Month: August 2012

Keeping Your Divorce Private

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, August 27, 2012.

In divorce, we are all concerned with keeping our personal lives as private as possible. And, there are some new rules Florida courts have adopted which help to protect us from disclosing sensitive information to the public. However, one thing the new rules can’t protect you from is yourself.

Posting negative things on Facebook, emailing and texting insults, and making destructive comments about your ex-spouse, or soon to be ex-spouse, can impact your children in many ways. It can create anxiety and insecurity. It can raise their level of fear. It can make them question how much they can trust you and your opinions – or trust themselves. And it can add a level of unhappiness into their lives that they do not need.

I raise this because I see this a lot in my own practice, and a recent article I read said it in a way that may resonate with some:

The typical break-up thought process goes like this: You see your friends. You start blabbing. You complain over and over again. One of your friends finally tells you that you need to break up with the person. And you do. Then you go through the healing/complaining process, where you complain to your friends some more and they comfort you. They help you through the pain and you start feeling a lot better. Divorce is different.

To the normal blabbing I would add social media posts, emails and texts too. As the author of the article notes: Children are very sensitive – they can sense things; they can read between the lines. They read into emotions. We all have a responsibility to protect children from the trauma and emotions of the divorce process, and a good way to do that is to not “blab all over the place about how angry you are and how much you hate your ex.”

Grandparent Visitation

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Timesharing/Visitation on Thursday, August 23, 2012.

It is tough sledding for grandparent child custody. On Monday Reuters reported:

Here’s a sad scenario: Grandma and Grandpa pay for camp, shoes and college funds. But something goes awry; the kids’ parents decide to split, and next thing you know it’s Grandma and Grandpa who are out in the cold, writing checks but missing their grandchildren.

Think that couldn’t happen? There are at least two trends that point to more of the above. Grandparents are helping their progeny more than ever; the AARP reported that a quarter spent more than a $1,000 a year on their grandkids, with 37 percent saying that they helped cover daily living costs.

Grandparents’ rights to see and spend time with their grandchildren has become more difficult to litigate since the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in 1996, Beagle v. Beagle, which struck down a Florida Statute that allowed courts to order visitation rights for grandparents if they would be in the child’s “best interest.”

That is too bad, because grandparents help out a lot. Better yet, tax laws allow gifts of $13,500 a year from one individual to another before gift tax limits start to kick in. But be careful. Judges differ about how to evaluate regular financial gifts from grandparents. A judge could count regular gifts as part of a parent’s income, which can impact child support calculations and even alimony.

As the article goes on to note, parents can get greedy too.

“I’ve seen parents say ‘it’ll be a $1,000 a visit’ and I’ve had grandparents pay it,” says Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, family lawyer Richard Victor, founder of the Grandparents Rights Organization, which helps grandparents with visitation battles, among other problems.

“It’s emotional blackmail and will escalate if you give into it,” says Abramowitz, who advises clients to offer to pay for family therapy instead.

Is there a solution for grandparents? “You get more with sugar than you do with a cane,” says Atlanta family lawyer Randall Kessler, who chairs the American Bar Association Family Law Section. “Be nice to the person who has control, and that may include some financial support.”

Kessler also gets creative: When a mother objects to being parted from her children, he has suggested that grandparents invite the mother along on a family vacation as their guest, even with her current partner. “Usually they stay in a hotel down the road,” he says. More often, they turn down the offer but allow the visit.”

Gray Divorces

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Friday, August 17, 2012.

While the overall divorce rate in the United States has decreased since 1990, it has doubled for those over age 50. The surge has spawned the term “gray divorce.” As Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, says:

“If late-life divorce were a disease, it would be an epidemic.”

One out of three boomers will face older age unmarried, says Susan Brown, codirector of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in her new study The Gray Divorce Revolution.

By the time people are in their 50’s and older, issues of custody and child support may no longer be relevant. Instead, those issues are replaced with other challenges. Older people have had time to accumulate assets, one or both may be retired, and there are long term health care issues.

Many of those opting for gray divorces, however, fail to foresee its complications in today’s bleak economy. Here are some things to consider:

Valuing the Marital Estate – By the time a couple enters the golden years, they may have gold to divide, including businesses, retirement funds, and vacation homes. Valuing these assets can be difficult. The value of a business may not be apparent from balance sheets, and the sale or transfer of assets may have tax consequences. As a result, a financial advisor may be an important component in the divorce.

Medical Care – Health insurance is often tied to the employment of one spouse. With aging comes diminishing health, and declining cognitive ability. Courts may need to intervene if one party has dwindling capacity to handle their own affairs.

Long-Term Arrangements – Legal arrangements, such as wills and trusts, need to be reviewed to make sure they reflect post-divorce wishes. The same is true for long-term care, such as medical directives, living wills and trusts.

Retirement Plans – After 20 years of marriage, retirement plans can be substantial . . . and complex. Retirement plans vary in kind, and they all have different restrictions, tax consequences, distribution and vesting rules.

Lifestyle adjustment – Younger couples have time to re-accumulate wealth after divorce, but in Gray Divorces, the spouses have less time to re-establish themselves financially. One or both may be close to or in retirement, and face living on half of what they earmarked for retirement.

There are special interests involved when an older couples divorces. As always, information is power, so make a point to seek out experts for guidance.