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Baltimore Family Law Blog

Financial considerations when blending families

After a divorce, people may eventually find new partners and decide to combine their Maryland households. There are a number of financial considerations they should take into account when they are creating these so-called "blended families".

First, couples should talk to one another about their finances and their views on saving, spending and the role of money in their lives. They should also consider what they want to model for their children regarding money. It is important to consider what might be fair if the two people are coming into the relationship with very different assets. Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that different children may have different needs.

The deductible nature of alimony

When a Maryland couple gets a divorce, there are several factors that govern the tax treatment of alimony. Under the Internal Revenue Code, the person making alimony payments can deduct them while the recipient has to include the payments in income. However, there are a few requirements that need to be met, and a 2017 U.S. Tax Court case illustrates this.

In the case, a California attorney was paid a sizable bonus in 2006 while still married. He filed for divorce shortly after the start of the following year. While the divorce was still pending, he gave approximately half of his bonus to his estranged wife, and the two signed an agreement stating that the bonus was community property and that he would report all of it on his tax return.

Why paternity matters to you and your child

Paternity is an important fact to prove if you're unsure if a child is yours. Paternity isn't just for your benefit. While it can help you obtain and confirm your parental rights, paternity also helps your child know where he or she came from, your medical history and other important information.

When you have a child while married, it's automatically assumed that the child is yours. Now that you're going through a divorce, if you're concerned about paying child support because you don't believe your child is yours, you may want to seek out a DNA test.

Getting a child support agreement

Divorcing Maryland parents have multiple options when it comes to obtaining child support. They can take part in informal negotiations with the assistance of their respective attorneys or use alternative dispute resolution proceedings that take place away from the court. No matter how an agreement is reached, it will likely still be necessary to obtain court approval to verify that it is in compliance with child support state regulations.

Using an attorney for informal negotiations is optional. Some parents may opt to conduct the negotiations themselves and then obtain legal advice before entering into a final written agreement. Others may prefer to have the attorneys take the lead.

The link between unemployment and divorce

Maryland couples might be more likely to divorce if the husband does not work full time. According to a study conducted by a Harvard sociology professor, a wife's economic independence has little bearing on whether or not her marriage lasts. Household chores also do not appear to be an issue. However, in any given year, if a husband worked full time, the marriage had a 2.5 percent chance of ending in divorce. If the husband only worked part time, the likelihood rose to 3.3 percent.

The study, which appeared in the "American Sociological Review," dealt with more than 45 years of data on over 6,300 couples. Prior to 1975, the husband's employment status was not much of a factor. The mid-1970s was also when the divorce rate began to climb.

Nesting as a way of helping children adjust to divorce

Maryland parents who are ending their marriage and who are concerned about how a divorce could cause a disruption in their children's lives may want to consider an option known as nesting. With this arrangement, children remain in the family home while parents share custody and take turns living in the home. While this may present a number of challenges, it can also provide children with stability.

Among the potential challenges are disputes over housework, buying groceries and money. There could be a lack of privacy in the arrangement. Furthermore, children may struggle to accept the divorce if their parents are working together so closely. On the other hand, it can be good for them to see their parents cooperating.

Possible uses of child support

Some divorced Maryland parents have the misconception that child support is designed to cover only a child's most basic needs, such as clothing and food. The reality is that it may cover a variety of expenses, and parents may benefit from a full understanding of the purpose of child support.

The general purpose of child support is broadly defined. The central idea is to ensure that non-custodial parents are providing their balanced share of care for the child. Since non-custodial parents generally have fewer direct responsibilities related to the child's care, the support they pay is intended to represent the remainder of their responsibilities. Ultimately, it is the goal of child support to provide children with a standard of living similar to what they enjoyed or would enjoy if living with both parents.

About gray divorces

Maryland residents may be surprised to learn that the factors that indicate an older couple may be at risk for a divorce may not be what they automatically assume. The risk of divorces among individuals who are 50 years old or older are not spread evenly among them. Thirty-four percent of gray divorces occur among couples who have been married more than 30 years, while those who have been married over 40 years account for 10 percent of gray divorces.

Even though the gray divorce rate has doubled over the past three decades and has increased at a higher rate than that for Americans who are younger than 50, it is still not considered very high. In fact, the divorce rate for people 50 and older is half the rate for people under 50.

Stepparent adoption: What if the other parent doesn't consent?

There are many reasons why a stepparent may want to adopt his or her stepchild. You may have your own personal reasons for making this decision for yourself and your family. However, if the other biological parent does not offer his or her consent to your wish to adopt, you could face some serious roadblocks.

The only way to get around a non-consensual birth parent in a stepparent adoption scenario is to attempt to terminate the other parent's parental rights.

How alcohol or drug abuse affects child custody

A divorced Maryland parent who has a child custody agreement in place and finds out that the other parent is abusing alcohol or drugs may be concerned about the child's safety. It might be necessary to take out a restraining order against the other parent or to deny that parent visitation. However, a parent may also need to take formal steps to get the custody and visitation agreement changed.

In a custody hearing, a judge's focus is on the child's best interests. The judge will consider whether there is a history of substance abuse as well as how any alleged substance abuse affects the child. A parent who is concerned about the other parent's use of alcohol or drugs should provide evidence of the abuse along with documentation showing that it is detrimental to the child's safety or well-being.