Alimony, Spousal Support and Imputation

Alimony, Spousal Support and Imputation - NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Alimony, Spousal Support and Imputation
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Many issues can come up during the course of a divorce, one of which is imputation of income. For most people, this is not a common term, although it can be a common problem, so let me explain it.

When two people divorce, one of the considerations is the payment of alimony or spousal support. Alimony typically refers to what parties agree to pay each other under a private agreement. Spousal support typically refers to what the court orders one spouse to pay the other. These terms, however, are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing.

In Virginia, when trying to determine whether alimony or spousal support will be an issue, each spouse must provide proof to each other of their gross incomes from all sources, which is then considered by their attorneys during settlement negotiations or is otherwise submitted to the court at trial. The court looks at the financial means and income of each spouse and weighs the relative need of the spouse seeking support against the relative ability of the other spouse to pay such support in light – with gross income being a significant factor in the consideration, along with the employment history, training and education, ages, and health of each spouse. If the court finds a need and an ability to pay, it will order spousal support.

Imputation of income can be imposed against both the paying spouse and the non-paying spouse, depending on the circumstances, to include:

(1) When the spouse ordered to pay spousal support decides to quit his or her job or takes a lower paying job in an effort to undermine his or her ability to pay support and avoid continuing to pay support. The paying spouse may think, once their support payment is recalculated based on their “new” income, they can simply return to full-time work at their higher income level and “beat the system.” A spouse may also be imputed his or her income from a former job if the spouse is fired from that job due to his or her own misconduct, thereby being the one to cause a decrease in the ability to earn a higher income.

(2) When a spouse asking to be paid support refuses to obtain employment or takes a lower-paying job in order to increase the amount of support they claim to need, or, gets fired from a job due to his or her own misconduct at the job, thereby being the one to cause a decrease in the ability to earn a higher income.

In these instances, the court can (and often does) impute income when determining the proper support amount or deciding whether modification of an existing support amount is proper.

Let’s look at an example of imputation

Let’s say one spouse is an accountant and previously brought in a salary of $75,000, but now has decided to spend the day on the couch, or they willfully reduced their work schedule to part time in order to avoid paying alimony or seek a reduced payment. Or another spouse has decided not to look for work in order to receive a supporting alimony payment. (Note that each spouse is capable of working and not restricted from working. They voluntarily chose not to, thinking it would be to their financial advantage.)

If it is determined that the spouse is capable of working, the judge will look at the spouse’s qualifications, work history and market conditions to then determine a reasonable income that person should be making. In other words, the judge will impute, or assign, a specific earnings amount. The court can then order a spousal support payment based on the imputed income as a matter of fairness or to punish the dishonest spouse. One cannot escape the responsibility of alimony payments or seek to appear unemployable to obtain a higher amount of spousal support by simply choosing to leave their job.

However, as an exception, if circumstances out of their payor’s or recipient spouse’s control cause him or her to lose their job or require a reduction in income, the court may redetermine alimony amounts, or impute a higher income amount to the other spouse. In any case, imputation will not occur without the party in question being heard by the judge.

In addition, the court can also award remedial support to assist with a spouse who is obtaining education and training to improve their earning capacity. That spouse is then expected to sincerely follow through with that training, and then seek gainful and higher-paying employment.

Contact Your Family Law Attorney
Divorce is never easy, and many people have questions, issues or concerns that arise even after the final divorce papers are signed. Imputation is a highly complex issue and best handled in court or by agreement with the input of an experienced family-law attorney. That is why the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. is here. Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi specialize in family law and can help guide and advise you before, during and after your divorce proceedings. Contact us today.

Pets are Family Members Too

Pets are Family Members Too - NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Pets are Family Members Too
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

When setting up a trust or will, many people overlook the fact that their pets are members of the family too. We know that their lifespans are generally not as long as humans, so we don’t think about what might happen to them should they outlive us.

As such, their long-term needs must be considered in the event that you are unable or unavailable to care for them due to disability or death — especially considering that some pets, such as parrots, can outlive their owners by many, many years.

In Virginia, you can include provisions in your Will or Medical Power of Attorney, or even create a separate Pet Trust document to provide for your pets. Items to be considered include daily caretaker roles, instructions for medications and vet care, special feeding instructions, final burial instructions (such as whether you want your pets at death to be cremated and placed near your grave), etc. Consider leaving a stipend to support your pet, directives that your regular vet continues to provide medical care for your pets, provisions for continued payment of premiums for pet insurance, and much more.

Keep in mind also that pets need immediate care in the short term should anything happen to you, so line up one or two friends or family members who can serve as temporary caregivers. Make sure they know how to access your home and have instructions on how to properly care for each of your pets along with the name of your veterinarian. Carry an “alert card” in your wallet providing their names and contact information.

Unfortunately, many pets end up in kill-shelters following the disability or death of a pet owner due to there being no plan in place for the pets, rather than the pet being placed with a friend, family member or even a no-kill animal foster or rescue facility.

Our pets are precious and beloved members of our family and are perhaps more vulnerable than any other family member to mistreatment or lack of proper care in the occurrence of their owners’ disability or death. Don’t let the unimaginable happen to your pet. Set up provisions for their care now, before disaster strikes.

To create legal directives for the ongoing care of your pet, contact the attorneys, Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi, of the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. We can teach you more about how we can create or update your estate plan in order to help you protect this very important member of your family.

What You Need to Know About International Custody and Child Abduction

What You Need to Know About International Custody and Child Abduction

What You Need to Know About International Custody and Child Abduction
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Child abduction is one of the most heartbreaking events than can happen to any parent and is one of the most emotionally-charged areas of family law. It can also involve diplomatic involvement, especially when different countries are involved.

Some countries may protect a parent from being forced to return a child if the abducting parent is a citizen of that country and takes the child to travel there, then fails to return the child to the other parent at the end of the visit. These countries refuse to sign treaties that allow them to have such international custody matters determined by The Hague or by the domestic courts of the country that was the child’s “home state” prior to being removed by the other parent.

Personal experience for the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C has been in dealing with the country of Brazil, which is only a signatory to the New York Convention, but still fails to facilitate the return of children who are essentially abducted away from the United States, even if those children are U.S. citizens.

There are several conventions and treaties, including the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but a country unwilling to sign or to have its government ratify the ground rules for international abduction and custody fights means it can be a serious emotional and financial battle to gain return of a child once he or she is removed from the United States.

International Kidnapping is a Federal Crime
The International Parenting Kidnapping Crime Act 1993 “makes it a federal crime for a parent to remove or attempt to remove a child from the United States, or retain a child outside the United States with intent to obstruct another parent’s custodial rights.” However, prosecution of the kidnapping parent and the return of the child to the United States can be different matters. “Although the parent who removed the child from the United States is generally eligible for formal extradition because they are charged with a federal crime, the child is a victim of international parental kidnapping and often not eligible for formal extradition.” (Source: The United States Department of Justice). The child’s return is often settled through negotiation.

The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction also resulted in response to the increasing occurrence of parental child abduction and has resulted in different approaches to interpreting the key concepts of the Convention, thus prompting discussion of the issue.

What to Do if You’re Involved in a Parental Kidnapping
If your child or children have been kidnapped by the other parent, we urge you to take action right away. Talk to an attorney. Talk to us. We are experts in family law issues. We need to begin processes immediately and will counsel with you to set the necessary steps in place.

For this, or any family law issue, feel free to contact Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. Please contact us today.

Why Parenting Agreements Are So Essential

NOVA-Estate-Lawyers_Why-Parenting-Agreements-Are-So-Essential

Why Parenting Agreements Are So Essential
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Even though you are divorced or divorcing your significant other, you both will remain tied together as parents for the rest of your lives. That means that working together for the best interest of your child or children, no matter what your own differences are, as the Honorable Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Burke F. McCahill wisely reminds parents in his courtroom: “You are getting a divorce from each other…you are not getting a divorce from your children.”

One way to help ensure a better outcome for your offspring is to establish a written parenting agreement. In this agreement, you lay out the terms for sharing parental rights and duties and how each parent will maintain a strong bond with and play a significant role in your children’s lives. Typical agreements include terms about where the child will live (physical custody), visitation schedules, legal custody, schedules for holidays, birthdays and vacations, contact with other relatives, and how changes to the agreement will be handled.

Avoid the Judge
It is almost always best for parents to work out a parenting agreement for their children outside the courtroom. If, however, an agreement cannot be reached, a judge may be called upon to make a ruling. Delegating these important decisions to a judge who knows very little about you or your children, even after hours of court hearings, is rarely in your children’s best interest.

Consider the Child’s Point of View
Unless a parent is truly unfit, parenting agreements should not be used to marginalize one parent’s role in favor of the other. Keep in mind that, until your separation and divorce, your children have had the opportunity to see each parent on a daily basis or during weekends. You must consider how to limit the impact the divorce will have on a child’s interaction with each parent and avoid alienation of either parent, whether directly or indirectly.

Limit Legal Labels
Consider using ordinary language in your agreement rather than lawyer-speak or labels. Ask yourself if it is really necessary to refer to one parent as “the primary physical custodian” while the other is merely “the visiting parent.” Instead, you could use the term “parenting time” when referring to the time each of you will have with your children, even if it is necessary to identify just one of your homes as the “home base” for purposes of school registration and attendance or claiming your children on tax returns.

Be Flexible
Create a framework that allows for flexibility with each other. Ask yourself: “If I was the one being asked to agree to this parenting schedule, would I think it was fair and in the best interests of the children?” As children grow up and develop interests, remain flexible to changes in parenting schedules; you may not be able to keep to the original “typical custodial/visitation schedule.” Consider also including a “Right of First Refusal” that allows for a parent who misses schedule parenting time to make up dates – assuming that the missed parenting time was due to circumstances outside that parent’s control that caused a need for rescheduling.

Many divorcing parents are able to work out parenting agreements between themselves. Others rely on legal counsel or working with a mediator. As a last resort, a few must submit to a judge to determine division of parental responsibilities and visitation. The resulting decision of a judge can and often does frustrate both parents as being not ideal for themselves or their children – not to mention the thousands of dollars spent to obtain that decision from a judge that could otherwise have been spent on the needs of your children.

Whether you draw up your own agreement, or have questions regarding a parenting agreement, we welcome your contacting at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. for guidance. Attorneys Patricia Tichenor and Camellia Safi are here to assist in drafting an agreement that balances the concerns surrounding your divorce while ensuring your children best interests are not harmed in the end. Please contact us today.

Don’t Let Errors Derail Your Retirement Income Plan

Don’t Let Errors Derail Your Retirement Income Plan NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

Don’t Let Errors Derail Your Retirement Income Plan
NOVA Estate Lawyers – Leesburg, Virginia

When people talk about retirement income planning, they are most often referring to the assets they have in their IRA and 401(k) plans, and how they will withdraw that money, transfer it, or move it from place to place.

What they need to be careful of, however, is doing it properly. If done incorrectly, it could cost a person dearly in taxes. Here are some points to remember:

Remember Required Minimum Distributions

When taking IRA distributions, a minimum withdrawal is required once a person reaches an age that is six months past his or her 70th birthday. The penalty for not taking enough out is substantial: it can cost 50% on the under-distributed amount.

Defer Taking Inherited Money
When inheriting money, one might be tempted to take the money in cash, but that is not the best solution. It is better to spread out distribution of that money over a term of several years. This will ease the potential tax burden and create a stream of income.

Heed Deadlines when Transferring Money

When the lure of a higher interest rate or can’t-pass-up opportunity arises, people should be careful about how they transfer their assets. If they transfer funds themselves, by taking a distribution from one savings plan and rolling it into another, they must complete the transaction within 60 days of the distribution or risk a 20% mandatory withholding on the amount withdrawn, a penalty for early liquidation of the account. This penalty is collected by the retirement plan administrator and sent to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Additionally, funds can only be transferred once per year.

A better way to transfer money is to have it sent via direct transfer from one investment company to another. This method carries no withholding, no amount limits, and is a much-more hands-off procedure for a casual investor who is looking for a better return.

Contact Your Attorney

To avoid making costly mistakes with your retirement income, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning issues, like Patricia Tichenor or Camellia Safi at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. Contact us today.

–excerpted from MarketWatch, “Tax Mistakes That Can Wreck Your Retirement,” Andrea Coombes, Feb. 21, 2012.

The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C.
Professional Legal Services or Legal Representation
(703) 669-6700

Contact

  • High quality service with both personal and a professional touch. I would highly recommend their services, they helped prepare my estate in the event of my demise. They also prepared the necessary documents to complete my wife's estate after her passing, both with outstanding results. - Jim D.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19