Estate Plans and Divorce

Your divorce will divide your assets and debts and create a parenting plan. A divorce cannot alter your estate planning, so this is an additional step you need to take once you are divorced. There are a number of unfortunate cases in other states in which people failed to change beneficiaries or proxies after divorce and died with old plans in place. Follow these steps to make sure you are protected.

  • Create a new will. Most married couples name each other as beneficiaries in their wills. While most state laws invalidate those bequests after a divorce, it is best to create a new will so that you can choose who your beneficiaries actually will be. Make sure your new will is executed properly and kept in a safe place so it can be located. Destroy all copies of your married will.
  • Update your living trust. If you created a living trust (commonly used to avoid probate), you will need to alter your beneficiaries and trustees if your ex was one of them. A revocable living trust can be altered at any time. If you created an irrevocable living trust, you will need to see your estate attorney.
  • Change life insurance beneficiaries. It is common to name your spouse as your beneficiary for life insurance. The only way to change this is in writing with the insurance company. Contact them immediately to get the appropriate form and file it as soon as possible. If your divorce decree orders you to keep life insurance in place for the benefit of your children or former spouse, check with your attorney about your responsibilities.
  • Create a new health care power of attorney. You and your spouse probably named each other in your health care power of attorneys to have authority in health decisions. You will need to create a new document and choose someone else to make those decisions for you.
  • Update living wills. Your living will may also need to be updated if it named your spouse as having responsibility for decision-making.

Divorce is a difficult time. Talk with an attorney who understands your concerns. The Sampair Group services all of Maricopa County and our attorneys are ready to discuss your options with you today.

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Alimony

Alimony is often misunderstood. Here are some things you might not know about it.

  1. In Arizona, alimony is called spousal support. The term is used to more accurately reflect the purpose of these payments. Alimony is a word that has developed a negative connotation so the choice of words affects how the parties react to the payments.
  2. Spousal support is not meant to punish one of the spouses. There are some states in which it can be used in this way, but in Arizona, spousal support is not used to punish a spouse for bad behavior, such as infidelity.
  3. The purpose of spousal support is to help the spouse with fewer assets become self-sufficient. The payments are to be made while the non-moneyed spouse obtains the education, training, or experience necessary to become self-supporting.
  4. Spousal support is usually set up to last for a specific period of time. The court evaluates how long it will take the non-moneyed spouse to become self-sufficient and establishes payments for that time period. In very rare cases when a spouse is disabled or is very elderly spousal support may be set to last for that person’s lifetime.
  5. Spousal support has tax implications. The spouse who receives support payments must report it as income. The spouse who pays it can take it as a deduction on taxes.
  6. Spousal support can be set up as regular payments for a period of time, or it can be paid in a one-time lump sum. Lump sum payments must be characterized specifically as spousal support if they are to be considered alimony for tax purposes.

The Sampair Group represents men and women in divorce and family law cases in Maricopa County. Call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys today.

Court-Ordered Health Insurance After a Divorce

When going through a divorce, you may be wondering if you and your dependents can remain on your spouse’s health insurance during and after the divorce. This is an important factor to consider during your divorce. Laws regarding this vary from state to state.  However, in Arizona spouses and children do have the right to remain on the other party’s insurance plan during the divorce. This is a protected right and one that can be sought through a preliminary injunction that will prevent your spouse from removing you and your children from their health insurance policy. If your spouse were to drop you and your children from the plan prior to submitting a preliminary injunction, you can then seek a court order to be reinstated.

Keep in mind, however, that when it comes to health insurance you are treading muddy waters once the divorce is finalized. While Arizona law ensures that dependent children will remain on the health insurance plan, the spouse will likely be dropped and need to find alternative health coverage. Your spouse may agree to keep you on their plan but the insurance company has the right to drop you once the divorce is final. Furthermore, if the health insurance plan is sponsored by an employer, by law they have no obligation to continue to pay the premiums associated with your health coverage. All in all, the health insurance provider can insist you are dropped from the plan all together.

No matter if your spouse has the intention of applying for insurance through healthcare exchanges, joining an employer plan at their place of work, or converting to a new policy with the same provider, the health insurance premiums should be addressed during the divorce. In some cases, the spouse who is the primary financial provider will be required to pay for their spouse’s health insurance for a period.

Who Covers Health Insurance Costs after a Divorce?

Oftentimes, a divorce that occurs within a single-income household requires the spouse with employment to pay for the ex-spouse’s health insurance until this spouse remarries. However, many households today are considered dual income, meaning there is no guarantee of getting health care costs covered by an ex-spouse. In fact, in this case each party could end up being responsible for acquiring and paying for their own health insurance and premiums once the divorce is final. The outcome depends on the particulars of each divorce case.

Utilize an Experienced Divorce Attorney

Because of the complex issues associated with health insurance, it’s important to work with an experienced divorce attorney to get the results you want. You should never count on your ex-spouse to fulfill your health insurance needs. He or she could agree to do this and then change their pledge. For this reason, you must make health insurance a priority during divorce negotiations and come to an agreement in writing. Once the divorce is final, you can seek a court order to enforce the agreement, which will hold your ex-spouse accountable to what they agreed upon during the divorce proceedings.

What are Health Insurance Coverage Orders?

During the divorce proceedings, when you are crafting the terms of health coverage, it’s important to consider contingencies. These can include how much your ex-spouse must pay toward your premiums and how long they will pay for this. Also, be sure to address who will pay for higher premium costs if this should arise. In addition, you need to plan for unemployment, job changes, and the changing of insurance providers. If your spouse breaks the agreement solidified during the divorce, the court will not seek out your ex-spouse on their own. This is something you need to do with the help of an attorney.

Modifying the Agreement or Court Order

Life changes and you need to be prepared for this. It is possible that a change may occur that would require you to amend the settlement agreement or court order. This can be done with the consent of both parties. However, if you and your ex-spouse are unable to reach an agreement during the negotiations, you have the right to file a court order and bring the issue in front of a judge.

Loss of Health Insurance after a Divorce

The thought of losing your health insurance due to a divorce can be stressful. However, it is easy to obtain health insurance today, especially when children are involved. Health insurance providers consider a divorce a qualifying life event that makes you eligible for a special enrollment period. In fact, by law, you have 60 days to join a new health insurance plan once you go through a life changing event such as a divorce. This gives you plenty of time to find a new health insurance provider while you are still covered. To start with, look to your employer for new health coverage. If a policy is not available, you can go through the healthcare exchanges that have been put in place by the Affordable Care Act. These government plans, such as Medicare, are an alternative option for health coverage for you and any dependents.

In some cases, a health insurance provider will convert a married or family policy into an individual policy. If you are happy with your health insurance provider, remaining with then after the divorce is an option. Call your health insurance provider to see if they allow this change. In some cases, they may be willing to keep your children on the policy and then put you on an individual policy.

You may also need to consider COBRA insurance – the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. This act allows you to remain on your health insurance policy while you look for a new one. The downside to this, however, is cost. You may have to pay the entire premium each month, which can be much higher than what you or your spouse is paying now.

To learn more about keeping you and your dependents covered under a health insurance policy during and after a divorce, contact the experts at The Sampair Group today. Our team can be reached at 623-777-3926.

Three Steps To Coming Up With A Workable Visitation Schedule

As every parent knows, you can’t split a child in half. This means when a couple divorces, a workable child custody and parenting time schedule must be put in place. Gone are the days where mothers were granted sole custody with fathers being given visitation every other weekend, a few holidays, and a couple of weeks during the summer break from school. In today’s world, parents are sharing time equally with their children and participating in co-parenting activities at an increasing rate.

The Arizona statutes set forth the rules and procedures that are used in every divorce case. There are provisions regarding property distribution, powers of the Court, and all things relating to your kids. The laws are long and complex, but a quick three steps to coming up with a custody and visitation schedule that works includes:

  • Considering the preference of the child. This is appropriate when dealing with older, more mature children.
  • Taking a look at the ability of the custodial parent to provide for the financial needs of the kids.
  • Accounting for any special needs of the children, whether physically or emotionally.

In some cases both parents are equally qualified to provide care for the kids so the Court might enter an order of joint custody. Doing so will eliminate the need for payment of child support, since both parents are giving equal time to the children. When joint custody is not a possibility, liberal visitation is typically granted. When the parties work together to make decisions regarding important issues for their kids’ welfare the result is a happier, healthier child and a more harmonious living environment for everyone.

If you have questions about child custody and visitation, consult a qualified legal professional. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and the West Valley today to schedule your appointment.

Divorce and Social Security

Even after you are divorced, you may still qualify for the same Social Security benefits as a spouse would.

There are several requirements you must meet in order to get Social Security benefits from your former spouse:

  • The marriage must have lasted for a minimum of 10 years
  • You must be at least 62 years old
  • You must be currently unmarried and not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own work record
  • Your ex-spouse must be at the age for which they are eligible to receive their own retirement or disability benefits. If they are in fact eligible but have not claimed their benefits, this does not impact you as long as you have been divorced for a minimum of two years.

If you have remarried and your second spouse is deceased, you will qualify to claim benefits from either your first spouse or your second spouse, so long as each marriage meets the previous requirements. You can collect these benefits as early as age 60 as a divorced spouse surviving. If you are disabled, you can collect benefits as early as age 50.

Typically, the spouse seeking Social Security benefits from their former spouse will receive one-half of their retirement benefits. If they die before the spouse requesting benefits, they will receive full retirement benefits. The amount you receive is also affected by the full retirement age of the spouse getting the benefits.

For more information on getting Social Security benefits from a former spouse, seek the help of a Phoenix family law attorney at The Sampair Group. We will work diligently with you to determine your rights after a divorce and how you receive the benefits you deserve.

How to Write a Parenting Plan

Creating a parenting plan may feel like a daunting task, particularly if you and your ex don’t agree. The parenting plan is absolutely essential as it lays out your rights and responsibilities as you move forward and sets up a framework that allows your child to have a relationship and time with both of you.

Keep in mind that your parenting plan should detail all of your agreements about how you will share time with your child, so make sure everything is in writing.

When you first begin to consider how to organize your time, take a look at your schedules, where you live, where your child goes to school, and the activities your child has. It often makes sense to write out everyone’s schedule on a calendar so you can really see how it looks. You can maximize your respective time with your child by scheduling parenting time at times when you are each the most available. Having time while your child is at school or you are at work benefits neither you nor your child.

Try to minimize transfers if possible. Transporting your child back and forth becomes tiring for everyone, so longer times with each parent can help decrease that craziness. Make your lives easier by specifying exact transfer times and exactly how much leeway is going to be allowed. Set up a system for making changes to the plan and specify how changes must be requested and how far in advance.

Your parenting plan will affect your life and that of your child for many years to come, so it’s important to get it done right. The Sampair Group offers experienced help in creating parenting plans in the Glendale, Mesa, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Phoenix areas of Arizona. Call us now to make an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys.

Understanding QDROs

Retirement accounts and pension plans are an important part of the community property division in a divorce.  If either you or your spouse have an employer pension plan that was added to during your marriage, it is a marital asset and community property, even if only one spouse’s name is actually on the account. This asset is divided in the divorce, but divvying it up is much more complex than simply splitting up a bank account or changing the title on a car. Because the money in these accounts generally cannot be transferred by the owner’s request, there is a complex process that must take place to be able to move the funds out and give them to the other spouse as part of the divorce settlement or order.

To access the funds in the account that you and your spouse or a judge has decided should be transferred, your attorney must prepare a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, called a QDRO (pronounced “quadro”). This document must be prepared to meet the specifications of the individual pension plan or account. The court signs the order and it is sent to the company that manages and administers the account. If the document meets the requirements set up by the Administrator of the Plan being divided, the funds can be transferred to an account for the receiving spouse. In other words the receiving spouse now has a “sub-account” in the ex-spouse’s Plan, in her name. She is restricted by the same rules as the Plan Participant when it comes to withdrawing the money. Occasionally the Plan will allow the receiving spouse to roll her share of the Plan into a Rollover IRA account. Talk to your attorney to get details about QDROs and whether one is needed in your case.  Your attorney can also advise you as to the actions you need to take if you receive QDRO funds to avoid tax issues.

The Sampair Group handles complex financial divorces in Maricopa County, Arizona. Our office is conveniently located to serve you and is ready to take your call. Make an appointment now.

Child Relocation in Arizona

Following a divorce that involves a child or children, the custodial parents may wish to relocate with the children. By Arizona state law, the court cannot keep a custodial parent from relocating, but a compromise can be difficult to negotiate between parents when visitation rights will be affected. As a result, these cases are typically resolved in court.

Many child custody orders require that both parents live in the same state. However, the custodial parent has the right to request relocation for a child, as long as the reasons for relocation are legitimate and in the best interest of the child. Child relocation is often granted in situations that involve the custodial parent getting a new job or remarrying.

If both parents already live in the same state and share custody, the parent that wants to relocate with the child more than 100 miles from their current residence must provide written notice 60 days in advance of a projected move. The non-custodial parent then has a 30-day window to decline the request. If they object, they must file a formal objection with the court, where a judge will set a hearing with both parents present to decide if the move is in the best interest of the child. If there is no response to the written notice, the court will assume that there is no objection, and will grant relocation, given that all reasons for relocation are valid in opinion of a judge. During this process, child custody agreements, child support payments, and visitation will be re-litigated.

Before approving relocation, the court must make specific findings and relevant factors that solidify that the relocation is being decided in the best interest of the child. The parent who wants to relocate has the legal burden of proving what is in the child’s best interest.

Examples of factors that the court will consider include:

  • Reasons that the custodial parent wants to relocate (employment, family support, etc.)
  • How the move will impact the child educationally and emotionally
  • How the move will affect the other parent’s ability to visit the child

If you need representation in a family law dispute, contact an experience Phoenix Family Law attorney at The Sampair Group today to get a decision made in your favor.

Helping Your Child Through the Short-Term Effects of Divorce

 

No matter their age, each child is affected by divorce. While the long-term effects of divorce can hurt a child, it is important to be considerate of your child’s feelings and how they are being impacted by the changes happening around them. Helping your children cope with the short-term effects of divorce can make it easier for them to understand why this is happening and prevent them from being too affected by the long-term effects in the future.

  • Be very honest and open with your child about what is happening. If a child does not understand the situation fully, they might feel guilty or responsible for the divorce. Explain to them what is happening and why, without putting blame on the other parent or talking bad about them. Do not pressure your child to form opinions about your spouse or take sides.
  • Despite going through a divorce, both parents must work together to help their child or children cope. Let them know that even though there are circumstantial changes happening in the family, they can still have healthy relationships with each parent. Reassure them that they are still loved equally by each of you. Help them prepare for upcoming changes, such as one parent moving somewhere else or a certain visitation schedule that is a result of the separation. It is better that they have a clear understanding of future changes so they are not caught off guard.
  • See the divorce from your child’s point of view. Acknowledge that they are experiencing many new feelings and may not know how to react or deal with them. Listen and be patient with your child when they express these feelings to you, and work with them on positive ways to deal with the confusion around them, such as keeping busy with school or activities such as sports or other hobbies.
  • Keep discussions between you and your spouse private. Your child does not need to be a messenger between the two of you, nor do they need to be involved in your fights. Work hard to get along with each other when you are around your children, and try your best to agree or compromise on matters that involve them.
  • The well being of your children should be your top priority. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of the divorce, but it is most important that your child is not neglected in the process. Stay involved with what is going on in your child’s life outside of the divorce: school, friends, sports, etc.

The advice of a divorce attorney can provide you with the guidance you need to make the best decisions for you and your family during a divorce. Keep your child’s well being a priority by seeking the assistance of a divorce attorney that will help you make the best decisions for visitation, child support, and custody.

The Five Parts Of A Good Parenting Plan

One of the hardest issues to resolve in a divorce is how parents interact with their kids and one another after the case is over. The Courts strive to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children, but sometimes it can be difficult to make that determination. This is because every case is different, and the needs of every child is different. In order to offer some consistency the Courts require the parties come up with a parenting plan to follow. The parenting plan is like a blueprint for what to do with the kids after the divorce, and in order to develop a plan that works several key ingredients must be included.

A parenting plan that works is one that allows the kids to spend time with both parents, so familial relationships continue to grow and flourish. Five parts of a good parenting plan include thinking about the following:

  • Whether the kids have a preference when it comes to where they will live and what the visitation schedule will include. This is appropriate if the children are older and can express a preference in these areas.
  • How close the parents live to each other, and how easy or difficult it is to get the kids back and forth between homes.
  • How well the parents communicate with each other.
  • Whether there are any special needs for the kids, physically or emotionally.
  • How the entire family, including extended family is impacted. It is a good idea to take into account the type of relationship kids have with grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and any step siblings.

Coming up with a plan that is best for the kids and that the parents can stick to is challenging. There are bound to be times where a deviation from the schedule is needed, and it is important for the parties to work together to be accommodating. But if a requested change seems unreasonable or the plan presented does not make sense, it is time to advocate for something different. We can help by presenting your needs to the Court and arguing for a plan that makes sense. For more information about how to come up with a parenting plan that will be best for your children, call our office today.

For more information about divorce and parenting plans, contact us for an appointment today. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call The Sampair Group in Phoenix and the West Valley today to schedule your initial visit.