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November 2015

10 Things Every Woman Should Know About Getting Divorced

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Learn what to expect and how to cope with one of life’s most difficult events

By Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW (June 9, 2014) Reprinted with permission from Women’sDay.com

(All names and locations of women interviewed and quoted have been changed)

We all know and can imagine that divorce is difficult. But rarely do we get it told to us straight just how hard it really is. Should you trust your ex? Will your mother-in-law stop speaking to you? Are there any upsides? From experts as well as women who’ve been through it and survived, here are 10 things every woman should know.

  1. Don’t forget to grieve. Even if you initiate the divorce, you will experience sadness.A lot. Emma Johnson from New York City who has a radio show about being a single mother puts it this way. “Even if you know deep down the divorce is the best thing for all parties involved, it is still a loss—a lost love, lost relationship, lost dream that you had when you married and a lost vision for what you wanted your family to look like. My divorce rocked me to the marrow of my bones. If you deny yourself the opportunity to feel this pain, you will never fully heal.”
  2. You will outgrow your married friends. Divorce is so wrenching, it’s understandable why you will want every other relationship in your life to remain the same. But that’s not always possible or desirable. Chrystie Vahon from Portland, ME recalls, “I suddenly found myself distancing from my married friends and them doing the same. Being around them reminded me of my own failed relationship and being around me made them feel guilty for being happily married.” Spending time with other women who have been through the specific pain of divorce can be very healing.
  3. Your ex does NOT have your best interests at heart. No matter how much of a nice guy he is and how concerned he seems that you be taken care of, his main concern is himself. It is essential to get a sharp lawyer who is on your side. Tammy Olmes from Englishtown, NJ, cautions, “because I trusted my ex, I agreed to a mediator instead of getting a lawyer who would have insisted I get everything I was legally entitled to. Don’t think emotionally. You can always relent later, but if you’re too lenient in court you can never get back what you gave up.”
  4. Therapy is mandatory. This is a tumultuous time for you and it’s helpful to avail yourself of what can be gained by seeing a professional. KJ Greenwood from San Diego, CA, says, “Initially I bought into the stigma that therapy was for crazy people. But after finally seeking out a therapist, I’m a much better person than I would ever have been without.” Again, it’s important to gothrough the painful experience, not try and find ways around it.
  5. Avoid a serious relationship for at least two years. Yes, you’re afraid of loneliness but getting back into a relationship right away is just a distraction from the pain and self-evaluation that it is essential. Trina Wang from Poughkeepsie, NY, says regretfully, “The rebound thing is real. I was so afraid of being alone that I fell almost instantly in love. The bubble popped after six months and the man I was involved with got terribly hurt. I just wasn’t ready.”
  6. Your lawyer is not your marriage counselor. He or she may act like your best bud, but don’t forget that there is an hourly rate. This is a business arrangement. Need more convincing? Michael Stutman, President of the Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, reveals, “Some high-end attorneys will intentionally draw out your case in order to increase the fee.”
  7. Cut all financial ties. It’s not enough just to close out the joint checking and savings account. Do a thorough investigation about what assets the two of you hold together. Julie Browne from Denver, CO, says, “Several years after my divorce, I had a delinquent timeshare payment pop up on my credit report, for the timeshare he had kept in the settlement.” Since her name was still listed, she started receiving collection calls and her credit took a hit.
  8. Suddenly you will have lots of free time.When you’re married with kids and jobs, the one thing you rarely have is a moment to yourself. That changes after divorce. Joan Hilton from Grand Rapids, MI, says, “Sharing custody with my ex was one of the biggest life-changers I’ve ever had. On the weeks my 15 and 10 year old are with their dad, I get to go to my book club, go dancing, work out and I’m starting a new business—it’s awesome.” Initially there was some guilt about not missing her kids enough but eventually she came to a great realization: “We don’t need to be together constantly to know we love each other.”
  9. You also divorce his family. When you marry someone, you marry his family. The opposite is true as well. Browne says, “When my ex-husband and I split, I kept in touch with his mom, who I’d become very close over 7 years of marriage. Two years after the divorce she suddenly stopped communicating with no explanation. That was harder than losing my ex.”
  10. You will eventually feel better. It probably feels like the torment and fighting and crying will never end. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Christina Pesoli from Austin, TX, and author of the upcomingEmotional Hardbody says, “Getting through the first round of significant holidays, and the first summer when my children were gone for significant chunks of time, was really brutal. But after that things really do get easier.”

How To Keep Divorce From Ruining Your Credit

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By Jenny Staton – Lender Direct Sr. Loan Consultant

Not only can divorce lead to emotional strain, it can also cause all sorts of financial problems. All those shared accounts and co-signed loans that once seemed so romantic are now the cause of major issues. The following important tips can help avoid financial damages due to a divorce.

Creditors aren’t interested in how property and bills are divided during divorce. If you have debt in joint accounts with your spouse, you are both responsible for paying it back.

Creditors are not legally bound to abide by your final decree of divorce. A judge’s order does not override what you owe your creditors and most attorneys don’t alert their clients to the potential for problems if one spouse does not follow the court order. Below are some tips that will help keep divorce from ruining your credit.

Allow One month to make these changes:

  1. CLOSE JOINT ACCOUNT:
    Before you separate when possible, close all joint credit accounts. Closing them before divorce proceedings will keep an angry spouse from using the account and running up charges that you may later be held responsible for.
  2. GO FROM JOINT ACCOUNTS TO SEPARATE OR INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTS:
    You should seriously consider turning all credit cards, gas cards and any retail accounts into individual accounts. Doing this will mean not having to re-establish credit in your own name after the divorce because you will already have it. It can also cut down on the amount of friction once the divorce process starts.
  3. SETTLE WITH CREDITORS:
    Offer to close the accounts by paying a smaller amount than is owed. If this is done, get a letter from the creditor that the account has been paid in full and a written promise that they will not file anything derogatory about the account to the credit reporting agencies.
  4. FREEZE ACCOUNTS:
    If you are not able to pay off or come to a settlement agreement regarding the balance owed this would be your best move. This will keep you from being able to use the account but will also protect you in the long run. Once the divorce is final, the balance owed on the account can be transferred to the party the court holds responsible for the debt. If the responsible party does not pay the debt then you don’t have to worry about it affecting your credit score.
  5. CONTACT YOUR CREDITORS:
    Alert them to the fact that you are going through a divorce. If there is a change of address, make sure they know it so that you will continue to receive bills from all joint accounts.
  6. MAKE SURE ALL BILLS ARE BEING PAID:
    Divorce proceedings can take months and all it takes is one late payment to hurt your credit. Even if you have to pay the minimum on accounts that you know will ultimately be your spouses responsibility it will be worth it.

If you have additional questions on what you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to your credit be sure to check with an attorney or financial adviso. Laws do change, so make sure you know what your options are should it come to the point where divorce is inevitable.

Divorcing After 50: What You Need To Know

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Reprinted with permission from Fidelity.com’s viewpoints 3/13/14

For people over 50, the divorce rate in the United States is on the rise. Just one in 10 people who divorced in 1990 was age 50 or older; twenty years later it was one in four, according to Dr. Susan Brown, professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University and co-author of “The Gray Divorce Revolution.”1 “If late-life divorce were a disease,” says Jay Lebow, a psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, “it would be an epidemic.”

Reasons for the surge in splits vary. Increasing longevity offers more risk that couples might grow apart; the kids have grown up and moved out, taking with them reasons for staying together; more women are working, with some of them out-earning their spouses; and, there’s less stigma to calling it quits.

Whatever the reason, later-life divorce hits women especially hard. After a divorce, household income drops by about 25% for men—and more than 40% for women, according to U.S. government statistics.2 “Gray divorce can be economically devastating, especially for women who have been out of the labor force,” says Dr. Brown.

At the same time, retirement is more expensive when you’re solo rather than half of a twosome. On a per-person basis, the cost of living for singles is 40% to 50% higher than for couples, according to the American Academy of Actuaries.3 And another consequence of a mid- to later-life split is that there’s less time to recover financially, recoup losses, retire debt, and ride out market ups and downs. Meanwhile, women’s life expectancy is climbing into the 80s, meaning that they may be living longer with less.

So how can women over 50 protect their financial future when they go solo? Here are a few dos and don’ts to consider:

Seven divorce dos:

  1. Plan ahead.Careful preparation before your divorce may pay off. For instance, having a financial planner or accountant work with your divorce lawyer or mediator can help you make the right decisions about a divorce settlement that includes a more comfortable retirement.

 

  1. Gather all records.“The three most important words during divorce are document, document, document,” says Ginita Wall, a financial planner and co-founder of WIFE.org (Women’s Institute for Financial Education). Make a clear copy of all tax returns, loan applications, wills, trusts, financial statements, banking information, brokerage statements, loan documents, credit card statements, deeds to real property, car registrations, insurance inventories, and insurance policies. Copy records that can trace and verify your separate property, such as an inheritance or family gifts.

 

  1. Know what you owe.Hidden debt is a common nasty surprise among divorcing couples. In the nine states with community property laws—Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin—you’ll be held responsible for half your spouse’s debt, even if the debt isn’t in your name. You may also run into trouble in a non–community property state if you and your spouse hold credit cards or loans jointly. Get a full credit report to make sure there are no surprises on it. Annualcreditreport.com provides free credit reports every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus.

 

  1. Document your household goods.Take photos of valuables around the house—jewelry, art, Oriental carpets, the sterling silver tea set. It’s not unheard for divorcing spouses to hide assets from one another.

 

  1. Get your fair share. Half of everything is yours—if you acquired it during your marriage—whether you want it or not. Even if you’ve always abhorred that LeRoy Neiman painting your husband insisted on buying, it can be used to trade for something you do want. If you helped put your husband through graduate school, law school, or medical school, you may be entitled to some reimbursement for the cost of his tuition.

 

  1. Keep close tabs on legal and adviser fees.What you pay your divorce advisers will come out of your settlement, so make sure you keep track of what they are spending on your behalf. Remember that your lawyer is a paid professional who is billing you at an hourly rate. Be mindful of the time your lawyer spends with and for you.

 

  1. Check Social Security benefits.Although many age-50-plus women have had successful careers, their ex’s earnings may provide a larger Social Security benefit. You are eligible to collect those benefits if you meet the following conditions:
  • You must be age 62 or older.
  • You must have been married for 10 years or longer.
  • You must not be currently married.
  • Your own earnings must not entitle you to receive a higher benefit.

And there’s more good news for divorcees. According to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), you can receive your share of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits without filing any special papers at the time of the divorce, and—as long as you remain unmarried—you will qualify for those benefits even if your ex marries again.4

Four divorce don’ts

1. Don’t necessarily hold onto the house. Your house may have sentimental value, but keeping it doesn’t always make financial sense, especially if it’s a stretch to pay for the upkeep and property taxes. Compared with a well-diversified retirement savings account, a home is more likely to have ongoing and unexpected expenses, and its future value isn’t assured.

divorce_donts_ver82. Don’t ignore tax consequences. Should you take monthly alimony or a lump sum? Should you take the brokerage account or the retirement plan? Should you keep the house or sell it now? Who should pay the mortgage until it sells? You may need to consult an accountant or tax adviser to determine what makes sense for your situation, and if there’s a chance that your past joint tax returns omitted income or overstated deductions, you may want to consider an indemnification clause to protect yourself in case of an audit.

 

3. Don’t forget about health insurance. If you’ve been covered by your spouse’s policy, you may face a gap in coverage after your divorce and before Medicare kicks in at age 65. If you don’t have coverage of your own at work, you can continue your spouse’s existing coverage through COBRA for up to 36 months, but your cost is likely to be substantially more than it was before the divorce. It may also be more expensive than the health care coverage you can get from your state’s health insurance exchange under the new Affordable Care Act, so it’s best to check. Couples who can’t afford new, separate health insurance policies may want to consider a legal separation instead; that way, you can keep your ex’s health insurance but separate the other assets.

 

4. Don’t immediately roll over your ex’s retirement account into an IRA. If your divorce settlement allocates assets under a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), you can make a one-time withdrawal from your ex’s 401(k) or 403(b) without paying the normal 10% tax, even if you’re under age 59½. If you think you’ll need money for unavoidable divorce expenses, you may want to make the withdrawal rather than doing a rollover. Otherwise, if you roll the money into an IRA and then need to tap it for divorce costs, you’ll be subject to the standard 10% early withdrawal penalty.

LA Courts Facilitator’s Office

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FACILITATOR’S OFFICE LOS ANGELES SUPERIOR COURTS

(Assists with preparation of documents)

111 North Hill Street, Room 426
Los Angeles, CA 90012
213-974-5004

300 East Walnut Street, Room 300
Pasadena, CA 91101
626-356-5030

400 Civic Center Drive, Room 112
Pomona, CA 91766
909-620-3150

12720 Norwalk Blvd., Room 104
Norwalk, CA 90650
562-807-7504

6230 Sylmar Ave, Room 350
Van Nuys, CA 91401
818-374-7108

275 Magnolia Ave., Room 3101
Long Beach, CA 90802
562-256-2319

200 West Compton Blvd., Room 200F
Compton, CA 90220
310-603-3218

900 Third Street, Room 1026
San Fernando, CA 91340
818-898-2606

600 South Commonwealth Ave., Room 1602
Los Angeles, CA 90005
213-351-8113

Divorce Information Checklist

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The following documents and other information will help your divorce attorney, mediator or divorce financial analyst advise you regarding your divorce. Getting these documents together early in the divorce process will help you navigate your divorce in the most cost-effective manner.

  • Contact information
  • Personal information for you and your spouse (names, dates of birth, date of marriage, date of separation, names and ages of children from this marriage and from other relationships)
  • Individual income tax returns for past three years (federal and state)
  • Business income tax returns for past three years (federal and state)
  • Information regarding your current income (W-2 forms, 1099 forms, K-1s, recent pay-stubs)
  • Information regarding your spouse’s current income (W-2 forms, 1099 forms, K-1s, recent pay-stubs)
  • Prenuptial or post-marital agreements, if any
  • List of assets you own, including most recent statements for anything on the list (e.g, bank account statements, brokerage statements, etc)
  • List of debts you owe, including most recent statements for anything on the list (e.g, mortgage statements, credit card statements, auto loans, etc)
  • Documentation regarding retirement plans for you and your spouse (401(k) statements, pension plan documents, IRA statements, etc.)
  • Documentation regarding stock options and restricted stock, including vesting schedules
  • Real property valuation documents (appraisal, market analysis, etc)
  • List of contents of safe deposit boxes or safes
  • List of automobiles you own and valuation information from Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com)
  • Business financial statements (profit and loss statements, balance sheets) for past three years
  • Loan application forms for loans taken out within the past three years
  • List of separate assets claimed for each spouse

Make Your Child’s School Your Ally During Divorce

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School is a second home for children. And when the true home is in turmoil because of divorce, that second home can become a refuge, or an outlet for negative feelings.

That’s why it’s important to let your children’s school know if you and your spouse go through a divorce. Forming a cooperative relationship with the school will open doors to resources that will help your child get through the process in the healthiest way possible.

Teachers – Make sure your child’s teachers know about this major change. Children are less able than adults to separate their emotions about an event. (And many of us adults aren’t great at it!) They may be feeling fear, insecurity, guilt, or any other emotion on a daily basis. This may impact their focus at school, self-esteem, friendships, and academic performance. Many children feel safe with their teachers. Teachers in the know can watch for any signs of distress, alert parents to performance changes, and offer a shoulder to the student.

Guidance Counselors – Counselors are trained to help during challenging times. Let them know so they can offer support.

Support Groups – Some schools offer special support groups for children coping with divorce. If your school does not, consider enrolling your child in a group just for children.

Be sure to talk to your child before he or she returns to school after hearing the news of your divorce. Make sure he or she is aware of any changes in routine. Let them know to whom they can speak at school if they have questions or are feeling sad.

Community Resources

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YMCA Domestic Violence Hotline     
888-999-7511
www.glendaleywca.org

YMCA San Gabriel Valley  
http://www.ywcasgv.org/

Domestic Violence Classes      
626-744-3000
www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/HumanServices/Jackie_Robinson_Center/

Divorce Center of Los Angeles  
310-312-0161
www.dovorsesos.com

California Collaborative Family Law    
310-880-4201
www.californiacollaborativefamilylaw.com

United Way of Los Angeles   
213-808-6220
www.unitedwayla.org

The National Domestic Violence Hotline   
1-800-799-7233
www.thehotline.org

Julie Yanez Lock Smith  
626-799-5397
allladylocksmith.com

L.A. Co. Department of Children & Family Services          
http://dcfs.co.la.ca.us

Superior Court Opens Self-Help Legal Center in Pasadena Courthouse

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Superior Court Opens Self-Help Legal Center in Pasadena Courthouse

 By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer

[Published Thursday, March 12, 2009]

The Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday celebrated the grand opening of its 12th self-help legal access center, located at the Pasadena Courthouse.

Northeast District Supervising Judge Candace J. Beason hailed the event as “a fabulous, fabulous occasion.”

Beason said she had been looking forward to the opening of the clinic—housed in what had been the courthouse’s law library, which was moved across the street to the public library—because, as a member of the bench, she had seen a “significant number of people with questions and misconceptions of the legal system.”

Neal S. Dudovitz, the executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los

Angeles opined that “it’s been quite a journey” since the first self-help center opened at the Van Nuys courthouse in 2000.

Over the years, Dudovitz said the self-help centers have helped over 500,000 people, and assisted over 91,000 in the last year alone.

These clinics “are about core values of out democracy,” he insisted. “Everybody has to be able to walk through the doors of the courthouse, everybody has to be able to be heard…or our justice system will not survive.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Civil Supervising Judge Elihu M. Berle echoed Dudovitz’s concern and opined the Pasadena clinic “could not have come at a better time.”

Noting the “devastating effect of the economy on our community,” Berle suggested a growing number of people with legal problems do not qualify for legal aid, cannot afford an attorney, but still require assistance navigating the court system.

With the Pasadena location, Berle said self-help centers are now available at each of the largest civil courthouses in each geographic area of the county, providing a  “quantum leap in service” for self-represented litigants.

The Pasadena facility was funded by the court, the Judicial Council of California, the Administrative Office of the Courts and through grants from the State Bar to Neighborhood Legal Services and to Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

It will be staffed by court employees, legal aid partners and Justice Corps student interns, court officials said. Services will also be available in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese.

Janice Shurlow, a family law attorney based at the Pasadena center, said that the new facility is one of the largest centers available, and boasts two rooms for hosting workshops and clinics. The largest self-help center is at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

She said that the Pasadena location will be offering workshops and clinics on divorce, paternity, domestic violence, unlawful detainer and elder law.

The resource center is located on the third floor of the courthouse, in room 300. It is open  from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays.

Other courthouse-based, self-help legal access centers are located in Antelope Valley-Lancaster, Compton, Inglewood, Long Beach, Pomona, San Fernando, Santa Monica, Torrance and Van Nuys.

 

Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company