Uncle Sam Wants What’s His – 3 Questions to Ask Before You File Taxes in a Divorce

You must decide how you will handle taxes. Hands down, money will be saved if filing jointly.

Taxes are a chore.  I don’t think I’ve met a single person who enjoys this season, unless you are a Type A personality with extra time on your hands; you don’t look forward to taxes.  Going through a divorce is difficult enough and then on top of it the divorce is never finalized the same year unless there are zero assets and no kids under 18.  You must decide how you will handle taxes.  Hands down, money will be saved if filing jointly.  In some states, married filing separately you still must account for your estranged spouse’s income, community property and you’re still 100% responsible for taxes due.  Complicated, complicated, complicated.  It’s a chore, so you need to ask yourself, what are my options?  Disclosure, I’m not a tax expert or an accountant.


Are you the one filing the divorce and haven’t yet?

Try to avoid tax issues and time your divorce so you’re only having to deal with one year of taxes instead of two.  Dealing with taxes early in the process is such a headache.  It adds to all the stress and puts extra pressure on everyone.  One spouse must take the reins, bite the bullet and get it done.  That will be you or if you’re a bully or lazy you’ll make your spouse do it.  If you trust your spouse gave you everything you needed to file the tax return, married file jointly is the best option.


The next question to ask, is the divorce amicable or contested?

If your divorce is amicable, filing taxes as a couple is a no brainer if the divorce is not final.  Depending on what state you live in you get the full benefit of deducting the main residence, the dependents, child care, etc.  Filing as a couple is always better financially for both parties.  If your divorce is contested and the other spouse refuses to file as a couple, you have no choice, but to file separately.  When you file separately you must choose whether you’ll take the deduction or itemize.  Both of you have to select the same one.  This is extremely tricky.  Gotta love our government.  If one spouse doesn’t have income and the other is a straight up W2 employee, easy take the standard deduction.  If one spouse has a W2 and a business and the other spouse has nothing, that spouse can’t itemize effectively and still in most cases must claim the income, so it depends.  If one spouse is a W2 employee and the other is a 1099, it again depends whether there are enough deductions to equal the standard deduction; because the W2 employee will be swimming in taxes if they don’t itemize everything they need to.  There are so many combinations I can’t possibly cover them all.  Remember, going through a divorce makes everything topsy-turvy including taxes.   This could be different is some states, so be sure you do your research or talk to a CPA or tax preparer.


Final question, if you decide married filing jointly is the best option – How will you handle the return and/or taxes due?

This is a very difficult question to answer, especially if one spouse says here, you do it and the divorce is highly contested.  Try to get your spouse to agree how to handle it.  Write it down and make them sign.  If your spouse has been compliant with the money portion of your separation or divorce, then it is probably likely they will follow through with whatever you agree to.  If money has been an issue in the divorce, then filing separately is your best bet to avoid arguments and improper income reporting.

Taxes are just around the corner.  Remember to time the divorce so you don’t have to do taxes twice, decide what is better financially and understand your relationship dynamics and make a decision on how the return and/or payment of taxes will be handled.  If you need more general tax help, try researching more online Nolo.com is a good place to start.   If you have unlimited resources at your disposal filing separately with a professional is probably the very best option in a contested divorce.

5 Stages of Grief in Divorce – here’s the clincher, they’re still living

There is no way to grasp the concept of divorce until your entire person is submerged and it does in fact feel like DEATH within an emotional jungle; however, every hiccup in the process feels like they are continually dying.  This constant dying situation creates a sense of alternate reality.  There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for anyone involved which leads to difficulty moving from one stage of grief to another with bouts of despair in between (length of time in one stage varies by individual); and for others, there was so much turmoil in the relationship under one roof, the separation leads to immediate acceptance due to the stark contrast in daily living.  However, the acceptance people are not out of the woods; they end up experiencing every stage of the grief sequence as time goes on in a different order. Let’s jump in and talk about the 5 Stages of Grief from losing a loved one from divorce.

First Stage – Denial

It doesn’t seem real at first.  In some cases, it will never seem real; you feel like you are in a perpetual revolving door.  Some questions that you’ll ask yourself include: is this happening? Tomorrow I am going to wake up and things will be different, right?  He or she doesn’t really mean it.  How can this be happening to me?  It almost feels like an out of body experience or a bad dream.

 Second Stage – Anger

No matter what side you are on.  Whether you are filing for a divorce (petitioner) or responding to a divorce (respondent).  This is true for both sides.  Inside you feel like you are going to boil over or explode from the other person’s actions and words.  No matter what don’t be THAT person.  Take steps to prevent that from happening.  Find an outlet for your anger.  Sometimes it helps to scream at the top of your lungs when no one is around or put ten times the effort into your workout that day, when your lifting weights or when your jabbing and upper-cutting put all your energy into the action.  Anger stems from being out of control, could also originate from betrayal and/or the natural response to the instigating spouse.  The Family law system also triggers anger, because it is so incredibly broken and no one seems to care.

Third Stage – Depression

No one is immune to this stage.  There are so many reasons why this stage is unavoidable.  Your life as you know it gets turned upside down.  If you have children, they are extra irritable from the divorce and it is difficult to identify whether their behavior is from abuse or the instant transition which makes you even more depressed.  Your eyes glaze over.  You can’t sleep.  You sleep too much.  You can’t eat, because you have no appetite or you overeat to increase the feel-good hormones like serotonin. Your limbs at times feel like they each weigh a ton.  You don’t want to experience anything good, but instead want to wallow in your misery.  The sudden departure of your loved one leaves a void of presence, even if that presence was rarely good most of the time.  Holidays and birthdays are especially challenging at first, because your family and friends also must make the adjustment.  No one really wants to talk about the divorce, but it is looming in the background of everything you do which also contributes to the grey cloud that seems to hang over your head.

Fourth Stage – Bargaining

Someone in some relationships always wants the other one back (that’s not the case in my experience).  Spouses will make threats, they will beg, they will plead with you to change in the hope of getting back together.  I think of this stage as the optimist stage, because whoever goes through this stage wants things the way they used to be and will say or do anything to get the other spouse to comply or bend to accommodate their need to be together again.  They want to sacrifice something for the good of the relationship and are willing to put everything on the line at this point to make it happen.  If you’ve responded to a bargaining spouse, let me know what that is like in the comments.

Fifth Stage – Acceptance

You finally feel relief in this stage and a hint of sadness.  Some people may even feel a level of happiness and wholeness or resolve at this point.  You no longer feel like your spouse is controlling you and you are confident that you will no longer be manipulated by your spouse, because as time progressed you became stronger and resistant to their old ways.  At this stage, you come to terms with your divorce and know that the divorce happened for a reason.  You no longer want your spouse to be yours.  You no longer feel the need to continue arguments.  You no longer let your estranged spouse impact your state of mind.  At this point you are ready to begin life again, and holy cow, it feels amazing.

The most difficult part of the 5 Stages of Grief (denial, anger, depression, bargaining & acceptance) is reaching continuous acceptance, because the other person is still alive and well.  If you’re able to move or minimize encounters, this helps; however, if you have children it is almost impossible.  If the person changes and becomes civil and respectful there’s lots of promise that acceptance will be maintained.  Sometimes you hear of stories where the parents have this jaw dropping co-parenting arrangement that they even take annual pictures together like the CBS News story or live together; these people aren’t human, do not believe the hype.  In fact, the alternate reality scenario is even more relevant in divorce situations where the parents somehow stay active in each other’s lives and can’t seem to move on with their life.  Don’t be that parent, you’re not helping the children, but giving them false hope.  The emotional jungle is intense as you keep reliving the 5 Stages of Grief; this is normal, keep working through it each day is a new day.

Divorce? BEWARE, it’s an emotional jungle.

Emotions in a divorce are far more intense than emotions during an unhappy marriage. If a person has a challenging time with their emotions (this can be described as: difficulty expressing emotions verbally or physically, avoids emotional encounters, has sudden outbursts, acts passive aggressively, etc.) they are going to have a rude awakening and a hefty attorney bill if they find themselves in the middle of a divorce. Here are some suggestions on how to navigate the emotional divorce jungle.

The emotions in divorce are intense; so much so, the people in the middle of divorce are not themselves.  The friends and family of people that are divorcing get pulled into the dissolution and even their emotions are affected.  Some friends divorce their friends for going through a divorce, others stop communication altogether and if the divorcing parties are lucky, there will be a handful of people in their lives that stick by them to listen; because they are loyal friends with emotional intelligence.  Emotions in a divorce are far more intense than emotions during an unhappy marriage.  If a person has a challenging time with their emotions (this can be described as: difficulty expressing emotions verbally or physically, avoids emotional encounters, has sudden outbursts, acts passive aggressively, etc.) they are going to have a rude awakening and a hefty attorney bill if they find themselves in the middle of a divorce.  Here are some suggestions on how to navigate the emotional divorce jungle.

Whatever you do, only communicate necessary information. Often, spouses and sneaky attorneys will use communication with the opposing party to manipulate them before a hearing date.  Manipulation before a hearing is multipurpose.  The attorney wants fodder, because this gives the attorney more hours to accumulate and the spouse willing to manipulate wants a leg up for control.  FYI, if one spouse antagonizes another, the court does not step in.  If one spouse manipulates the other spouse, the court does not step in.  If one spouse threatens the other spouse with conditions, if you don’t do this I won’t do that, the court does not step in.  If one spouse, harms the children according to the children, the court does not step in.  If one spouse displays, irregular forms of communication, constantly contradicts themselves and admits general guilt to something heinous, the court does not step in.  If one spouse violates a court order, amazingly the court only steps in on rare occasions even if you file a motion or ex parte.  These scenarios are all possible.  Are you scared yet?  How does this happen you ask?  It happens because no one is holding the system accountable. Only communicate necessary information, because anything more puts fuel on the fire and no one in the judicial system cares if you or your children have been injured unless a crime has been committed.

Whatever you do, turn your hot buttons off. Your spouse knows which buttons to push, when to push them, the frequency they need to be pushed and how hard they should be pushed.  Rewire your brain so those stimuli have zero impact on your response.  This is extremely difficult when divorce is new; because you are adjusting to new circumstances, but the sooner you shut the hot button circuit off the better off you’ll be.  This is especially important if you have children and you’re the custodial parent.  Divorce is the worst on children. Be sure you’re dialed in to your children’s emotions.  If you don’t turn your hot buttons off, your children will get the brunt of your emotional response that’s meant for your estranged spouse.  DO NOT let your estranged spouse have that much control!  Be in charge, 100% of the time for you and your children.  Setup boundaries in your new divorce relationship to protect your sanity, keep your emotional well-being in tact and to stay in the present.  Turning off your hot buttons is critical to minimizing collateral damage.

Whatever you do, complete as much paperwork as you can outside of court. Every hearing you have creates stress.  Every hearing costs money whether you have an attorney or not.  Every dollar that you or your spouse pays is a dollar less for the children if you have children and there is always a chance either spouse can request the court to order the other spouse pay while your case is open.  All promises that are not submitted to court and filed with the court are fly-by-night promises; so no matter what, make sure all signatures on a decision are filed with the court.  Time is valuable, court is as fun as the DMV, don’t waste those precious hours.  If you have an attorney, have them negotiate for you outside of court or try mediation for better cooperation and communication.  If your spouse is compliant and respectful, try negotiating with your spouse directly (with any outside party, there is a price-tag attached).  Most of all make it a priority to come to a decision, make concessions, make reasonable suggestions and get your division of assets wrapped up as soon as possible especially if you have children.  Don’t let the legal paperwork or family law forms be a burden, get it done outside of court.

Everyone needs to care about their neighbor’s, their friend’s, their family’s quality of life, any person can be touched by divorce directly or indirectly.  If you are considering divorce, going through a divorce or know someone who’s going through a divorce help them understand how to navigate the emotional jungle.  Divorce is one of the most difficult circumstances people deal with in life and people should not have to do it alone.  If you’re going through a divorce or know someone who is; keep these emotional strategies top of mind: communicate only necessary information, turn your hot buttons off and complete paperwork outside of court.  The emotional divorce jungle is filled with booby traps, predators and acts of God; be prepared and stay alert.

6 Things a Divorce Attorney Won’t Tell You

If you can manage it, get through your divorce with as little family law industry personnel involved as possible.  Almost every person that works in the family law industry and even your friends will say, “you need an attorney!”  Newsflash, they don’t REALLY know and if they work in the industry, they have ulterior motives.  Your friends, family or co-workers only tell you, you need an attorney because it seems to make sense.  Initially you feel you are at a disadvantage if your estranged spouse has an attorney and you do not, if you’re working full-time and you have children you will probably have to get an attorney if the children are with you most the time; however, if you have a good support system and your work schedule is flexible, explore representing yourself or filing online.  If you find you must start talking with attorneys you need to be aware of these 6 topics that fly under the radar:

#1 The attorney will not tell you to go without an attorney, it conflicts with their livelihood.  An attorney knows the system and the divorce system is designed to make money. If you hire an attorney, you still use your time and energy to explain everything to your attorney.  Additionally, you must review all paperwork they prepare, because your signature is required on every form.  Whether you are the petitioner (the person who filed for the divorce) or the respondent (the person responding to the person who filed); an attorney will not grasp your position as much as you.  Every state has rules and regulations on how they do things, your divorce will follow those rules and regulations; you will not be the exception because you hired a good attorney.

#2 The attorney will not tell you they don’t care directly.  It’s unimaginable that people can become so calloused; however, they probably did not start out that way.  The system grooms people to become desensitized to your situation.  It’s only natural.  Family law people put on a caring façade to gain your trust (there are some exceptions, but few).  The more people they’ve worked with, the less caring they typically are.  There is no way they could face their work day without that hard shell, because to be good at what they do, they must manipulate the other side and manipulate you too.  Remember they are also charging you an arm and a leg at the same time whether you can afford it or not.  Married celebrities, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, discovered this late in the game according to Vanity Fair and finally decided to go with a private judge which minimizes attorney and media manipulation, plus keeps things private from the public.

#3 The attorney will not tell you your story DOESN’T matter to the court.  This is huge!  If you already have an attorney you are already somewhat familiar with the preparation that is required to file the paperwork or forms with the court.  The first declaration forms go to great lengths to set the backdrop behind the reasons for the divorce.  Hours upon hours are spent by you and your attorney to arrive at a reasonably true story.  If you don’t have a caring attorney, the attorney will input drama where needed and hyperbole to make the story more compelling so the judge finds it interesting to read.  What’s worse is that these lies are never refuted at the hearing.  The story is filed as fact and then the other person can submit their own declaration (link example is from California) refuting the lies, but there is no consensus.

#4 The attorney will not tell you the judge will make an order or decline making an order as they see fit regardless of your attorney’s performance or the damages that accrued in the relationship.  The judge sees numerous cases a day, you are just a number.  If the judge had a bad morning and you show emotion, 2 strikes against whatever you think is a fair compromise.  All the while, your attorney sits there helpless and you paid them to sit there helpless.  Every hearing has an objective set by the judge or opposing council, so if the situation that is rectified before the date on the court’s calendar you cannot replace that objective with something else.  The date is removed from calendar and if there’s another topic that needs to be addressed you or your attorney must file a motion to put it back on calendar.  What does this do?  It prolongs the divorce and keeps the legal tab open.

#5 The attorney will not tell you to always show up in court or the other side will have the advantage.  This is a common-sense scenario.  From the judge’s perspective if you didn’t take the time to appear in court you automatically have less authority and skin in the game even though you sent your attorney to represent you.  If you truly don’t care, this could work for you, but if you truly do care, always appear in court.

#6 If you live in a liberal state and have children, judges & attorneys do not follow “best interests of the child” doctrine.  Shocking I know!  Family law is like the Wild West.  There are very few absolutes and all kinds of grey area.  For the court to care about the children in an abusive situation, the spouse in question MUST have a criminal record and/or the abuse must be verified by a professional 3rd party.

Think twice before seeking an attorney to file for divorce.  If you loved your spouse at least for a moment during your marriage, save yourself the stress and heartache that comes along with the attorney representation package.  The judge in every divorce case bases their decision on previous case decisions and if the judge breaks the law and favors the other side unjustly you can appeal.  If you think your spouse will get an attorney, seek advice from an attorney, but talk to many, because if you go with a calloused one you’ll be in for a long haul.

Welcome to FYI Divorce, real life divorce tips

Welcome to FYI Divorce, an unbiased resource that’s not tapping into the industry of divorce, but tapping into the heart of the matter; PEOPLE’s LIVES.

You’re reading this now, because you’re thinking about divorce, starting a divorce, going through a divorce or have already experienced the divorce process.  There are very few resources on divorce that are truly objective resources.   Almost every divorce online resource has the money strings attached, so the perspective of the article or website is skewed.  No longer, my friends!  Welcome to FYI Divorce, an unbiased resource that’s not tapping into the industry of divorce, but tapping into the heart of the matter; PEOPLE’s LIVES.  This is not a place to find legal advice.  This is a place to find the real deal; reveal what’s behind the divorce curtain for lack of a better analogy.

Hold onto your hats, because FYI Divorce will be taking you on a wild ride.  There will be insight garnered from personal experience (a perspective outside of family law), there will be interviews of divorcées, there will be interviews of industry workers and most of all there will be NO SUGARCOATING.  It’s time there is some real talk about what goes on in the courthouse and the courtroom and how the individuals’ experience can be drastically different depending on what state and county the divorce is filed.

There are many different types of divorce.  There are online divorces, uncontested divorces, contested divorces, only custody cases in non-marital situations, domestic violence divorces, irreconcilable differences divorces (which covers up the true reason for divorce), short term marriage divorces, long-term marriage divorces and the list goes on.  It’s time someone talks about the experience that unravels once you enter this tangled web of family law.  DO NOT ENTER the divorce lane without reading FYI Divorce first.

If divorce was simple, there would be no need for FYI Divorce.  Divorce is complicated.  The state government and attorneys make it even more complicated.  It’s not like you can file all the necessary paperwork with or without an attorney and go on your merry way as a singleton.  Once you go down this expensive path of family law there is no U-turn.  Do I have your attention?  Your life matters.  Family law does not consider your life.  Family law does not care about you, your family or even your kids.  Family law is there to accept your dollars, shuffle paperwork and do it all over again the next day.  There are those rare few in family law that do want to have a positive impact in the industry, but those people are extremely scarce and busy; good word travels fast.  Stay tuned for more real talk on divorce tips and family law.