four.

Your Wellspring Divorce Advisors professional can refer you to many high quality divorce lawyers in your community. Concentrate your search on attorneys who specialize in Family Law. You wouldn’t go to your primary care physician for a tonsillectomy so don’t go to your real estate attorney for your divorce.

5. Develop a budget for your Divorce in 2017.

Divorce is hard on the checkbook. You will have expenses of two households, expenses to set up that second household such as furniture and furnishings. If you already have a family budget you can use this as a guide to start your individual divorce budget. If you don’t have one, begin by looking at the bank and credit card statements you gathered in steps 1 and 2.

First get a feel for the recurring expenses like mortgage and utilities then make estimates of discretionary expenses like dining out and entertainment after averaging a couple of months’ worth of real data gathered from the statements.Finding a way to maintain some level of a similar lifestyle during the divorce proceedings is not easy for most but this is a time for you to be comfortable, not feeling destitute.

Wellspring Divorce Advisors is experienced in creating budgets and available to assist clients in developing a budget for their Divorce.

6. Open a credit card in your individual name.

If you do not yet have a credit card in your name alone we suggest you apply for one immediately. It is common for one party to lose access to cash after filing for divorce. If you do not have cash you cannot pay the professional help you need to protect yourself in the divorce process.

Try Capital One for a good starting point. They usually provide good rewards such as airline or cash back on their cards as well as good size credit limits. Aim for $20,000 of total credit card limits. Be careful not to spend too freely on the cards and try to stick to just using them for professional fees if possible.

Worried? Here are 20 Questions to Uncover Financial Infidelity

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What questions should you ask if you are worried about financial infidelity?

If you’re worried your spouse is being financially unfaithful,  here are 20 questions we ask a client who suspects their spouse of financial infidelity. They are all meant to uncover underlying causes or avenues for financial infidelity. You should ask yourself these questions before accusing your spouse of wrongdoing.

  1. Do you have separate bank accounts?
  2. Is your name on the family bank accounts?
  3. Is your name on the mortgage?
  4. Do you have a relationship with the family financial advisor?
  5. Do you know how much your spouse earns and how they get paid?
  6. Who gets the mail and pays the bills?
  7. Are there credit cards you know nothing about?
  8. Are your family bank and investment account balances lower than you would expect?
  9. Are there unopened boxes or clothing hanging in the closet with tags still on it?
  10. Is money an emotional conversation in your marriage?
  11. Does your spouse gamble?
  12. Does your spouse day trade a stock portfolio?
  13. Are there abnormally large expenditures charged to debit cards at department or grocery stores?
  14. Do you suspect your spouse of having an emotional or physical affair?
  15. Are you on an allowance?
  16. Does your spouse do business with family members?
  17. Do you suspect your spouse of misusing prescription or other drugs?
  18. Have you ever wondered where your spouse got the money to buy a big ticket item?
  19. Does your spouse own their own business?
  20. Is it possible your spouse has been planning for divorce for a long time?

 

Call Wellspring Divorce Advisors for professional financial help if these questions heighten your sense of concern. Click here for an overview of financial infidelity in a previous post.

Protecting Your Assets: What is Financial Infidelity?

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Protecting yourself.

What is Financial Infidelity?

Financial Infidelity is the misuse, mismanagement or misappropriation of marital assets and incomes during a marriage. Financial Infidelity can stem from many causes including:

  • shame from a job loss
  • extra-marital affairs
  • addiction
  • poor communication
  • downright fraud.

What are the signs?

Clients have come to us suspecting their spouse of buying gifts or lavish trips for the mistress, frequenting strip clubs and major gambling losses. We have also had clients learn of their spouse’s transgressions only when they saw the poor condition of their family finances during divorce proceedings.

Regardless of the reason for the suspicion or the reason for the financial infidelity it can wreck marriages and the long term financial security of the victim. A recent Harris poll showed 42% of poll respondents have committed some form of financial deception. 39% hid a purchase, bank account, cash or a document of some type like a bill or credit card statement. 16% admitted to a lie about the amount of debt they had or the amount of money they earned. 25% of couples experiencing financial infidelity in the poll ultimately separated or divorced while 25% said it had no effect on their relationship.

Take care of yourself.

You owe it to yourself and your children to be diligent and engaged in the finances of your marriage if only to fight for what is left in a divorce. Read on for a detailed overview.

  •  Click here for a list of 20 questions we ask clients who suspect their spouse of financial infidelity.
  •  Click here for suggestions of first steps to take if you are concerned about financial infidelity.
  • Click here for some real world examples of financial infidelity from our practice.

 

Protect your Assets: Prenuptial Agreements 101

prenuptial

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial or premarital agreement is a negotiated agreement reached between two parties in advance of marriage. The agreement typically deals with the ownership of assets in the event the marriage ends in divorce. Some prenuptial agreements will also cover alimony and child support. There is a great overview from a legal perspective here.

Do I really need a premarital agreement?

About half of marriages end in divorce in the United States so it may be prudent to consider signing one. Following are some considerations to help guide your decision making.

Timing is everything

Many newly engaged couples believe the entire concept of prenuptial agreements is unromantic or even disgusting because the party proposing the agreement may be planning for the marriage to fail. If you plan on asking for a prenuptial agreement in your future marriage we suggest you start the conversation early so expectations are not shattered weeks in advance of the big day.

Many jurisdictions even require a party be given a certain amount of time to review and negotiate the terms of a prenuptial before the marriage date. If the adequate time is not provided the agreement can be rendered unenforceable. In California the party receiving the prenuptial agreement must be given at least seven days to review the agreement before it is signed. If someone is not given the seven days, a court may consider it to be signed under duress and refuse to enforce it’s provisions.

Protect yourself.

Prenuptial agreements should be negotiated with the assistance of licensed and independent legal counsel. Independent is a key word. We have seen many prenuptial agreements drafted for couples by one attorney. Usually the drafting attorney is working for the person with the money. So how could the other party hope to get fair and complete representation from this lawyer if they are already working for their soon to be spouse? Unfortunately they usually do not.

In the State of California the party receiving the prenuptial agreement must be represented by independent legal counsel at the time of signing the agreement or waive their right to do so in writing. If independent counsel is not present the agreement may be rendered unenforceable.

This facet works to the advantage of both parties. For the party receiving the prenuptial agreement they will have access to competent and experienced legal counsel to ensure they understand what they are signing. For the person offering the prenuptial it provides additional assurance the agreement will stand up in court if the day should come. Bottom line don’t use your fiance’s attorney.

Protect your future.

Prenuptial agreements are all about money. One or both parties have it or the expectation of having it and want the money protected in the event of divorce. They are not only for celebrities or the super rich. Say you started a business before you were married and the business is just starting to gain traction. If the business grows to a value of millions of dollars during your marriage, the value may be considered part of your marital estate and you will have to pay your spouse to keep it in a divorce.

You may wish to have the business carved out as your separate property through the use of a prenuptial agreement. If the business does not take off as expected you would still have the peace of mind to know it is yours. If it does take off, you and your new spouse probably enjoyed the fruits of this success during your marriage through the income it was able to pay you.

Be prepared.

Prenuptial agreements require diligence and full disclosure. One of the many problems we see with prenuptial agreements is a complete lack or poor effort at disclosure of financial information. A good prenuptial agreement will include exhibits attached showing the assets, debts, income and expenses of both parties. You may not be able to prove assets not disclosed in the financials of the prenuptial agreement are governed by the provisions.

Take for example a brokerage account. You sign a prenuptial agreement saying all assets owned at the time of marriage are considered the separate property of the owner. What if the brokerage account was with Lehman Brothers who subsequently goes bankrupt and their records are no longer available. Your account balance will not have disappeared with the bankruptcy but your ability to prove it existed at the time of your marriage may have. If you cannot prove it existed at the time of marriage you may not get it awarded as your separate property in divorce. Start with full disclosure, be diligent about keeping records and consider updating or amending your prenuptial agreement as circumstances change and assets move around.

 

Stay tuned for more on the topic as we dive into Best Practices, explain Common Provisions, uncover Postnuptial and cohabitation agreements, share some horror stories of Prenuptial Failures and maybe even convince you Prenups are Romantic.