State Bar Family Law Section to Launch Helpline for Child Support Worksheets

Help for un-represented low and moderate-income Georgians who need help with the state’s mandated Child Support Worksheets is now available. The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia has launched its Child Support Worksheet Helpline, a free service to provide one-time assistance for producing Child Support Worksheets for filing in the state’s superior and juvenile courts.

Georgia’s Child Support Worksheets provide the framework for determining the appropriate amount of child support under Georgia law. The child support calculator is used to enter the financial information of both parents to calculate the appropriate amount of child support according to Georgia’s statutory Child Support Guidelines.

Volunteer lawyers from the State Bar of Georgia Family Law Section will assist callers with the calculator and preparing the required Child Support Worksheets. Un-represented litigants needing help with the child support calculator can call (404) 526-8609. A volunteer lawyer will then work with the caller to prepare Child Support Worksheets for his or her case. The Child Support Worksheets will be emailed or mailed to the caller.

The Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia has over 1500 members and seeks to educate its members through continuing education and monitoring and reporting on legislation. The Child Support Helpline is an opportunity for the Section members to give back to Georgians in need of legal services who cannot afford it.

Georgia Legal Services Program, which serves 154 mostly rural counties outside metro Atlanta, is partnering with the Section to launch the pilot project. GLSP receives many calls daily from people looking for legal help in connection with child support. The legal aid program will refer many of those callers to the new Child Support Helpline. “We’re very grateful to the Family Law Section for this innovative service. There’s a great demand for basic information about child support and for help with child support calculations,” says Mike Monahan, the director of the Pro Bono Project of the State Bar.

Rebecca Crumrine Rieder, the Chairman of the Family Law Section made a pro-bono project for the Section a priority of her tenure, “the Family Law Section is excited to be offering Georgians this service. There is a need for help with child support worksheets for un-represented litigants and we are glad to marshal the Section’s vast membership and provide a resource that will benefit not only the individuals who use it but also the courts and clerks who too often have to turn people away for not having the proper documents to complete their cases.”

The State Bar of Georgia, with offices in Atlanta, Savannah and Tifton, was established in 1964 by Georgia’s Supreme Court as the successor to the voluntary Georgia Bar Association, founded in 1884. All lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia belong to the State Bar. Its more than 47,000 members work together to strengthen the constitutional promise of justice for all, promote principles of duty and public service among Georgia’s lawyers, and administer a strict code of legal ethics.

Tax Return Planning During a Georgia Divorce or Separation: Tips From an Atlanta Divorce Lawyer

As the tax filing date for each year steadily approaches and you begin organizing and/or gathering documents to assist in your upcoming tax preparation for the prior fiscal year, you may want to consider whether you and your spouse are going to file married jointly or married filing separately.

Disadvantages of Separate Returns:  Married couples who file jointly are taxed as if each spouse had exactly the same taxable income.  Accordingly, substantial tax savings are realized by filing jointly.

Different tax rates on separate returns; earnings taxed separately: If you are separated from your spouse but still legally married by the end of 2006, you must file separately unless you and your spouse agree to file a joint return or a court has entered a judgment of legal separation.  A later obtained judgment or marital dissolution does not relate back to an earlier year in which you and your spouse were married.

You and your spouse will each be taxed on your respective earnings separately.  But you will each have to allocate income, treating income earned before the date of separation as community property (taxable half to each) and income earned after the separation date as the earning spouse’s separate property.  If all income is community income so that the income and deductions are divided equally among you and your spouse, the total tax on separate and joint returns will be the same.

Restrictions on itemized deductions and child care credit: If you and your spouse file separate returns, you both must agree to itemize deductions.  If not, then neither can.  IRC Section 63(e)(1).  No child credit may be claimed on a spouse’s separate return unless the other spouse was absent from the household during the last six months of the year.  IRC Section 21(e)(4)

Allocation of tax liability: Separated spouses who are willing to file jointly should reach a clear agreement as to how the tax liability will be apportioned between them.  A logical approach is to prorate the tax liability by using a ratio based on the parties’ separate incomes.  In the alternative, spouses may chose to allocate liability based on what each would have paid if separate returns were filed.

Relief from tax liability: Generally, spouses who sign a joint return are each jointly and severally liable for the tax shown on that return, including any tax deficiencies, interest and penalties attributable to the other spouse.  The liability exposure should be kept in mind when deciding whether to file jointly or separately.

Potential joint liability relief: A spouse wrongfully exposed to joint liability for deficiencies, interest and penalties may have recourse under an indemnification agreement or under various code provisions.  For example: (1) ‘Innocent Spouse’ relief from liability for tax deficiencies attributable to erroneous items of the other spouse (IRC Section 6015(b)); (2) ‘Separate liability’ relief from liability for tax deficiencies (IRC Section 6015(c)); and Equitable relief from liability for tax deficiencies and underpayments (IRC Section 6015(f)).

Helpful assistance can also be found at the IRS Web site http:/www.irs.gov.

SOURCE: Adapted from a post by California Family Law Practice Blog

Have more questions about divorce and taxes? Please call our experienced Atlanta GA divorce attorneys for an in-depth strategy and planning session at 770-425-6060 or fill out an online contact form.

Marietta Divorce and Wills and Estates Lawyer Discusses How Georgia Divorce Affects Your Will and Trust

As a Marietta divorce lawyer, I know that getting a divorce in Georgia can be an overwhelming process.  There are so many decisions to make and things to do that it’s hard to keep everything straight.  And as a Marietta estate planning lawyer, I also know there is one thing that divorcing couples must remember to do—and that is getting your will or trust updated.

Forgetting about your estate plan is understandable from any perspective.  You’re so busy thinking about living arraignments, finances and custody agreements that you simply forget to contact an estate planning lawyer to make sure your spouse will no longer be the beneficiary of your estate once the divorce is final.

And while I admit estate planning is easy to overlook, it’s still something that must be taken care of either before you file or immediately after your divorce is complete.

This is especially true if you have a life insurance policy, retirement accounts, investments, property or even a joint trust with your current spouse.  If you fail to take steps to create a single person trust or designate new beneficiaries on your other assets, your ex-spouse will still receive everything you own—even after you are legally divorced.

Similarly, if you don’t create an updated power of attorney and living will, your soon-to-be ex-spouse will be the only one with legal permission to make decisions for you if you are permanently or temporarily incapacitated.   For most people, the thought of their soon-to-be ex making decisions such as medication administration, life-support or nursing home vs. home health care is frightening.  Also, the ex most likely does not want that responsibility any longer.  That is why it is critical to get these issues addressed at some point before or after the divorce proceedings.

However, there are strict time-frames as to when you can update/amend your estate planning documents during a divorce in Georgia, so please make yourself familiar with the following guidelines:

Updating Your Estate Plan Before Filing Divorce in Georgia

As a Marietta estate planning lawyer, I highly recommend you consider revoking and restating all of your estate planning documents before filing for divorce.  This includes updating your advanced healthcare directive (also known as a living will) and financial power of attorney so someone other than your spouse has the ability to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable.   This is especially true if you’re gearing up for a messy divorce which could likely drag on for a number of years. 

You’ll also want to change the beneficiaries on your life insurance policy, retirement accounts and other investments.  If you have a joint trust with your spouse, you’ll need to talk with your Marietta   will and trust lawyer to find out whether you must provide notice to your spouse before it is revoked. 

Updating Your Estate Plan During Divorce Proceedings in Georgia

During your divorce proceedings, the ability to revoke your trust or name new beneficiaries on certain accounts can be halted.  What’s known as an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO) or a Standing Order will kick in to ensure your assets and ownership interests stay the same until an official division of assets and ownership interests takes place.  Therefore, it’s important to note that if you pass away during this time, your soon-to-be ex-spouse will still become the beneficiary of your estate.  You can, however, update your will, power of attorney and living will during this time to minimize the amount of power your ex-spouse would have if something unexpectedly happens to you.

Updating Your Estate Plan After a Divorce in Georgia

After the divorce proceeding, you are considered a single person in the eyes of the law.  You are free to update, revoke and amend your estate planning documents as you see fit.  However, as a Marietta GA will and trust lawyer, I’ve come to find that many people falsely believe their spouse is no longer entitled to their assets once the divorce is officially granted.  While it’s true that some estate planning powers may be automatically revoked after the divorce (such as the ability to speak for you medically if you were in an accident), if you have outdated legal documents in place that still include your ex-spouse, he or she will still be the legal beneficiary of your estate or specific assets upon your death.  Therefore, it’s important to make sure every legal document you have is updated immediately following your divorce.

When to Get Help

I always advise people in Georgia to at least meet with a Marietta estate planning attorney, in addition to their Marietta divorce attorney before ultimately filing for divorce. That’s because it’s important for you to know exactly how the divorce proceedings will affect you and/or your children, especially if you become incapacitated or pass away suddenly during the process.

With so much going on during divorce it is difficult to think about adding another legal process.  However, it is critical to make sure your estate plan reflects your new circumstances to avoid everything you own going to your future ex-spouse if you pass away or avoid having him or her legally responsible to make medical or financial decisions for you in the event of incapacity.

GeorgiaFamilyLaw.com

When divorce looms — some basic financial steps

Dreamstime_184485 If unhappiness describes the general mood of your marriage and talk of going separate ways is becoming commonplace; it’s time to get your act together. Divorce sounds likely. Have you given much thought to your finances? It’s time.

Two experts in the subject — a lawyer who has been divorced and a certified financial planner who founded the Institute for Certified Divorce Planners — offer financial survival tips for the soon-to-be-single.

These aren’t stick-it-to-your-spouse tips. We’ll leave those to your attorney. Rather, they are suggestions for what to do before the papers are filed, with the goal of easing the financial impact of the transition from wedlock to singlehood.

When divorce isn’t a surprise, there’s some preparation time.

Above all, says Carol Ann Wilson, the certified divorce planner, you should keep your emotions out of your financial decisions. This brings to mind the old Steve Martin routine about how to make a million dollars and pay no taxes: "First," he pronounced, "make a million dollars. Then …"

In other words, easier said than done.

Think clearly, calmly
Wilson realizes how difficult it is to keep a clear mind amid marital breakup, but she says you have to try. Otherwise, you’ll forget to do the most basic things, like making that run to Kinko’s.

As people dodge the rubble of crumbling marriages, Wilson says, "one thing that they have to do is get copies of every financial record they’ve got. They have to get copies of statements of every kind of account they have." That includes money markets, 401(k)s, pension statements, certificates of deposit, checking accounts, the works. These papers verify the value of assets that a married couple holds.

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USA TODAY: TOP 5 MISTAKES COUPLES MAKE IN A DIVORCE

Dreamstime_1500746 Scott Sagaria at the California Family Law Blog has noted a recent article in USA Today that explains five common mistakes people make when dividing their finances during a divorce, and the information contained in this article could be very helpful to anyone facing a similar situation.

1. Many couples scrambling to obtain a divorce settlement wish to keep the house at any cost. However, financial experts say that more attention should be given to who can afford to maintain the property, pay the mortgage, and manage the taxes. While it is possible to ask for spousal support to help make the mortgage payments, unexpected maintenance costs may pop up, and make home ownership more of a liability than a luxury.

2. Clean separation of assets and debts is another difficult task, but one that Howard Dvorkin, the founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services says is absolutely necessary, or the consequences can be devastating. Although the task may seem insurmountable, “the alternative is much worse,” says Dvorkin. “Having a spouse drive up your debt when you’re not married anymore” can seriously affect one’s credit score.

3. Depending on your former spouse to comply with financial arrangements is also a huge mistake, according to the USA Today article. Although both parties in a divorce are beholden to a court-ordered divorce agreement, creditors do not fall under that arrangement. If your ex spouse is supposed to pay the mortgage, but doesn’t, “the lender is going to sue both of you,” remarks Melissa Avery, an Indianapolis family law attorney. This holds true in Santa Clara County and Alameda County divorce cases as well; if your ex fails to pay the mortgage, you may be hurt when applying for future loans.

4. Wills and trusts can also be seriously impacted by divorce proceedings. If divorced spouses wait unnecessarily long to change a beneficiary on a will, for example, the money may go to the wrong person—your new spouse may get nothing, while your ex spouse inherits the amount provided for in your will.

5. Finally, NEVER forget which amount of money in your divorce settlement is alimony, and which amount is child support. Whereas child support payments are not taxable to the recipient, alimony payments are. Furthermore, there are limits to how long a person can receive such payments—child support payments can no longer be received once the child turns 18 or is done with college, while spousal support generally ends once the recipient remarries.

SOURCE: USA Today (text of article appears below)

SOURCE FOR POST: California Family Law Blog

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Divorce Finances

Five things every woman needs to know about divorce and making sure you’re taken care of.

First, many states determine the value of retirement assets to be split based on the official date of separation, not divorce. So, if you separated in May 2006 but don’t divorce until 2007, the courts may direct you to divide assets as of May 2006. So, if your husband is about to get a bonus you should wait to separate. Or if you’re expecting a bonus, get out fast.

Second, if you leave your husband the house, make sure he refinances immediately and takes your name off the mortgage. If your name is on it and he defaults, it will affect your credit.

Third, make copies of all your recent financial statements so there’s an accurate record of all money to be split.

Fourth, make sure you know about all the credit cards taken out during your marriage. If you have any cards with balances on them, pay them off and close the accounts.

Fifth, if you’ve been married for at least ten years you qualify to receive half the amount of your husband’s benefits when you reach full retirement age. And, even after divorce, if your ex-husband dies you’re entitled to survivor’s benefits starting at age 60.

SOURCE: WLWT.com