After retirement, college planning is the second most common financial concern for many families. That is not a surprise: collectively, American owe $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, and an average 2016 graduate owed $37,172 by the time he or she walked across the stage to collect a diploma. Student loans don’t go away until they are repaid, which means that families must think long and hard before they allow their high-school aged kids to sign financing agreements that will have decade-long consequences. [Read more…]
The rich and famous are seeing the benefits of out-of-court divorce settlement. They have the money to slog it out in court, but in the past few years, more of them choose not to do so. Last Saturday in a New York Times article, columnist Paul Sullivan delved into the lessons we can learn from such famous divorcing couples as Rupert and Wendi Murdoch.
Mr. Sullivan interviewed me on dividing up assets in divorce. Specifically he wanted to know the best and worst ways people go about sorting out the money part of a divorce. He notes in his column there are four areas to be considered in a divorce: agreements, assets, children and fees. All these points apply not just to the rich and famous, but also to normal people like you and me. Near the end of the article, Sullivan quotes me on the advantages of collaborative law divorce in out-of-court settlements.
The collaborative law divorce process is the preferred process of educated couples seeking divorce. Like you, they want to save time, money and hassle. These couples like the benefit of being able to make decisions with the help of experienced collaborative professionals. These couples like being in control.
Collaborative couples don’t have to wait for lawyer responses or court dates. They can wind up their divorce at their own pace. When they have obligations in their “real” lives, they can schedule team meetings around those events. Their professional team works around the couple’s schedules instead of the court dictating their schedules.
Most collaborative alumni tell me they are now communicating better than when they were married. This is because they selected a Mental Health Professional for their team who taught them how to effectively communicate as co-parents.
Collaborative couples select a single neutral CPA who understands their financial situation. The neutral financial professional analyzes the finances to maximize how the redesigned family will cover the children’s expenses and spousal support. The collaboratively trained CPA helps the couple decide how to stretch their limited funds to benefit the entire family.
If you would like to learn more about collaborative law divorce options in Bryan/College Station, just let me know.
If you are divorced and were married at least 10 years to your ex-spouse, you are entitled to a spousal or survivors Social Security benefits.
The following is from the 2011 AICPA CPA’s Guide to Social Security Retirement Benefits.
For ex-spouses …
- You must have been divorced from this ex-spouse for at least 2 years before you can apply for the benefits.
- You have not remarried before you turn age 60.
- If you remarry before age 60, you will still qualify for the survivors benefit if your subsequent spouse dies or ends your marriage in divorce before you apply for the survivors benefit.
- Your benefits as an ex-spouse do not change or affect on what children or new spouse (with your ex) could obtain.
- As an ex-spouse, you can start collecting spousal benefits before the working spouse has begun taking his/her benefits.
- If you remarry before age 60, you get to choose the better Social Security spousal benefits. You can compare your benefits under the ex-spouse rules and the current spouse rules and then pick the best.
For more information, check out the Social Security website.
Is Guam a foreign country? Getting the wrong answer could have cost Steve his father-son relationship.
Steve and Marci have two very young boys. In the middle of their collaborative divorce in College Station, Texas, Steve and Marci needed to agree on who would have primary custody if they lived in different locations.
They came into the meeting prepared. They had agreed that Marci had the boys if she lived in Canada or the U. S. If she moves anywhere else, the boys stayed with Steve. With her company folding, Marci had already announced that she would take a job “anywhere in the world”.
Steve is intending to follow Marci and his boys to nearly anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, but not anywhere in the world.
I asked them if they wanted to define the United States. They thought that an odd question. Did they want to stick with the continental U.S. and exclude Hawaii and Alaska? They decided to include Alaska and ditch Hawaii.
Knowing Steve wanted to keep his sons on this continent, I asked him how he felt about Guam. He looked surprised and Marci said, “I could live there!” Neither of them knew that Guam is a territory of the U. S. But then, they grew up in Eastern Europe where American geography and government were not strong subjects.
They agreed to define the U.S. as the lower 48 states plus Alaska. Had they not tightly defined the U.S., they could have ended up with Marci moving their sons to Guam or another U.S. territory.
I can hear the judge now, “Guam is part of the United States. You should have thought of that before you agreed to this.”
Cameron Crowe and Nancy Wilson have used the collaborative law process to end their marriage. Cameron is writer and director of movies like Singles, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. Nancy is a singer and songwriter from the rock band Heart.
This couple is demonstrating unusually mature and intelligent behavior for what the public has learned to expect from entertainment celebrities. This is role model behavior here.
Given the length of their marriage, their separate and combined careers, their separate and community property and their children, this collaborative case must have been complex. They kept it private while working to a collaborative resolution over a number of months.
Commentary on Divorce from College Station …
There are strong financial reasons to choose the collaborative law process for your divorce. But, when put in perspective, your children are more important than those financial reasons.
I recently came across an Esquire magazine article by Chris Jones entitled The Things That Carried Him. http://www.esquire.com/print-this/things-that-carried-him.This feature story is about thirty-year-old Sergeant Joey Montgomery’s final trip home from Iraq. It is impossible not to be drawn into the journey and not to be touched by the sadness and pride that everyone in his small town felt for this hero.
Somewhere in the middle of the story, Chris Jones describes the recent history of how soldiers’ bodies are now brought home from war. They are treated with deep respect and caring by the men and women who participate in the journey. These men and women never knew these heroes.
Where does this intersect with divorce?
Chris tells one story of a military pilot who “flew a boy to Stockton, California, where the soldier’s parents, divorced, were fighting over the funeral arrangements, and neither showed up”.
I’ve advised on a lot of divorces. In the beginning of both the traditional litigated cases and in the collaborative law cases, the parents are wrapped up in their hurt and anger toward each other. As the cases go on, the litigated divorce parents continue to focus on themselves but the collaborative divorce parents begin to heal and move their attention back to a balanced life that embraces their children. Collaborative couples learn to stop being centered on each other with animosity and start effectively communicating.
This young man from Stockton had parents who never seemed to have looked up from themselves and their animosity towards each other. I guess they never learned to communicate effectively. Perhaps the collaborative law process had not yet arrived in their community. It is there now.
You never know what will happen to your children. If you are looking at a divorce, please choose the collaborative law process so that you won’t remain so self absorbed that you choose to fight with your ex-spouse rather than honor your hero child. Don’t choose to abandon your beloved child’s coffin on the tarmac.