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  1. #1
    Look! My Spine! RubenX's Avatar
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    3 years after divorce... lessons learned

    This is just a collection of stuff I learned during my years after divorce. These are very simple points usually missed during litigation that make a great difference in the following years.

    1) Double check the math on the papers

    Court clerks make mistakes quite often, specially doing math. For example, I voluntary agree to pay alimony for a year (even tho I didn't had to). That is 12 months. When it got written down it did said one year, it did said 12 months but then it said it was going to start on December 2009 and end on December 2010.

    When this agreement is later read by the guy who drafts the "deduction order", he is going to skip all the rest and use the part that says "start on December 2009 and end on December 2010"... meaning 13 months, not 12 (counting December twice).

    2) However should claim a child in the taxes needs to have the child for 7 months.

    Technically, tax code says the child needs to live with you "over 50%" of the time. If the year has 365 days, that means 183 days with whoever is going to claim and 182 with the other part. Easy so far...

    Now remember, custody agreements often divide the holidays using odd/even numbers. You might have the kids on holidays that fall on an even number or an odd number. Many holidays change from year to year. Because of this, even if the court document says you have 51% of the time, when IRS does the math they might realize you really had 49% on a given year. This creates a situation where one parent can't claim due to court order and the other can't claim either due to not having enough days.

    To be safe, insist that whoever is claiming a child on a given year should have the child enough extra days. I recommend a month because many forms do not let you specify the amount of days or weeks, just the amount of months.

    3) Include some paragraphs describing how to handle welfare and government help.

    This might be the last thing on your mind. But you never know when your company is going to move to India and outsource the whole department, leaving you unemployed for quite a few months.

    Some government agencies administer multiple benefits which have different application requirements. All agencies have a policy to pay benefits to one household only. Lets take the example of medicare and food stamps. Both are administered by the Department of Children and Families. Your ex might not qualify for food stamps but might qualify for medicare. Once she is receiving medicaid for the children, even if you lose your job, you can not apply for food stamps.

    In the best interest of the children, the correct thing to do would be to give the benefits to the household who will benefit the most. If your ex is receiving a medicare (worth ~$200 a month) but you are eligible for both medicare *and* food stamps (worth ~$700 a month) the benefits should go to you. But if this is not written down on the custody agreement, is not gonna get done. You can still go to court and fight it, and most likely win it... but if you are unemployed, who's gonna pay the lawyer?

    4) Include a clause to make monetary adjustments automatic (avoid perpetual Lipus)

    Unless it is written down, if you have a loss of income, your financial obligations to your ex are not gonna get adjusted until you fight for it in court. The last thing you need during a financial downturn is more extra bills. Court costs, Lawyer costs and an ever increasing debt of unpaid child support payments. Avoid this.

    Most lawyers won't tell you this can be done. Of course not, they want to keep getting paid. Demand this to be included in your agreement.

    5) After School care should be a separate payment from child support

    If you need After School care due to your job schedule, you should pay for this yourself. You can ask for this amount to be subtracted from your child support payments. You can't risk it to be absent at work every time your ex decides not to pay the day care bill. And you definitely don't want to pay this bill twice, once to your ex and once to the day care facility.

    6) Include mandatory financial disclosure

    Whenever you pay or receive child support, which is based on the income of both parents, demand that *both* parts send a copy of their taxes by certified letter to the other part. If this is not done, you might end up overpaying (or under-receiving) in the future and never even knowing. You could, of course, fight in court every couple of years to find out (child support revision). But like I mentioned before, this is time consuming and cost a lot of money in court costs and lawyer payments.

    That's is all and see ya later.
    "Hoy es un dia normal, pero yo voy a hacerlo intenso" ~ Juanes

  2. #2
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    I feel ya, Rube.

    My wife pays child support to her ex for 3 kids. She got behind on child support when she took time off (about a year) when our daughter was born and we've been playing catch up ever since. She's finally caught up per NC records (original jurisdiction and where her ex and 2 of the children live). OK keeps trying to collect interest on the old outstanding balance in NC. To top things off, the oldest of the original 3 lived with us and attended 11th and 12th grades out here, then went to college here in OK for a year, is now on her own after dropping out- and my wife is still paying child support on this one. The younger of the NC 3 was also with us for all of 8th grade and part of the 9th. So at one point, though my wife was paying her ex child support for 3, her ex only had 1 living with him...

    Guess the point to this little rant is that one should also include some provision in the paperwork in case someone has to relocate for some reason. Though giving up a job/career for your kid(s), its not a practical decision in today's economy.
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  3. #3
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  4. #4
    Pwnerer Wordbiker's Avatar
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    I'll call this a few things my lawyer got right:

    Make it part of the divorce agreement that any changes in the children's healthcare, daycare or any other major costs will require a written notification within 30 days. Scenario: My ex right before the divorce could suddenly afford $850/mo for a healthcare plan and daycare for our three kids. Reality: she immediately dropped healthcare for a state plan costing $25/year and had my eldest watch his siblings. I paid out my "share" for over a year before discovering this. Fact: There is no recourse for adjusting child support retroactively. Yes, I could've held her in contempt (and probably should've), but that wouldn't give me the money back.

    If you're the one that's paying, fight every chance you can to get it reduced. Sure, this is for the care of your children, but if your ex inflated the actual costs, make them accountable for it. In my state a 20% change in overall income is required to make an adjustment, but as far as I know there's no penalty for filing adjustments whenever you suspect a change whether they grant one or not.

    Have a clause that states if your ex wants to move out of the county, mutual agreement is required. This will prevent them from flitting around the country with your kids in tow making it nearly impossible for you to see them. I allowed my ex to move twice for school or career reasons, but it gave me crucial leverage in the situation.

    Make it mandatory that you both use the same accountant for taxes. This worked well for a while until my ex took deductions "because she needed them". What, I didn't? This was rectified by a further agreement that the accountant would make the decisions regarding deductions based upon what was most beneficial to both parties. If you have an accountant you both trust, this solved a lot of headaches and gave us both the maximum benefits.

    If at all possible, keep it out of the courts. After fighting with a judge that seemed hellbent on setting the maximum child support allowed, I accused him of being an interested party. He of course denied it, but a little research told me that my state's Child Support Registry is funded solely on the interest garnered from child support that is unawarded, such as when a recipient moves out of state and does not notify them. Yes, the entire operation, solely on interest. Not only that, but for the past several decades, it has been so profitable that due to TAFT laws, the CSR must put the overage above their budget into the State General Fund. Can you guess what fund judges are paid out of?
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  5. #5
    Look! My Spine! RubenX's Avatar
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    I agree with no1mad there on the relocation clause. My case was different, I'm very stable while the ex is kinda like a hippie, moving around a lot. We put a clause there that the children are not to be relocated out of the county. And thanks God I did it this way. So far the ex has attempted to relocate back to PR, to Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Cocoa Beach. Every few months there's a new boyfriend from far away and she wants to move there. Has the clause not been in place, I would have had to go pick up the kids from homeless shelters after every breakup with the boyfriend of the month.

    Another clause to be included is to provision for future kids. Either your's or your ex's. You don't want some of your kids eating stake while the youngest (in the new marriage) has to get by with ramen noodles.

    Chris's link is very interesting as well, but paints a picture of men vs woman. I try to be more "parent vs parent", taking the gender out of the discussion. After all, you can be royally screwed regardless of gender.
    "Hoy es un dia normal, pero yo voy a hacerlo intenso" ~ Juanes

  6. #6
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    No kiddies, no alimony so the settlement was pretty straightforward. But I did have a fun moment when it came to doing taxes before the divorce was finalized. Her tax accountant advised her to file as though she were single. Mine had advised me to file as married but filing separately. I got mine in first with both our social security numbers. Hers bounced and she ended up having to fire her accountant and file all over again. This time as married but filing separately.

    That kind of picayune stuff is the high point of divorce.
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  7. #7
    Look! My Spine! RubenX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    No kiddies, no alimony so the settlement was pretty straightforward. But I did have a fun moment when it came to doing taxes before the divorce was finalized. Her tax accountant advised her to file as though she were single. Mine had advised me to file as married but filing separately. I got mine in first with both our social security numbers. Hers bounced and she ended up having to fire her accountant and file all over again. This time as married but filing separately.

    That kind of picayune stuff is the high point of divorce.
    Oh yeah... my 1st divorce was like that, no kids, no debt, no assets, no nothing. We filed on a Monday and by Thursday it was signed by the Judge, leaving Friday to celebrate. The only one who got the ax was my Dad. I got myself out of the lease but forgot that my Dad signed as co-something. She never paid the last 3 months and a debt collector axed my Dad for the money.
    "Hoy es un dia normal, pero yo voy a hacerlo intenso" ~ Juanes

  8. #8
    Caustic Soccer Mom apclassic9's Avatar
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    One thing I never understand - the agreement for shared responsibility for the kids where each parent takes thier "turn" claiming the kids on the taxes, regardless of actual support provided, where the kid lived, or household income. In view of RubenX's explaination of the IRS stand on this, how do divorce agreements contain such a plan?

    Divorced parents of unequal household income take note: This can SO screw up a kid's financial aid applications!!
    As with mud, life, too, slides by.

  9. #9
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    Man, I got lucky. I just filed papers with a paralegal for barely $$$, had my ex-wife sign it in front of a notary, and never heard from her again. The official divorce date was the same as the official marriage date, but exactly three years later. That's the creepy part.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by RubenX View Post
    Oh yeah... my 1st divorce was like that, no kids, no debt, no assets, no nothing.
    Wait, is this the whole "first divorce of the same person who was also the 2nd divorce" caveat or something?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Captain Blight's Avatar
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    So GLAD I've never married and had no kids.
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  12. #12
    Look! My Spine! RubenX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apclassic9 View Post
    One thing I never understand - the agreement for shared responsibility for the kids where each parent takes thier "turn" claiming the kids on the taxes, regardless of actual support provided, where the kid lived, or household income. In view of RubenX's explaination of the IRS stand on this, how do divorce agreements contain such a plan?

    Divorced parents of unequal household income take note: This can SO screw up a kid's financial aid applications!!
    Yup... that's often ignored/overlook. See, when people started fighting for this 50% 50% shared parenting plans, the goal of the parents was to retain full parental rights as opposed to be assigned "visitation". On "visitation", you can't even show up at the day care if is not your day. On 50% 50%, if my ex is working, I can pick them up at the day care, take them to the Disney and have a great time without being charged for kidnapping.

    Then Family Court noticed that parents who retained their full parental rights due to the 50% 50%'s, rarely defaulted on their child support payments. This calls their attention because, that's how family court get's funded. Here in FL, the State Disbursement Unit charges a $5.25 processing fee on every payment made. Not to mention the interests they earn from holding that money a little on their bank accounts.

    They made a study, verifying that parents on 50% 50% usually don't default and then proposed a bill to qualify other custody arrangements as 50% 50%. AFAIK, here in FL you can have your child a mere 30% of the time and still be treated as a 50% 50%. the 30% 50's inherited the rules of the real 50's, including the tax claiming ping pong game.

    This results in:

    A) A parent who has the kid 70% of the time but can't claim it because the court order says so.

    B) A parent who has 30% of the time but can't claim because IRS don't allow it.

    In short, it makes the child "unclaimable". But the court doesn't tell you that, the mediators don't tell you that, your own lawyer won't tell you that. They just want to get paid "in the best interest of the child". It is up to the people to know this things and keep them in mind when/if the time comes.
    "Hoy es un dia normal, pero yo voy a hacerlo intenso" ~ Juanes

  13. #13
    Look! My Spine! RubenX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SonataInFSharp View Post
    Wait, is this the whole "first divorce of the same person who was also the 2nd divorce" caveat or something?
    No. First divorce was with girl number one. 2nd and 3rd divorces where with girl number two. Get on with the program!
    "Hoy es un dia normal, pero yo voy a hacerlo intenso" ~ Juanes

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by RubenX View Post
    No. First divorce was with girl number one. 2nd and 3rd divorces where with girl number two. Get on with the program!
    Well 2,3,4,5,divorces is your own personal business but will you ever be allowed to visit the island again to host a Foo Beaches Vacation in Puerto Rico?Did Los Federalies clear up that silly paperwork error yet?
    Lot of nice ads on TV lately.
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