Divorce and Tax Law Changes Coming in 2019
When there are a lot of assets, such as in high net worth marriages, that need to be decided on in divorce, it’s important to remember the tax repercussions that can follow those decisions. Making this even more overwhelming is the fact that tax laws will be changing in 2019.
When retirement accounts, large pieces of property, and alimony are at stake, divorce gets tricky. Making these decisions trickier for both lawyers and feuding couples, it’s the fact that big changes are coming at the end of 2018.
A number of tax law changes were implemented at the end of 2017 but a big disruption won’t happen until Jan. 1, 2019. The biggest direct impact is on alimony. Alimony will no longer be a tax deduction for the person paying it, and it will no longer have to be claimed as income by the person receiving it.
At the beginning of 2018 it was predicted that this would cause a big rush on divorces, due to the fact that people would try to get the divorce in before the year changed. Turns out, that big rush hasn’t quite happened.
According to divorce attorney Malcolm Taub, of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron in New York, “It is a drastic change, but it seems like people are living with it.”
While the determination of the actual dollar value of alimony is relatively easy, the biggest sticking point is where the money for the settlement is coming from, and how well-prepared each side is for the long-term.
Divorce Over 50
When couples over 50 decide to divorce settlements can become increasingly complicated due to the fact that there are less “working years” left for either person.
For couples over 50, a lot of the traditional gender roles still exist — the husband is the breadwinner and the wife stayed at home to raise the children. While this is changing with the younger generations, this still applies to many older couples that are divorcing now.
Among high-net-worth clients, the two biggest assets are usually the house and the retirement accounts.
While a house is an obvious sentimental attachment, there are other big financial gains to be had by selling that family home. It’s not uncommon for divorce attorneys to recommend that the spouse who gets awarded the house sells it and puts the proceeds into an investment account for retirement.
Another often employed strategy is to “award” the house to one spouse while the other spouse gets what seems like an equivalent amount in an investment or retirement account. Taxes are then figured into the equation.
To consider are capital gains, IRAs and 401 (k) assets versus Roth assets, as well as the valuation of any private businesses. Even if you are not selling a business in the divorce, you will still need to have a valuation of it.
You’ll want to have proper legal order for any asset distributions, because the tax penalties could hit you hard on the flip side.
Spouses receiving alimony used to be able to claim it as earned income. Under the new law, they are no longer able to claim it, and thus cannot contribute to accounts like IRAs and Roths. So if they have no other earned income, they have no way to grow their tax-advantaged retirement accounts.
This can be especially hard-hitting when the divorce settlement is not enough to get by on. Even harder hit, are those who are not old enough and thus do not yet qualify for Medicare and Social Security.
As if divorce isn’t hard enough emotionally, then you get hit with the financial side of divorce. Establishing your own credit, setting up your own independent accounts, closing joint accounts, etc… can be grueling, but unfortunately a very necessary part of starting your single life.
The Financial Side of Divorce
Before you’re able to move forward from your ex, you’ll need to take some steps to create your own financial footing. Below we outline some steps you’ll want to take.
Divorce means a rebalancing of your budget, and it really is “your” budget and yours alone. While some expenses may disappear, others will become your sole responsibility. If you are not receiving alimony, you will no longer have the benefit of a secondary income to ease the debt.
How an Experienced Los Angeles Alimony Attorney Can Help
Divorce and spousal support cases in Los Angeles can be complicated, especially when emotions are running high and both parties are feeling exposed and financially vulnerable. Our attorneys at Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles often encourage divorced or divorcing couples to attempt to reach a workable and amicable alimony payment agreement on their own outside of court, as negotiation and settlement are almost always preferable to going to trial. However, we want what’s best for you and your family, and we will stand by your side every step of the way, whether you end up going to court or not. One thing to keep in mind if your case does go to trial is that the judge has a great deal of discretion when deciding on spousal support payments. This is why it is so important to have a thorough understanding of the factors the judge will consider when deciding how much alimony you will receive or pay. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand the complexities of your spousal support agreement, help you calculate alimony payments and prepare the forms required by the court, among other things.
It’s also a good idea to look at your credit reports to see what your personal financial standing looks like. Creditors will use these reports to asses whether or not to give you a loan. Review these reports very carefully to ensure that there are no errors. This report will be able to give you an idea of what to expect as you try to establish new credit on your own.
Close Joint Accounts
Divorce doesn’t relieve you of any joint debts you and your ex incurred during the course of the marriage. Any joint accounts that you have with your spouse will still have your name on them, and thus will impact your credit score. That means a creditor can come after you if your spouse falls behind on a payment — even if you have a verbal agreement with your spouse.
Close all joint accounts as soon as possible and have everything that you are responsible for re-financed under your name. For joint credit cards, you should be able to transfer the balance to a new card so that you can close the joint card that the two of you shared.
Until all of your joint accounts have been closed, it’s crucial that you continue to make at least the minimum payment on all of those bills each month. You do not want any lapses of payment in your credit report. If your ex agrees to make the payments, follow up to ensure they did. A single late payment can drop your credit score by anywhere from 60 to 80 points, according to FICO data, assuming an initial credit score of 680. Though the effect on your credit will diminish over time as your more recent payment history takes precedence, that late payment can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.
Establish Your Own Credit
If you already had an established credit history before you got married, or if you were a joint account holder on your spouse’s accounts, you probably won’t have any trouble obtaining credit in your own name, provided your previous credit history was good. If this is not the case, you might need a few months to establish yourself as a responsible payer in the eyes of creditors.
You can do this by opening a credit card and using it responsibly.
You can also sign up for a secured credit card. These require a security deposit, but your on-time payments are reported to the credit bureaus every month, so consistently paying on time will raise your credit score as if you were using an ordinary card.
Side Note: Changing Your Name
If you’re thinking about changing your name back, do this before you open any new credit accounts so that they will be listed in your new legal name. Additionally, you should get in contact with the institutions where you have existing financial accounts and notify them of the name change so they can update their records.
Working with Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles
Our experienced Los Angeles divorce attorneys can assist with every aspect of the divorce process and will aggressively represent your case before a judge if it comes to that. Whatever the circumstances surrounding your case, we still stand by your side and ensure that your legal rights are protected throughout the process.
Originally published at divorcelawyerslosangeles.com on December 31, 2018.