For a large number of people who are married in the United States, the statistics tell us that tax season is also divorce season. At the end of the year – that is, during the holidays – it may not be the best time to announce an imminent divorce to one’s family members and friends, but the arrival of a new year and the promise of cash back from the IRS makes tax season the season when the largest number of married couples seek divorces. Even the Book of Ecclesiastes says that, “To everything there is a season,” and for family attorneys and divorce lawyers, that season runs from January through April 15. (April 18 is the actual tax deadline date for this year.) When a marriage simply cannot be fixed, the new year can be the right time to make a change. If you are considering or seeking a divorce, before you take any other action, speak right away with a good divorce lawyer, and in Lake County and adjacent jurisdictions, get the legal guidance you need and consult as soon as you can with our experienced Lake County divorce lawyers.
As a marital relationship slowly dissolves and disintegrates, and as divorce becomes an inevitability, usually at some point both spouses shift their focus away from rescuing the marriage to “looking out for number one” instead and coming out of the divorce in the best possible financial condition. Some partners at this time will start to hide assets in an effort to protect them from the division and distribution process in a divorce procedure. Marital property is typically a lot more than simply a home, two cars, and checking and savings accounts. It can include real estate holdings, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, and more. If you suspect that your spouse is or has been hiding property and assets, you’ll need to retain a divorce attorney who is skilled at uncovering hidden assets and who is experienced in the division and distribution of marital assets in a divorce procedure.
During this tax season – or at any time that you seek a divorce – you must understand and be ready for the financial consequences. If the financial side of your divorce is not handled correctly, you could face unexpected and serious financial difficulties for years to come. Retain an experienced divorce attorney before you take any other step toward divorce, and strictly adhere to that attorney’s advice. Do not be like the Tampa police officer whose own income tax refund, it seems, was not sufficient to retain a divorce lawyer. Officer Jeanette Hevel helped herself to some additional income tax refund checks – fraudulent checks that she took from the Tampa Police Department’s evidence locker and sold on the street for ten to twenty cents on the dollar to pay for her divorce. The now ex-Tampa police officer was sentenced by a federal judge in January to five years on probation. Ms. Hevel could have been sent to a federal prison for up to ten years.
WHAT SHOULD YOU CONSIDER BEFORE A DIVORCE?
Living on a drastically altered income after a divorce will require substantial consideration and planning. For some, the prospects might be difficult, but financial preparation is absolutely imperative if you want to avoid unanticipated money problems after a divorce. Do not be hesitant or embarrassed to ask for advice from your divorce lawyer about the financial choices you need to make as you move from being married to being a single person again. If it’s needed, your divorce lawyer can also refer you to experienced financial counselors and other helpful resources. Before you file for a divorce in Indiana or any other state, ready yourself for the financial impact of that divorce by taking these measures:
- Thoroughly review your finances and credit.
- Consult a good divorce attorney about what a divorce will cost.
- Open new bank accounts in your own name.
The fees that you’ll pay for a divorce will depend on the state and the region where you live, the complexity of the issues in the divorce, and the amount of cooperation achieved between the divorcing spouses. Many family attorneys and divorce lawyers offer quite reasonable payment arrangements. In some cases, it’s possible that your attorney’s fees can actually be paid for or reimbursed by the other spouse as part of the divorce agreement or settlement.
WHAT ULTIMATELY DETERMINES THE COST OF DIVORCE?
Of course, the ultimate cost of a divorce will hinge primarily on the particular legal services that a divorce attorney or family lawyer provides. A consultation alone will cost less than partial representation (handling only child custody, for instance, or only the division of property and assets), and partial representation will cost less than complete representation. In other words, the fewer issues that must be resolved between divorcing spouses, in a trial, the less a divorce will cost. If you and your divorcing partner can agree on all or any of these nine matters – the typical matters typically disputed in most divorce proceedings – you can both lower your legal costs. Those nine issues are:
- child custody
- child support
- child visitation
- the division of property and assets
- the division of debts
- spousal support (alimony)
- legal fees
- reimbursement claims
- breach of fiduciary duty claims
The issues in your own divorce will also determine which documents must be filed, but all spouses filing for divorce in Indiana are required to submit these three forms:
- a petition for dissolution of marriage
- a summons
- a financial declaration
If minor children are involved, in the state of Indiana you must also file a Child Support Obligation Worksheet. After the forms are filed, your spouse must be “served,” that is, notified that you have filed for divorce, and then your spouse must be given the chance to file an answer, a counterclaim, or both. Indiana law allows you to serve your spouse through a private process server, certified mail, or a sheriff’s service.
If your income tax refund this season is dedicated to funding your divorce, you might or might not have heard that a brief glitch in the IRS electronic filing system in February may briefly delay your tax refund this year. You also need to be aware that con artists are hard at work this year stealing tax refunds. CBS News quoted one New York tax lawyer who says, “The identity theft with the tax returns has become a cottage industry.” The IRS has taken a number of steps to spot false tax returns, but the IRS also strongly recommends that you never carry your Social Security card or number on you and that you keep secure any documents, other papers, or computer files that may include your Social Security number.
DO YOU NEED “GROUNDS” FOR DIVORCE?
In the state of Indiana, divorce is referred to in the law as the “dissolution of marriage.” Indiana is generally a no-fault divorce state, although state law does allow for limited fault-based grounds for divorce. Most divorcing spouses, with exceptions of course, prefer the no-fault divorce because all you must state is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” If you choose to file a fault-based divorce complaint, Indiana allows only three grounds for divorce: impotence, insanity, and conviction for a felony. To file for divorce in this state, at least one spouse must have resided in Indiana for a minimum of six months and in the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months prior to filing.
As to property division, Indiana is an equitable distribution state, which means that a court will divide and distribute marital property and assets fairly or “equitably,” but not necessarily precisely in half. Both spouses have the right to dispute a court-ordered division and distribution of property and assets, but if the spouses can come to their own division and distribution agreement, an Indiana court will usually approve it. The court may also order alimony, otherwise known as spousal maintenance. The party making maintenance payments may ask for a modification of maintenance if and when there is a substantial change in either party’s circumstances that makes the continuation of an ongoing maintenance order unreasonable.
Parents in Indiana are obligated to pay for child support until their child is 21 years old, unless the child is emancipated, incapacitated, or is 18 years old, not attending school, and capable of supporting himself or herself. A child who is married, serving in the military, or who is no longer under the care or control of parents may be considered emancipated. However, if a child is incapacitated, child support continues through the duration of the incapacity or until the court decides otherwise.
For the detailed personal advice and dedicated legal representation that you will need when you divorce in Indiana, consult at once with an experienced Lake County divorce lawyer. Many choose to divorce during tax season, but the best time for you to file for a divorce is when you are genuinely and realistically ready both emotionally and financially. An experienced Lake County divorce attorney can help. In Gary, Lake County, and adjacent communities, if you are divorcing, don’t hesitate to make the call.