Consider These 4 Things Before Divorce

Deciding to divorce your spouse is a significant decision that should never be made without taking the time to think through all of your options. While divorcing is a very stressful time, it is critical to not move forward in haste. Before moving forward with the divorce paperwork, there are some important considerations and actions you should take ahead of time.

Divorce vs. legal separation

As a couple, you may want to consider doing a legal separation before filing for divorce. Filing for divorce will legally end your marriage, while a legal separation keeps the marriage intact while recognizing through legal agreements that you will be living apart. There are many reasons a couple might consider a legal separation over a divorce.

The main reason to consider legal separation is if you believe there is a chance to reconcile in the future. Legal separation will allow you to live separately with separate bank account etc. while still leaving the opportunity for you to work through your differences.

Health care is also another reason one might choose legal separation over divorce. In a legal separation, a spouse will be able to remain on the spouses’ healthcare because legally, they are still married.

Religion is another reason a couple may choose legal separation. Because many religions have strong beliefs when it comes to divorce, the couple can remain part of the church even though they are separated.

If one of you is in the military, you may want to legally separate until after ten years of marriage. After ten years of marriage, you or your spouse will benefit from the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act.

Similarly to military service, if you remain married for ten years, you will gain certain social security benefits that you would lose in the event of a divorce.

By separating legal, you will also be able to retain the tax benefits that you are eligible as a legally married couple.

Pull together important legal documents

The divorce process is stressful and will require a lot of paperwork. Before moving forward with the divorce,  it is best to gather all of your legal and financial documents together and make copies of everything. If you are prepared with the paperwork in advance, it will help streamline the process and remove some of the stress.

Make a plan for your finances Many people make the mistake of not understanding the cost of a divorce. You will need to hire an attorney, and if your divorce is complicated, you w

ill have a large amount of legal bills to pay. Also, you will need to adjust your spending to adjust to life as a one-income household. Putting a financial plan in place will make sure you are prepared when it comes time to file for divorce.

Put a plan in place to help the children through the process

If you have children and are planning on divorcing, it is critical that you put a plan in place to help them through the process. In addition to coming up with a custody plan that has the best interest of the child at heart, you may want to consider providing them with a counselor. Divorces are a very emotional process for kids, and speaking to a professional about their feelings can help them adjust.

New Tax Laws Impact Divorces Finalized In 2019

As you begin the process of completing your taxes, it’s important to stay on top of all the tax law changes so you don’t make any costly mistakes. If you were divorced in 2019, filing your taxes for the first time as a divorced individual can be intimidating. There were also several new laws that specifically impact this situation as well. The following will help you navigate through your taxes to ensure you complete them accurately for your new status.

Alimony Paid Is Not Deductible

In the past, if you were ordered to pay alimony to your former spouse, you were able to write that amount off as a tax deduction, reducing your earned income and creating a lower tax burden. This is no longer the case. The new laws that were enacted for the 2019 tax year state any alimony payments that were made after December 31, 2018, are no longer considered tax deductible. This stipulation was created to ensure the individual who makes the higher income would be appropriately taxed, rather than placing that tax burden on an individual who already has a limited income.

Received Alimony Is Not Taxed

On the reverse side, if you are paid alimony by your former spouse, you will no longer be required to claim it as income. This means you won’t be taxed on it. Instead, the person who paid the alimony wlil be responsible for carrying the tax burden. After all, alimony is typically set in place to ensure an individual is able to maintain a reasonable standard of living after a divorce. If these individuals are then taxed on that money, it can create an undue burden on them.

Child Tax Deductions Have Changed

The new tax law also changes how children are handled when it comes to filing taxes. A child tax credit is now used to offset taxes owed for parents who claim the child as a dependent, rather than making children an exemption. Only one parent will be able to claim a child as a dependent. This is usually the parent with whom the child has lived a greater percentage of the year. However, it’s important to review your final divorce decree regarding this issue because many couples choose alternative arrangements for claiming a child, such as dividing the children between parents if there is more than one child or alternating claiming years.

Other Notes

There are a few other things to keep in mind when it comes to filing your taxes for the first time as a divorced individual. First and foremost, if your separate or divorce was finalized at any time in 2019, you will need to file your taxes as a single individual or head of household if you are claiming dependents. It doesn’t matter how late in the year your divorce was finalized. Also, child support can never be considered a deduction on your taxes. It is also not taxable income for the individual who receives it.

Understanding tax law changes can be complicated, but it’s important to make sure you know what you’re doing so you don’t end up misfiling your taxes and experiencing problems. If you’re unsure what you need to do to file your taxes as a divorced individual, it’s often best to work with an experienced tax professional who can guide you through the process and ensure you don’t make any mistakes that could cost you financially in the long run.

How Joint Families Can Stay Peaceful This Holiday Season

Joining two families into one is a difficult process in and of itself. However, when the holidays come around, it can become even more stressful as you try to balance time with all the families involved. Where married couples usually only have to deal with two sides of the family, those who are in a blended family situation may find themselves dealing with four sides of a family or possibly even more. The following tips will help you enjoy the holiday season and help keep the peace so there are fewer hard feelings.

Set Up Clear Plans Ahead of Time

The best way to make sure there are fewer arguments during the holiday season and you’re able to keep the peace more easily is to set up clear plans ahead of time so everyone knows exactly what to expect. Make sure you put all plans in writing and send it to all parties involved, so they have a paper trail of what will happen and when. This avoids any confusion and ensures everyone knows what the schedule will be for the holidays. This is particularly useful if the plans change each year due to custody schedules and alternating holidays.

Keep a Positive Attitude

It can be difficult to stay positive when it feels like the situation is going wrong. However, when you keep a positive attitude about the holidays and the events that occur surrounding them, you stand an even greater chance of enjoying the holidays. In addition, a negative attitude is catching. If someone is being overly negative, it’s easy to bring down the mood of everyone else around them.

Mix Old and New Traditions

If you are new to blended families, it can be difficult to maintain traditions. It’s likely that each side of the family has their own traditions they would like to uphold. While it’s not easy to keep all of them and sometimes you need to cut some out, it’s essential to make sure you keep some of them. However, it’s also essential to start some new traditions that reflect the new setup in your family. Creating a good mix of old and new traditions is a great way to keep everyone involved and maintains a more positive outlook.

Involve the Kids

It can be difficult to figure out what is best for the kids when you’re in a blended family situation. While you will need to make many of the final decisions on your own, it’s essential to include the kids in the conversation. Talk to them and find out what traditions mean the most to them and what they expect from the holiday season. Keep this information in mind as you make the plans for your holidays, so your children still feel like they are an important part of the family.

Having a blended family can be complex, especially when it comes to determining what to do and who to visit during the holiday season. However, this doesn’t mean you have to settle for a miserable holiday season. In fact, if you follow these tips, communicate openly and make your plans well in advance, you may find celebrating holidays with family is just as enjoyable as ever, if not more so.

Tips on Building a Relationship With Your Stepchildren

Blending families is extremely complex. While you may look at something like the Brady Bunch and think it’s easy to bring two families together into one, the truth of the matter is often much different. It takes a lot of time and dedication from all parties to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible. If you’re facing this type of situation, the following tips will hep you build a better relationship with your stepchildren to create harmony in the household and keep everyone on the same page.

Take Your Time

A good relationship with your stepchildren isn’t going to happen overnight. In many cases, the children haven’t fully healed from the experience and bringing someone new into their lives may bring old feelings back to the surface, especially if they were holding onto the hope their parents would get back together. Watch their cues and follow their lead when it comes to interactions to achieve the best results.

Keep Changes to a Minimum

Children go through a lot of life-changing events during a divorce. This can include the obvious adjustment to only living with one parent at a time, as well as other changes like moving into a new house or even going to a different school. Even though children are resilient, going through all of these changes can be difficult. Adding in a new stepparent is just one more thing they have to deal with. Keeping any other changes to a minimum will help make the transition much easier.

Don’t Expect Love at First Sight

You may not like your stepchildren at first, and they may not like you. However, this doesn’t mean all is lost. It’s important to take your time and get to know each other. Eventually, affection will develop and you will even come to love each other as family.

Make Parenting Decisions Before Marriage

When both parties entering a marriage already have children from past relationships, there can often be a clash of parenting styles. For this reason, you will find things go much more smoothly if you talk about how you will parent separately and together before you get married. Set the boundaries for what each parent is responsible for and how issues will be handled. This ensures there are fewer arguments over these matters, allowing you to present a united front with the children.

Demand Respect

One of the biggest issues many individuals encounter in their role as a stepparent is trying too hard to be friends with your stepchildren. While it’s important to be someone they can turn to, talk to and rely on, it’s also important to make sure they know you deserve respect, just like their natural parents. You are still a person in authority and need to be respected. This is especially important if the children are having difficulty accepting you into the family. They don’t have to like you, but they do have to show you respect.

Keep Reasonable Expectations

While everyone wants a good relationship with their stepchildren, you need to keep your expectations reasonable. After all, some children see the introduction of a stepparent as a replacement for the absent parent, even if that parent still plays an important role in their lives. When you approach the development of your relationship with reasonable expectations, there is a much lower chance of being disappointed in the end.

It’s not always easy to be a stepparent, but if you follow these tips and take the right steps, you can set a solid foundation on which you can build a positive relationship, adding another important role model to their lives. In the end, you aren’t replacing their other parent; instead, you are an addition to their growing family who will also help support them.

Handling Your Stress Through a Divorce

One of the most stressful experiences a person can go through is a divorce. It’s not what you expected to happen and suddenly you find yourself heading to court. This turbulent time requires you to have coping skills that will help you confidently get through court proceedings while keeping your stress level manageable.

Not only will you feel better during the divorce proceedings when you manage stress, you will also have a chance to help determine the outcome of the case. A divorce can take anywhere from six months to two years or longer. During this time, you need to be on top of your game. If you haven’t started hitting the gym, now is the time. Exercise is proven to help reduce stress, which is turn helps you get control over your negative thoughts and emotions. It’s also important to understand the court proceedings before they happen, as well as all your options. For example, you can opt for mediation rather than going to court to help expedite the divorce and manage stress at the same time.

Read on to learn about some more tips and strategies to manage your stress during a divorce.

Prioritize your Health

To present the best possible you, especially during proceedings that include child custody, you need to prioritize your mental, physical, and emotional health. You need to be calm and cool at all times, especially when under pressure. You will need to make important decisions that will affect the rest of your life and your children’s lives. Avoid substance abuse. Self-medicating may seem to help stress at the moment, but it will drag you down and you’ll end up feeling more stress and anxiety than you previously felt. If you have a weakness for alcohol or drugs, seek professional support to help you through this time.

Ask for Help

The household still needs to be managed during a divorce. There’s laundry, housecleaning, grocery shopping, extra-curricular activities, homework, and plenty of other things that need to be done. When you’re going through a divorce and it’s only you to get these things done, your stress level will go up. That’s why it’s important to ask friends and family for help during this difficult time. Reach out to neighbors, friends, coworkers, church members, and anyone else you can think of to help keep routines and life going as normally as possible.

Create a Budget

Suddenly, your household budget is cut in half  and you have the added expense of divorce hanging over your head. You’ll need to pay for attorneys, child custody evaluators, private mediators, or any other professionals involved in the case. The judge can also order temporary spousal maintenance or child support. Additionally, the court can order one or both spouses to handle the bills, including the mortgage, electricity, and more. To keep your household financially healthy, create a monthly budget that includes basic living expenses, such as rent, food, telephone, utility bills, vehicle expenses, internet, and other expenses. Money is going to be tight, so be conservative with your spending. Divorce is stressful enough without having to be chased by creditors or having to declare bankruptcy.

Hurtful Testimony? Stay Composed

Your spouse or someone else may testify against you in a negative light, however, you must keep your composure during these testimonies. If you were to exhibit and uncontrolled outburst, this will look bad to the judge and undermine your custody dispute. Instead, leave it to your attorney to handle the matter in the right way. This will help determine the outcome of the case.

Have a Plan

If there is the possibility of domestic violence occurring during the divorce and/or child custody hearings, it’s important to have a plan to keep you and your family safe. If you believe there is a threat, consider an order of protection. Your attorney will help you obtain this. You may also want to consider staying with family or friends or moving to a new home, if possible.

Work with a Reputable Attorney

You need someone on your team to help be your voice during this stressful time. Someone to guide and support you. At The Sampair Group, we have handled hundreds of divorce cases, and we can handle yours, too. To help minimize the stress of a divorce, you need the right attorney. Give our team a call today at 6234-777-3926.

Who Can Serve Divorce Papers in Arizona?

If you have filed a motion to open a child support, paternity, or custody case, it’s then your responsibility, rather than the courts, to provide notice to the child’s other parent. Due to the significance of this type of proceeding, it is no shock that there are strict rules related to how the other parent […]

Does Getting a Divorce in Arizona Affect Your Credit Score?

Divorce is a very serious and disruptive experience in anyone’s life that can change everything. During this time, you will have to adjust your entire living situation, consider all your assets, and think about the effects the divorce can have on your credit score. Also, all debts, regardless of if they are separate or marital will have to be settled after you have split up.

If you don’t have enough information on the situation or if you don’t plan ahead of time, a divorce may wind up impacting your credit score negatively. Keep reading to learn more.

How Can Divorce Impact Your Credit Score?

While there are quite a few people who understand that the dissolution of their marriage can impact their credit rating, they don’t exactly know how. While the divorce itself will not cause your score to lower, splitting up with someone can cause financial problems. Some specific things that may impact your credit rating after a divorce include:

Getting Behind on Your Bills

Life is something that comes with many expenses and during a divorce it is easy to get behind on payments due, which can impact your credit rating. By communicating with your ex-spouse in a civil manner about the bills can be both troublesome and stressful. In most cases, you are going to be impacted more if you made less than your former spouse.

Community Property Laws

Arizona is considered a community property state. What this means is that all the property that you gathered during the course of a marriage belongs to both you and your partner after a divorce. With community property, this means that if your partner took a loan out while you were married, it may also count toward your debt. If you can’t afford this and aren’t able to make the required payments, then you may be sued by the lender, which can result in a reduced credit score.

An Unpaid Joint Account

Chances are, if you were married, then you probably had a joint account with your spouse as well as a shared car loan, mortgage, credit card, or something similar. Even if you have no plans to stay with your spouse, you are still required to take care of any debts you have. Also, if your ex opts not to pay the bill, this may hurt your credit score.

If you get a divorce, then the decree will designate who is over every account. For example, you may have to cover the electric bill and credit card payments while your ex-spouse needs to cover the car loan and mortgage. However, if your ex does not pay or if they make a late payment, this will impact each of your credit ratings. The best way to handle this is by planning ahead and closing any joint accounts or transferring them to one person or another.

Vindictive Spending

When a divorce is amicable, there are some spouses who opt to punish their partner by using a credit card and accumulating more debt. If they have the legal authorization to use the card, they are able to do this with no consequences, all while your credit is ruined. One way to avoid this issue is to never add your spouse as an authorized user, or remove then quickly.

Tips to Protect Your Credit While Getting Divorced

There are several things you can do to help protect your credit score while getting a divorce. These include:

  • Close all joint accounts
  • Watch your spouse’s spending
  • Resist unnecessary spending
  • Maintain records
  • Pay off your debts

If you want to ensure your divorce doesn’t impact your credit score, use the tips here. You can also call the team at The Sampair Group at 623-777-3926 to learn more.

Paying Off Child Support Early in Arizona

Do you have just a couple years left to pay child support before your dependent turns eighteen? If so, paying off child support in one lump sum may sound appealing. By paying off your child support early, you won’t have to worry about the monthly payments anymore or having money withheld from your paycheck. Sound convinced?

Hold on a minute. The fact is that most attorneys advise against paying off child support early. This is because when the state of Arizona is involved, it typically does not go along with the deal, even if both parents are ready to sign the papers. States are reluctant to have child support paid off before the dependent turns eighteen because child support can be modified at any time, meaning the payment could be increased or reduced. Also, you need to consider that your financial situation may change in the future and that money you used to pay off child support is something you could really use.

Child Support Law Arizona

Child support is paid until the child reaches the age of eighteen. However, if he or she is still in high school at this time, the child support continues until he or she graduates or turns nineteen, whichever happens first. Also, if the child has a disability, the state may require child support be paid past the age of eighteen. Payments are determined by the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. These consist of factors that are considered when determining obligation. The most important obligation the state takes into account is the current financial needs of both the child and custodial parent. Once an amount is decided upon, this is formalized in court with a child support agreement.

Unless otherwise arranged in a divorce decree, child support payments are typically gained through income withholding. The state will collect child support payments through your employer and in turn pay the parent who is caring for the child. While this can sometimes create tension with an employer, he or she is obligated to comply and can not fire you due to the withholding.

Written Agreement for Paying off Child Support

If the state is not involved in your child support payments, you have the right to pay off the support in one lump sum that reflects the child’s current support obligation. You will need to reach an agreement with the custodial parent while keeping the best interests of the child in the forefront. It’s best to work with an attorney when writing up a draft agreement, which should include the following provisions:

  • The payment is for child support and is not a gift
  • The payment is a lump sum that intends to pay off your child support obligations in full
  • The agreement will contain the current payments, months remaining, total owed, and total paid

These provisions must be clear and concise so there is no confusion on the part of everyone involved. All parties must sign the agreement and issue the payoff check to the clearinghouse. Never give the check to the custodial parent as this could be misconstrued as a gift rather than child support payment. It’s also important to keep a record of the payment on file.

If, however, the state of Arizona is part of the child support case, it will need to sign off on the agreement. That probably won’t happen. The state would rather continue collecting monthly payments through income withholding since your original child support agreement could change at anytime in the future.

When a Child Support Agreement is Modified

If a parent has experienced a change in circumstances, the state of Arizona has the right to modify the child support order. These circumstance may include:

  • A major change in a parent’s health insurance coverage
  • Loss of employment
  • Substantial pay decrease

This does not include a parent quitting or getting fired from their job, however.

The biggest con of paying off child support early is the possibility of the order being modified in the future. When you pay child support in full, you are no longer able to modify or terminate the agreement. However, by keeping that lump sum in the bank, you know you have access to monthly payments and have a lump sum tucked away in case you need it. To learn more about your child support case, contact the team at The Sampair Group today. We can be reached at 623-777-3926.

Mental Health in Divorce

If you’ve found yourself in the situation of divorcing a mentally ill spouse, especially if children are involved, you’ll need to research all your options. You or your spouse may be the one initiating the divorce. Either way, do not leave the outcome up to chance. You’ll need an experienced lawyer to help you through these muddy waters.

Arizona is a no-fault state, which means that the court can grant a divorce no matter who or what is at fault. Also, when it comes to child custody cases, mental illness plays a large role regarding custody, alimony, and divorce in general.

Grounds for Divorce

You do not need a specific reason for filing for divorce in Arizona. However, you may still be requested to submit a reason or circumstance. For example, if your spouse has been seeking treatment in a mental institution for one or several years, then your reason for getting a divorce will clearly be mental illness on the part of your spouse. In other cases, a judge can actually deem a divorce as “at fault” if, for example, your spouse has committed a serious crime, has drug or alcohol dependency, or has a mental illness.

Can I Void my Marriage?

In some cases, yes. This is especially true for cases of mental illness. Your spouse may have married while not understanding what they were doing and the court finds this reason enough to void your marriage. Another reason to annul a marriage is if your spouse was intoxicated at the time of the ceremony and was unable to understand the implications.

Mental Health and Child Custody

When children are involved in a divorce, this is often the biggest concern on a parent’s mind. Unlike in the past, custody is not automatically given to the mother or the parent who is more financially stable.  In Arizona, the court will take into consideration multiple factors when determining child custody. This oftentimes includes the health of the parents, including mental health.

Determining Custodial Rights

If one parent has mental health issues, this not does automatically exclude them from custodial rights. Many parents with mental illness continue to have nurturing and positive relationships with their children. If however, a mental illness prevents a parent from caring for a child, this will be seriously considered by the courts in Arizona. The judge may also look at the implications of hardship for the child if they need to move, as well as the employment situation and the amount of time the parent has available to care for the child.

Terminating Parental Rights

There are cases where a parent with a mental illness loses their custodial rights. A spouse, concerned family member, or anyone else, like a doctor or agency, has the right to request the court terminate a parent’s custodial rights due to a mental illness. When this happens, the termination is permanent so the circumstances must be extreme. The child must be at serious risk of mental, emotional, or physical neglect or abuse. Furthermore, if a parent has a history of abusing drugs or alcohol, the court may deem this reason enough to terminate parental rights. When a child is removed from a home, the court does everything in their power to reconcile the family relationship. However, if the parent’s mental illness is severe, the reunification attempt may prove fruitless.

Arizona Family Reunification

Reunification of families is undertaken by the Arizona Department of Child Safety. They create a plan and conduct background checks on all adults in the household. If reunification is successful, the organization will continue to monitor the situation to help avoid the child being separated from the parent again.

Alimony and Mental Health

Alimony is given to a spouse who can not afford to support themselves after a divorce. These benefits are given to spouses who are unemployed, suffer from a mental illness, or who qualify for disability. If the spouse’s mental illness does not qualify them for disability, the court can decide if the other spouse needs to financially support the mentally disabled spouse.

Mental Illness and Incapacitation

In cases where a spouse is incapacitated due to a mental illness, the court can appoint a guardian to represent them. This guardian has the same kind of duties and rights that a guardian would have over a child. If a divorce is proceeding, the guardian has the right to request alimony on behalf of the incapacitated spouse.

Getting a Divorce in Arizona

If you’re considering pursuing a divorce in Arizona due, you must have lived in the state for at least 90 days. You will also need to file a petition for the divorce with the Clerk of the Superior Court. If you’re dealing with a spouse with mental illness, the divorce can be more complex. This is the time to consult an attorney. The team at The Sampair Group can help you with this. Contact us today at 623-777-3926.

Eight Conversations That Are Essential After Divorce

Once the ink on your divorce decree has dried and you have given yourself the time needed to move past the pain of divorce, it might be time to start dating again. For many the idea of getting back “out there” after divorce is scary, because the fear of history repeating itself is great. No doubt going through a divorce takes a toll; physically, emotionally, and financially. And, in most cases the entire family is impacted by the news that divorce is imminent. In order to take positive steps after divorce, it is important to look at your marriage and divorce process, and see where change can be made.

A big part in identifying areas of opportunity for growth lies in being honest with yourself about your expectations. If you have begun dating again, sharing these thoughts with a new romantic partner is essential. Eight conversations you should have after divorce, if you want to avoid going down that road again in the future, include:

  • Be honest about your shortcomings, so you can hold yourself accountable for your actions; past, present, and future.
  • Be honest about your ex’s shortcomings, which includes being able to articulate good points about your former spouse. If you are able to find good in your ex, you will be better equipped to find good in yourself as well as a new mate, despite any flaws.
  • Talk about how to handle disagreements, and commit yourself to being open and honest, while remaining fair.
  • Have a clear picture of your financial goals, and make sure any new love interest shares those goals. It has been said money is the number one cause of divorce, and tackling this sensitive topic early on can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
  • If you have children, make plans to include them in your new life with your new partner. If your new partner has kids, make sure those children are also included. Blending families can be tricky, but does not have to be impossible.
  • If you are blending a family, get on the same page about discipline and other important parenting issues.
  • Stand up for yourself when necessary.
  • Talk about the type of future you want, and come up with a plan to reach your goals together.

If you have been through a divorce and are considering remarrying, or have just begun a new relationship, it is important that history not repeat itself. However, life does have a way of being unpredictable, even when best efforts are given. If you are considering divorce for the first, or a subsequent time, call us for help.

For more information about divorce, 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.