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Divorced: What to Do When

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A divorced man or woman faces enormous psychological, emotional and financial adjustments.

Please understand that I’m not advocating divorce. God hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16), and so should we. Marriage vows are taken far too lightly today; when couples say “Till death do us part,” they often mean “Till we don’t feel in love anymore.” We need to take more seriously the warning of Deuteronomy 23:23: “Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.” The commitment to love in spite of feelings and circumstances is essential to upholding a marriage through thick and thin, and reconciliation should always be our goal if it’s at all possible.

I have to acknowledge, however, that couples do divorce — even Christians — and say that if it appears to be a definite possibility in your case, you need to make some appropriate plans. Like a widowed person, a divorced man or woman faces enormous psychological, emotional, and financial adjustments. Therefore, if you go through divorce, you should give yourself some time before making any major investment or financial planning decisions. Obviously, day-to-day concerns have to be taken care of, but choices like when and where to move, estate plans, and investment decisions (if any) should be delayed. You might delay those decisions anywhere from six months to two years.

Financial problems often contribute to divorce. In fact, more than 50 percent of the people who divorce indicate that financial problems fostered the breakup. Those problems may be only symptomatic of others, but they clearly add to the strain the family is under.

As we’ve already acknowledged, women are often more vulnerable financially in a divorce, so I now want to focus on the steps a woman needs to take to protect herself during a divorce.

Before the divorce becomes final

The first step is to pick a competent and trusted advisor. You may want to choose a personal advisor as opposed to a financial advisor first. A friend, another woman who has gone through a similar situation, or the elders at your church may be able to guide you through the process of selecting an attorney to handle your side of the divorce. Your goal should not be to “get” your husband or take him for all he’s worth, but to be sure you and your children are provided for.

The financial cost of divorce may be significant. Even a simple, uncontested divorce can cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars in legal and filing fees, depending on how much property is involved.

It’s possible to avoid attorneys entirely by using a do-it-yourself divorce kit found in many bookstores. I don’t recommend that approach, however, because you could easily overlook crucial details. Your situation may not be as simple as you think. Any time property or children are involved, the situation is complex. Also, each state’s divorce and property laws are different. The divorce can be further complicated if you’ve lived in more than one state or acquired property in more than one state. For the same reasons, you should never attempt to be your own divorce attorney.

The primary way to reduce the cost of divorce is to avoid contentiousness. The more contentious your split, the more expensive it will be. If your husband agrees, you might want to approach a service such as Christian Conciliation Service. See peacemaker.net. or some other mediating body that could help reduce costs and still provide competent advice.

In addition to choosing trusted advisors and legal counsel, you need to do the following during the divorce process:

  1. Establish credit in your own name. It’s almost impossible to function in our culture without a credit rating. If credit cards, bank accounts, and other accounts are in your husband’s name alone, you may have difficulty establishing your own credit. It’s therefore advisable to apply for credit in your own name at your bank.
  2. List all assets you can find, along with how those assets are titled. This includes cars, timeshare units, furniture, bank accounts, valuable jewelry, boats, life insurance policies, savings bonds, retirement plans, and brokerage accounts.
  3. Notify banks and brokerage firms – wherever you have joint accounts – of your intention to divorce. Ask both the banker and the broker to allow no transactions in your accounts without written approval by both you and your spouse.
  4. Close out all joint charge accounts. If you don’t complete this step – and your husband makes charges – you are jointly as well as individually liable for that debt. Notify the creditors in writing that you’re no longer responsible for your spouse’s purchases. Creditors may agree to let you keep accounts open in joint names but only be liable for your own purchases.
  5. Consider setting up a savings account in your own name. This will serve as a place to keep cash if your husband stops contributing to the payment of household bills. You’ll probably be liable for all utilities and household expenses if your husband decides to stop making those payments.
  6. Make sure you understand the true costs of operating the household. The budget worksheets can help you identify many of the costs. Go through the check registers from the past two or three years and list your expenses by major category. This will help you negotiate the terms of divorce, such as child support and alimony payments. And it will be far less expensive for you to gather the information than to hire an accountant or your attorney to do it.In addition, you can review prior years’ tax returns to get some indication of money spent, investments made, and sources of income you may not have known about. The more information you have, the more you’re able to assist your attorney in negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement.

The negotiation process

The last financial step in divorce, one that could take a long time, is the negotiation process. In that process, all assets will be divided; the responsibility for debts will be determined; child support amounts will be set; alimony amount and duration will be decided; and last and very important, visitation rights will be established. How well the negotiation is done will depend not only on the information you provide your attorney, but also on his or her skill as an advocate for you.

How well the settlement is negotiated will largely determine the tax consequences of the divorce too. What appears valuable before taxes may be far less valuable after taxes. For example, any alimony paid to you will be deductible to your husband on his tax return and taxable to you as income. On the other hand, child support payments are neither taxable as income to you nor deductible by him.

To illustrate, suppose your ex-husband pays you alimony of $35,000 the first year, $20,000 the second year, and $5,000 the third year. He will be able to deduct $60,000 from his tax returns over those three years, and you’ll have to report taxable income of $60,000. Thus, your attorney should attempt to increase the amount of alimony paid to take into account the tax benefit your former husband is getting and the tax liability you are assuming. If you were to receive $60,000 of child support over a period of years, you would pay no income tax. Child support is better for you than alimony from a tax perspective, but is less attractive to him financially.

Another issue relative to child support is who gets to claim exemptions for the children on tax returns. Generally, the parent who has custody of the child for more than one-half of the year gets the exemption unless the other spouse signs a waiver. (Refer to IRS Publication 504 for more information on this topic.)

If your spouse is extremely well paid, he should be especially amenable to signing a waiver, because dependent exemptions are phased out anyway for single taxpayers with higher incomes. If your former husband fits that category, he’ll get no benefit from the exemption, so it should be used by you if you’re in a lower tax bracket.

This is all a moot issue, of course, if you provide more than half the support of your child, which can be determined by the family budget you’ve already prepared. In that case, you can just take the exemption on your return and reduce your tax liability accordingly.

Property settlements can also have tax consequences. Generally, property transferred as part of a divorce settlement is treated as a gift between spouses, so no taxes are paid on the transfer. But certain assets, such as an IRA or 401(k), will have future tax consequences. Many women recognize too late that $20,000 in a savings account (not taxable) is much more desirable than $20,000 of their husband’s 401(k) (taxable upon withdrawal and not accessible until age 59½).

Although the transfer of most property without taxation sounds good, keep the following in mind. If property (stock, real estate, etc.) that originally cost $1,000 but is now worth $50,000 is transferred, you don’t have $50,000 available to you. When the property is sold, you will have a taxable gain of $49,000. The income tax on the gain will reduce substantially the amount of money available to you. If, on the other hand, property that cost $50,000 is transferred to you and you sell it for $50,000, you have no tax on that gain, so you really do have $50,000. Thus, the specific property transferred in the divorce settlement can change your cash flow significantly.

Another issue in the property settlement is the family home. If that’s transferred to you, you get the tax benefit of avoiding most or all of the income tax on the gain from a sale. Current tax laws allow you to exclude from income any gain up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) from the sale of your principal residence.

Finally, while the divorce is being negotiated, you need to review the medical insurance coverage you and your children will have.

After the divorce is final

By the time the divorce becomes final and all property transactions are completed, you should have your own bank and brokerage accounts and credit cards. Now, besides living in accordance with a financial plan, you need to rewrite your will, change the beneficiary for life insurance policies on your life, and review your children’s medical insurance coverage, which may have been provided by your spouse.

Those protections become more critical now than ever because you may be your kids’ sole support. These steps are too important to delay beyond the first few weeks after the divorce is final.

Continue reading.

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As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 2

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

Embracing Your Role as a Spouse

As a spouse, you have three roles to play—a friend, a partner, and a lover. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Pastor Kevin A. Thompson explores those different roles and challenges you to live them out by investing emotionally, physically, and mentally in your relationship. As friends, he suggests we learn to play and laugh together. As partners, he equips us with solid ways to handle conflict and communication. As lovers, he offers some thoughts on how to bring back the sizzle. He shares five keys to saving your marriage: humility, respect, mercy, communication, and resilience. You’ll be encouraged to intentionally invest in your marriage.

Headshot of Kevin Thompson

Pastor Kevin Thompson

Kevin A. Thompson (MDiv, Beeson Divinity School) is lead pastor at Community Bible Church, a growing multi-site church with four locations in western Arkansas. Every year he meets with nearly one hundred couples with a range of needs, from pre-marital counseling to navigating the most serious betrayals. A marriage and parenting conference speaker, he and his wife, Jenny, have two children and live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He blogs at kevinathompson.com.

Cover image of Kevin Thompson's book "Friends, Partners & Lovers"

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

With engaging stories and clear, simple language, pastor Kevin Thompson shows how to live out three distinct roles in marraige. Using solid biblical principles, he helps you and your spouse grow your friendship, be supportive partners through the good times and the bad, and develop a healthy and satisfying sex life.

Cherishing Your Spouse Every Day

Do you love your spouse, or do you truly cherish them? Gary Thomas encourages couples to make a daily effort to go beyond the ‘duty’ of love, and combat the natural inclination to drift apart, by choosing to see the best in their spouse.

Mr. Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas is an international speaker and best-selling, award-winning author whose books include Married SexSacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting. He has also written numerous articles for several prominent national magazines. Gary and his wife, Lisa, reside in Texas and have three children. You can learn more about Gary by visiting his website, www.garythomas.com.

cherish front cover

Friends, Partners, and Lovers: What It Takes to Make Your Marriage Work

“Most marriages survive by gritting teeth and holding on. But marriages can and will not only survive but thrive when husbands and wives learn to cherish one another.” Those are the powerful words of bestselling author Gary Thomas in his newest book–Cherish. And in a world desperate for marriage redemption, it is needed now more than ever. Thomas shows that although there are a countless number of marriages consisting of two people just going through the motions, there are real ways this pattern can be reversed: when husbands and wives learn to cherish one another in proven, loving, and everyday actions and words.

Sharing Your Faith with Grace and Purpose

You can confidently and lovingly share your faith—you just need to learn some new tactics to do so! In this Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, apologist Greg Koukl outlines the “Columbo” tactic of asking questions, the “self-defeating argument” tactic to find holes in your opponent’s arguments, and other specific methods for engaging in faith-building conversations with others. Greg pulls from his over 30 years of experience debating atheists and agnostics to help you share your faith with grace and truth.

Mr. Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl is a writer, public speaker and talk show host who’s spent 30 years advocating for and defending the Christian worldview. Greg has written or contributed to 15 books, including The Story of RealityTactics, and Precious Unborn Human Persons. Greg has published nearly 230 articles and has spoken on 80 college and university campuses in the U.S. and abroad.

Tactics front cover

Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. In Tactics, 10th Anniversary Edition, Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to artfully regain control of conversations, keeping them moving forward in constructive ways through thoughtful diplomacy. You’ll learn how to stop challengers in their tracks and how to turn the tables on questions or provocative statements. Most important, you’ll learn how to get people thinking about Jesus.

Giving up Sugar, Tasting God's Goodness

As a latchkey kid, Wendy Speake turned to sugar for comfort. Every Friday, she would pedal to the candy show and use her allowance to fill her bag with candy. And one day, when she was older and a mom of three young boys, she came to realize that she was still “pedaling” away from her stress and using sugar as comfort, instead of turning to Jesus. She was joyless, worn out, tired, and in need of a change. In this interview, Wendy will challenge Christians to take 40 days to focus on fasting from something they turn to instead of Jesus for comfort. She invited people to break free from a dependence on sugar and taste the goodness of God.

Author Wendy Speake smiling as she holds up her book "The 40-Day Social Media Fast"

Mrs. Wendy Speake

With a background in Hollywood as a trained actress, Wendy Speake ministers to women as a bible teacher by applying the power of drama, poetry and comedy to the study of Scripture and real-life application of biblical truths. She has co-authored two books with Amber Lia titled Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and their latest, Parenting Scripts: When What You’re Saying Isn’t Working, Say Something New. Wendy is also the co-author (with Kelli Stuart) of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom.

Cover image of the book "The 40-Day Sugar Fast"

The 40-Day Sugar Fast: Where Physical Detox Meets Spiritual Transformation

Welcome to the 40-Day Sugar Fast, a fast that begins with us giving Jesus our sugar and ends with Jesus giving us himself–the only thing that can ever truly satisfy our soul’s deep hunger. On this 40-day journey you’ll learn how to stop fixating on food and other things you use to fill the voids in life and instead fix your eyes on Christ. Anyone who runs to sugar for comfort or a reward, who eats mindlessly or out of boredom, who feels physically and spiritually lethargic, or who struggles with self-control will discover here not only freedom from their cravings but an entirely new appetite for the good things God has for us.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 1

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 1

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

How a Former Abortion Doctor Became Pro-Life

As an abortion doctor at Planned Parenthood, Dr. Patti Giebink believed she was helping women. Later, she began reading scripture and God gradually changed her heart on the abortion issue. Patti tells the story of her long journey from abortion doctor to pro-life and encourages listeners to share the message of life with compassion.

Headshot image of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. Patti Giebink

Mrs. Patti Giebink

Dr. Patti Giebink is an OB-GYN who serves on the board of the Alpha Center, a well-known pregnancy center located in Sioux Falls, S.D. She also travels intermittently to work in mission hospitals in Pakistan and other countries. After completing her medical training, Dr. Giebink worked for Planned Parenthood from 1995-1997, during which she was the only abortion-provider in the state of South Dakota. She eventually experienced a radical change of heart on the issue of abortion after receiving God’s grace, forgiveness, and love, and she is now a passionate advocate for the pro-life movement.

Cover image of the book "Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life"

Unexpected Choice: An Abortion Doctor’s Journey to Pro-Life

Unexpected Choice is told from the perspective of a doctor who actually performed abortions through Planned Parenthood. The book chronicles her journey from being a pro-choice physician to someone speaking on behalf of the pro-life movement.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.