Sometimes you can see a divorce coming, sometimes you cannot. But if you see that a divorce is imminent, there are some important things that you can do to improve your situation when things get difficult. I found a good article by Debra J. Braselton, Esq. at Divorce HQ that lists ten things to do if a divorce is imminent, and these are especially true in West Virginia divorce cases.

1. Consult an Attorney

Becoming informed about your legal rights and responsibilities is the most crucial step in the divorce process. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to counsel you on the law as it applies to the facts of your situation and advise you on the best way to proceed (or not proceed!). One example is illustrative. You and your spouse are constantly fighting and the arguments are causing great distress to your children. Your spouse refuses to move out. You decide to take the children and live at your parents’ house until the divorce is final, at which time you will move back to the marital home. From a legal point of view, moving to your parents’ home, even temporarily, could be a huge mistake. This is just one of the many things a divorce attorney will discuss with you during a consultation.

2. Copy Documents

A little planning goes a long way in this area because it is much more difficult to obtain these documents through discovery procedures at a later date. Go through the household files and make copies of everything you can find: tax returns, bank statements, check registers, investment statements, retirement account statements, employee benefits handbooks, life insurance policies, mortgage documents, financial statements, credit card statements, wills, social security statements, automobile titles, Etc. If your spouse is self-employed, it is important to get as much information about the finances of the business as possible. If you are unaware of the family finances and haven’t yet discussed your plans for divorce, the best source of information may be your spouse. Suggest that you and your spouse do a financial statement so that you are both aware of the family finances. Don’t forget to check the home computer as a source of financial information. Many people keep track of their finances using spreadsheets or budgeting software. Make copies of any financial data stored on your home computer.

3. Inventory Household and Family Possessions

You need not make an exhaustive list including every single kitchen utensil, but do list the major items: furniture, artwork, jewelry, appliances, automobiles, etc. Don’t forget to check the storage areas of your home and your safe deposit box for valuables.

4. Know the Household Budget and Expenses

If possible, go through your check register for the past year and write down the cost of each utility, mortgage and other household expense for each month. Keep track of the cash you spend on a daily basis so that you’ll be able to ascertain your monthly cash expenditures also. Knowledge of your household expenses is important at the beginning of the case, when temporary support is often an issue. It is also important during settlement of the case, when you will make a realistic appraisal of your ability to afford the home after divorce.

5. Determine How to Manage the Family Debt

If possible, sit down and determine the amount of family debt and consider paying it down before divorce. Allocation of marital debt among divorcing spouses is one of the most difficult items to negotiate. The funds that were formerly available to support one household must now support two households and there is less money available to pay off debt. If you have the leisure of planning when you will initiate divorce proceedings, pay down marital debt before filing for divorce. Consider canceling credit cards if your spouse has a bad spending habit. This will, hopefully, minimize the financial damage that your spouse can do during the divorce. While taking stock of debt, determine whether any of the debt was incurred by one spouse or another prior to the date of marriage. This would be considered “non-marital debt” and it belongs to the spouse who incurred it.

6. Find Out Exactly What Your Spouse Earns

If your spouse earns a regular salary, it is easy to look at a pay stub to determine his/her income. However, if your spouse is self-employed, owns a business or gets paid any portion of his/her income in cash, it is much more difficult to determine his/her income. If your spouse has a business partner, you may be able to learn how the partners are paid during a casual conversation with the partner. If your spouse is self-employed or gets paid in cash, keep track of the money flowing in for several months.

7. Make a Realistic Appraisal of Your Earning Potential

Perhaps you have been out of the workforce for a while and have been devoting yourself to childrearing. Assess what your current employability is and whether furthering your education prior to divorce would benefit you in the long run. Perhaps your current job requires extensive travel and your spouse is the one who looks after the children while you are traveling. Is it realistic for you to continue to travel after divorce when you won’t have a spouse to provide childcare? If additional childcare will be necessary after divorce, explore what types of childcare are available in your area and what the costs are.

8. Examine Your Own Credit History

If you do not have credit cards in your own name, apply for them now, use them and establish your own credit history. If you have a poor credit history, try to pay creditors now and improve your own credit rating prior to divorce.

9. Build a “Nest Egg” of Your Own

Even if divorce is a remote possibility, you should always have access to money of your own. If your spouse moves out and stops paying bills, you will need to pay them until temporary support orders can be entered. If you are the one who is going to file for divorce, you’ll need money for a retainer. If you envision moving out of the marital home, you may need money for a security deposit and for household items. Start saving now and plan to initiate divorce proceedings when you have built up a nest egg of
your own.

10. Put Your Kids at the Top of Your Agenda

As you realize that a divorce is imminent, you will undoubtedly spend lots time researching, collecting documents, interviewing attorneys, etc. Even though these activities take up much of your time, you must still put your children first. Of all of the parties to a divorce, children are the ones who often suffer the most. During the divorce process, keep your children’s routines as normal as possible. If you and your spouse are arguing in front of the children – stop. If you and your spouse cannot be together with the children without arguing, create a schedule of separate times for each of you to be with the children. Stay involved (or become involved) in your children’s school, sports and social activities. Do not badmouth your spouse to your children. Do not use the children as your source of psychological support. Children need and deserve the love and attention of both of their parents before, during and after divorce. Put your children first in your life.

Source: Debra J. Braselton, Esq. article at Divorce HQ

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I came across a good article on tax considerations that one should consider when involved in a divorce. Of course, you should always consult a divorce lawyer and accountant in your particular state when applying these considerations to your particular circumstances. The article was from DivorceHQ.com.

FILING STATUS
How are you going to file your taxes. Determine the best way financially to do this. Normally filing a Married Joint Return will result in the lowest taxes. Do not look at a joint return as any kind of “attachment” to your spouse. This is strictly a financial situation. You qualify for the Married Filing Jointly status if you are not yet divorced. You do not qualify for this status in the tax year you were divorced.

EXEMPTIONS
You may claim a child that does not live with you only if it is stated in your divorce or separation agreement or if mutually agreed upon. This does not apply if you and your spouse are filing a Married Joint Return (see above).

DEDUCTIONS
Under certain circumstances, the amount of your legal and accounting fees paid which can be attributed to maintaining or preserving income (not child support) may be tax deductible.

ALIMONY
If you either pay or receive alimony/maintenance there are tax ramifications. Alimony/maintenance (not child support) is taxable to the recipient and deductible for the payer. Occasionally a dispute will arise as to how much alimony was paid/received. Sometime the IRS will question the alimony amounts. For that reason it is very important to keep good records. If you fail to keep adequate records you may lose the alimony tax deduction.

If you pay alimony you should keep the following records for at least three years:
Original checks. Be sure to show on each check the month the payment represents.
A list that shows the date, check number, amount and address where payment was sent.
If you give cash obtain and retain a receipt signed by both the payer and the recipient.

If you receive alimony you should keep the following for at least three years:
A photocopy of the check or money order received.
A list that shows the date, check number, amount of payment, bank account the funds are drawn on, account number against which the check is drawn on.
A copy signed receipt with signatures of both payer and recipient for any cash payment received.

CHILD SUPPORT
Is not taxable nor is it deductible.

EARNED INCOME CREDIT
You may be eligible for the earned income credit (EIC) if:

You have more than one qualifying child and your earned income was less than $37,783 ($39,783 if married filing jointly),
You have one qualifying child and your earned income was less than $33,241 ($35,241 if married filing jointly), or
You do not have a qualifying child and your earned income was less than $12,590 ($14,590 if married filing jointly)
For more information on the Earned Income Credit see IRS Publication 596

CHILD AND DEPENDENT CARE CREDIT
If you paid someone to care for your dependent under age 13 or your disabled dependent or spouse so that you could work or look for work, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit on your tax return.

To qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit you must:

Have paid for care expenses in order to earn taxable income. If you are married both spouses must work either full or part time. Spouses who are full time students or incapacitated are excepted.;
Pay more than 50% of the household maintenance costs for a qualifying dependent;
File your tax return jointly if married, unless the separation rules apply;
Hire someone other than your child (under age 19 at the end of the tax year), your spouse, or a person you can claim as a dependent;
Have qualifying expenses over and above any tax free reimbursements from your employer;
Report on your tax return the name, address, and taxpayer identification number of the child care provider. If the care provider is a tax exempt organization the taxpayer identification number is not required.
Employment-related expenses that qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit include household services and expenses for care of the qualifying individual. Expenses of attending a daytime summer camp qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit if that is a reasonable means of providing care during working hours. However, overnight camp expenses do not qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit. A nursery school generally qualifies for the Child and Dependent Care Credit, though an elementary school does not qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

Child and Dependent Care Credits are allowed for $3,000 of expenses for one dependent’s care and $6,000 for more than one dependent’s care.

In order to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit you must maintain as your principal home a household for at least one of the following qualifying persons who live with you:
A child under 13 years of age whom you claim as a dependent;
Your spouse if your spouse is physically or mentally incapable of caring for himself or herself;
A person who is physically or mentally incapable of caring for himself or herself regardless of age
For more information on the Child and Dependent Care Credit see IRS Publication 503

CHILD TAX CREDIT
If you have children who are under age 17 as of the end of the tax year, you can get a $1,000 tax credit per child on your tax return. A tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar, so three qualifying children, for example, can cut what you owe Uncle Sam by $3,000. The credit may be limited if your income exceeds a certain level. And the credit does not affect the exemptions you take for dependents. The credit is in addition to your exemptions.

To qualify for the Child Tax Credit you must meet these tests:
The dependent must be a U.S. citizen or resident. You can claim your child, stepchild, adopted child, grandchild or great-grandchild. Under a new definition of a “qualified child,” you can also claim the credit for siblings, step-siblings and half-siblings that live with you. Foster children qualify if they were placed with you by a court or authorized agency. To claim the credit, children must live with you more than half the year and must not provide more than half of their own support.
You must report each qualifying child’s tax identification number (TIN) (usually the child’s Social Security number) on your return.
For more information on the Child Tax Credit see IRS Publication 972

INCOME TAX EVASION BY SPOUSE
If your spouse knowingly cheated on your joint return to evade taxes, you might not be held responsible. Effective July 22, 1998 a new tax rule went into effect whereby if you are divorced, legally separated or have been living apart from your spouse for at least 12 months, and you were unaware that your spouse lied on your joint tax return, you can file papers that would compute your tax liability separately. If you have been audited and you believe this rule applies to you contact a tax specialist who has experience with this type of matter.

Source: DivorceHQ.com

Too many people don’t know what to look for when they are considering which divorce lawyer to hire.’ Most people who are interviewing family law attorneys are in a very stressful situation, typically one that they have not been in before.’ Making an important decision during a particularly stressful time can be a recipe for disaster.

DivorceZone published an article that can be helpful to people facing this situation.’ This article points out that not all lawyers are created equal, and I would add that not every lawyer is ‘right’ for every case.’ It is more important in family law cases than other cases that the attorney and the client have a good, working relationship and understand each other.’ This article lists the following important points to consider when hiring a divorce lawyer:

Specialization. The reality is that the law is extremely complicated and no lawyer, not even a so-called ‘general practitioner’ can really master more than one or two main areas of law. Divorce law itself grows more and more complicated each year. You should choose a lawyer who practices primarily or exclusively in the area of divorce and family law.

Knowledge. Given the high hourly rate you’ll be paying your divorce lawyer, you don’t want to have to pay to give your lawyer a legal education. You want a lawyer with substantial knowledge in divorce and family law issues, who already knows the law and how it applies to your situation.

Experience. There are a lot of complexities to divorce law that you can’t simply learn from a book. For instance, often being able to determine the correct range of alimony that’s appropriate in your case is simply the result of seeing many cases with similar facts. While every divorce case has its unique twists, you will come out ahead if your lawyer has substantial experience.

Good Communication. The biggest beef clients have with divorce lawyers is that their lawyer does not return their telephone calls, emails or other communications promptly. You should find out what a prospective divorce lawyer’s office policy on this. Also, see how long it takes for your prospective lawyer to return your initial call – this will give you a good idea as to the level of service you can expect.

Local Knowledge. Part of the job of a divorce lawyer is to know the attitudes of the local judges and how best to tailor your case for them. As well, even if you never set foot inside a courtroom, it is helpful if the lawyer has experience dealing with your spouse’s divorce lawyer.
Time. Does the divorce lawyer limit his practice to just a few select cases so that he can concentrate on his clients and give them good service, or do they take all clients who walk through their doors? The reality is that the amount of work to resolve successfully the issues arising from a divorce can be quite substantial, and your lawyer will need the time to deal with this.

Fit. It’s important that you and your divorce lawyer get along well. This doesn’t mean that you have to be good buddies with your divorce lawyer and want to invite them to dinner. However, you’ll be going through some of the most difficult experiences in your life with this person. You’ll be revealing some of the most intimate details of your personal and financial situation to this person. Your relationship with this person will last quite a long time. So, it’s important that you’re comfortable with your divorce lawyer.

Compassion. It’s important that your divorce lawyer be understanding of what you’re going through. Are you just a file number, or does your lawyer really care who you are and what you want?

Independent. Ultimately, your divorce lawyer’s job is to fight for you and your rights. However, many lawyers have political ambitions or care more about getting along with other lawyers than giving zealous representation. You want an independent lawyer so that your needs are not sacrificed so that your lawyer can avoid irritating a colleague.

Plan of Action. Is your divorce lawyer able to articulate a plan of action that they are going to take to resolve your case? If not, you will find that your case just seems to amble in no particular direction, raising your legal fees without accomplishing much.

Source for Post: South Carolina Family Law Blog.

On what grounds can I be granted a divorce in West Virginia?

The grounds for divorce in West Virginia are contained in W. Va. Code 48-5-201-209.

“No-Fault” Divorce Grounds:

If one party to a marriage files a petition for divorce against the other, alleging that irreconcilable differences have arisen between the parties, and if the other party files an Answer to the petition and admits that irreconcilable differences exist, then the court will grant a divorce. There is no corroboration required. However, the family court may always make orders for, approve, modify, or reject any agreement between the parties pertaining to just and equitable spousal support, custody, support or maintenance of the children, or visitation rights.

However, the family court may give consideration to fault or inequitable conduct as one of many factors to be considered in determining what is “just and equitable” with respect to spousal support (alimnony). [Haynes v. Haynes, 164 W. Va. 426 (1980)]

Usually, if the other spouse has not responded to the divorce petition, or if they refuse to admit irreconcilable differences, then it may be necessary to prove a fault-based ground for divorce.

Fault Grounds:

Adultery: Adultery usually must be proven by circumstantial evidence that shows both opportunity and inclination. Adultery is considered misconduct that may cause the forfeiture of a party’s claim for spousal support. Note that in West Virginia there is no inference raised. There must be corroboration.

Desertion: A divorce may be ordered for the party abandoned when either party willfully abandons or deserts the other for six months. Desertion for divorce purposes consists of the voluntary separation without justification of one spouse from the other with the intent to terminate the marriage relation. [Perine v. Perine, 92 W. Va. 430 (1922)]. Desertion may exist even if both parties remain in the same house so long as there has been a willfull, total, and unjustifiable suspension of all marital duty and relationship. [Perine v. Perine]. Note that if the desertion is justified, then it is not “desertion” for fault-based divorce grounds (i.e., a battered spouse).

Extreme Cruelty: A divorce may be ordered for cruel or inhuman treatment by either party against the other, which includes reasonable apprehension of bodily harm; false accusation of adultery or homosexuality, and conduct or treatment that tends to destroy the mental or physical well-being, happiness, and welfare of the other and which renders continued cohabitation unsafe or unendurable. It is not necessary to allege or prove acts of physical violence. Usually, if there is a single isolated incident, it may be enough if it was serious. Also, if there has been overt hostility, i.e., constant humiliation, ridicule in front of third persons, or coldness. Most times however, it must be continuing conduct. The test is whether the petitioner can, with safety to person and health, continue to live with the respondent. [Christopher v. Christopher, 144 W. Va. 663 (1959)]. Provocation by the complaining spouse is material and will prevent that spouse from obtaining relief. [Lieberman v. Lieberman, 142 W. VA. 716 (1957)]. Note that denial of sexual intercourse is not cruel and inhuman treatment, nor does it constitute cause for willful desertion and abandonment. [Reynolds v. Reynolds, 68 W. Va. 15 (1910)].

Insanity: A divorce may be granted for insanity only if the person is permanently and incurably insane and has been confined in a mental hospital or other similar institution for a period of at least three consecutive years, and the family court has heard competent medical testimony that such insanity is permanently incurable. A court granting a divorce on this ground may in its discretion order support and maintenance for the permanently, incurably insane party by the other.

Other Grounds for Divorce:

Conviction of a Crime: A divorce may be ordered when either of the parties, subsequent to the marriage, has been convicted of a felony and the conviction is final.

Separation: A divorce may be ordered where the parties have lived separate and apart in separate places of abode without cohabitation and without interruption for one year. It is irrelevant whether the separation was the voluntary act of one of the parties or by the mutual consent of both parties. Note that when spousal support (alimony) is sought under a divorce action based on separation, the family court may consider substantial inequitable conduct on the part of the party seeking spousal support as one factor in its decision. [Whitmire v. Whitmire, 175 W. Va. 461 (1985)].

Abuse and Neglect of Child: A divorce may be ordered for abuse or neglect of a child of the parties. “Abuse” means physical or mental injury inflicted on such child including, but not limited to, sexual molestation. “Neglect” is willful failure to provide, by a party who has a legal responsibility for the child, the support, education, medical care necessary for the well-being of the child. Note that a divorce will not be granted on this ground except upon clear and convincing evidence sufficient to justify permanently depriving the offending party of his parental rights to the custody and control of the abused or neglected child.

The Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog has posted an article explaining that if a married couple gets divorced, and one of the spouses owned their home before the marriage, the house is part marital property and part nonmarital property.

It is important to realize that in West Virginia, as in Minnesota, the value of the house at the time of the divorce can be divided into several categories:

(1) the equity the owning spouse had in the home at the time of the marriage (this is a nonmarital portion);

(2) the amount the couple paid off on mortgage principal while living together as husband and wife (this is a marital portion);

(3) the appreciation in the value of the house over the course of the marriage that can be attributed to the owning spouse’s premarital equity (this is a nonmarital portion);

(4) the appreciation in the value of the house over the course of the marriage that CANNOT be attributed to the owning spouse’s premarital equity (this is a marital portion); and

(5) the increase in value of the house that can be attributed to home improvements that the parties made during the marriage (this is a marital portion).

As explained in the article, most of the time, the components of the house’s value cannot be objectively determined or fixed without either the reasonable compromise of the spouses or the expertise of a neutral appraiser.

SOURCE: Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog

Going through a divorce is a life-altering event, both personally and financially. Along with the personal relationship that exists within a marriage, there is also a financial relationship, and a financial marriage. I came across a financial information blog titled Ask the Advisor, who published an article that deals specifically with the impact of a divorce on your finances and your credit.

1. Assess Your Responsibilities : You need to be aware of all the accounts you are responsible for, including bank accounts, mortgage loans, credit cards and utilities. Even if you and your spouse have decided who gets what property, you need to make sure that the right person is solely responsible for their respective belongings.

2. Dissolve All Joint Accounts : Rather than trying to divvy up what is owed on your joint accounts and asking your ex to honor their half, you should remove the right person’s name from the accounts or cancel them completely. Make sure the both of you do the canceling together, legally. The first place to start is the bank, as most couples share checking and/or savings accounts when they are married. Also, if you are taking possession of one car with both of your names on the note, have your spouse’s name removed. Make sure that your spouse does the same thing with any property they take. (If you are still paying for any of this property, then you may have to refinance to get the loan down to one name.) Any bills you paid together, such as your utilities, should be put in one name. As for credit cards, you can try to work with the credit card company and have them transfer half of the balance to two different accounts in anticipation of the divorce.

3. Sell the House : A common mistake that people make is giving their house to their spouse after the divorce. This may be due to abandonment or perhaps a well-intentioned arrangement because there are children involved. However, the best thing to do is to sell the house together and divide the profit. After all, no one can predict the future. Countless divorcees have found their credit ruined because their ex let their house go into foreclosure. Explaining to creditors that you are now divorced won’t make you any less responsible for a mortgage with your name on it.

4. Divide Any and All Shared Cash : In the process of allocating debt, canceling accounts and selling property, you and your spouse will probably be left with some liquid assets. You should, perhaps with the assistance of your divorce lawyers, fairly divide that cash before you walk out of each other’s lives. This is the legal, sensible and ethical thing to do.

5. Document Everything : Once the courts become involved and your divorce is finally underway, make sure that all of your financial arrangements and agreements are documented. That way, if there are any discrepancies down the road (such as a creditor bugging you about your ex’s car payments), you can refer anyone to your official court records. While this may not be a surefire way to get a collector off of your back in a timely manner, you will have the law on your side and the means to protect or restore your credit.

Source: “How Will My Divorce Affect My Credit?” by Jimmy Atkinson, published at Ask The Advisor.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences as a family law attorney in West Virginia, is to be in court with a client who alienates the family law judge. I came across an article giving a list of sure-fire ways to make the judge not like you or your client. If you are going before a family law judge in West Virginia, whether it be a divorce case or custody case – or both, keep this in mind:

Judges are particularly annoyed by lawyers (and their clients) who:

ignore the rules of court;
fail to prepare;
arrive late;
repeat themselves;
act rudely;
make frivolous arguments;
mislead the court;
argue with the judge;
refuse to talk settlement; and
request a last-minute continuance;
allow your cell phone to ring while in court;
dress inappropriately;
interrupt other people who are speaking;
chew gum while in court;
bring a baby or child to court; and
generally act belligerently without proper decorum.

Source: “Sure-Fire Ways to Alienate the Trial Judge“, Excerpted from Convincing the Judge: Practical Advice for Litigators , by Cecil C. Kuhne III

I recently came across this article from the USA Today which set out Five Common Financial Mistakes Made in Divorce.

Here is a summary of their points:

1. Trying to keep the house no matter the costs. Many couples scrambling to obtain a divorce settlement wish to keep the house at any cost. However, financial experts say that more attention should be given to who can afford to maintain the property, pay the mortgage, and manage the taxes. While it is possible to ask for spousal support to help make the mortgage payments, unexpected maintenance costs may pop up, and make home ownership more of a liability than a luxury.

2. Failing to get a clean financial break from your former spouse. Clean separation of assets and debts is another difficult task, but one that Howard Dvorkin, the founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services says is absolutely necessary, or the consequences can be devastating. Although the task may seem insurmountable, “the alternative is much worse,” says Dvorkin. “Having a spouse drive up your debt when you’re not married anymore” can seriously affect one’s credit score.

3. Depending on your former spouse to comply with financial arrangements. This is also a huge mistake, according to the USA Today article. Although both parties in a divorce are beholden to a court-ordered divorce agreement, creditors do not fall under that arrangement. If your ex spouse is supposed to pay the mortgage, but doesn’t, “the lender is going to sue both of you,” remarks Melissa Avery, an Indianapolis family law attorney. This holds true in Alabama divorces as well; if your ex fails to pay the mortgage, you may be hurt when applying for future loans.

4. Not reviewing your estate plan after a divorce. Wills and trusts can also be seriously impacted by divorce proceedings. If divorced spouses wait unnecessarily long to change a beneficiary on a will, for example, the money may go to the wrong person—your new spouse may get nothing, while your ex spouse inherits the amount provided for in your will.

5. Not understanding the different tax treatment of alimony vs. child support. Finally, never forget which amount of money in your divorce settlement is alimony, and which amount is child support. Whereas child support payments are not taxable to the recipient, alimony payments are. Furthermore, there are limits to how long a person can receive such payments—child support payments can no longer be received once the child turns 18 or is done with college, while spousal support generally ends once the recipient remarries.

Credit goes to the California Family Law Blog for first posting about this article.

Many clients ask whether they need a prenuptial agreement in West Virginia, and if so, whether they are enforceable under West Virginia law. In West Virginia, in order for a prenuptial agreement to be effective, each spouse must be independently represented by their own attorney. Secondly, there must absolutely be full disclosure of each spouse’s respective assets and debts. If both of these elements are not met, the prenuptial agreement may not be enforceable in West Virginia.

I came across a blog dealing solely with prenuptial agreements, and in one post titled 8 Reasons Why You Should Have a Prenup, the following reasons were listed:

1. You are much wealthier than your partner. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that your partner is marrying you for who you are, and not for your money.

2. You earn much more than your partner. A prenuptial agreement can be used in many states to limit the amount of alimony that is payable.

3. You are remarrying. When you remarry, your legal and financial concerns are often very different than in your first marriage. You may have children from a previous marriage, support obligations, and own a home or other significant assets. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that when you pass away, your assets are distributed according to your wishes, and that neither your first family, nor your new family are cut off.

4. Your partner has a high debt load. If you are marrying someone with a significant debt load, and don’t want to be responsible for these debts if your marriage ends, then a prenuptial agreement can help ensure that this does not happen.

5. You own part of a business. Without a prenuptial agreement, when your marriage ends, your spouse could end up owning a share of your business. Your business partners may not want this to happen. A prenup can ensure that your spouse does not become an unwanted partner in your business.

6. To prevent your spouse from overturning your estate plan. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that you estate plan works, and, for instance, ensure that a specific heirloom remains in your family.

7. You are much poorer than your partner. Just as a prenuptial agreement can be used to protect a spouse who is well off, a prenup can also be used to ensure that the partner who is weaker financially is protected.

8. If you plan to quit your job to raise children. Quitting your job will negatively impact your income and your wealth. A prenuptial agreement can ensure that the financial burden of raising the children is shared fairly by both partners.

Many family law attorneys in West Virginia, including myself, are capable of drafting or reviewing a prenuptial agreement. Please feel free to call me if you have further questions about prenups in West Virginia.

1. Because people learn from their bad experiences, second marriages tend to be more successful than first marriages. Although many people who divorce have successful subsequent marriages, the divorce rate of remarriages is in fact higher than that of first marriages.

2. Living together before marriage is a good way to reduce the chances of eventually divorcing. Many studies have found that those who live together before marriage have a considerably higher chance of eventually divorcing. The reasons for this are not well understood. In part, the type of people who are willing to cohabit may also be those who are more willing to divorce. There is some evidence that the act of cohabitation itself generates attitudes in people that are more conducive to divorce, for example the attitude that relationships are temporary and easily can be ended.

3. Divorce may cause problems for many of the children who are affected by it, but by and large these problems are not long lasting and the children recover relatively quickly. Divorce increases the risk of interpersonal problems in children. There is evidence, both from small qualitative studies and from large-scale, long-term empirical studies, that many of these problems are long lasting. In fact, they may even become worse in adulthood.

4. Having a child together will help a couple to improve their marital satisfaction and prevent a divorce. Many studies have shown that the most stressful time in a marriage is after the first child is born. Couples who have a child together have a slightly decreased risk of divorce compared to couples without children, but the decreased risk is far less than it used to be when parents with marital problems were more likely to stay together “for the sake of the children.”

5. Following divorce, the woman’s standard of living plummets by seventy three percent while that of the man’s improves by forty two percent. This dramatic inequity, one of the most widely publicized statistics from the social sciences, was later found to be based on a faulty calculation. A reanalysis of the data determined that the woman’s loss was twenty seven percent while the man’s gain was ten percent. Irrespective of the magnitude of the differences, the gender gap is real and seems not to have narrowed much in recent decades.

6. When parents don’t get along, children are better off if their parents divorce than if they stay together. A recent large-scale, long-term study suggests otherwise. While it found that parents’ marital unhappiness and discord have a broad negative impact on virtually every dimension of their children’s well-being, so does the fact of going through a divorce. In examining the negative impacts on children more closely, the study discovered that it was only the children in very high conflict homes who benefited from the conflict removal that divorce may bring. In lower-conflict marriages that end in divorce—and the study found that perhaps as many as two thirds of the divorces were of this type—the situation of the children was made much worse following a divorce. Based on the findings of this study, therefore, except in the minority of high-conflict marriages it is better for the children if their parents stay together and work out their problems than if they divorce.

7. Because they are more cautious in entering marital relationships and also have a strong determination to avoid the possibility of divorce, children who grow up in a home broken by divorce tend to have as much success in their own marriages as those from intact homes. Marriages of the children of divorce actually have a much higher rate of divorce than the marriages of children from intact families. A major reason for this, according to a recent study, is that children learn about marital commitment or permanence by observing their parents. In the children of divorce, the sense of commitment to a lifelong marriage has been undermined.

8. Following divorce, the children involved are better off in stepfamilies than in single-parent families. The evidence suggests that stepfamilies are no improvement over single-parent families, even though typically income levels are higher and there is a father figure in the home. Stepfamilies tend to have their own set of problems, including interpersonal conflicts with new parent figures and a very high risk of family breakup.

9. Being very unhappy at certain points in a marriage is a good sign that the marriage will eventually end in divorce. All marriages have their ups and downs. Recent research using a large national sample found that eighty six percent of people who were unhappily married in the late 1980s, and stayed with the marriage, indicated when interviewed five years later that they were happier. Indeed, three fifths of the formerly unhappily married couples rated their marriages as either “very happy” or “quite happy.”

10. It is usually men who initiate divorce proceedings. Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. Because women more strongly want to keep their children with them, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower.10 Also, the higher rate of women initiators is probably due to the fact that men are more likely to be “badly behaved.” Husbands, for example, are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity.

Source: “The Top Ten Myths of Divorce” published by Marvin L. Schuldiner at his Sanns Mediation Services Blog.

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