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June is Pride Month! LGBT Family Law Expertise at Dellino Law Group

LGBT Family Law

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, making it a great opportunity to highlight issues surrounding LGBT Family Law.

Dellino Law Group ardently supports marriage and relationship equality. Regardless of sexual or gender orientation, we believe in each family’s right to exceptional legal representation.

LGBT family law continues to change rapidly, both federally and in Washington State. We are dedicated to remaining up-to-date and knowledgeable with the evolving nature of the law, and we are proud to serve the LGBT community throughout Seattle and Washington State. The following are just a few of our specialty areas:

*Child Custody for Same-Sex Parents:

Same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012 and there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. In the same vein, child custody considerations should be subject to the same laws for same-sex couples as for opposite-sex couples.

However, many same-sex couples with children have been together for many years prior to December 2012 and/or may not yet have chosen to legally marry. In cases where one partner is the legal parent of the child, custody issues may become challenging if a separation should arise. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the existing laws to potentially establish parental rights based on demonstrating the parent-child relationship and bond, despite legal or biological ties.

Other child custody issues or disputes may arise for same-sex parents as well. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group understand the unique considerations involved when creating parenting plans for same-sex parents and are skilled and experienced in advocating for the rights of parents, regardless of sexual or gender orientation.

*Divorce for Same-Sex Couples:

Once again, same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State in December 2012 and there are no legal differences between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. This includes marriages entered into in Washington State as well as in any other state. The only way to dissolve a same-sex marriage in Washington State is through divorce proceedings, just the same as an opposite-sex marriage.

It is advised that you contact an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage. At Dellino Law Group, we have worked with many same-sex couples in dissolving their marriages. We understand that even though the law and procedure may be the same as it is for opposite-sex couples, there could arise complex, unique issues, given that this is still fairly new territory in terms of case law. We are dedicated to helping you achieve the best possible outcome in your individual case.

*Domestic Partnerships:

In 2007, Washington State began allowing same-sex couples to register as domestic partners. Unless dissolved, all of the Washington State domestic partnerships were converted to marriages on June 30, 2014. If your domestic partnership was converted to marriage and you are now seeking divorce, there are special considerations you need to be aware of.

For questions or consult about dissolutions of domestic partnerships, conversion to marriage, or registration of domestic partnerships, please contact us.

*Committed Intimate Relationships:

In Washington State, “common law marriage” does not exist. However, Washington courts do recognize “committed intimate relationships. These relationships were formerly known as “meretricious relationships” and exist when an unmarried couple lives together for a significant period of time. In Washington State, these relationships have property rights similar to those had by married couples. It is critical that you know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner in Washington so you can plan accordingly. Cohabitation laws apply to all couples meeting legal requirements for committed intimate relationships, including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Please see our blog post  for detailed information about committed intimate relationships including factors the court uses to determine this type of relationship, your rights, and important issues to consider.

*Adoptions:

Many gay and lesbian couples are uneasy about potentially facing discrimination when looking to adopt. Some states do have laws that are less welcoming and even outright discriminating, but Washington is not one of those states.

In Washington, same-sex couples have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Any person who is legally competent and who is at least 18 years old may become an adoptive parent (RCW 26.33.140). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are qualified to adopt, regardless of whether they are single or married.

Same-sex couples can adopt jointly and can arrange second-parent adoptions as well. The NCLR(National Center for Lesbian Rights) defines second-parent adoption as a legal procedure that allows same-sex parents to adopt his or her partner’s biological or adoptive child without terminating the first parent’s legal status as a parent, regardless of whether they have a legally recognized relationship to the other parent. This is also known as a co-parent adoption.

Unfortunately, there is not yet an anti-discrimination law in place preventing birth parents from deciding against individuals or couples based on sexual or gender orientation. If you are a LGBT-identified individual or couple, finding the right adoption match may be challenging. It is advised that you work with an experienced attorney through this process. Our family law attorneys are very knowledgeable and experienced in the unique challenges LGBT individuals and couples face when seeking adoption. We are eager to work with you to achieve your goal of welcoming an adopted child into your family.

 *Legal Representation:

In addition to adoption, custody, and divorce expertise, we are equipped to manage the unique considerations for LGBT-identified individuals or couples who may be seeking

  • Estate Planning
  • Wills, trusts, and powers of attorney
  • Prenuptial & Postnuptial Agreements
  • Property Division

Please contact us for a Free Consultation to discuss any and all LGBT Family Law issues.

 

Mental Health Awareness Month

We can’t let May end without acknowledging the importance of Mental Health Awareness!

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month! We join and support the efforts to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and the prevalence of mental illness.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 1 in 5 Americans is affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime, at varying degrees. NAMI acknowledges that nearly every American is impacted of affected by mental illness through a friend or family member, and we are all responsible for supporting our loved ones, fighting stigma, and raising awareness.

More than 46 million people in this country suffer from some type of mental health disorder, yet there is still exists considerable widespread misconceptions and negative perceptions about mental illness. This contributes to significant stigma, which creates an environment of shame, fear, and isolation. Stigma may prevent people from seeking help and ultimately impede people from healing. People need to be supported to seek treatment and to develop a healthy support networks, free from judgment and negative perceptions of others.

NAMI reminds us that stigma can be cured. Compassion, empathy, and understanding are essential for combatting stigma and creating a cultural shift. We all must be a part of this change!

If you are struggling emotionally, please do not hesitate to seek support. If someone you care about is suffering, please encourage them or assist them in seeking support:

NAMI Seattle provides educational courses and support to those living with mental illness as well as their family and friends, and operates a mental health referral and information Helpline to connect callers to the support and resources they need. Please contact (206) 783-9264 or (800) 782-9264 for the NAMI Helpline.

If you or someone you know is in CRISIS, please do not waste any time! CALL FOR HELP IMMEDIATELY. If the crisis is life threatening, please contact 9-1-1. If the crisis is not life-threatening or if you are seeking help outside of regular NAMI office hours, please contact one of the following crisis hotlines:

Suicide Hotlines:     800-273-TALK • 800-273-8255  / 800-SUICIDE • 800-784-2433

Crisis Clinic 24-Hour Crisis Line:    866-427-4747

National Runaway Switchboard:   800-RUNAWAY • 800-786-2929

National Child Abuse Hotline:    800-422-4453

National Sexual Assault Hotline:   800-656-HOPE • 800-656-4673

National Domestic Violence Hotline:  800-799-7233

I’ve been charged with Assault 4 – Now what?

Assault charges vary greatly in terms of situation and seriousness. Being charged with assault can be confusing, upsetting, and life-changing. Whether it is self-defense, defense of another person, a lapse in judgment, or something else that led to the assault charge, you will need strong legal representation to navigate your charges, defend your rights, and fight for the best possible outcome.

Assault in the 4th Degree (Assault 4) and Domestic Violence Assault in the 4th Degree (DV Assault 4) are characterized as Gross Misdemeanor charges. The penalties and consequences of a conviction can be life changing.

Understand the law:

Fourth Degree Assault (Assault 4) – RCW 9A.36.041

  • A person may be charged with Fourth Degree Assault if he/she assaults another person under circumstances not amounting to First, Second, or Third Degree Assault
  • No injury needs to occur for Assault 4 charges to be filed. The requirement is that the contact be considered “offensive by an ordinary person”
  • This is a Gross Misdemeanor
  • Penalties: A conviction may result in fines up to $5,000 and jail time ranging from 0-364 days. The court may also order anger management or drug treatment classes, and/or may resolve the case through probation.

Domestic Violence Assault in the Fourth Degree (DV Assault 4)

  • A DV specification on an Assault 4 charge is likely to come with enhanced penalties.
  • Like Assault 4 (non-DV), DV Assault 4 is a Gross Misdemeanor and a conviction can result in up to 364 days of jail time and a $5,000 fine.
  • In addition, a DV Assault 4 conviction may lead to a loss of rights to possess firearms.
  • The court may also order a domestic violence treatment program and a no-contact order, keeping the accused away from their loved ones and even their home.

Understand the threshold for arrest:

  • The truth is it doesn’t take much to be arrested on a DV Assault 4 charge in Washington State. This is the most comment domestic violence charge in WA.
  • “Assault” is generally defined by case law as “any unwanted touching” and the law states that the contact must be considered offensive by a reasonable person.
  • If police are called to a scene and there is any indicator that unwanted touching has occurred, an arrest will take place.
  • State law requires the police to arrest the primary aggressor if they have probable cause to believe there was an assault within the last four hours.
  • DV Assault 4 charges do not require an injury to take place. DV Assault charges are filed when there are allegations of a minor injury or no injury at all.

Involve legal counsel as quickly as possible:

Be aware of your own behavior at all times, and especially in times of significant conflict or stress. Recognize the bar is low for Assault 4 arrests and charges and understand the magnitude of the potential repercussions. Consequences can be severe and life-altering. If you are charged with Assault 4 or DV Assault 4, be sure to contact an experienced defense attorney directly after your arrest. Dellino Law Group has the knowledge, expertise, and experience to help you fight your charges and reach the best outcome possible.

 

Committed Intimate Relationships: What to know when you move in with a partner

*WA recognizes Committed Intimate Relationships & Not Common-Law Marriage

It is a common assumption that after living with an intimate partner for a long-time, you automatically end up in “common-law marriage”. You get all the economic and legal benefits of a marriage without the formal certificate and expensive party. Sounds great, right?

Wrong. It’s not so simple. Only a handful of states recognize common-law marriages, and Washington State is not one of them.

While there is no common-law marriage in Washington State, unmarried couples living together for a significant period of time may become recognized as “committed intimate relationships”.  These relationships were formerly known as “meretricious relationships and are often inaccurately referred to as common-law marriages.

Committed intimate relationships, including both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, have property rights similar to those had by married couples in Washington State. It is essential for you to know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner in the state of Washington so you can be well informed and plan accordingly.

*How does the court determine a Committed Intimate Relationship?

There is not a specific set of criteria or a distinct formula used to determine if a relationship constitutes a committed intimate relationship. The courts use a number of different factors when making this determination. Some of these factors (among others) may include:

  • How long was the relationship?
  • Was cohabitation continuous?
  • What was the purpose of the relationship and the intentions of the parties involved?
  • Did you hold yourself out as a couple?
  • Was this an exclusive relationship?
  • Were you registered domestic partners?
  • Did you pool resources / Did you buy property together?
  • Were you on each other’s bank accounts or credit cards?
  • Were you names in each other’s wills?

Each case is evaluated individually, but generally a couple needs to have lived together for a minimum of 2-3 years and presented/held themselves out to be in a committed intimate relationship.

*Rights in Committed Intimate Relationships:

When an unmarried, cohabitating couple separates, if their relationship constitutes a committed intimate relationship as determined by the courts, their rights and responsibilities are similar to those of married couples. If a couple cannot negotiate and come to an agreement on their own, the court may need to get involved in making determinations.

The most common issues that arise include:

  • Determining division of debts and liabilities
  • Determining property ownership rights and division of assets
  • Determining child custody and child support

Generally, property acquired during the committed intimate relationship is presumed to be owned jointly by both parties. This will be divided in a way that is fair and equitable as determined by the court. The separate property of the parties is not subject to division.

*Some of the significant differences between rights in a Committed Intimate Relationships vs. a Marriage:

  • Couples do not receive the same tax benefits as married couples
  • There is no spousal support and no duty of maintenance when a couple separates. The court will get involved with the division of assets and liabilities only. The only exception to this is if a couple has a valid written contract in place that provides for support or maintenance.
  • Attorney fees cannot be awarded in these cases. Each individual will have to pay their own fees. Awarding attorney fees is limited to married couples RCW 26.09.140

*What can I do to protect myself?

If you are considering moving in with an intimate partner or currently live with a partner, and were unaware of the WA law on committed intimate relationships, you may be wondering what you can or should do with this information.

*Enter into a Cohabitation Agreement:

  • This allows you to make sure that you and your partner dictate the terms of what will happen if your relationship and cohabitation are to end, rather than leaving it in the hands of a court.
  • You may do this either at the onset of moving in or even after you already have.
  • You can set forth how property will be divided and protect yourself from allowing a partner to gain a share of your property in the event of a break-up.
  • Cohabitation agreements protect both parties and serve as insurance in the event that are questions or disagreements at the end of a relationship, when emotions often run high.

*Legal Representation

Whether you are entering into, are in the midst of, or are facing the end of a committed intimate relationship, we are here to help. Our experienced family law attorneys will help you navigate this complicated and emotional process objectively. We have the expertise, knowledge, and compassion to assist you effectively and collaboratively as you enter the next phase of your life. Please contact us for a Free Consultation.

Relocation with Children – Moving with Kids after a Divorce

If you are considering relocating with your child or have received notification of a proposed relocation from the other parent of your child, you need to know what to expect, what your rights and options are, and how to best proceed to protect the best interests of yourself and your children.

Washington law has a specific process and set of statutes that govern issues related to relocation with a child, including each party’s rights and responsibilities. This is also known as the Relocation Act (RCW 26.09.405-560).

*Proposing Relocation with Children:

For many different reasons, a parent may decide to move and relocate their child(ren) in the process of doing so. It may have to do with a job re-location or promotion, or it may be related to a divorce or separation and subsequent desire to move closer to extended family. For any reason, when the primary residential parent decides to move and relocate the children, the other parent has a right to be given notice of the proposed relocation and an opportunity to object. This is a legal requirement, regardless of whether you may believe the other parent is in agreement.

*Process of Notice and Objection:

If you are the primary residential parent and are intending to move and relocate the child(ren), you must give the other parent at least a 60 day notice. If you are given less than a 60 day notice of your move, for some unforeseen reason, you are required to give notice to the other parent within 5 days of becoming aware of it.

If your move is a far enough distance that it will disrupt the existing parenting plan, you must also file a proposed new parenting plan to replace the existing one.

The other parent has 30 days to file an objection with the court. The court clerk then sets a trial date, which could be 3-4 months out. There may be a preliminary hearing. If the other parent does not file an objection within 30 days, the relocation will be permitted. If they do file a timely objection, the primary residential parent may not relocate the children until there is a hearing held on the objection.

If the move is within the child’s current school district or if there is not yet any Parenting Plan or child custody court orders, the Relocation Act does not apply. (RCW 23.09.405)

*Legal Presumption and Opposition:

There is a presumption that a relocating primary residential (custodial) parent will be permitted to relocate the children unless the objecting parent can present evidence that outweighs this presumption.

The objecting parent must demonstrate that the detrimental effect of the relocation overcomes the benefit of the change to the child and the relocating person, based on these eleven statutory factors (RCW 26.09.520). The factors listed are not weighted and no inference is to be drawn from the order in which they are listed.

*Legal Representation:

This process can be emotionally charged, complicated, and extremely stressful. Whether you are proposing relocation or objecting to a relocation proposal, you will need to work closely with a knowledgeable family law attorney who will help you fight for the best interest of yourself and your child(ren).

Decisions you make early on in this process can strongly affect the outcome of your case, making it vital that you involve us as soon as possible. Our family law attorneys are experienced and well-equipped to help navigate your unique situation.

 

*Case Summary Example:

The following is a brief summary of one of our recent family law cases pertaining to relocation:

  • Description: Our client is a dedicated father who came to us after being served with a relocation notification from the other parent. The client was faced with having his child move to the other side of the state, taken out of his school, and away from regular time with his father. After thorough preparation in presenting our client’s case and after arguments and briefing of the issues, we were able to obtain a ruling from the court that our client would be better suited as the primary residential parent. The other parent’s relocation was denied. This was followed by establishing child support for our client from the other parent, given his new status as the primary parent.
  • Outcome:  Relocation was denied and our client became the primary residential parent. We were able to achieve the result that was in the best interest of the child and our client.

I got served with a protection order – What do I do now?

Protection orders need to be taken seriously. If you have been served with a protection order, it is important to know how to proceed. We have highlighted some of the essential steps to take if you are served with a protection order:

  • Legal representation: First and foremost, involve legal counsel as quickly as possible. It is essential that you contact a skilled, experienced defense attorney to advise you and represent you at the hearing to review the temporary order. The sooner you involve legal counsel, the more time they will have to thoroughly investigate your case and advocate for your best interests effectively.
  • Understand the order: A protection order is something different than a no-contact order and it is separate from any criminal action. A protection order is issued by the court at the request of a person claiming to be a victim of domestic violence or harassment.  A temporary order for up to 14 days may be issued. A hearing will be set within 14 days, at which time the court will designate the length of the order, from one year to permanent. Please see our prior blog post for a description and comparison of orders in Washington State (domestic violence protection order, sexual assault protection order, no-contact order, restraining order, anti-harassment order, vulnerable adult protection order, and stalking protection and no-contact orders)
  • Know the terms: Read the protection order carefully. You may be restricted from being within a specified distance of the home, workplace, or school of the petitioner. Understand the terms and do NOT go anywhere the protection order forbids you from being.
  • Do NOT contact the petitioner: Do not take any chances. Do not approach, write, text, email, or contact the petitioner in any way. Do not contact or attempt to connect with the petitioner through social media outlets, and do not facilitate third party contact. Do not try to apologize or inquire to the petitioner about why they have filed the order. Any contact can be considered a violation and you may face serious consequences.
  • Know the consequences: Consequences of violating a protection order include mandatory arrest and may include criminal charges or contempt. These charges can range from gross misdemeanor to class C felony depending upon the situation. You may face up to a year in jail and substantial fines. A protection order is to be taken seriously and it is essential to avoid any willful violations and to take all steps necessary to avoid accidental violations.

Our criminal defense attorneys are highly skilled, with a track record of fighting against protection orders successfully.  We are available to advise you appropriately and help you to navigate this challenging and emotionally charged situation. Contact our experienced attorneys at Dellino Law Group immediately and work diligently to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! Stay Safe & Avoid DUI Charges

St Patrick’s Day often involves leprechauns, shamrocks, good luck, and wearing shades of green. With this holiday comes fun and festive celebrations, which unfortunately bring some of the highest rates of drunk driving.

Many St. Paddy’s Day festivities will occur today and throughout the weekend. During this period, extra law enforcement will be out in force nationwide and they will be looking to crack down on impaired drivers.

Remember that a DUI is more than just a party foul. You could be looking at driver’s license suspension, large fines, jail time, the long term impacts of a criminal record, and much worse. You do not want your celebration to be overshadowed by tragedy. Driving under the influence of alcohol puts at risk your own life and the lives of others.

Before you set out to celebrate, please review our party planning tips to help you stay safe.

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

  • Choose to drive sober or designate someone else to. If you are the designated driver, don’t drink.
  • Use a RIDESHARE or CAB option: LyftUberCurbFlywheel, and Yellow Cab App are all available with ease from your smartphone.
  • Take Public TRANSIT!
  • 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.

It is also essential to be prepared. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are driving under the influence and being pulled over, you should know how to handle it.

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.

Ask the Difficult Questions Before you say “I Do”!

Some would say we are amid “Divorce Season”, with higher rates of divorce occurring January through March. We certainly see an influx this time of year.

When saying “I do”, most all couples hope for “happily ever after”. The truth is, however, more than half of American marriages end in divorce, despite everyone’s best intentions.

Dissolving a union that was meant to be forever is generally an emotionally painful process, and often quite expensive. We encourage you to do all that you can to increase the odds of your marriage going the distance.

This New York Times article discusses the need to have hard, honest conversations before heading to the altar. Build a stable foundation for your partnership. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions! Avoiding challenging conversations early-on in order to avoid potential conflict is not wise. Have the open dialogue now before it is too late!

The article suggests these 13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married, with the goal of stimulating open and honest discussion with your partner and creating essential foundational building blocks on your road to forever:

  1. Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose? It is important to discuss conflict resolution and how early experiences may or may not have impacted how you approach resolving conflict.
  2. Will we have children, and if we do, will you change the diapers? Couples should have a solid idea of where each other stand on the question of children, including whether to have children and parental roles.
  3. Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us? Couples are often resistant to directly discussing their prior relationships. However, some discussion here may be important in order to come to a place of acceptance of each other’s pasts
  4. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all? Have early, honest discussions about this issue, especially when there are religious differences. If you are planning to have children, it is helpful to have a plan.
  5. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out? Understand where each other stand regarding financial independence. Come to an agreement about whether to combine finances or keep them separate, and how to go about doing this. Financial conflict is one of the leading causes of divorce. Have open and honest conversations early and develop a mutual understanding and plan.
  6. What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes? Get on the same page about spending patterns, priorities, and expectations.
  7. Can you deal with my doing things without you? Discuss areas of life where you wish to maintain autonomy as well as expectations of privacy. Develop understandings about this early, in order to minimize tension later.
  8. Do we like each other’s parents? If you are lucky, you will get along swimmingly, but often the relationship with in-laws is quite challenging. This can be manageable if you and your partner are on the same page and can present a united front.
  9. How important is sex to you? Open the dialogue about sexual desires, expectations, and negotiation. Create a precedent for open discussion about sex with your partner.
  10. How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching porn okay? It is recommended that you and your partner have agreements about behavior related to flirting, pornography, and monogamy. Attitudes and behavior may change with time and conversations may be ongoing.
  11. Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”? Learn each other’s “love languages”. Understand the expressions of love your partner most values.
  12. What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves? Consider how you will manage aspects of your partner that you find challenging in the long term.
  13. How do you see us 10 years from now? Develop a mutual understanding of your life and relationship goals.

 

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!

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