For a great many married people in the United States, the figures – and the divorce attorneys – tell us that tax time is also divorce time. Even the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “To everything there is a season,” and for divorce attorneys and family lawyers, that season is January through April 15 (the actual deadline is April 18 this year). When marriages cannot be repaired, a new year might be right for making a transition, and with some cash back from the IRS, that’s exactly what thousands of people choose to do. But before you seek a dissolution, you must be prepared for a divorce’s financial ramifications – which can be substantial.

If the financial aspects of your dissolution are not handled properly, you could be dealing with severe and unanticipated financial problems for years into the future. Before you take any step toward dissolution, speak with a good divorce attorney, and follow that attorney’s recommendations. In Westchester County and nearby communities, consult with an experienced Westchester County divorce lawyer.

Westchester County divorce lawyer

HOW CAN YOU PREPARE FOR DIVORCE?

As a marriage slowly winds its way toward divorce, some spouses will begin hiding assets to keep those assets from being discovered and divided in the dissolution process. Marital property can include real estate, equities and bonds, retirement savings, and even the pets. If you think your spouse is hiding assets or property, you’ll need to work with a divorce lawyer who is experienced at finding hidden assets and who is skilled in the division and distribution of marital properties in dissolution.

If you are using your IRS tax refund to finance a dissolution this season, it is absolutely imperative to consider what your finances and income will look like subsequent to the dissolution. Living on a substantially different income after your divorce will require meticulous and thoughtful planning. If you need the help, your divorce attorney can recommend qualified financial advisors and other beneficial resources in your community.

Before you make a final divorce decision in the state of New York or in any other state, be prepared for the financial consequences of divorce by taking these steps. Review your finances thoroughly. Obtain a copy of your credit report and examine it thoroughly as well. Open new bank accounts in your name only. Then consult with a good divorce lawyer regarding the cost of your divorce. Many divorce attorneys will arrange quite reasonable payment plans, and in some divorces, your attorney’s fees can actually be paid by your ex as part of the final settlement or agreement.

Westchester County divorce lawyer

WHAT DOES DIVORCE COST?

What a divorce costs you will depend on the specific legal services you need. If you hire a family law attorney to handle only one aspect of your divorce, say the division of property or the child custody arrangement, that will cost more than a simple consultation but less than full representation. If you have few issues to resolve with your ex, a divorce will cost less, but if everything is in dispute, you’ll pay more. If you and your divorcing spouse can reach agreements on any of these matters, you can substantially reduce the cost of your divorce:

  • child custody, support, and visitation
  • division of property, assets, and debts
  • spousal support (alimony)
  • reimbursement claims
  • breach of fiduciary duty claims
  • legal fees

If you are funding a divorce with your IRS tax refund this season, you need to be aware that con artists are hard at work this year stealing those refunds. CBS News quoted one New York tax lawyer who says, “The identity theft with the tax returns has become a cottage industry.” The Internal Revenue Service has taken a number of measures to identify bogus tax returns, but the IRS also suggests that you never carry your Social Security card or number on your person and that you keep locked away any documents, official papers, or computer files with your Social Security number. The IRS will never contact you by phone, so never give anyone claiming to be with the IRS any information over the telephone.

Until 2010 in the state New York, divorcing spouses could not obtain a genuine “no-fault” divorce. You and your spouse had to be already legally separated, or one spouse had to prove that the other engaged in misconduct that constituted grounds for dissolution. In 2010, however, New York lawmakers passed and Governor David Paterson signed no-fault divorce into state law. Under the 2010 statute, New York couples may now divorce simply by stating that an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marriage makes reconciliation impossible. However, before a New York court will finalize a no-fault dissolution, the spouses must resolve all divorce-related issues such as property division, spousal support, and child support and custody. The resolution may be an agreement the couple has reached or it may be imposed by a court order. A spouse may still seek a fault-based divorce in New York on the basis of:

  • cruel and inhuman treatment (physical or mental abuse)
  • abandonment (for at least a year)
  • incarceration (for at least three years as the result of a felony conviction)
  • adultery

If a spouse seeks a divorce based on any of these grounds, he or she must prove to a judge that the other partner is guilty of the misconduct charge. A felony conviction is easy enough to prove, but if the alleged misconduct consists of adultery or cruelty, the purportedly-victimized spouse will have to prove the adultery or cruelty, and that may require witnesses and additional evidence. Fault-based divorces are typically disputed and acrimonious divorces that take a heavy emotional toll on everyone involved. Especially if you have children, it’s important to determine whether a fault-based divorce will offer advantages that are worth the emotional cost. Your divorce attorney can provide the advice you need.

Westchester County divorce lawyer

WHAT IS REQUIRED TO DIVORCE IN NEW YORK?

In New York, a married couple may also seek a divorce if they have been legally separated pursuant to a court-ordered judgment of separation for at least a year. To obtain a divorce in the state of New York, you must meet at least one of these conditions: you were married in New York and one spouse has lived in the state for at least a year; you have lived in New York as a married couple and one spouse has lived in the state for at least a year; or one spouse has lived in New York for at least two years.

In divorces in New York, marital property is divided “equitably,” so that property and debts acquired during the course of a marriage are divided on the basis of “fairness” rather than on a strict 50-50 basis. Marital property can include your home, incomes, and bank accounts. It can also include real estate, retirement funds, pets, and more. The court considers each partner’s current and future financial situation, children if there are any, and the value of assets or business interests.

A New York court may order one divorcing spouse to make alimony payments to the other. When considering the alimony decision, a judge will consider the length of the marriage, each partner’s current and future earning potential, and each partner’s contributions to the marriage. To modify an alimony order, the party requesting a modification must show that circumstances have changed so substantially that the ongoing order is no longer fair or appropriate.

Westchester County divorce lawyer

WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

New York courts determine child support amounts based on the incomes of both parents. In most cases in New York, a parent’s child support obligations continue until the child reaches age 21. When determining the amount of support, the court will also consider each parent’s resources and the child’s health and educational needs. The court may order one parent to pay specifically for the child’s healthcare or educational expenses. As with alimony, if a child support order needs to be modified, the partner asking for the modification must show that circumstances have changed so that the original order is no longer fair or appropriate.

In any divorce that involves a child or children, New York’s courts always make the best interests of the children the highest priority. As it seeks to provide a child with the most stable environment possible, the court may award child custody to one or both parents. A judge may consider virtually any and every aspect of a family’s life with the goal of making the best possible decision for the child. If the parents can agree independently on a child custody arrangement, in most cases the court will approve that agreement. To modify a child custody order, the party requesting the modification must show that circumstances have changed considerably and that the original order is no longer in the child’s best interests.

For the personal divorce advice and committed legal representation that you’ll want and need when you seek a divorce in the state of New York, speak at once with an experienced Westchester County divorce lawyer. Although many may choose to divorce during tax season, the best time for you to obtain a divorce is when you are ready both financially and emotionally. An experienced Westchester County divorce lawyer can help. In Peekskill, Westchester County, and adjacent communities, if you are divorcing or considering dissolution, make the call promptly.

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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