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Honolulu Family Law Blog

Child support payments show significant variation by state

A study by Custody X Change found that a typical child support payment in Hawaii was among the highest of all states, ranging from $881 to $1,187 monthly. However, if the parent moved to another state, such as Oregon, the payments might decrease significantly to $400-$528 monthly. A parent who crossed the border into Washington might once again be paying the same higher amounts as in Hawaii.

Custody X Change calculated the amounts by imagining a hypothetical couple with two children and a combined income of $100,000, which is generally higher than the average income for a family with two earners. Although this is higher than the average figure arrived at by census data and Pew Research, it still shows the wide disparity in child support payments. Payments can vary within states and jurisdictions as well. For example, different courts may reach different conclusions about how the time the child spends with each parent affects the amount.

How to treat inherited IRAs in a divorce

There is no true consensus as to whether an inherited IRA can be included in an divorce settlement. However, this doesn't change the fact that inherited IRAs have been a part of divorce settlements in Hawaii and throughout the nation in the past. Often, they are allowed by courts to be split tax-free as long as it is done pursuant to a court order. Once a court has made such an order, an IRA administrator is not likely to defy it.

Changes to the tax treatment of alimony have made inherited IRAs popular bargaining chips in divorce settlements. However, it is not clear if they should be labeled marital property to begin with. This is because inherited items are generally considered to be separate property even if they were transferred during the marriage.

Social security is a consideration in divorce

When a Hawaii couple comes to the conclusion that their marriage is better viewed as past history, then property division, child custody and child support seem to demand most of their attention. These issues need to be addressed and settled first, but it is important to realize that other matters will impact the former spouses as they begin their post-divorce separate lives. Hawaii is an equitable distribution state, and marital assets and debts are evaluated and divided between the two in a fair, or equitable, manner. Social security benefits may be considered as a marital asset based on the facts and circumstances of the marriage.

Retirement experts can explain that if a marriage lasted at least 10 years, an ex-spouse may be able to collect benefits based on the other spouse's earnings record. However, the term of the union is simply a threshold requirement, and other issues such as age, marital status, entitlement to one's own social security benefits and others come into play.

How divorce can affect insurance coverage

For anyone ending a marriage in Hawaii, there are many emotional, practical and financial considerations involved. Because of the complexities of divorce, it's surprisingly easy to overlook insurance-related matters. However, it's still important for couples separating to be aware of how no longer being legally wed can affect their various insurance policies.

It's usually life and health insurance policies that come into play as a marriage ends. With health insurance, it's typically the higher-earning spouse who covers the other one on a plan they have through their employment. A non-income-earning spouse can also continue to be covered on a former spouse's policy for up to three years because of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA. Another option is for spouse without their own coverage to see what's available on exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.

How to take a summer vacation with your children after divorce

Your divorce is in the past (or you're in the process), but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll never again talk to your ex-spouse. If you have children together, it's imperative to work closely with one another to provide a stable environment.

With the summer months right around the corner, you may have some interest in taking your children on a vacation. Doing so sounds simple enough, but you must consider the finer details of your custody agreement. This is negotiated during your divorce.

Less obvious signs of a failing relationship

There are many factors that contribute to divorces in Hawaii. One of the most common reasons that couples will divorce is because of adultery. Other reasons are not so easy to identify, but they can build up over time and cause a marriage to fail. Criticism, sarcasm and contempt are a few of the more common causes of divorce that are not so obvious when they begin.

When a person stonewalls their partner, they shut down communication and do not even attempt to work problems out. They may shut down during conversations or arguments about major family issues. Some even use the silent treatment as a way to punish their partner. Many have found that instead of shutting down, opening up leads to couples being able to work out their problems. This may require a person to be more honest about their feelings.

Child custody determinations are becoming more balanced

Whatever is determined to be in the "best interests of the child" has long been an overriding guiding principle in determining child custody arrangements in Hawaii and throughout the country. Absent special circumstances, such as domestic violence or drug abuse, family law judges recognize the value in the child having a close relationship with both parents. Despite these considerations, child custody has historically been favorable to the mother. Recently, however, fathers have become more equal partners in raising children after the parents part ways.

The antiquated notion that mothers are simply better caretakers of their children than the fathers has been slow to erode. Expert researchers report as recently as the 1980s, mothers were awarded sole custody in approximately 80 percent of the cases studied. A quarter of a century later, that number had been cut in half, and the trend toward more balanced joint custody arrangements continues. However, each case must be viewed uniquely, and there are often valid reasons for something other than a 50/50 arrangement.

Determining who will take the family home in a divorce

Child visitation, child support, alimony and property division are just a few of the things that Hawaii residents have to consider as they go through the divorce process. One thing that can cause many disagreements is deciding on what to do with the family home. Two of the main reasons why this is difficult include the fact that the home is one of the couple's most valuable assets and has sentimental value attached to it.

When it comes to determining who will get the home during the divorce process and what to do about the mortgage, couples usually consider three options. The first option is refinancing a joint mortgage, which means that just one of the spouses will keep the home, and the mortgage will be in their name. The second option is retaining the original joint mortgage. This is a good option for couples who trust each other and will not miss payments.

Claiming dependents after a divorce

Divorce poses many challenges for Hawaii parents. One of the most overlooked issues involves dealing with tax filings. While the process of claiming dependents may have been simple during the marriage, it can be more complicated after a divorce.

Tax credits for dependents can significantly lower an individual's tax burden. The Head of Household filing status, Child Tax Credit, Dependent Care Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit can all reduce a taxpayer's income and lower taxes. However, dependents can only be claimed by one parent, and the IRS uses a set of tiebreaker rules to determine which parent's claim will win out. Generally, a parent will win over a non-parent, and a parent with custody will win out over a noncustodial parent. If neither parent attempts to claim a child as a dependent, the caregiver with the highest AGI is allowed to claim the credits. If unmarried parents live together with the child, the IRS allows them to choose which one will claim the credits.

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