June 23, 2011

Tips for Savvy Single Parenting

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:42 pm by demetriagraves

Here’s an interesting article my colleague Colleen Bushby, wanted to share with you. She is a single mom of 4, Lifestyle Transformation Coach, and Founder of SavvyDivorcedChicks.com.  She is passionate about helping women to live a life after divorce that is “better, not bitter!” Through her coaching programs, blog, teleseminars, and radio show, she empowers women with information and resources in all the areas  they navigate after divorce…personal development; health & wellness; finances; career & business; and relationships. To receive your Free Guide, “Jumpstart Your Life After Divorce…5 Savvy Steps You Can Take NOW!” go to www.SavvyDivorcedChicks.com.

Tips for Savvy Single Parenting

There is no doubt that single parenting is a challenge in life after divorce, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. I admit that when my marriage was coming to an end, I was petrified at the thought of raising four kids (three who are boys) on my own. I had grown up the oldest of four girls so I was pretty confident about raising my daughter, but raising boys was truly going to be a challenge!

Nine years later, I am proud to say that I think I have done a pretty good job with all four of my kids. I actually receive regular phone calls and text messages from my college-aged sons and I recently received a complimentary note, along with pictures from one of my son’s high school graduation, from my former father-in-law! This is not to say I have not had to deal with any challenges or that I have not made mistakes along the way because I definitely have, but my kids have thrived academically, emotionally and socially despite the challenges of a single parent home.

Here are my tips for having an awesome relationship with your kids…

Care For Yourself

When you are exhausted and overwhelmed physically and emotionally you are no good to anyone, especially your children. It is crucial that you maintain healthy habits by getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising, and also give yourself some “mom time” without your kids. It is also crucial that you forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up for your failed relationship. Look instead at the gifts and lessons you can take from it. Part of caring for yourself is also asking for help when you need it. When you care for yourself, your children can see and feel the difference in your household.

Always Make Your Kids The Priority

Children in single parent homes may subconsciously feel abandoned, rejected, or incompetent. However, no one matters to your child more than you! Know your priorities and show your kids you believe in them and their abilities. Give them the power to believe in themselves. Help them to understand what a crucial part they play in the family by giving them responsibilities. Take an interest in their interests and be there to support them. You may walk out of the elementary school concert with a headache, but you wouldn’t want to miss that ear-to-ear smile when they walk off the stage the first time!

Expose Your Kids to Some Form of Faith

Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is important for kids to have some form of faith in their lives. They need to know that they are not their own highest being. They may choose to have different beliefs as adults, but they will never know unless they have some exposure earlier in life. Faith and spirituality also teach kids to be caring, compassionate, and contributing members of their community.

Set Clear Boundaries & Consequences

Though it may be tempting at times to be their friend rather than their parent, kids need discipline and limits. This not only helps them to keep out of trouble, but also leads to a feeling of self-control and ultimately higher self-esteem and a positive outlook. When our kids understand how to make lemonade out of lemons they are more equipped to handle the bumps in life which they will inevitably face as they grow older.

Keep Communication Open

Children learn early on if you are an approachable and emotionally safe parent. Live true to your values and be a good role model. Know your kids’ friends and their families. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your kids about the issues that concern you. Acknowledge their accomplishments and great choices, yet support them with teachable moments when they make mistakes as they test the limits (because they will!). It is also extremely important to acknowledge any negative emotions and affirm how well they are handling them. Open communication with your kids will only improve your relationship.

Make Memories That Will Last

My grandparents were married 57 years and I learned from them the importance of family memories and relationships. Every Sunday after church all 20 grandchildren and our parents would go to my grandparents for “sticky buns and orange juice.” The boys (and occasionally some of the girls) would all play football on their lawn. We can spend all the money in the world on our kids, but if they don’t have strong family relationships they will never truly know how to relate with others. I know my kids will always remember fondue and board games on New Year’s Day, holidays & summer vacations with extended family, and the 2700 mile RV trip I took them on!

Give Lots of Hugs and I Love You’s

What you give, you get back! Don’t be afraid to show your kids, even your teenagers, affection. Though it may be challenging with the media and the values that are portrayed to our kids as important , teach your children about love and respect for others. They will learn to value not only themselves, but also life and will truly enjoy it. Be sure to show them that happiness comes from within and not from anyone or anything else. In the end, happiness is a choice!

Take the High Road With Your Former Spouse

This is probably one of the most challenging parts of being a single parent…the fact that you parent in your home and your former spouse parents in theirs and that there are probably negative emotions that will always linger on some level. If you can at all be on the same page with expectations, privileges and consequences, it will only benefit your children. Kids in single-parent households need permission to talk about the other parent. Be honest and age-appropriate in your discussions, though also use discretion… some things should be left between adults. As difficult as it may be, it is best that your children not hear you disparage the other parent. This only hurts their self-esteem.

Single parenting can be a lonely and exhausting job, but if approached with a positive and open mindset we can empower our kids to develop into happy and competent young adults. When we look back years from now, hopefully we see that the time, love, happiness, and tears were worth it and we can be proud of the impact our kids have had on the world with their unique gifts.

Schwarzenegger Pays for Child Support to Shriver

Posted in Celebrity Child Support tagged at 1:34 pm by demetriagraves

Arnold Schwarzenegger may be indestructible as the Terminator, but his estranged wife Maria Shriver is doing major damage to his bank account. Apparently she has demanded and is getting a significant amount child support for two youngest of their four children, even though Maria is independently wealthy. The couple separated after 25 years of marriage last month, after Shriver learned that Arnold had fathered a child with their housekeeper, Mildred “Patty” Baena. Though neither of them has filed for divorce yet.

The 63-year-old actor has agreed to give financial assistance to Shriver for their younger sons Patrick, 17, and Christopher, 13. They also have two daughters Katherine, 21, and Christina, 19. Arnold is also said to be paying for Patrick and Christopher’s private school fees.

Even though Maria is a Kennedy, and has inherited a great deal of money from her parent’s estate since their deaths, she is taking the child support. Under California law, she is entitled to the child support, once either one of them files for divorce.

I’s been rumored that Maria and Arnold’s lawyers have been working on a divorce settlement but in the meantime Arnold is willingly paying the money to Maria. Plus insiders claim Shiver has enlisted the help of forensic accountants to get an accurate view of her estranged spouse’s assets in order to ensure their divorce is fair.

June 15, 2011

Batch Bankruptcy Discharge

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged , at 11:29 pm by demetriagraves

Pittsburgh Steelers veteran quarterback Charlie Batch gets to hold onto his Super Bowl rings and many other assets as well as his home in a favorable bankruptcy ruling that discharged many of his debts.The measure forgives him from most debts incurred before his December bankruptcy though it doesn’t wipe out mortgage or car loan obligations.

Mr. Batch’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition listed $2.3 million in assets, including his pension plan, versus $8.3 million in debts. He is keeping most of his assets, including his Franklin Park house and his Super Bowl rings, but is allowing a townhouse in Novi, Mich., to go to foreclosure.

Most of the debts were incurred in business ventures, including Batch Development Co., Kings Bakery LLC, and Courtland Place LLC. The lenders will still have liens on the properties those firms own, but they won’t be enforceable on Mr. Batch.
Mr. Batch reported $718,000 in earnings in 2010, and noted that his 2011 earnings depend on labor negotiations between players and the National Football League.
The discharge was issued by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery A. Deller.

Divorce Do-Over

Posted in Divorce tagged at 11:26 pm by demetriagraves

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a divorce do-over if you’re not happy with the outcome. Like when you paint a room, and then decide later that you just can’t stand the color and need to repaint. Or when you have your hair done but the final result doesn’t really meet your expectations. So you visit another hair stylist and hope for a better result. But, as you might expect, in divorce, it’s not so easy to “try again.” In divorce, no one usually gets a do-over. Of course, some people have a hard time accepting the kind of finality that comes along with a signed settlement.
An interesting case that raises the question of a divorce do-over is the divorce between Steven Simkin and Laura Blank. This case seemed to be more or less standard-fare when it was settled back in 2006 – despite the fact that he is a partner at one of the country’s most prominent and powerful law firms and the division of property involved millions of dollars of assets. Like most non-celebrity divorces, it’s likely that this one would have stayed out of the limelight, except for one thing: Steven Simkin is now requesting a do-over.
After the divorce, Simkin continued to keep a sizeable amount of money invested with Bernard Madoff. By contrast, Blank was no longer interested in keeping any of her money with Madoff, and she opted instead to receive her divorce settlement proceeds in cash (some $6.6 million).
Although Simkin continued to invest with Madoff after the divorce was finalized, now that the Ponzi scheme has been exposed, he’s arguing that he is the victim of fraud. Reportedly, Simkin’s assets have diminished considerably and as a result, he has filed court papers to revise the terms of his divorce settlement.
The cornerstone of Simkin’s suit is a legal term called “mutual mistake”, by which an error of both parties to a contract leads to the identical misconception concerning a past or existing fact. But, is this contract law principle enough to cancel the terms of a divorce settlement? Divorces are settled every day based on an estimation of asset value. Every day, asset evaluations are completed.  Terms are set. Compromises are made. Divisions are agreed to. Divorces are finalized.
Of course, in certain cases spousal support and child support can be modified(either up or down) when due to a substantial change in financial circumstances. However, changing a property settlement agreement and the division of assets was thought to be impossible. However, this case seems to be changing that view. At first, a trial judge dismissed Simkin’s suit. However, that decision was reversed by a New York Appellate Court that ruled 3-2 in favor of Simkin.
So the case is back in the courts again and many now see it as a landmark test for contract law. If the Simkin-Blank settlement can be re-opened, why can’t others? Every divorce settlement involves the evaluation of current assets, and there’s an implicit understanding that the value of certain assets may change over time. Can settlements be revised whenever one party suffers a loss? What happens when one party benefits from a significant gain?
Stay tuned. This case has intrigued family law attorneys and other divorce professionals for months, and it looks as though the debate is going to continue for some time.

June 9, 2011

Saying “I Do” to Divorce

Posted in Divorce tagged at 12:59 pm by demetriagraves

What happens when you separate from your spouse, is divorce the logical next step? Should I see a family law attorney even if I’m not sure if I want a divorce? These are questions I get asked regularly and there are many answers but one answer is certain and that is, it doesn’t hurt to get some advice and get your questions answered. Plus if you seek the advice of a family law attorney it doesn’t mean that you’re obliged to proceed with a divorce. Divorce is a subject that many people may not know much about, so here’s some interesting facts about divorce.

Recent surveys show that in the United States has a most reasonable standing in the nations with the most number of divorces after obtaining a separation and divorce rate of 4.95 % per 1,000 people in the country. The 7 year itch seems to be based on some truth, as 7 years is the average length of a marriage for those people who are seeking a divorce.

It seems that out of the numerous couples who gladly stated “I do” and assured the “till death do us part” have discovered that it’s hard to survive the reality of a marriage that is failing. Marriages break-down for all sorts of reasons and divorce is ‘no fault’, so legally no one is to blame for a failed marriage. The process of divorce is focused on dividing property and assets, plus working out support if applicable and determining custody if there are children.

Numerous factors have been demonstrated as being the common reasons for divorce in the United States. The most common factor is a lack of communication in the home. Then other widespread causes are financial problems, infidelity, unmet expectations, insufficient dedication, vices, inactive sex-life and mid life concerns.

If you have further questions about divorce or its other related areas such as custody and support, I offer a free initial consultation where you can get your questions answered.

Falling Home Prices & Bankruptcy

Posted in Bankruptcy, Forclosure tagged , at 12:52 pm by demetriagraves

Recently new numbers on home values around the country were released that confirmed a “double dip” in housing prices, falling below the 2009 low. This is frustrating news for many people that have been holding on to their home, making their house payment month after month, but are continuing to see the value of their home plummet. Many of the people I meet with in bankruptcy consultations are upside down in their home, some owing hundreds of thousands of dollars more than their home is worth.
The falling house prices have led many to the decision that it simply is not a good financial strategy to stay in their home. There is a lot of emotion tied up into our homes; it is where we raise our families and where memories are made, but if you set aside the emotional part of it, it may not make a lot of sense to stay in a home that is severely upside down in this market.
The question most people are concerned about is if they do decide to walk away from their home what possible liability will they have from the bank? The answer depends on what type of loans you have on the property. If you only have a first mortgage and decide to walk away from the home you will not owe anything additional on that property. When you bought the home the deal was you pay the mortgage and you keep the house; if you don’t pay the mortgage the bank gets the house.
The area where most people run into problems is when they have a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). If you refinanced your home and took out a second mortgage or HELOC and used the cash for something other than purchasing your home you will be held liable for any balance owed after the bank auctions off your house.
Bankruptcy can help. You can surrender your home through a chapter 7 bankruptcy and any potential balance owed will be discharged/eliminated through the bankruptcy process. Once your bankruptcy case is filed it typically takes anywhere from one month to five months for the bank to get permission from the bankruptcy court to move forward with the auction of your house.
Another issue that people deal with when it comes to short sales and foreclosures is the possible tax consequences. Banks can issue a 1099 for any debt that is forgiven. For instance, let’s say the bank forgave $100,000, you could receive a 1099 for $100,000 which you would be taxed on as if you actually earned an additional $100,000 of income that particular year.
By surrendering your home through bankruptcy you would not incur any tax liability. If you are weighing your options on whether to keep your home or walk away, I offer a free 30 minute telephone bankruptcy consultation where we can discuss your situation and how bankruptcy can help.

June 2, 2011

Landmark Divorce Rulings

Posted in Family Law tagged at 7:03 am by demetriagraves

As a Family Law attorney its important to know about the history of family law and be familiar with many of the landmark cases that fundamentally changed divorce law as we know it. Family court judges use such cases as precedents when determining divorce settlements and custody agreements. It’s not just a matter of deciphering the dissatisfied grumblings of estranged spouses and sifting through a mountain of papers and legal evidence. I was recently asked about the most important divorce cases to date–those that had a profound effect in changing divorce law and became known as landmark rulings. So here’s a quick summary of some of those historic cases and their rulings.

Diemer v. Diemer (1960): William and Gilberte Diemer were married in a Protestant ceremony in 1947, despite their differing religious affiliations–he was a Protestant; she a Catholic. Their religious differences became a problem in 1954, when, after suffering an accident, Mrs. Diemer consulted a priest and issued an ultimatum to her husband: she would not have sexual relations with him unless he agreed to a second marriage ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church. Unable to change his wife’s mind, Mr. Diemer left home and sued for separation. A New York Appeals Court ruled in his favor, stating that refusal to have sex with one’s spouse constitutes an abandonment of the marriage.

See v. See (1966): In this 1966 decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled that property acquired during a marriage is presumably joint or “community” property, owned jointly by both spouses and divided in the event of divorce. If a spouse has “co-mingled” separate and community property in one account, and suggests that an asset acquired during the marriage is “separate property,” he or she has the burden of proving that there was a deficit in the community funds when the asset was purchased. If such a deficit cannot be proven, the asset is considered “community property.”

Kulko v. Superior Court (1977): In this case, a father from New York sent his children to visit their mother in California, who then attempted to modify their custody agreement under California law. The Supreme Court held that state courts do not have jurisdiction over nonresidents. Therefore, the act of sending a child to a different state to live with or visit a custodial parent does not give jurisdiction to that state over the parent who does not live there–in this case, the father. This case has had far-reaching implications both in terms of civil cases concerning jurisdiction over out-of-state residents, as well as in custody cases where there are ongoing issues regarding interstate custody of children.

McCarty v. McCarty (1981): A California court initially ruled that military retirement pension is joint property, and therefore dividable after divorce per California’s dissolution of marriage laws. However, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 1981, saying that military retirement pay is the personal property of the retiree. One year later, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which effectively overturned the Supreme Court decision. The law states that military retirement can be considered joint property based on the divorcing couple’s state of residence.

Re-Marriage of Burgess (1996): In this case, the Superior Court of Kern County reversed a decision by a California Appeals Court that said that if a custodial parent wishes to relocate to another city or state with his or her children, he or she is required to prove that relocating is in the “best interest” of the minor children. The Superior Court ruled that “a parent seeking to relocate does not bear a burden of establishing that the move is ‘necessary’ as a condition of custody,” unless the non-custodial parent has proven that the move would cause a “detrimental impact” upon the parent-child relationship. If the detriment is proven large enough, the court would decide if a change in custody is appropriate.

Gonzales v. Munoz (2007): According to this California Appeals Court ruling and under the Domestic Violence Protection Act, a trial court is authorized to make custody and visitation orders without both the mother and father proving parent-child relationship when the orders are necessary for the safety of the child. The order reads: “In making a determination of the best interests of the child and in order to limit the child’s exposure to potential domestic violence and to ensure the safety of all family members, if the party who has obtained the restraining order has established a parent and child relationship and the other party has not established that relationship, the court may award temporary sole legal and physical custody to the party to whom the restraining order was issued and may make an order of no visitation to the other party pending the establishment of a parent and child relationship between the child and the other party.”

Transferring Assets Prior to Bankruptcy

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 6:58 am by demetriagraves

A common question I get asked regarding bankruptcy, is whether you can simply “give” away your assets to a family member or take your name off of the title to a vehicle or home prior to filing bankruptcy. This question usually arises when someone is looking to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the reason being that in a chapter 7 bankruptcy, in some circumstances, it’s possible lose non-exempt assets. The bankruptcy trustee can seize them and sell them to pay your creditors. So many people consider giving away certain assets to family in the hope of being able to protect those assets.

Many of your assets are considered exempt, such as your personal possessions and often your home is exempt. So transferring assets may be unnecessary and will just bring about additional unwanted scrutiny to your case.

Generally the answer is no, you should not transfer any asset or give anything away prior to filing bankruptcy. If you do the bankruptcy trustee will likely view that as a fraudulent transfer and go after that asset. In the case of a transfer of an asset to a family member the procedure for getting the asset back is for the bankruptcy trustee to sue the family member to get an order requiring them to turn over the asset. Having the federal government sue your family over an asset you gave them makes future family reunions very awkward. The look back period on such transfers is two years.

My general advice to avoid transferring assets prior to filing bankruptcy. This applies mostly to situations where you are literally giving away property and not receiving anything in return. You can however sell property prior to bankruptcy so long as you receive fair market value for whatever it is you are selling. For instance, you can sell your car prior to your bankruptcy filing, but if the car is worth $3,000, you are going to need to get somewhere near that number – you can’t sell it for $300 without running into possible issues in the bankruptcy court. But if you get approximately what it is worth, then you will generally be fine when it comes to filing bankruptcy.

If you have further questions about bankruptcy and whether it’s right for you. I offer a free 30 minute telephone bankruptcy consultation where we can discuss your specific situation and you can get your questions answered. So what are you waiting for?