The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the new tax law) was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. Some of the changes from the law go into effect on January 1, 2018 and will affect the tax filings for the 2018 taxable year. Notable changes that will affect divorcing spouses and parents are as follows:
No more claiming your kids as tax deductions. Effective for the 2018 tax year, parents can no long claim their children as dependents for the purpose of deducting them on their taxes. This change will certainly modify divorce orders and agreements as parents no longer will need to agree about who will claim the children on their taxes each year. However, while Congress has taken away the ability for parents to claim your children on their taxes, it did double the child tax credit from $1000 per child to $2000 and allow parents to alternate this deduction for children each year. All divorce agreements and orders after January 1, 2018 should contain language for how parents will claim the child tax credit. Congress also allows all taxpayers earning up to $400,000 to claim the child tax credit, an increase from the prior cutoff income level of $110,000.
Alimony payments are no longer deductible by the payor. Beginning with the 2019 tax year, for all divorce agreements signed after December 31, 2018 and later, those who pay alimony can no longer deduct alimony as an itemized deduction. Those receiving alimony no longer have to claim alimony as income and will not be taxed on the payment of alimony to them. This is a significant change. According to the United States Census Bureau, 243,000 people received alimony in 2017. This law change will speculatively could impact divorce negotiations with couples arguing about whether alimony should be paid when there is no longer a tax benefit to the payor. It appears that the IRS will allow all ex-spouses who modify their alimony to follow the 2017 tax law in claiming alimony as a deduction for those that pay it and having those that receive alimony claim it as income so long as their agreements or orders specifically state that they wish to follow the old tax law and the decree or agreement was made before December 31, 2018.
The new tax law eliminates many itemized deductions. Starting with the 2018 tax year, the new law maintains deductions for charitable contributions, retirement and student loan interest but eliminates other deductions. The law limits how much a taxpayer can deduct from property taxes as well. However, Congress has doubled the standard deduction for individuals from $6,350 to $12,000 and for married couples from $12,700 to $24,000.
Parents can use 529 education plans in creative ways. The new law allows parents to use up to $10,000 per year per child in funds in a 529 educational accounts for tuition at private and religious schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Overall, the new tax law promises to increase wages by lowering tax rates. Congress represents that you should see an increase in your paycheck by February 2018 because of the lower tax rates. This blog is for information purposes only and does not take the place of obtaining financial advice from a qualified CPA or financial planner. For more information please see the following articles: https://www.thebalance.com/trump-s-tax-plan-how-it-affects-you-4113968 and https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/your-money/tax-plan-changes.html.
In New Hampshire, a court will make decisions about how assets will be divided, or whether alimony will be awarded by looking at a number of factors that is set forth in the statute. Generally, the Court will equitably divide the couple’s marital assets, but how to determine what is equitable depends upon the statutory factors. One of those factors is whether or not the marriage is a long term marriage or a short term marriage. Often in a “short term” marriage the Court will try to return the parties to their economic positions prior to the marriage. Until recently, the Court did not specifically indicate whether it was appropriate to consider a period of cohabitation when determining how to equitably divide assets. In August, 2016 the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued a decision, In the matter of Deborah Munson and Coralee Beal that makes clear that the Court does have the authority to consider a period of cohabitation prior to the marriage when determining how to divide assets. The Court did clarify that “duration of marriage” only refers to the period of time of an actual marriage and does not include any periods of cohabitation. However, the Court can consider a period of premarital cohabitation when making an equitable distribution of marital assets. For instance the Court recognized that when a divorcing couple’s relationship has included “years of economically interdependent cohabitation followed by a ‘short’ marriage, the notion of returning the parties to their original pre-marital position is unrealistic.” For those individuals involved in relationships that included lengthy periods of cohabitation, this decision is good news that the Court will in fact consider those years when making its division of property.
Congratulations to Attorney Catherine Shanelaris, the 2016 winner of the Bruce Friedman Pro Bono Award
Shanelaris & Schirch is hosting a free consultation evening on Wednesday, August 31st from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Come in for a one-on-one free consultation with one of our highly skilled and experienced attorneys. Get immediate information and free legal advice. Consultations will be scheduled for 30 minutes between the hours of 5pm and 8pm. Call 594-8300 to reserve your time now to talk with the attorneys about your family law or divorce law concern. We look forward to the opportunity to help.
Here is a great article on how the Collaborative Process can facilitate a couple’s ability to deal with conflict moving forward, something that may have actually caused the demise of their marriage. I hope you enjoy it!
This year the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a conviction of a man for stalking, criminal threatening and witness tampering based on his Facebook posts. In the case of State of New Hampshire v. Brian Craig (https://www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/opinions/2015/2015011craig.pdf ), Mr. Craig was found guilty of these charges after a series of posts directed at one specific victim. The victim worked as a bartender and waitress at a restaurant that Mr. Craig and his friends frequented. Mr. Craig tried to have a relationship with the victim which she declined. He began writing letters to her and the victim found the letters threatening and intimidating. The victim contacted the police and the police served Mr. Craig with a stalking warning letter. After receiving warning letter, Mr. Craig sent another written letter to the victim. The victim then obtained a domestic violence protective order. After receiving the restraining order informing him he was to have no contact with the victim, Mr. Craig began posting a series of comments on his public Facebook page. The victim had not friended Mr. Craig but found his posts through a Facebook search because the comments were public. After reading the posts, the victim called the police. Mr. Craig was arrested for the criminal charges including violations of the restraining order.
Mr. Craig defend himself by saying that he had not named the victim specifically by her name in his posts and did not send her the messages directly – the comments were merely posted on his public profile page. However, the Court found that Mr. Craig had specifically told the victim he had put comments on his Facebook page. When he did this, he was directing the communications to her. Mr. Craig had no other logical reason to make the posts on his Facebook page. The Court found that Mr. Craig was specifically trying to communicate his comments to the victim. The Court found that the comments were meaningless to anyone else except the victim and the intent was to stalk and threaten the victim.
When posting to Facebook, be aware that public comments can make a personal legally responsible for the comments made. It is best to vent any negative comments to your friends and in your private off-line diary and not on Facebook or any other social media.
Guardianships can come about in several ways, and are brought to the courts for different reasons. Guardianship over a minor person may arise as a precursor to adoption, as a challenge to a parent’s ability to care for the child, or as a result of an abuse & neglect case. While it is entirely true that a guardianship proceeding may be the last thing any parent wants to go through, it is important to understand that guardianships aren’t always a negative thing. When someone other than yourself is granted a guardianship over your child, it may be able to provide the support a parent needs to prevent any further negative consequences, and in turn, lay the foundation for a healthy and successful future for the family.
Each biological or adoptive parent inherently retains full authority over their child. This is guaranteed by our federal and state constitutions, as well as our state statutes. A parent does not lose any bit of that parental authority until the Court makes an order as such (or a court’s approval of an agreement). The basic principle of all guardianships, regardless of how they arise, rests on the finding that a child needs substitution or supplementation of parental care and supervision. The Court may grant a guardianship to a person other than the parent in order to provide that supplementation of care that the child is lacking. Sometimes, the courts will order a temporary placement for a child as the result of an abuse and neglect case. This is particularly unfortunate, as the parent against whom the abuse or neglect claim is found not only risks having their child taken from their everyday care, but also, will have a finding of abuse/neglect against them. A finding of abuse or neglect can have very serious consequences down the line, including possible termination of parental rights. If a parent recognizes that they are in need of some additional supports for themselves and/or for their children, it may be worthwhile to explore the idea of a consented-to (agreed upon) guardianship with a family member or close friend that the parent trusts and has a good relationship with the children. In this context, guardianships can be a good thing for the parent, in that they provide stability to the child, and could act as a delay or altogether preventative measure to DCYF becoming involved and potentially moving forward on an abuse and neglect claim.
Again, there is more than 1 way a guardianship can arise. It is important that you speak with an attorney at Shanelaris & Schirch, PLLC to understand all of your rights prior to entering into any agreements.
As we approach the holidays, tensions can run high amongst family members; that may be especially true for divorced or separated parents. As parents we want the holiday season to be filled with joy for our children as well as for ourselves. We reflect back on our holidays during our own childhood and strive to replicate the joy or replace what may be our own difficult memories with beautiful memories for our own children. For parents that are newly divorced or separated this time of year may be even more stressful as the pain of loss of the once intact family feels ever present. One of the best gifts that divorced parents can give their children is a peaceful holiday season. As difficult as it may be for you, the parent, it is more difficult for your children. They feel the painful loss as well, and want nothing more than to be able to spend time with both parents as well as extended family and friends. Those events and activities that make up our holiday traditions are important to them as well. So, while it may be difficult it is likely best if you are able to negotiate the holiday schedule well in advance of the holiday itself. Respect both families and extended families and their traditions, and above all, remember that your children are a piece of both parents and an appreciation and respect for all family members will show your children how to negotiate and resolve conflict in the most positive way.
Divorce and separation can be a difficult process for spouses to endure, particularly given that it uniquely requires true bravery, but also restraint. In cases where a spouse suspects infidelity, addiction or other dishonesties, it is not uncommon they feel they want or need to get proof of their spouse’s wrongdoing. All potential clients should heed this warning: the truth may not outweigh the risks, especially when those risks include possible state and federal criminal charges.
When considering recording telephone calls, attaching a GPS monitoring device to a vehicle, or perusing another’s email inbox, it should be stressed that even if a spouse is able to “catch” the other person in their wrongdoing, the evidence of that wrong doing may not be admissible in court if it was obtained illegally. In general, in order to record telephone or in-person conversations, there must be consent. Under federal wiretapping laws, at least one party to the conversation must consent. This one party can include you, the person recording. But, this State has gone one step further, and require “two-party consent” under our wiretapping laws. This means that all parties must consent to the recording of the conversation. There are some intricate caveats and nuances, but generally speaking, to discretely record a telephone conversation of other parties without their knowledge and consent will likely not be admissible in court to prove the very thing you are attempting to prove. Furthermore, by violating these privacy and wiretapping laws you could face criminal prosecution and expose you to a civil lawsuit for damages.
Lastly, even if a spouse is successful on proving adultery, the family courts in New Hampshire are unlikely to deviate so far from an equal split in assets/debts that would make the trouble of potential criminal prosecution, worthwhile in the long run. Reference the wiretapping and privacy laws applicable to you, for more specific information on the topic.
Attorney Cathy Shanelaris participated in teaching an educational class for the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service to explain the court process and procedures for obtaining a child support order from the court. Please click on the link to see the video: