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What Everyone Ought to Know About Divorce and Retirement Accounts

Valuing and dividing retirement accounts is more complex than most divorcing couples expect. Below are five common questions we receive regarding divorce and retirement accounts.

1. Does a retirement account only belong to the person whose name is on it?

Imagine that only one spouse worked for most of the marriage while the other cared for the kids. If that's the case, most of the retirement assets are likely only in one spouse's name. It is common for clients who own retirement accounts to believe that they are entitled to the entire account since it's in their name. However, money earned during the marriage is a marital asset and subject to division in a divorce.

In contrast, retirement assets earned prior to the marriage are typically considered separate assets and not subject to division in the divorce. In addition, the growth on those separate assets during the marriage is considered separate property. For an accurate appraisal of what portion of a retirement account is...

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The Best Kept Secret of Mediation

While often considered the kinder approach to divorce compared to traditional litigation, the benefits of mediation go far beyond those simply looking for a "nicer" approach. The best kept secret of mediation is that it is actually the couples with more conflict who can see the greatest benefit from mediation.

Those who are experiencing higher degrees of conflict will see the highest litigation-related expenses. The litigation process itself often heightens conflict. You do not have to be on the same page with respect to your settlement in order to try mediation. In fact, mediation is designed specifically to help you get on the same page. You do, however, have to share a commitment to the process.

Checklist: Is mediation right for you?

Here is a checklist to help you determine if mediation would be an appropriate process for settling the terms of your divorce. You and your spouse do not have to agree to everything on the list but if there are several items on the list that do not...

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Divorce and Your Mortgage

 

An interview with Amy Terrell, Senior Loan Officer & Certified Divorce Lending Specialist with US Lending Corp.

 

I find it essential to develop a reliable network of professionals who can support my divorcing clients. There are such a wide variety of issues that arise during the course of a divorce. One that frequently occurs is refinancing the primary residence to remove one parties' name from the loan. I recently sat down with Amy Terrell, a Senior Loan Officer and Certified Divorce Lending Specialist with US Lending Corp. During our conversation, I realized there are some important issues that I wanted to make sure people are aware of when it comes to divorce and your mortgage. She was kind enough to complete a brief interview over email to share the information.

 

What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to their credit score when they are trying to refinance?

 

Some of the biggest mistakes people make are:

 

  • Opening new...
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Spousal Support in Ohio: A Look at Various Outcomes Achieved in Mediation

When I meet with someone for the first time regarding their divorce, I hear the same questions over and over - concerns that are keeping people up at night and adding to the stress of the divorce. They are questions such as, "Can I afford to keep the house?" and "How will I get health insurance?"

These are all common fears in divorce mediation in Ohio, and they all revolve around money. When it comes to negotiating the divorce settlement, one of the stickiest issues addressed is spousal support. (Spousal support is also known as alimony or spousal maintenance in some areas.)

Related post: How much spousal support will I get?

alimony Ohio

There is no spousal support calculator in Ohio. Thus, if awarded, the amount and/or the duration of alimony can all be somewhat subjective. That said, there are several considerations detailed in Ohio law. You can read about them here

Sometimes clients ask me what other people do when it comes to spousal support in Ohio. There truly is no one...

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5 Mediation Strategies to Get What You Want

I strongly believe in the benefits of choosing mediation for your divorce but it's also important to understand the challenges and prepare for those. The decisions made in mediation can significantly impact your life for years to come. With that in mind, it can be easy to become overwhelmed during the session if you are not adequately prepared. Likewise, you can make agreements that may not be in your best interest if you are simply tired and worn out from the mediation. These simple mediation strategies can help you get what you want from your divorce settlement.

Keep these strategies in mind to make the most of your mediation

#1 Take Time to Reflect Ahead of Time

Spend some quiet time thinking about what you want and what you need.  Write your thoughts down on paper and read it aloud.  This process helps you organize your thoughts, identify your priorities and set realistic expectations.  Take this paper with you to mediation.  If you are...

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6 Survival Tips for Dealing With Divorce Over the Holidays

Dealing with a divorce is difficult no matter the time of year but dealing with divorce over the holidays compounds the stress. It means more time with family who may or may not be on board with this significant change in your life. It means hearing opinions that you did not ask for even though they may mean well. It could also mean missing out on some traditions you love.

From someone who has been there, all I can say is that is does get easier. The first holiday season either during and/or just following your separation/divorce is by far the hardest.

Related post: Your First Christmas After Divorce

Here are some tips to help you survive your first holiday season after deciding to divorce:

1. Take Care of Yourself

Recognize that it's a difficult time of year and take extra good care of yourself. Eat well, get exercise, and make sure you are getting adequate sleep. All of these things will put you in a better position to deal with the stress.

2. Do Something Nice for Yourself

I...

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Bridge the Divide: Negotiations in Mediation

The anger in the room was palpable. I was sitting at a round table with a husband and wife who had chosen to use mediation as a way to come to terms on their divorce agreement. According to the wife, the husband had been unfaithful several times throughout their marriage. According to the husband, the two had not been intimate for many years. Regardless of why the couple was now facing the end of their marriage, in order for negotiations in mediation to be productive, we needed to find ways to bridge the divide between them. It's not uncommon for years of disappointment and frustration to come to a head when couples are going through a divorce. Often, it's the reason that individuals think that they cannot mediate their divorce settlement.

 

Negotiating the Nonnegotiable

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a continuing education program on this very topic. Dr. Daniel Shapiro of the Harvard International Negotiation Program presented...

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How does a declining stock market impact your divorce settlement?

Divorce can be one of the most stressful changes in your life. It’s common for just one party in a marriage to be responsible for all the finances. Even if both parties are aware of the day-to-day finances, it’s even more common for only one party to handle all the investments.

The combination of learning about your investments for the first time and watching the value of those investments decline in a volatile stock market can be overwhelming. How does a declining stock market impact your divorce settlement agreement? And as you look beyond the divorce, what do those declines mean for your longer-term financial future?

Educate yourself

If you have not been involved with your investments or even if you could use a refresher, I encourage you to start by sitting down with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) to review each of your assets. When you do this review, I want you to understand the following about each asset:

(1) What type of asset is it?

(2) How is the...

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Should I leave my Ex's retirement account as is?

If you are recently divorced and not sure what to do with your ex's retirement account, you are not alone.

It is common for one partner to handle all of the retirement accounts in a marriage. In fact, I get calls all the time from individuals who are extremely frustrated. After they've been divorced for over a year, they still have not moved all the relevant accounts into their own name. There is often a lot of confusion around this issue.

With respect to receiving a portion of an ex's 401(k), here's the first question:

If you are receiving a distribution from a 401(k), has the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) been filed?

One of the biggest mistakes that a person can make after a divorce is not following up on the QDRO. I really encourage clients to have the QDRO drafted prior to their final court appearance if at all possible. That way, it can be signed by the Judge and submitted to the plan administrator right away.  Keep in mind each plan has its own QDRO...

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Establishing a Solid Financial Foundation When Leaving an Abusive Relationship

First off, if you are considering leaving an abusive relationship and are in an unsafe situation, I encourage you to reach out to The National Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance.

I recently participated in Stacy Brookman's Emotional Abuse Recovery and Resilience Summit. The topic I offered was a Financial Guide to Moving on From an Abusive Relationship. If you find yourself in that situation, I cannot recommend the summit enough. More than 40 experts shared on various topics. It was truly inspiring. For those who are looking for more information on the financial topic of leaving an abusive relationship, here are some basics on establishing a solid financial foundation for yourself. By taking the time to prepare yourself (if possible), you will be off to a more stable beginning in the next chapter of your life.

Leaving an Abusive Relationship: 5 Steps toward a Strong Financial Foundation

Get your financial documents organized

Find a place where you are going to store your...

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