Posts

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.

Am I divorced or married this tax year? What is my tax filing status in year of divorce?

You are considered divorced if you took status as a single individual before December 31st of a given tax year .  You determine your tax filing status based on your marital status on the last day of the tax year, which is December 31 for most individuals.  Sometimes it actually makes sense to postpone your date of status until January 1st of the following year if it saves tax dollars.  You must agree with your former spouse to postpone the date of status and file married jointly but it may be worth it to both of you to reduce your tax bill during the period to offset legal fees from the divorce. It pays to be negotiable on tax issues. Wellspring Divorce Advisors can help you work with your spouse to determine the most advantageous filing status for your family in the year of your divorce.

We are posting lots of tax related items to the blog in honor of our upcoming speaking engagement at the California Society of Certified Public Accountants Annual Tax and Accounting Institute in San Diego November 18th. We are honored and looking forward to speaking to hundreds of CPA’s from across Southern California and giving them an overview of the many traps and opportunities inherent in the tax code during divorces.

Is Alimony Payment Tax Deductible

The general answer is yes but there are complications. Here is one of them.

Today a client asked if his Alimony (Spousal Support in California) payment was tax deductible for 2011 even if he is still technically married for tax purposes.

The answer is YES…..BUT.

Tax filing status is determined by marital status on December 31st of a given year so if he was still married on December 31st he generally (there are limited exceptions where it may be possible to claim Head of Household status) must file either Married Jointly or Married Separate. In order to deduct the alimony payments they must choose Married Separately. If the couple, now separated but not yet divorced, AGREE to both file Married Separately the alimony will be deductible to the payer and taxable to the payee. The BUT comes into play when you consider all of the other side effects of the Married Separate filing status. Consult your tax preparer for full details.

Divorce and Taxes: How they can affect your financial future

taxes, divorce financial analyst

Taxes are guaranteed to be a complication of every divorce financial settlement. Misunderstanding the tax code, even worse completely ignoring it, can have devastating effects on your financial future.

The errors get more costly and more common when estates and incomes get larger and people start getting creative. Negotiating a creative and mutually beneficial divorce financial settlement can be complicated when you have significant assets and income. Make sure you and your attorney have the help of a financial expert skilled and experienced in navigating the tax codes of divorce. Here are some common errors.

Exemptions

Failure to consider the value of dependency exemptions and filing status for income taxes. High earners are often phased out of using dependency exemptions, failure to negotiate the use post divorce could waste tax dollars.

 

Child Support

Not understanding the difference between child support and spousal support for tax purposes. Spousal support is taxable to the recipient, tax deductible for the payer.

 

Spousal Support

Structuring future changes in spousal support in close proximity to an event or mile-stone related to your children. This is also known as the Child Contingency rule and could cause tax deductible spousal support payments to be re-classified as non-deductible child support.

 

Attorney Fees

Failure to deduct attorney fees related to spousal support dispute as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. Yes your attorney fees are deductible to the extent they were incurred in the process of seeking tax advice or spousal support. You will need to ask your lawyer for an itemized break out of the litgiation costs. This can be incredibly valuable in protracted, expensive litigation.

 

IRS

Running afoul of Section 1041 of the internal revenue code. Section 1041 is the IRS code that allows spouses, married or divorcing, to transfer assets to one another without tax consequence. There are however rules to follow like how ling you have to complete a transaction.

 

Incorrect Assumptions

Assuming your CPA understands the tax code related to divorce. They can certainly look things up but it is a bad idea to assume your CPA understands the tax intricacies of divorce. The last time I spoke to a California Society of Certified Public Accountants group there were 200+ CPA’s in the room and 200+ questions after the presentation.

 

 

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.