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Parental Alienation Syndrome

Custody clients often voice concerns about the other parent’s making derogatory remarks about the client to adversely influence the opinion of the parties’ child. When do mere derogatory remarks turn into a harmful psychological phenomenon that psychologists have labeled the "parental...

Glossary of Child Support Terms

This Glossary of Common Child Support Terms is intended to provide a listing of acronyms and definitions of terms used by child support workers to facilitate communication and understanding with regard to child support.

Dividing Property in the Divorce Context

While laws differ in each state with regard to dividing property in the context of a divorce, two primary methods exist: community property division and equitable distribution. Community Property Division In community property states, each spouse is entitled to one-half of all the property acquired...

Drafting Property Settlement Agreements

If parties to a divorce are able to agree on how to divide their assets, a formal property settlement agreement or separation agreement should be prepared. Detailed lists of who gets what should be included in this agreement. Usually, attorneys use form agreements, such as those found in Lindey on Separation...

Recapture of Excess Front-Loaded Alimony Payments

Under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) § 71, recapture requirements apply if excess alimony payments are front-loaded into the first three post-separation years. Their purpose is to discourage divorcing spouses from improperly characterizing property settlement payments as alimony. In this context, "recapture"...

Issue Spotting for Domestic Partners

Committed but unmarried couples should consider making the following legal documents part of their portfolio: Powers Of Attorney A durable power of attorney and a living will (sometimes called a "durable power of attorney for health care") will give partners the right to handle the...

Tax Issues Related to Child Custody Agreements

When you prepare a child custody agreement for your client, the party entitled to claim the child is often a highly contested issue. After you have worked so hard to obtain the dependency exemption for your client, you need to be absolutely certain that you draft the agreement to avoid any unfavorable...

The Initial Divorce Interview -- What Do I Do?

Every time you meet a potential new client for the first time, it feels like a job interview. Both you and the client are sizing each other up to determine if you want to work together. Therefore, it is very important to make a good first impression. It is also essential to be yourself while showing...

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act

Prior to adoption of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), there was a great deal of confusion and unfairness in the issuance and enforcement of child and spousal support orders. Sometimes, a noncustodial parent would end up paying support under orders from two or more states at the same...

Tax Consequences of Spousal Support

Whether you represent the payor or the payee in a divorce or legal separation that includes spousal support, it is important to be aware of the potential tax consequences. The IRS has very clear and detailed guidelines on what constitutes alimony for tax purposes. Properly designated alimony payments...

Paternity and the Uniform Parentage Act of 2002

Whether you are approached by the mother or the putative father, you will likely deal with quite a few paternity issues in your family law practice. A paternity determination may be requested by the mother, the putative father, the child, or a court. Also, the state may bring a paternity action when...

Court-Appointed Guardian ad Litem

If you are just starting out in the family law area, you may want to consider getting on your local court-appointed guardian ad litem lists. As a guardian ad litem, you will protect the interests of your ward, who may be a minor or a mentally incompetent or elderly person. What does a guardian ad...

Divorce and Financial Matters

Besides knowing the law and empathizing with your client’s emotional state, a family law practitioner must have a pretty solid foundation in how to prepare a household budget and when and if bankruptcy should be considered. Why? Because, next to custody disputes, the division of debts and the client’s...

Equitable Distribution of Property

In common law property states, property following a marriage is divided by the equitable distribution method. Contrary to widespread belief, “equitable” does not mean equal. Instead, “equitable” means a division of assets according to what the court deems fair under the unique...

Who Pays for College after a Divorce?

When parents divorce, there are many financial, as well as emotional, issues to consider. When a household is split in two, whether both parents work or not, there is a direct impact on their finances. There are now two households, including more than one mortgage and/or rent payment, double utilities...

Tax Credits Related to Children

In addition to the tax exemption for minor children, there are several tax credits to consider when negotiating a divorce settlement for your client. Some credits are tied to which parent is entitled to the tax exemption, and some are not. Therefore, it is important to know the requirements for all exemptions...

Classification of Gifts, Inheritance, and Life Insurance in the Context of Divorce

When your client provides you with a list of all assets and debts of the marriage, be sure to have gifts, inheritance, and life insurance policies listed separately from other items obtained during the marriage. Some states have specific rules for the distribution of these types of assets, while others...

Division of Business and Professional Interests

It is becoming more common for divorcing parties to own or have an interest in a small business, such as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a closely held corporation. But how does the court divide these types of assets? Characterization of the Property In general, business assets follow...

Tax Relief for the Injured or Innocent Spouse

If your client and the other spouse file a joint tax return while the divorce is pending in order to obtain more favorable tax treatment, it is important to understand that generally both parties are jointly and severally liable for any mistakes or omissions on the return. If you or your client discovers...

Collecting Past Due Child Support

If you practice family law, you will need to be familiar with how to collect past due child support in your jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the nonpayment of support is a very common problem. It is amazing at how skillful some payors can be at avoiding their child support obligations. Most child support...

Grandparents’ Custody Rights

Traditionally, grandparents have had no rights to custody, or even visitation, of their grandchildren. Within the last several years, however, grandparents have been gaining rights in this area. In fact, most states allow visitation, and several now allow custody, in certain situations. Custody ...

Annulment v. Divorce

You may be amazed by the number of potential clients who meet with you to request to have their marriage annulled. Many people believe that their marriage can be annulled because it has not lasted for very long. Others need an annulment rather than a divorce for religious reasons. In any case, it is...

Stepparent Adoptions

If you spend any time at all practicing family law, you will likely find that assisting clients with adoptions is one of the most rewarding aspects of your practice. The process is pretty simple overall, and the clients are generally very positive and happy. The most common type of adoption that...

Who Gets the Marital Home?

Deciding who will receive the marital home is one of the most difficult issues in a divorce. Generally, the parties’ home is the most valuable asset of the marriage. It is also often the center of family life, especially if there are young children involved. Therefore, the manner in which the marital...

Property Distribution in a Community Property State

If you live in one of the nine community property states, property is not necessarily distributed equitably in a divorce action. Instead, marital property must be characterized as either community or separate prior to any distribution. Asset Characterization Property must first be characterized...