Spousal Support: “Hi Uncle Sam!”

Currently, spousal support — also known as “alimony” — payments are typically tax-deductible to the payor.  Specifically, the payor of spousal support deducts the spousal support payment on his or her tax return, which reduces taxes paid.  On the other hand, the receiver of spousal support claims spousal support on his or her tax return, which increases taxes paid.  However, a bill was recently proposed in the House of Representatives that would eliminate tax-deductibility of spousal support.  This sounds like it will help the receiver of spousal support since he or she would not pay any taxes on spousal support, right?  Maybe not.

Let’s say Husband was ordered to pay Wife $1,000 a month in spousal support.  Let’s also say that Husband’s income is higher than Wife’s and that his tax bracket is 25%.  This means that Husband is actually paying Wife $750 per month because he gets to reduce his taxes by $250 (i.e., $,1,000 x .25).  On the other hand, let’s say Wife’s tax bracket is only 15%.  Wife, then, actually receives $850 because she has to pay taxes of $150 per month (i.e., $1,000 x .15).

However, if tax-deductibility of spousal support is removed, this shifts all of the tax burden to the payor spouse.  In our example above, this would mean that Husband would pay the government $250, instead of Wife paying the government $150.  This will also increase the financial hardship on the paying spouse, possibly requiring a reduction in spousal support to a more affordable amount, which may be financially worse for the receiving spouse.

There are additional complications: Since the proposed law only deals with Federal taxes, California may not follow suit for state tax purposes, potentially making tax filing more complex.  Also, the effective date for this new law is January 1, 2018, and it appears that the new law would apply to cases where a judgment was not entered on or before December 31, 2017.  This means that couples currently undergoing a separation should potentially re-examine spousal support where tax-deductibility was a consideration.  Another option is to attempt to get your judgment entered before December 31, 2017!

While this may become law in the future, as Schoolhouse Rock would say: “But today, I am still just a bill.”


FREE Audio Book for Limited Time!

To celebrate the new release of the audio book version of the #1 Amazon best-selling bookPreparing for a Family Law Case,” we are offering the audio book version for FREE to the first TEN (10) people that contact us before noon on Friday, March 24, 2017!  Just give us a call at (916) 419-1161 to let us know that you would like the audio book and we will email you your coupon code with instructions on how to redeem the audio version for FREE.  That’s it!  Limited to one (1) coupon code per caller.

Additionally, there is a huge sale for the Kindle version of the book for a limited time only.  The Kindle version will be available for only 99 cents on Monday, March 20, 2017.  But hurry!  This sale won’t last long!  Beginning March 23, 2017, the Kindle version of this book will increase by $1.00 per day until the normal price of $5.99 is reached.

If you or someone you know may be facing family law issue in the future, give yourself or someone else the gift of information and education…at a great bargain!  The book provides information on the options available to resolve family law issues, as well as money-saving tips and tools along the way.

Preparing for a Family Law Case is now available in audio on Amazon, Audible and iTunes, narrated by author and family law attorney and mediator, Bryan Ginter.  The Kindle version and print version of this best-selling book are available at Amazon.com.  Here are links to the book:

Family Law Book by Bryan Ginter, Esq.

“Summary Dissolution” – A Quick & Cheap Divorce

California has a procedure called a “Summary Dissolution” that allows people to divorce quickly and inexpensively as compared to a conventional divorce.  A Summary Dissolution presupposes that the parties have already worked out (or will work out) their differences, such that going to court is not (or will not be) necessary.  However, only certain people qualify to use the Summary Dissolution procedure.  To qualify, all of the following conditions must exist at the time the proceeding is started (Note: These are highlights only.  Consult with a family law attorney for exceptions, specifics, and clarifications):

  1.  Either party was a resident of California for at least 6 months and a resident of the county where the case will be filed for at least 3 months;
  2. The cause of the divorce must be due to irreconcilable differences;
  3. There are no minor children born from the parties’ relationship or adopted by the parties during the marriage; neither party can be pregnant;
  4. The duration of the parties’ marriage is 5 years or less;
  5. Neither party can have any interest in real estate;
  6. There is only a modest amount of debts and community property;
  7. The parties have a signed written settlement agreement dividing the assets and debts, and they have signed all necessary documents to transfer property pursuant to the settlement agreement;
  8. The parties agreed to waive their right to receive spousal support and to appeal;
  9. The parties have read the Summary Dissolution informational booklet; and
  10. The parties request that the Court grant their request for a divorce.

Unlike a conventional divorce where one party is the “petitioner” and the other party is the “respondent,” with a Summary Dissolution a joint petition is filed by both parties.

Where people qualify, a Summary Dissolution can be a great way to divorce quickly and inexpensively.

Legalese:  This publication is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such, it is informational only, and it is based upon opinion.  Consult with an attorney if you are facing a family law issue.  Advertisement. 

New Special Deed Adopted in California!

New to California law in 2016 is the adoption of a “Revocable Transfer on Death Deed.”  So, what is it, and is it right for you?

Without delving too deep into estate planning, when you die, unless you have taken certain measures, your things (i.e., your “estate”) typically go through an expensive and time-consuming process called “probate” before your beneficiaries receive them.  With respect to a single-family residence (“house”), the manner in which your interest passes to someone else is dependent on a few things, including how the property is titled, such as “community property with a right of survivorship,” etc., and whether you have any estate plan in place, such as a will or a trust.

If you are married, and title of the house is in both you and your spouse’s name jointly “with a right of survivorship,” then your interest in the house will automatically pass to your spouse upon your death.  But what if you are single?  What if you are widowed?  How could you potentially pass along your house to, say, your children when you die without your children having to go through (and pay for) probate to get it?  Is there a way to avoid probating the house?  Enter a “Revocable Transfer on Death Deed.”

With a Revocable Transfer on Death Deed (“RTOD Deed”), if you are single, you can name a beneficiary who will receive the house upon your death outside the probate process.  “What if I change my mind?” you ask.  The good news is that it is “revocable” (i.e., it can be taken back) at any point up until you die, provided you are still mentally competent.  Another attractive aspect of the RTOD Deed is that it does NOT give any beneficiary named on the deed a “present interest,” which means any creditors of the beneficiary cannot go after the house until the house has actually passed to the beneficiary.  For a single-person who does not have a large estate–other than a house–a RTOD Deed may be a great option since you can use the RTOD Deed to avoid probate with the house, and you may be able to avoid the fees associated with the creation of a trust.

So, what can you take from this message?  If you are married, you should investigate whether an estate plan, including a living trust, is right for you.  And, if you own a house, you should examine how title on your house is held so you can know how your interest in the house will pass upon your death.  On the other hand, if you are single (including being widowed) and you own a home, investigate whether a RTOD Deed is right for you.

Spousal Support 101

So, you (or someone you know) is married and is thinking about separating.  One of the reasons you put off divorce or separation is because your spouse is the breadwinner of the family and you don’t see how you could afford living on your own without the other spouse’s income.  Is there anything that might help?  The answer is “yes.”  It is called “spousal support,” also sometimes referred to as “alimony.”  Spousal support is a court-ordered payment from one party to another.

This article will discuss some of the basics of spousal support in California.  Whether you are the lower-income earner, the breadwinner, or you are happily married but just want some food for thought, this article will be educational.

There are two (2) types of spousal support in California:  1)  Pre-judgment spousal support and 2) post-judgment spousal support.  Pre-judgment spousal support is any support that may be ordered from the beginning of a divorce or legal separation case through a judgment.  Post-judgment spousal support is any support that may be ordered AFTER a judgment of divorce or legal separation has been entered with the court.

The calculation of pre-judgment and post-judgment spousal support is very different.  With pre-judgment spousal support, each county in California is free to adopt a “guideline” formula.  Most California counties have adopted one of several guideline formulas that exist.  For example, in Sacramento County, the “Santa Clara” guideline formula is used.

With post-judgment spousal support, you CANNOT use a guideline formula if you are in court in front of a judge.  Instead, you must analyze and argue approximately 14 factors that can be found in the California Family Code to arrive at a spousal support amount.  One factor is the needs of the support spouse, another factor is the ability of the supporting spouse to pay support, and the list goes on.

If someone’s divorce or legal separation case involves spousal support, there is typically a concern of how long spousal support will continue.  While there are many factors to consider, a starting point is to determine whether you have a “short term marriage” or a “long-term marriage.”  Generally speaking, the length of time for paying spousal support in a short-term marriage is less than in a long-term marriage.  It is possible that there may be no court-ordered termination date for spousal support in a long-term marriage, which means the support order is indefinite.

Spousal support is certainly considered one of the most “heated” issues in family law, particularly for the paying spouse.  It is also one of the most complex.  If you or someone you know is facing or could be facing a divorce or legal separation down the line, the best thing to do is to get educated now.  Speak to a family law attorney to “run some numbers” to get an idea what to expect and how your current lifestyle may influence spousal support.


Having an Attorney Without Breaking the Bank (Part I)

Did you know that many attorneys offer partial service options?  Partial service is when the responsibilities for your case is somehow divided between you and your attorney.  There are many ways to structure a partial service arrangement.  At Ginter Family Law, one of the most popular partial service structures is called “consulting and ghostwriting.”

With the “consulting and ghostwriting” partial service option at Ginter Family Law, the attorney is available to consult with the client, and it is the attorney that drafts documents for the client.  Since the client still technically represents himself or herself, it is the client’s name that still appears on all of the documents, even though the documents are being drafted by the attorney.  Additionally, it is the client that attends court appearances and remains the primary contact person for the case.  There are additional facets of this service, but this is an overview.

Since the attorney in a partial service arrangement is not responsible for the entire case, legal fees tend to be lower than if the attorney was hired under a full service arrangement.  The saving on legal fees is one of the primary reasons partial service is attractive to those on a budget.  The client minimizes the expenditure of legal fees and only focuses the spending of legal fees where he or she feels the most help is needed.

Some clients do not have budgetary restraints.  They simply want to handle various aspects of their case for one reason or another.  In these instances, the client hires the attorney to assist with the areas chosen by the client, depending on the client’s needs.

So, if you or someone you know wants help from an attorney with a family law matter, but there is fear of breaking the bank, consider partial service as an option.  More about partial service can be found here:  Partial Service Explained by Ginter Family Law.  You can also read more about partial service in the book “Preparing for a Family Law Case.”

Happy Holidays!

“Can We Opt Out of California’s Community Property Laws?”

Sometimes people may NOT want California’s community property laws to apply to their marriage.  Generally speaking, property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property.  “Property” includes “assets” and “debts.”  If property is considered to be community in nature, if there is later a divorce or a legal separation, community property is equally divided between the spouses.

There are many reasons for people to want to avoid the application of California community property laws.  One example is if one spouse comes into the marriage with an already significantly high amount of wealth and the other spouse has little or no wealth.  In this case, the wealthy spouse may want to ensure that he or she will retain his or her wealth as separate property.

Another example is where “older” previously divorced adults with children are marrying again.  In this example, a parent may have saved a significant amount of money for the benefit of a child and wants to ensure that the other spouse will not be able to invade this savings.

Regardless of the reason to want to avoid California’s community property laws, there is an opt-out option.  If the parties are not yet married, the opt-out tool is called a “premarital agreement,” also known as a “prenuptial agreement.”  If the parties have already married, the opt-out tool is called a “marital agreement,” also known as a “antenuptial agreement.”

Whether you are potentially considering a premarital agreement or a marital agreement, there are certain rules that have to be followed.  Otherwise, the agreements may not be enforceable, and you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on a worthless piece of paper.

One of the rules is that there is no duress or pressure on either party.  If the procedure is too rushed, for example, there could be a perception of duress.  Therefore, regarding premarital agreements, you want to draft a premarital agreement well in advance.  Do it before you send out wedding invitations and before wedding plans are underway.

There are many other rules to follow and potential traps for the unwary.  Therefore, if you are considering a premarital or marital agreement, get educated early as to what the process entails.

NEWSFLASH:  Preparing for a Family Law Case,” a book authored by family law attorney and mediator Bryan C. Ginter is out now and available for purchase on Amazon. 

Book Cover


Book Cover

Today, Friday, October 30, 2015, is the LAST day to download Preparing for a Family Law Case for FREE through Amazon Kindle!  Amazon lists this book as the #1 BEST SELLER in the Domestic Relations category!  Get it now while there is still time.  Click here:  Download Preparing for a Family Law Case from Amazon Kindle, or click on the picture of the book in this post.

Remember to rate 5 stars on Amazon!

Get Your FREE Book Now! Hurry…It Won’t Last Long!

Book Cover

Preparing for a Family Law Case is available through Amazon Kindle NOW for FREE!  But hurry…this offer won’t last long!  You can obtain your FREE book by clicking here:  FREE Copy of Preparing for a Family Law Case.  You may also click the book’s image in this post.

If you or a loved one is facing the beginnings of a family law case, you’ll want this book.  Even if you feel you don’t need the book right now, you should still download the book for free.  This way, if you need the book later, you’ll have it.  Feel free to pass this free offer to anyone you wish.

If you enjoy the book, please write a positive review on Amazon.

Get Your FREE Book (For A Limited Time Only)!!

Book Cover

Are you or a loved one going to be involved in a family law case (such as divorce) and you don’t know where to start?  You may have questions such as:  What is the difference between mediation, collaborative law and litigation?  How do retainers work?  What are some things I should be thinking about when hiring a family law attorney?  How can I save money during a family law case?  Preparing for a Family Law Case by family law attorney and mediator Bryan C. Ginter answers those questions and more!

To celebrate the launch of the book, you can get your copy of the book from Amazon Kindle books absolutely FREE!  But hurry, it will only be free from October 26, 2015 through October 30, 2015!  Even if you think you do not need the book now, we encourage you to still download it while it is free.  You can always delete it and re-download it later.  Kindle books can be read on most devices, including desktop computers, laptops and mobile devices.

Becoming educated and informed early in your case is critical.  So, mark your calendar now to make sure you visit Amazon Kindle’s store to download your copy of Preparing for a Family Law Case for FREE!