Kelly Byrnes & Danker, PLLC

Virginia Family Law Blog

Dividing the family home in a divorce

Usually, the family home is a marriage's most valuable asset, and divorcing couples in Virginia often find it hard to decide whether to sell or keep it. Spouses who are looking for a clean break and a fresh start might find this decision easy, but couples with fond memories of raising children and living as a family could find the family home very difficult to let go of.

Selling the family home and dividing the proceeds is the simplest solution, but couples who choose this option should bear in mind that capital gains tax will have to be paid on any profit realized. If one person wants to stay in the home, he or she can offer other assets in property negotiations in exchange for that individual's husband or wife's share of the home or take out a loan to buy him or her out. However, qualifying for a mortgage with just one income instead of two could be difficult.

Strategic divorce may have unintended consequences

Once couples reach a certain income bracket, their taxes may increase because they are married. Sometimes called the "marriage tax," this applies to couples who in 2019 made at least $612,350. While some Virginia couples may be tempted to file for what is sometimes referred to as a "strategic divorce" in order to avoid these taxes, there are a number of additional costs to consider.

For example, a divorce may affect retirement benefits. The couple may need to have a complex document known as a qualified domestic relations order prepared in order to split a pension. After a divorce, removing the other person as the beneficiary on the account becomes much easier. Another consequence is the potential loss of health insurance benefits, which are often provided by one spouse's employer. A divorce could also mean splitting business assets and giving an ex-spouse voting rights.

Determining the value of a home during a divorce

When couples in Virginia and other states go through a divorce, it is common for one spouse to buy out the other's share of equity and keep the family home. This is especially true if children are involved. Here are a few basic steps for calculating a house buyout when going through the divorce process.

The first step is determining the value of the home. If there is a mortgage on the home, the equity on the home needs to be determined. For example, if a home is worth $600,000 and the mortgage is $300,000, each spouse will have $150,000 in equity in the home.

Coping with the emotional strain of a divorce

Ending a marriage can be emotionally difficult for spouses in Virginia and around the country even if they have been thinking about divorcing for some time. Dealing with legal papers, poring over financial documents and making an inventory of marital assets often takes a heavy toll, and it is not unusual for divorcing spouses to turn to drugs, alcohol or other forms of release. However, there are steps they can take to reduce the strain and get through the process with their psyches intact.

Discussing difficult issues with close confidants and family members may ease the burden, but it could be unwise to base a legal strategy on their input. That is a job best left to professionals. Diversions such as reading or exercise are a healthy alternative to narcotics or alcohol, and they could provide long as well as short-term benefits. Strenuous workouts also offer an outlet for aggression and release spirit-lifting endorphins. Other ways to avoid falling into a maudlin routine include pursuing new interests, spending time on hobbies and reestablishing contact with old friends and acquaintances.

Is your ex in contempt of your divorce order?

When you go through a divorce, you can expect big changes in your life. Maybe this is your goal, or maybe divorce was never what you wanted. Unfortunately, there is often little you can do to stop the process if your spouse is determined to end the marriage.

At the end of the process, you will have a settlement or court order that describes what is expected of you in the years that follow. Whether the terms of your divorce seem agreeable or distasteful to you, both you and your ex are bound by law to abide by them. What can you do if your ex refuses to comply with the terms of your divorce?

Modifying child support orders in Virginia

Family law judges in Virginia follow a set of strict guidelines when determining how much child support a noncustodial parent should pay, but their decisions may be revisited and child support orders modified when the situation of one or both of the parents changes significantly. Child support modifications are often ordered when health care premiums or the incomes of either the custodial or noncustodial parent increase or decrease by 25% or more.

Many parents are not aware that they can petition the court to modify child support orders, which is why many noncustodial parents struggle to meet their financial responsibilities after suffering a financial setback. According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, almost half of the 5,845,000 American parents who are entitled to child support do not receive the full amount each month. While deadbeat dads do exist, many of these noncustodial parents simply do not have enough money to pay on time.

The reasons why marriages don't last

Ending a marriage is a decision that should not be taken lightly. This is because Virginia spouses can expect to be emotionally and financially drained by the end of the divorce process. Research has found that women initiate 69% of all divorces, and the rate is even higher among women who have a college degree. There are several reasons why women are more likely then men to ask for a divorce.

In some cases, a lack of communication dooms a marriage to failure. Over time, a wife may feel as if she cannot be honest with her partner without being rejected or ridiculed. Eventually, the lack of communication makes it impossible for either side to get what they need from the relationship. For some married couples, a lack of communication can result in household financial problems. These money problems can cause tension that makes it difficult for a marriage to continue.

Protecting health during a "gray divorce"

An increasing number of people in Virginia and across the country are choosing to divorce at a later stage in life. While divorce trends have remained steady or even decreased for younger Americans, the rates for people aged 50 and up have doubled in the past 30 years. Of course, younger people are still more likely to divorce, but the advent of increasing rates for older people leads to new considerations about health and finances. Divorcing later in life can have significant effects on people's well-being, especially as the end of a marriage is known to be a major life stressor.

There can be a number of physical and psychological health concerns associated with divorce, especially when older people with existing medical issues are involved. Later-in-life divorces are often associated with higher levels of depression or anxiety. These can be linked to physical changes as well. This is especially true because depression and stress are linked to heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Many people become less active and more sedentary after a divorce, and they may find it difficult to sleep. These can lead to an overall decline in health.

Social media caution may be advised during divorce

Social media is an important part of many people's lives, and this can be especially true during a divorce. Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can be major ways that people connect with their friends and family. Still, those who want to ease their path to a successful divorce settlement may want to be discreet about what they choose to share publicly on their social media profiles. Conflicts over social media use can lead to marital unhappiness, and some types of social media posts could even make it into a Virginia family court during the divorce.

According to one study, increased social media usage is highly correlated with decreased satisfaction in a marriage. Of course, this usually reflects underlying issues rather than being solely tied to the use of social apps. However, these battles can continue during the divorce. Many people want to prioritize a simple divorce settlement, especially if children are involved. This can mean taking care to clean up a social media profile. People who want to protect themselves can increase their privacy settings, stay away from posting about the divorce and unfriend their soon-to-be ex-spouses. In addition, they may want to unfriend other close family and friends of the spouse as well.

Why should I consider getting a prenuptial agreement?

If you are one of the many Virginia residents who is getting married this year or in the near future, you probably have a lot on your plate. While planning a wedding can be fun and exciting, it can also be stressful and time-consuming. During this crazy time in your life, protecting yourself in the event your marriage does not work out is probably not high on your priority list. However, taking the time to create a prenuptial agreement that does just that would be time well spent.

There is a misconception that these marital contracts are only for the wealthy. The simple truth is, any couple, regardless of economic status, can benefit from having them in their legal arsenal. You never know how your marriage will play out. It is okay to want to protect yourself, your assets and, if applicable, any children you have from previous relationships.

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Kelly Byrnes & Danker, PLLC

Kelly Byrnes & Danker, PLLC

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