How do you really figure out what’s worth fighting for in your divorce?
Most of us can see that entrenched fights over something low stakes — like who gets the microwave — is a waste of time and money. Getting the microwave in the divorce (or letting it go) is not going to change the course of your life. But what about bigger issues, including those related to child custody and finances? How do you hold your ground when negotiating true make-or-break items? Let’s take a look…
Worth fighting for: A fair custody agreement
There is still a lingering misperception that mothers “always” get primary child custody. While that may have been more common in the past, judges now believe that children need equal access to both parents. To get 50-50 parenting time, you will need to prove to the court that you can provide appropriate housing, proximity to their school, and a work schedule that accommodates your visitation time.
If your child is very young and has been cared for primarily by your spouse, ask for a step-up plan: initially less custody time, and more frequent visits, building to a 50-50 split as your child matures and is able to spend longer periods away from the other parent. Protect your relationship with your child by fighting for joint physical and legal custody at the start of your divorce, rather than going back later after a status quo has been established.
Worth fighting for: Child tax credit
Generally, the primary custodial parent gets to claim the child as an exemption and receive a tax credit. However, if you’re the non-custodial parent you still may be entitled to receive the credit if your spouse signs an exemption releasing it to you. Qualifying for the dependent child credit will enable you to receive other credits, such as dependent care. It’s entirely reasonable to request that you and your spouse trade off years claiming the exemption; come tax time, you’ll be glad you did.
Worth fighting for: A fair alimony agreement
Whether you are the spouse who pays or receives alimony, alimony will affect your finances, possibly well into the future. You want to get this right. Be aware that alimony is highly negotiable and there are different types of alimony that may fit your situation.
For example, agreeing to a lump sum alimony payment, even at a lower pay-out rate than in a traditional monthly payment, may sometimes benefit both the recipient and the receiver. If you are the recipient, lump sum payments protect you in the event that your spouse loses their job, is unable to work because of health issues, or simply becomes “gainfully unemployed.” And, unlike monthly payments that end if you get remarried, you’ll retain the entire amount even if you do. You can also choose to invest the money towards retirement, and take only the interest every month.
If you are the payor spouse, paying out alimony in one lump sum can be favorable to your taxes, sometimes significantly so. Remember, starting in 2019, alimony payments are no longer tax deductible. It may be worth it to your wallet to get the “tax hit” out of the way in one year.
Worth fighting for: Accurate real estate valuations
Whether you’re both planning to sell your home, or one of you is buying out the other, make sure you hire a licensed real estate appraiser to help you accurately value your house. For a buy-out, the appraiser will determine fair market value so you get a fair split. If neither of you can afford the house, and you decide to sell, the appraiser will help determine the list price. You may be reluctant to shell out more money for an appraiser, but the cost is well worth it; your house is likely your most valuable financial asset.
Worth fighting for: Equitable distribution of pension benefits
Make sure you ask for a share of your spouse’s pension because you will not be able to do so if you wait till they retire. To ensure that you receive your share, you will need a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order). This will prevent you from having to go back to court at a later date and possibly lose your share of the pension, not to mention pay legal and court fees.
What’s worth fighting for in your divorce? Our divorce specialist attorneys are here to help you set your priorities. Start safeguarding your future today. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below.