Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence

Relationships can be hard work, and every couple goes through challenges and hardships.  But when the regular everyday ups and downs turn violent, it can be difficult to recognize that you are actually in an abusive relationship.  If your partner has used violence or threatened you with violence, or even if they try to control your activities and actions, then you may be a victim of domestic violence or abuse.  The following discusses some of the signs that you might be in an abusive relationship and steps you can take that may help you.

As mentioned above, even if your partner doesn’t harm you physically, they can still be abusive.  Your partner might not hit you, but they can abuse you emotionally or mentally.  Here are several signs of emotional abuse:

  • Monitors your phone conversations or social media posts;
  • Isolates you and limits your interactions with family and friends;
  • Limits your access to the car or other transportation;
  • Limits your phone use;
  • Limits your access to cash;
  • Destroys your personal property;
  • Stalks you;
  • Tells you what you can or cannot do or have;
  • Threatens to take away your children or destroy you via the legal system;
  • Forces you to have sex;
  • Acts extremely disrespectful towards you and makes you feel less-than; or
  • Threatens to hurt or kill you, or a loved one.

Even if you are not experiencing violence now, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship.  Also know that many of these actions could lead to violence in the future.  So, if you believe that you are a victim of spousal abuse, or a significant other, it is important that you don’t ignore this belief and that you find the courage to leave this relationship, as it may save your life.

While leaving an abusive husband or wife is typically the best plan of action, it is always easier said than done.  This is when a support network becomes useful.  Recognize that you are not alone in your situation.  Do not be afraid to reach out to friends and family members.  But even if you feel as though you cannot rely on friends and relatives, know that various programs throughout Florida have resources that can help victims of violent and abusive relationships.  These programs can help you leave your abusive partner and can help you establish an independent life away from your partner.  A compassionate West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney can also assist you with finding the right program for your situation.

In some instances, you may have to file a restraining order against your abusive partner.  A restraining order is a legal document that prevents your partner or spouse from contacting you or from being in proximity to you.  If you believe you or your children are in imminent risk of harm by your partner, it is imperative that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable attorney right away so that you can seek informed and protective legal counsel, the protection of a restraining order if needed, and put into contact with the proper authorities who will protect you and your children from further abuse.

Contact an Experienced West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney Today

It is not always easy to recognize that you are a victim of an abusive relationship, but when you do, it can be difficult to leave that relationship.  Acknowledging that your relationship is indeed abusive and realizing that you need help are important first steps toward getting out of a dangerous situation.  If you require assistance finding resources, or if you would like to be informed of your legal options, need help obtaining protection or restraining order, or even if you simply have questions about your situation, be sure to contact a West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney as soon as possible.  At Eric C. Cheshire, P.A., we practice exclusively in divorce and family law, and we have assisted many clients who have been domestic violence victims.  Call us today at (561) 655-8844 to schedule your personal consultation with Attorney Eric Cheshire, and find out what he can do for you.

 

Divorce, Taxes and Children

The combination of taxes and divorce can add another layer of complexity to an already complicated situation. Divorce affects taxes in different ways.  This is especially true for divorced couples with children. Read how divorce affects taxes; especially if you have children.

Child Support

Arguably, alimony and child support are both forms of income, but the IRS tends to treat them very differently. Generally speaking, alimony is taxable for the recipient and tax-deductible for the person paying it. That’s not true of child support. In fact, the IRS does not require that child support be reported as income, so the parent receiving child support will not have to declare it as taxable income. Meanwhile, the person paying child support cannot use these payments as a tax deduction. However, if alimony is scheduled to end within six months of a child’s 18th or 21st birthday, then the IRS may view it as child support.

Dependency Exemption

An exemption reduces your taxable income, and you may receive an exemption for each person you claim as a dependent. Many couples specify who will be claiming a child on taxes in their divorce agreements. In the past, if the parent who was awarded the least amount of time-sharing was awarded the right to claim a child as a dependent in their divorce agreement, they could simply refer to the agreement to support their claim. Now, it may be necessary to secure and sign an IRS Form 8332, which is entitled “Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent”.  However, what if your divorce agreement is silent about dependency? If the agreement doesn’t address the issue, then the parent with the majority of time-sharing awarded typically receives the tax credit. If, for any reason, the parent does not qualify for the tax credit, or decides to opt out, they may agree to allow the other parent to claim the credit by signing an IRS Form 8332.

The Child Tax Credit

A tax credit reduces your tax liability, and the Child Tax Credit allows parents with incomes below certain amounts to claim a credit for each qualifying child who is under the age of 17. If you meet the requirements, you can claim both the exemption for dependency and the tax credit, but you cannot claim the tax credit for a child who is not listed as one of your dependents.

The Child Care Credit

The Child and Dependent Care Credit is designed to help cover the costs of child care. Even if the parent with less time-sharing claims the child as a dependent for tax purposes, they won’t qualify for this particular credit. However, if you are a parent with the majority of time-sharing, you may be able to claim this credit regardless of whether the child is your dependent. The requirements for this credit are specific, so before claiming it, consult with a tax professional.

If you are looking for additional information about taxes and divorce, we’ve also written another article about understanding the different ways to file taxes after a divorce.

Tax codes are continually changing. If you have detailed questions about taxes and divorce, we recommend that you also consult with a qualified tax professional. If you are facing legal issues relating to divorce, child support or child custody, Eric C. Cheshire offers over 29 years of experience, dedicated exclusively to divorce and family law. Contact us today at 561-655-8844 to schedule a consultation.

The Why and How about a Prenuptial Agreement?

prenuptial agreementBefore marriage, couples often shy away from discussions of money, and their reluctance is understandable: Finance and romance seem mutually exclusive.

In fact, however, bringing financial issues into the open can be healthy, and it can be done without a full-scale return to the days of arranged marriages and fiercely negotiated dowries. Today, a couple can enter into a prenuptial agreement before the wedding, and that agreement will govern a wide range of financial matters in the future.

What can you put into a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement can cover a wide range of financial matters both during and after the marriage.

  • You can use a prenuptial agreement to specify whether some property individually obtained during the marriage will remain the property of one spouse and will not be treated as community property.
  • You can keep property, including property that might later be acquired by inheritance, in one spouse’s family.
  • You can limit one spouse’s liability for the debts of the other spouse.
  • You can define your respective financial responsibilities during the marriage, separating responsibility for household expenses, specifying how bank and credit accounts will be handled, and determining how taxes will be filed.
  • You can make provision for a spouse’s children from a previous marriage.
  • You can decide how property will be divided in the event of divorce and, in some jurisdictions, whether alimony will be part of the divorce settlement.

The precise answer to the question “What can you put into a prenup?” varies from state to state, but it’s fair to say that almost anything that is otherwise legal can be included, except for an agreement that defines the terms of support for the couple’s children.

How do you get a prenup?

The hallmarks of a valid, enforceable prenuptial agreement are disclosure and fairness. Unless both parties disclose all relevant details of their finances, the agreement is readily challenged, and it makes good sense to provide that information well in advance of the wedding day. The party receiving that information should have enough time to understand its implications. When information is provided at the last minute, a prenuptial agreement lawyer can argue that it was tantamount to receiving no information at all.

Demonstrating the requisite degree of fairness does not necessarily require that the agreement be fair by some particular standard. It does, however, necessitate the involvement of legal counsel. Each spouse must be provided with his or her own prenuptial agreement lawyer, someone with undivided loyalty to the individual, not to the parties as a couple.

The question “How do you get a prenup?” is only part of the ultimate question. In order to arrive at a prenuptial agreement that works, one that is valid and enforceable, both parties must put their cards on the table and each must have separate legal representation.

Taxes and Divorce

Taxes and divorce might have been the last thing you were thinking about at the time.

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But if you’re now separated or newly divorced, it could be worth your while to get some good financial advice before the April 15th tax deadline.

Here are important tax tips for those who are divorced, or are divorcing:

What Is My Filing Status: Divorced or Married?

By law your filing status is determined as of the last day of the calendar year. You are considered unmarried for the whole year if, on the last day of the tax year, you are unmarried or legally separated from your spouse as determined by a divorce or separate maintenance decree.

So if your divorce became official in December, you can’t file as married even if you were for most of the calendar year.  Your filing status will be either single, or you can claim “head of household” . Talk to your tax advisor about the benefits, if any.

In some instances, couples in the middle of a divorce may qualify for filing as single or head of household. In order to do so, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You have lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the tax year
  • You have paid over half the cost of maintaining your primary residence
  • You must be able to claim your child or children as your dependent(s) according to the rules for children of divorced or separated parents
  • You have to file a separate tax return from your spouse, even if you are still legally married

Joint Filing Status – What You Need To Know

If you are, or plan on, filing a joint return with your spouse, review your tax return before signing on the dotted line. If there are concerns or inaccuracies, you will be held liable for what is being reported, whether your spouse or a professional tax accountant prepared the forms. Innocent spouse rules have been liberalized in recent tax legislation, making it much easier for spouses to qualify for tax relief.

The current legislation allows a spouse to limit liability on a joint return to his or her separate liability. This is especially important for those separated and who continue to file joint returns with their spouses. It offers greater protection to divorced spouses who face liability for taxes on returns they jointly filed during marriage.

The innocent spouse provisions provide tax relief to a spouse who jointly files with his or her spouse if there was a tax understatement attributable to that spouse and he/she did not know about the understatement when signing the return, nor did he/she have reason to know of a tax understatement.

Splitting Of Property and Joint Assets

Fortunately, you are not required to pay income taxes on assets transferred during divorce. However, if you end up getting the primary residence, you won’t be getting the property tax-free. Capital gains taxes still apply even to the recently divorced and will also be applicable if you decide to sell or unload your house after the divorce.

Under regular circumstances, a married couple will not have to pay taxes on a gain of up to $500,000 on their primary residence. But now as a single person, you can only exempt half of that amount. What this means – if your house sells for more than $250,000 more than what you and your ex-spouse paid for it, you will owe taxes. There is one advantage if you are recently divorced: if you moved out of the house before the divorce was final, and then ended up getting the house in the proceedings anyway, you may still claim the house as your primary residence.

Exemptions for Dependents

As a general rule, a child can only be claimed on one tax return – you can’t both claim the same kid as a dependent. This may present a problem if you are divorced or separated. You can claim your child as a dependent on your tax return if the divorce decree names you as the custodial parent.

In some instances, the noncustodial parent can claim the exemption if the custodial parent signs a waiver pledging that he or she won’t claim the child.

In this case, divorced or separated couples may choose to trade who claims the children from year to year. This method helps to share the tax benefit, and if you only have one child it is your only option. The non-custodial parent must attach the waiver declaration to his or her tax return for the tax year beginning in that calendar year.

But if you have more than one child, you may chose to split the dependency of the kids up between the two parents, which is allowed even if both kids spend the same amount of time with each parent.

Other Exemptions for Dependents

  • Medical Bills and Expenses – If you pay your child’s or children’s medical bills after the divorce, you are entitled to include those costs in your medical expense deductions even if your ex-spouse has custody and claims the dependency exemption.
  • You can still claim childcare credit for work related expenses you incur, even if your former spouse qualifies to claim the dependency exemption, to care for a child or children under the age of 13. Keep in mind, only the parent claiming the child as a dependent can claim the child tax credit.

Child Support: A Tax-Neutral Concern

Child support is always tax-neutral, meaning unlike alimony it doesn’t affect your taxes in any way. It is non-taxable income to the person receiving it and it is not tax-deductible by the person paying it . In some cases, you or your spouse may be paying both spousal and child support. In this situation, you may not lump both payments together and call them “spousal support” in order to claim a bigger tax deduction.  This is against the law and you may end up owing back taxes, penalties, and interest if your support payments are not structured correctly in your divorce agreement.

Alimony Payments and Tax Deductions

A spouse paying alimony may take a tax deduction for those payments, even if he or she doesn’t itemize their deductions. This means, if you’re the one paying alimony, you will have a lower tax bill. By Law, the IRS won’t consider the payments to be true alimony unless they are made in cash and spelled out in the divorce agreement – and cannot be considered child support. The spouse receiving the payment must pay income tax on those amounts. Make sure you know your former spouse’s Social Security number because it needs to be reported on your tax return to claim the alimony deduction.

Sharing a residence after a divorce changes the rules for a tax deduction for those alimony payments. If you and your ex-spouse share and maintain a residence after the divorce, any alimony payments made during that time of share residence cannot be deducted. Keep this in mind if you are facing extended divorce proceedings due to finances or custody battles. Even under these explanatory circumstance, you may still have trouble qualifying for the deduction.

Other Itemized Deductions

For other itemized deductions, such as charitable contributions and the like, you would generally be able to claim the expenses you paid individually and half the expenses that were paid from a joint account while you were married.

Legal fees and expenses involving personal matters are normally not deductible, but you can deduct the portion of fees paid to divorce-industry professionals (example: lawyers, accountants, or appraisers) for tax advice or for help in getting spousal support. Additionally legal expenses related to the taxpayer’s business are usually deductible. If you own and operate a privately held business and incurred legal expenses related to that business during the divorce process, then those expenses may also be deductible.

Final Tips On Taxes And Divorce

If you divorce in the middle of a tax year, your judgment or settlement agreement should clearly define how income earned and expenses paid during the marriage are to be reported. This helps to ensure filing accuracy and avoid inconsistent returns. If for some reason the income earned and expenses paid during the marriage is not clearly detailed in the divorce agreement, you should consult with your former spouse when preparing your tax return to avoid IRS issues which will impact to both your return and that of your former spouse.

In order to have the most up to date and accurate information regarding your taxes, please make sure to consult with a Tax Attorney or Certified Public Accountant before applying this information to your particular situation.

If you need additional legal help with your divorce, please contact our office at (561) 655-8844.

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Legal Separation vs Divorce in Florida

Legal SeparationA question we frequently hear from clients is in regard to legal marital separation  in Florida, and any benefit it offers relative to the divorce process. Interestingly, Florida is one of eight states that does not recognize legal separation between a couple.

Within Florida, a husband and wife can legally live separately, however state law does not recognize the status of legally separated. In some ways, this absence of legally separated status can make separation easier for some couples, noting that husband and wife can separate without the need for court order. This is especially beneficial when a couple may wish to avoid legal process due to social, religious or professional concerns.

Still, Florida Family Courts do offer different laws regarding separation between a couple to facilitate the separation of the family unit.

Here are facts you should know regarding marital separation.

Alternatives to Legal Separation

With no legal marital separation where a couple can seek a court order to legally formalize a separation, Florida Family Courts may offer special provisions to help regulate spousal/child support, custody and rights of visitation during separation.

An important fact to keep in mind, while a separation agreement may be written and signed by both husband and wife, it is not considered a “legal separation” by Florida courts. The provisions determined through the family court system are legal orders specifically defined for regulation of the family needs.

Child Custody and Visitation

For couples with children, but are living separately, it is possible to file a court motion to ask for the establishment of a primary residence for the children and set child support.

Florida courts have the right to determine custody and visitation rights for the parties during the separation. Many factors may impact the determination including:

  • Number and age of children
  • Special needs (medical, educational, emotional concerns) of the child or children
  • Hours of employment for each of parent

What Constitutes a Legal Separation in Florida

Factors the courts may use to define a separation:

  • You have minor children and live with the children apart from your spouse
  • You do not share financial accounts and have separate responsibilities for independent household expenses
  • The date of separation is a key date if it is a precursor to filing for divorce. This date marks the start of legally required child support from one parent to another

Should the separation lead to divorce, a re-evaluation of custodianship of the children will take place unless both parties agree to the mediated settlement.

We hope this post provided information and clarification on the different provisions and laws controlling the separation between a couple and the family unit within the state of Florida.

You may always use the form on the left side of the page to send a question to Attorney Cheshire.  Thank you.