The obligation of a divorced parent to pay for the child’s college expenses or trade school will depend on the state in which the parents live and any agreement between the parents regarding such expenses.
Courts in some states will require parents to pay for a child’s college expenses, assuming the parents can afford it and the child is a good enough student to benefit from college. Courts in these states reason that the child’s parents probably would have helped pay for the child’s education had the marriage remained intact and that the child’s education should not suffer because of the divorce.
In an Illinois case, for example, the father during the marriage was very enthusiastic about having his son attend his alma mater, Dartmouth College. The father took his son to Dartmouth three times and often bought his son clothes and memorabilia with the Dartmouth logo. The father even arranged for influential alumni of Dartmouth to write letters of recommendation for his son. Continue reading
A question often arises on the effect of joint custodyon child support. The effect of joint custodywill depend on the nature of the joint custodyarrangement. If the parents have joint legal custody(by which they share making major decisions regarding the child), that by itself will have little effect on child support. If the parents have only joint legal custody, one parent still has primary custody of the child and handles payment of most of the child’s day-to-day expenses. The custodial parent’s expenses for the child have not been reduced by the joint custodyarrangement.
If the parents have joint physical custody, with the child spending a substantial amount of time with each parent, and if the parents have approximately equal incomes, it is possible neither parent will have to pay support to the other. The father and mother will pay the child’s day-to-day expenses when the child is in their respective homes. The parents, however, will need to coordinate payments on major expenses such as camp, school, clothing, and insurance.
If there is a significant difference in the parents’ incomes, the parent with higher income probably will make payments to the other parent or pay more of the child’s expenses, but the amount paid probably will be less than the guideline amount because of the joint physical custodyarrangement.
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Even in contested cases that have to be decided by a judge, most parties manage to decide between themselves how to divide the relatively small items of personal property. Nonetheless, the phrase “they battled down to who got the last teaspoon” reflects the intensity of emotion that can come with divorce.
Even couples who are relatively amicable when splitting up usually manage to find a few pieces of property to fight over. The individual piece of property often is not truly important by itself, but it comes to represent the frustrations of a relationship that has failed. Perhaps it is easier to obtain an emotional release from fighting over some object than focusing on the underlying personal characteristics that caused the marriage to end.
If the parties truly cannot resolve a dispute over personal property, a judge can do it for them, but that normally is not a cost effective way to resolve the issue. If the judge does have to resolve the dispute, the judge will consider the same factors discussed earlier in the section on dividing marital or community property. In addition, the judge may consider who acquired the property, who uses the property, and whether the property has a special connection to the original family of one spouse. Continue reading
When a couple divorces, they probably focus first on dividing up the property that’s easy to see-the home, furniture, cars, and so on. The property they can’t see-their intangible property-is also affected by divorce. Pensions are one kind of intangible property. For many families, a pension is the largest asset, after the family home. Even if the pension is earned solely by the efforts of one spouse, the portion of it that was earned during the marriage is still marital property subject to division by the court.
Many courts prefer to give full rights to a pension to the party who earned it as long as the other party will have a sufficient amount of income and property from other sources.
If, however, the pension is the primary source of income that a spouse would have and there are no other significant sources of income, the court is likely to divide rights to the pension. The court can divide the pension between the spouses by percentages (e.g., one spouse will receive 60 percent, the other spouse, 40 percent) or by a fixed cash amount to one spouse with the remainder to the other spouse (e.g., one spouse will get $600 per month, the other spouse, $400). Continue reading
The situation is more complicated if both wife and husband have been actively involved in the business. The court may set up an arrangement by which one spouse has the right to buy out the other spouse over time. Alternatively, the right to buy out the other could be sequential-first given to one spouse for a certain period of time, then to the other spouse for the same period of time. As with handling division of the family home, a forced sale might be an option if neither party can buy out the other party (although most courts would favor giving the business to just one spouse rather than dissolving an ongoing business).
If the court thinks the parties can continue to work together despite the divorce, the court may continue the status quo with the husband and wife remaining as business partners, even though they are no longer marital partners.
Valuation of family businesses can be tricky. A closely held businessdoes not have a value that can be readily ascertained on a stock exchange. If the business is of sufficient size, it could be worth the parties’ efforts to hire experts such as accountants to evaluate the business, assuming the value of the business is disputed or uncertain. On the other hand, if the business is very small or clearly does not have a significant positive value, it probably will not be worth the time and money to thoroughly evaluate the business. Continue reading
The laws of dividing property vary from state to state. As a starting point, however, most states allow parties to keep their own separate or non-marital property. Non-marital property includes property that a spouse brought into the marriage and kept separate during the marriage. It also includes inheritances received during the marriage and kept separate during the marriage. In addition, non-marital or separate property may include gifts received by just one spouse during the marriage. A few states permit division of separate as well as marital property when parties divorce, but the origin of the property is considered when deciding who receives the property.
The right of a spouse to keep his or her separate or non-marital property may depend on the degree to which the property was, in fact, kept separate. For example, if a wife came into a marriage with a $20,000 money market account and wanted to keep it as non-marital property, she should keep the account in her own name and not deposit any funds earned during the marriage into the account. She should not, for instance, deposit her paychecks directly into the money market account, because the paychecks are marital funds and could turn the whole account into marital property. The process of changing non-marital property into marital property and vice versa sometimes is called transmutation. Continue reading
The decision of whether or not to go to trial and to have a judge decide contested issues often involves a cost-benefit analysis. If the financial benefit that may be received from going to trial is high com- pared to the cost of going to trial, it may make sense to go to trial. For example, if wife and husband dispute the value of a business started by the husband during the marriage and the difference in their valuations is substantial, then it may make sense to let a judge decide the issue rather than give in to an unreasonable valuation by the other side.
The parties will need to look at the facts objectively. How much attorney time will it take to develop facts about the business? How much will it cost to hire an expert to evaluate the business and testify at trial? If, after gathering preliminary information and trying negotiations, the husband still says the business is worth $50,000 and the wife still believes the business is worth $1 million, the only way to solve the problem may be to go to court. On the other hand, if the business is a very small one, with the husband saying it is worth $10,000 and the wife saying it is worth $15,000, it does not make sense for one or both sides to spend $10,000 in attorneys fees and experts’ fees to try to ascertain a precise value of the business.
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