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Glen Burnie Family Law Blog

2019 will bring changes to the way alimony is taxed

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed roughly a year ago and several changes were instituted at the beginning of 2018 for Maryland taxpayers and others around the country. However, one significant revision will be effective until the year is over. Alimony will be taxed differently after the new year and this could cause a rush of activity to get divorces finalized before year end.

Currently, the spouse paying alimony is allowed to deduct that amount from his or her taxable income. The receiver, on the other hand, is required to pay income taxes on the alimony. The new legislation will reverse this, both eliminating the deduction on alimony payments and the tax on the amount received. The tax burden has effectively been shifted from the person receiving alimony to the individual paying it. Supposedly, the government will realize more income from taxes as a result.

Couples cite various reasons for seeking prenuptial agreements

Prior to getting married, most Maryland couples and others around the country have countless issues to discuss. Not only do they have to decide every detail of their wedding ceremonies, they also often ponder what their lives will be after they tie the knot. More and more couples are also adding prenuptial agreements into the mix of topics prior to the wedding date. Over half the matrimonial lawyers in a recent survey stated that they had witnessed an increase in couples requesting prenups.

While the reasons for couples seeking prenuptial agreements vary, many cite the need to protect the finances that they are bringing to the marriage. Some individuals have already amassed an amount of savings, property or business interests and want to safeguard those in the event of a divorce down the line. Others may have inheritances or family heirlooms that they do not wish to see divided in a property division decision by a court.

How does property division work in Maryland?

When getting a divorce, it is normal to want to walk away with one's fair share of marital assets. If a couple is able to work out their own property division agreement, the terms should reflect those wishes. If a divorce case goes to court, a Maryland family court judge will get to decide how property is divided and while the final a settlement should be equitable, it may not grant each party what they want.

Maryland is considered an equitable distribution state. That means that all marital property is up for grabs when a couple chooses to divorce but it will not necessarily be divided in an even 50/50 split. There is some flexibility in how property is divided. For example, say one party wishes to keep the marital home, the other party may get a greater share of monetary or physical assets that equal the same value of the home. The goal is to allow each party to leave the marriage with roughly an equal share of assets.

Over 3 dozen arrested for deliquent child support payments

When Maryland couples and others around the country get divorced, there are many decisions reached that impact them financially. If a couple has children, a major component in the divorce decree could be child support. One party may be required to provide this monetary support for a designated period of time for any minor children. Unfortunately, it is fairly common to hear that an ex-spouse has failed to make the support payments. One county in another state recently arrested over three dozen people for being delinquent in making their child support payments.

The effort required over 40 law enforcement officers and lasted three days as they issued warrants and made arrests. Reports showed that the 38 delinquent men and women owed over $850,000 in child support. Previously, less than $22,000 had been collected in support payments from those arrested. One individual owed over $86,000 in child support. The majority of the people arrested had made no payments at all or had paid minimal amounts.

Property division: Deciding who keeps the pets in a divorce

The majority of Maryland families and others around the country have pets in their homes, with dogs and cats topping the list of the most popular animals. Those pets are often considered to be members of the family by their owners. Unfortunately, the future of some pets may be uncertain when couples decide to get divorced while decisions about property division are made. Recently, some states have made some major changes in the way pet custody is determined in a divorce.

Traditionally, pets were viewed as property and were added to a list of belongings like household items or vehicles to be divided between the ex-spouses. However, this view is giving way to one where pet custody is handled more like child custody. The determination of who gets to keep a pet can be highly contested.

Prenuptial agreements may strengthen couples' relationships

When couples in Maryland or elsewhere around the country plan to get married, many of their major decisions are centered on the wedding itself. For example, they must discuss the venue, what the wedding party will wear or even what food will be served. While introducing the topic of prenuptial agreements may not be the most likely subject while wedding planning, some experts contend that having a prenup may actually strengthen a couple's psychological bond.

Many couples may view discussing the terms of a prenup as the opposite of a romantic activity. However, counselors suggest that while plans are being made to spend a lifetime together, it is also a good time to talk about protecting one another should something happen in the future. Discussing each other's expectations and goals openly and honestly can build trust before a marriage. Ideally, this discussion could be broached before many plans for the wedding have begun, even soon after the engagement. In most cases, it would not be wise to suggest developing one close to the big day.

Child custody issues: Shared parenting continuing to gain support

Shared parenting has been a hot topic among divorcing couples with children in Maryland, elsewhere in the country and even around the world. Child custody issues in a divorce are typically among the more hotly debated, since many emotions are involved concerning one's children. Now, many states are recommending that courts start the child custody discussions with the assumption that the children's time will be equally split between the two parents.

This is a far cry from the traditional approach by the courts, where one parent, typically the mother, had primary custody. The other parent would get visitation rights for every other weekend and some holidays. Family experts, however, recognized that children coped better with their parent's split and with life in general when they spent significant time with each parent. More than 60 studies have been cited that support the shared parenting concept.

Which expenses can child support payments cover?

Most divorced parents in Maryland wants what is best for their children. It is therefore only natural for a noncustodial parent to be concerned about how the child support he or she pays every month is spent. Is it used as intended to support the various aspects of the child's life, or does the custodial parent spend it on him or herself? Although there is no law to dictate precisely how child support money should be spent, there are basic guidelines to ensure it is used in the best interest of the child.

Depending on the age of the child and the custodial parent's circumstances, child care fees such as day care, after-school care and babysitting might require a significant percentage of the monthly check. Next on the list of priorities are the child's daily needs, including food, shelter and clothing. Medical expenses will depend on which parent carries health insurance, but child support money might have to cover prescription costs, medical co-pays and health insurance deductibles.

More Maryland millennials signing prenuptial agreements

In the 21st century not all things last forever and that can include marriage. Gone are the days when couples stay together no matter what. Younger Maryland couples -- or millennials -- realize this and are waiting longer to get married. They're also marrying smarter, and that includes marrying with prenuptial agreements in place. 

As millennials are embracing both pre and postnuptial agreements, so too are many more couples, especially those who marry more than once and who find themselves in blended families. Many millennials' parents have divorced and so they might know firsthand what the divorce process entails and may want to safeguard themselves financially. When prenups first surfaced some years ago, they were looked upon as being killers of romance --not so much anymore.

Prenuptial agreements are on the rise

When a Maryland couple decides to get a divorce, they may assume that there will be some heated or contentious discussions in their future. Although the couple may agree that it is time to move on, they are not looking forward to some potential arguments over how their property will be divided or how custody for the children may be handled. However, for those couples with prenuptial agreements, the potential for these heated conversations is mostly out of the picture.

Prenuptial agreements, or prenups, are documents couples sign before tying the knot. The agreements address a variety of issues about how things will be handled should the couple split. Just a few years ago, prenups were mainly reserved for wealthy or celebrity couples. However, in the last five years, over 60 percent of matrimonial lawyers report that they have witnessed a rise in the requests for prenups, particularly among the millennial generation.

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