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Be aware of how the new tax law will impact your spousal maintenance

Tax season is underway and Americans have less than two months to file taxes for 2017.

For those who pay spousal maintenance to their former spouse all year long, filing taxes presents the opportunity to claim a tax deduction for these payments. This can often be quite significant!  This is the silver lining – but not for long. President Trump’s recently passed tax code imposes a substantial impact to those paying and receiving spousal maintenance.

What is spousal maintenance?

Upon divorce, it is not unusual for one spouse to ask for maintenance. Spousal maintenance is money paid by one spouse to another, separate from child support and meant to support the spouse in paying bills, upholding a certain lifestyle, or other reasons. Spousal maintenance is known in some states as “alimony” or “spousal support”.

Spousal maintenance is not mandatory in Washington State (unlike child support). The court will determine whether it is found to be just and equitable to order maintenance. This is up for some interpretation, with no specific rules governing what is just and equitable, but there are certain factors the court is likely to consider:

  • Whether the person seeking support can support him- or herself
  • Each party’s financial resources
  • The standard of living both parties are accustomed to
  • How long a couple was married
  • Each party’s age and earning capabilities
  • How much each party has contributed to the household over the course of the marriage

The court will consider these topics and more in determining whether or not spousal maintenance is granted. In general, short-term marriages tend to yield maintenance awards that are also short term, versus long-term marriages which are more likely to yield longer term awards. “Rehabilitative maintenance” is a time-limited award that is intended to afford one spouse the time to become financially independent.

How will the new tax law affect things?

This MarketWatch article details the way the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) impacts alimony, or spousal maintenance as termed in Washington State. Before TCJA, payments that met the tax-law definition of spousal maintenance could always be deducted by the payer for federal income tax purposes. On the other end, recipients of spousal maintenance always had to report the payments as taxable income.

The new TCJA changes this completely. Under TCJA, tax deductions are eliminated on spousal maintenance for all divorce decrees that occur after December 31, 2018. In addition, recipients of spousal maintenance required under agreements executed post-2018 will no longer have to include this as taxable income.

For spousal maintenance payments made under pre-2019 divorce or separation agreements, the old laws remain. Payers will continue to claim a tax deduction and recipients will continue to be required to report spousal maintenance as taxable income. As the article states, it will be “business as usual”. The article goes on to describe the requirements for spousal maintenance payments required by pre-2019 divorce agreements to qualify as tax deductible. Please refer to the article for details.

What now?

The new laws bring about a dramatic change for spousal maintenance payments required under divorce or separation agreements made on or after January 1, 2019 – and it may impact the way people are looking at their divorces in this calendar year.

If you are amid divorce or separation proceedings and expect to pay spousal maintenance, it may be to your advantage to have your agreement finalized and signed before the end of the year so you will fall under the old law and be able to claim tax deductions moving forward.

However, if you expect to be the recipient of payments, it may be wise to delay finalization of your agreement until after January 1, 2019. This would mean you would fall under the new law and your payments would not have to be included as taxable income.

Either way, the shift complicates things and you need experienced counsel to help guide and support you in this process.

Legal Representation

If you considering divorce or in the early stages of divorce proceedings, it is essential that you have strong legal representation on your side who will see your case through. If you are seeking spousal maintenance or if you are obligated to provide spousal maintenance, you will need skilled and experienced counsel who can advise you appropriately around the new tax law. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group have extensive experience and expertise in this area.

Our attorneys will consult with you and advise you of your legal rights and obligations. We will support you in developing a sound understanding of how the new tax law may impact your spousal maintenance payments, and we will assist in determining the best path moving forward. Please contact our family law attorneys as soon as possible!

 

Surviving Valentine’s Day after Divorce or Separation

Valentine’s Day decorations have been rampant for over a month now. Reminders are everywhere of this holiday for celebrating love and romance. Sounds great, right? …..NOT for everyone…

If you are recently divorced or somewhere in the process of divorce or separation, this can be a particularly painful time of year. You might experience feelings of failure, increased stress, loneliness, or sadness anticipating this day that is all about love and happiness. You might be dreading Valentine’s Day!

We want to acknowledge that this may be a challenging time for some of our clients and many others out there. It is widely known that more than 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. While this is an unfortunate truth, at least there can be some comfort in knowing you are not alone.

If you are recently divorced or separated and feeling the sting of Valentine’s Day, please consider some of our strategies for making the most of it this year. Who knows? Maybe you can find some happiness and fulfillment afterall:

  1. *Treat yourself. Buy yourself a gift. Whether it is your favorite dessert, a new outfit, or something more extravagant, buy yourself something that brings you joy. Treat yourself to a feel-good day. Hit the spa, your favorite restaurant, go see a great movie, or stay in and watch a marathon of your favorite show. Love yourself and treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated. This is an important time to engage in self-care.
  2. *Give! Rather than focusing on not receiving gifts, choose to be a giver this year. Plan to give small, meaningful gifts to people that you care about. Show them your love! You may also consider giving your time through volunteer work. Giving is good for the soul.
  3. *Spend time with a friend. Plan to have lunch or a night out with a friend or a group of friends. Chances are you are not the only single person in your life. Get together with someone you enjoy and appreciate some good conversation.
  4. *Focus on the kids. If you have children, put your energy into making it a special day for them and showing them your love. Do something fun together and put focus on how Valentine’s Day is a day to show love to family. Focus on the other kinds of love in your life rather than on lost romantic love.
  5. *Be active. Use physical activity to release stress and tension. Go for a hike or a run. Find a yoga class. Ride your bike. Go dancing. Find something you can do alone or get a friend on board. Either way, doing something physical is a great way to release energy and endorphins on Valentine’s Day.
  6. *Laugh!  Whether with friends, with your children, or on your own, find humor and allow yourself laughter. Laughter is healing and reduces stress. Make this a priority.
  7. *Remember that you WILL survive. You made it through the December holidays and New Year’s and you will get through this too. Valentine’s Day is over-hyped anyway!

There is plenty of love to go around. Focus on showing love to your friends, your family, and most importantly to yourself!

Is Divorce your New Year’s Resolution?

As 2017 comes to an end, many are contemplating New Year’s resolutions. If nothing else, it is a time of reflection over the past year and a time to imagine what hopes and goals we have for the year ahead. Maybe you are planning to stop smoking, drink less, exercise more, eat healthier, or become more politically active. Most of us hope to make positive changes or do something that will better ourselves. This may involve re-evaluating our relationships and in some cases putting an end to an unhappy marriage.

Entering 2018, divorce is likely on the minds of many. People are reflecting upon their relationships as they reflect upon their lives. This is a common time for people to contemplate and ultimately pursue separation and divorce.

Trends in recent years have given January the less-than-endearing nickname “Divorce Month”, with January seeing more divorce inquiries than at any other time in the year. Others refer to January as the beginning of “Divorce Season”, as people are beginning to consider their options and divorce rates remain higher beginning in January and through March. Either way, there is a definite surge that occurs in January in the number of people seeking divorce advice and ultimately filing.

Why the divorce surge in January?

Here are some factors to consider:

Couples hold it together for the holidays:

  • Generally if one is making a divorce inquiry in January, they made the decision to do so before the holidays. Many times couples will choose to hold off proceeding with divorce until after the holidays to avoid making it unpleasant for children or other family members. This means January is prime time to announce and pursue divorce plans, once holiday festivities have completed.
  • In other cases, the stress and pressure of the holidays may be just enough to push struggling spouses over the edge. Holiday stress has the tendency to magnify and even exacerbate existing problems.

A fresh start in the New Year:

  • It is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts, reflections and resolutions. People who are unhappy in their marriages frequently use this time to decide to make significant changes. In some cases this may mean committing to doing things differently in the marriage, beginning couples counseling, etc. However, it is also common that unhappy spouses are ready for a blank slate. They may decide that their resolution for the coming year is to remove themselves from an unhappy or dysfunctional marriage, leading to increased divorce inquiries and filings.

Financial reasons:

  • For some couples, choosing to file for divorce in January is a calculated financial decision. They may want to avoid interference with joint tax filings from the previous year, to maintain the tax benefits of filing jointly one last time. There may be other strategic economic reasons to wait until the start of the new year to file, depending on the couple’s unique situation.

Legal Representation:

Divorce is complicated even when it’s not complicated. Dissolving a union that was meant to be forever is challenging and painful, and you should not try to tackle it alone. Contact an experienced family law attorney to represent and advise you appropriately. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group are highly skilled and experienced in managing divorces on all parts of the conflict spectrum, from more simple dissolutions to very high conflict divorces. Our attorneys are well-versed in the sensitive nature of this topic area. We are prepared to help you navigate the process, offer sound legal advice and counsel, and ultimately reach a resolution. Please contact us for a consultation.

Happy New Year! Stay safe and avoid DUI charges as you ring in 2018

Happy New Year! It is time to put 2017 behind us and celebrate the start of a new year! We hope you enjoy your New Year’s Eve festivities, and we urge you to take the steps necessary to ring in 2018 DUI-free.

Remember that a DUI is more than just a party foul. Safety is at risk!  Seattle Dept of Transportation (SDOT) reports that in 2016, nearly 10,500 individuals died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in the United States. Please do not endanger the lives of yourself and those around you!

You do not want to start out 2018 with a DUI charge! There will certainly be enhanced DUI patrols out tonight and you could be looking at driver’s license suspension, large fines, jail time, and the long term impacts of a criminal record.

There are many options for getting around safely tonight! 

With the ease and availability of multiple transportation options, there is really no reason to get behind the wheel if you have been drinking!

SDOT outlines safe ride options for your New Year’s Eve Celebrations:

  • Take TRANSIT: It is FREE ON NYE!  King County Metro  will provide free rides for all customers tonight.
  • Use a RIDESHARE or CAB option: Lyft, UberCurb, Flywheel, and Yellow Cab App are all available with ease from your smartphone.
  • Use the LYFT NYE discount! New and existing Lyft users who are heading to or from Lower Queen Anne can enjoy a 18% discount this evening using code: LQANYE18  –> Get the details here

Please plan accordingly to keep everyone safe:

  • Choose to drive sober or designate someone else to. If you are the designated driver, don’t drink.
  • If you have driven to your celebration and consumed alcohol, use one of the above options to get home. You can go get your car tomorrow!
  • If you know others who are about to drive under the influence, help them make other arrangements to get home safely.

If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being accused of DUI:

  • Don’t answer any questions. Politely tell the officer you don’t wish to make any statements and you want to speak to an attorney. Admission can be used against you later in court, but your silence or request for counsel cannot.
  • Don’t complete field tests.These tests are voluntary and you should tell the officer you decline any voluntary tests. The officer is looking for evidence against you and it is never a good idea to give it to them.
  • Contact our DUI Law Firm immediately for a FREE LEGAL CONSULTATION. We are available by phone 24/7. Keep our number in your phone or wallet and insist on calling us. We will advocate for you through this confusing and emotional process and help you reach the best possible outcome.

10 Tips to Reduce the Stress of Holiday Driving

With droves of holiday travelers on the road, we urge you to heed our 10 simple tips for staying safe during holiday driving.

Whether you are out doing last minute shopping or heading out for a holiday road trip, you need to be prepared. Hazardous road conditions, heavy traffic, and anxious drivers are inevitable.

Use these tips to maximize the safety of yourself and your passengers, and to decrease the stress of holiday driving.

Dellino Law Group wishes you a Happy Holiday Season and urges you to drive safely.

  • Don’t drink and drive. If there will be drinking at your holiday get-together, choose a designated driver who will remain alcohol free.
  • Make sure the car is ready. Be sure your vehicle is properly maintained, in good shape for travel, and ready for winter driving conditions.
  • Map your route out ahead of time when possible. Have a plan and be aware of projected weather conditions.
  • Buckle up! Ensure you and your passengers are properly restrained in seat belts and car safety seats.
  • Avoid fatigue. Get a good night sleep the night before, take regular breaks, and share the driving if possible. If you are tired, pull off the road to a rest area.
  • Have an emergency plan. Have a cell phone and charger with you so it can be used in case of an emergency. Keep the contact information for emergency roadside assistance handy.
  • Do not text while driving and minimize cell phone use in order to keep your full attention on the road. Utilize a hands-free device if you need to use your cell phone. See our prior blog post for details about cell phone and texting while driving laws in Washington State.
  • Keep a safe following distance, allowing for ample time to react to the traffic around you. If someone is tailgating you, allow them to pass. Don’t try to compete with impatient and aggressive drivers.
  • Watch your speed. Drive to the conditions and don’t drive over the speed limit. Give yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going so you are not in a rush.
  • Remain calm. If you feel stressed or irritable, take some deep breaths and stay calm. Don’t drive with road rage – This compromises the safety of yourself and the people around you.

Crime Prevention Tips for the Holiday Season

During the holiday season, there tends to be an upswing in crime rates for certain types of crimes. Some of the top crimes committed over the holidays include shoplifting, robbery, identity theft, DUI, and assault.

By remaining aware of holiday season risks you can better protect yourself and decrease your chances of becoming a victim. Please review these crime prevention tips to assist you in having a safe and joyful holiday season.

When Shopping:

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings
  • Park in a well-lit area, near other cars. Hide any shopping bags in a locked trunk.
  • When you return to your vehicle, check for forced entry and scan to be sure no one is hiding inside.
  • Have your keys out and ready when approaching your vehicle. Avoid fumbling in your purse outside your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or excess credit cards beyond what you need. If you do go to an ATM, make sure it is in a well-lit, safe location, and check your surroundings before withdrawing cash.
  • Carry your purse close to your person. Do not leave your purse, wallet, or cell phone in plain view and don’t carry your wallet or cell phone in your back pocket.
  • Do not resist or chase someone who is trying to rob you; they may have a weapon. Call 911 for assistance.
  • If you are shopping with children, have a safety plan and discuss when them ahead of time what to do if you get separated.

When Driving:

  • Drive defensively and with heightened vigilance. Remember that traffic is heavier during the holidays and there may be an increased number of drivers who have been drinking.
  • Lock your car doors and close the windows while driving.
  • Avoid shortcuts or detours that take you through unsafe or unfamiliar areas.
  • Don’t exit your car if you see a suspicious or shady situation.
  • Keep a safe following distance, allowing for ample time to react to the traffic around you.

When Celebrating:

  • Plan to drive sober or designate someone else to. If you are the designated driver, don’t drink.
  • Save the number or a taxi or rideshare company in your phone so you always have a backup plan.
  • Consider using smartphone apps like Lyft or Uber
  • If you have been drinking, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, use a rideshare company, or use public transportation to get home safely. If you know others who are about to driver under the influence, help them make other arrangements to get home safely

When at Home:

  • Be cautious when accepting packages and with people soliciting charitable donations. Ask for identification and confirm legitimacy before giving.
  • If you are leaving town, ask a trustworthy neighbor to watch your home and bring in the mail, deterring others from knowing you are not home.
  • Put your lights on an automatic timer.
  • Be extra vigilant when locking your doors and windows. Consider installation of secondary locks (deadbolts, etc.)
  • Don’t leave any valuables or gifts in view from outside the home.

Dellino Law Group wishes you a safe and happy holiday season!

How to help your children cope with divorce during the Holidays

The holidays are notoriously challenging for those undergoing stressful life changes, such as separation or divorce. Those enduring these experiences may endure amplified loneliness this time of year, while others are filled with holiday cheer.

The holiday season is often a particularly special time for children. Many kids wait with excitement and anticipation for the holidays, making it that much more difficult when divorce or separation is coloring the picture.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson with Seattle Children’s Hospital spoke on King 5 News about how to support children who are affected by divorce or separation. According to Dr. Swanson, more than 1 million U.S. children experience divorce or separation of their parents each year. The holidays are especially challenging for these children, often bringing on a sense of intensified loss or confusion. Dr. Swanson highlights that many children’s behavior changes in the first year of separation, encouraging parents to be very aware and supportive. Toddlers may regress and school age children may struggle with school, sleep, or interpersonally.

Please review our 5 tips for divorced or separated parents to reduce stress and help your children cope:

  • Be aware that your children’s feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or confusion may be amplified during the first year of separation and during the holidays
  • Communicate honestly with your child. Encourage them to speak openly about how they feel and answer their questions.
  • Keep routines as unchanged as possible, in order to provide some stability and structure.
  • Utilize your child’s pediatrician as a resource for your child’s emotional and physical health, in response to this major life transition.
  • Provide reassurance for your children that they are not to blame.

If this is your first holiday season post-divorce or separation, please review these additional tips/suggestions for surviving this time of year with your children’s best interest in mind:

  • Decide ahead of time how holidays will be divided. Create a plan that is clear, balanced, and acts in the best interest of the children. Keep arrangements as clear-cut as possible to minimize confusion for the children and to avoid unnecessary conflict with the other parent.
  • Provide reassurance for your children that the holidays will be enjoyable even though they will be different this year. Allow your children to be part of the process of creating new holiday traditions.
  • Focus on making your children’s holidays cheerful, joyful, and bright, staying as present-focused as possible.
  • If you do not get to spend the holidays with your children this year, plan an earlier or later celebration. Be reassuring and do not make them feel guilty.

Emotions run high during the holiday season — Be aware and be safe!

The holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but for many it is just stressful and overwhelming. There can be unrealistic expectations for joy and gift giving, financial pressures and strain, and tense family dynamics.

Tempers flare and emotions run high during the holiday season. With heightened stress levels and the increased consumption of alcohol this time of year, there may be more incidents of domestic violence.

Don’t ruin your holidays by lashing out. Be mindful of your own emotions and aware of your behavior. Make decisions that will keep yourself and those around you safe.

Washington law ardently prosecutes crimes of domestic violence. Conviction can involve very serious and long-lasting consequences. This is not to be taken lightly.

Domestic Violence Crimes:

Domestic violence is defined by Washington state law as any crime committed by one family or household member against another (RCW 26.50.010), which involves physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault. It is often assumed that domestic violence only applies to couples in an intimate relationship. While this is the most common, it is not the only type of relationship included in the definition. Roommates, siblings, and other domestic relationships as defined in RCW 10.99.020 are also included.

Some of the crimes connected with domestic violence include, but are not limited to:

  • Assault
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Coercion
  • Drive-by shooting
  • Burglary
  • Criminal trespassing
  • Malicious mischief
  • Kidnapping
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Violation of protection order
  • Rape
  • Manslaughter or murder
  • Stalking
  • Interfering with the reporting of domestic violence

Furthermore, if you commit a crime of domestic violence and then in any way prevent or attempt to prevent the victim from reporting the crime, you may face an additional charge:  “interfering with the reporting of domestic violence”. Please see our prior blog post for further information about the interfering with domestic violence reporting statute.

Penalties:

Depending upon the classification, circumstances, and severity of the crime, domestic violence convictions may be classified as misdemeanor or felony. Penalties may vary significantly. In any case, it is important to understand that domestic violence related cases are taken very seriously and consequences can be life altering. Some of the repercussions of a domestic violence arrest or conviction may include jail time, large fines, protection orders, court ordered counseling, and loss of gun rights. This is in addition the long term impacts of a having a criminal record, which may impact employment opportunities, immigration, and even your relationships.

Legal Representation:

*If you are ever in an emergency situation, please call 911 immediately. Safety first!

If you are seeking protection following a domestic violence situation, please contact us. Our criminal defense attorneys will help you to understand your rights and options, including determining whether to file a protection order.

If you find yourself in a position where you are being charged with a domestic violence related crime, including interfering with reporting of domestic violence or defending against a protection order, please don’t waste any time in enlisting competent legal counsel. A qualified and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is essential and we are here to help.

Our attorneys at Dellino Law Group are dedicated to ensuring your rights are fully protected and will work to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Please contact us for a Free Consultation.

Reminder for your morning commute: New distracted-driving law in WA State is in effect (DUI-E)!

Washington State has a new anti-distraction law, effective NOW. Be sure you understand the law so you can avoid a citation.

The Seattle Times and Komo News provide useful, detailed accounts of what is banned and what is legal. Here are some of the bullets:

  • Driving under the Influence of Electronics (DUI-E) is a primary offense. A police officer can pull someone over based solely on seeing them using a handheld device, typing on their device, or watching a video.
  • This law became effective yesterday, 7/23/17. It is enforceable now.

What is banned?

  • The new law prohibits a person who is sitting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle from holding a personal electronic device in either or both hands
  • Texting or holding a phone to your ear was already against the law.
  • The new law forbids all handheld use. This means not just phone calls or texting, but composing or reading any kind of message, social media post, photograph, or data.
  • Drivers may not use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal either.
  • All video watching is illegal, even in dashboard dash-mounted device.
  • Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating are a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other traffic offense.

What is legal?

  • The new law allows for “the minimal use of a finger” to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of a personal electronic device. Police will use their judgment on this. The intention for it to include a one-touch activation action only, where the driver does not need to look away from their windshield.
  • Common built-in electronics, such as hands-free phones and satellite music and maps, are legal.
  • Smartphones mounted in a dashboard cradle may be used for limited purposes, such as navigation, music, or a voice-activated call.
  • Emergency, handheld calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, and so are urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers.

What are the penalties?

  • The standard traffic fine of $136 would apply to a first offense, but would increase to $234 for a second offense within five years.
  • For a 6-month grace period, the WA State Patrol will reportedly be handing out literature about the new law. However, the grace period is controversial among police King County Sheriff’s Office intends to begin issuing citations immediately.
  • Don’t take any chances. Expect you will be ticketed and fined if you are stopped for this offense.
  • These citations will be reported in state driving records, unlike the previous law. Insurance companies will track them and violations may impact your insurance rates.

Why is this happening?

  • The Seattle Times reports that last year, 156 of the 537 WA State roadway deaths were related to distraction of various kinds, as were 572 of the 2,208 serious injuries.
  • This intention of the new law is to save lives.

Please reference the Seattle Times & Komo News articles for additional, more detailed information.

DRIVE SAFELY! Please contact our traffic attorneys at Dellino Law Group if you have any questions or if you have been issued a violation and wish to understand your options in contesting.

 

Another Prostitution Sting in Seattle Resulted in Numerous Arrests – We Can Help

We recently ran a post related to Sexual Exploitation and Patronizing charges, detailing the law and consequences, and describing how we can help. We referenced a sting operation in a Seattle massage parlor in 2016 where at least 204 men were arrested.

There has been another string of arrests related to a prostitution sting in Seattle. The Seattle Times describes a Seattle prostitution string resulting in 139 arrests at an Aurora Ave storefront. This was reportedly a week-long sting and the men arrested may face charges of Sexual Exploitation.

Please see our prior blog post for explanation of Sexual Exploitation law. This is the term used in Seattle and it is the same crime as Patronizing a Prostitute, as it remains called elsewhere in Washington State.

Understand that Patronizing or Sexual Exploitation charges can impact your job, family, relationships, criminal record, and more. We know that being arrested for these charges may bring up feelings of shame, fear, and confusion. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help.

If you have any questions about the law or are facing charges of your own, please contact our team for a Free Consultation. We have successfully fought many similar cases and we are here to advocate for you and your best interests.

Contact Dellino Law Group

High caliber legal representation for DUI, Criminal Defense, Divorce, Family Law, Traffic Violations, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Federal Way, Kent, Redmond, Bremerton, Poulsbo, Lynnwood, Everett, Marysville, Bothell, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Brier, Sammamish, Renton, Burien, Monroe, Issaquah, Lakewood, Puyallup, Port Orchard, and all of King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, and Thurston County.