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Honolulu Family Law Blog

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.

Dealing with retirement accounts during divorce

The end of a marriage can have a major impact on the current and future finances of a Hawaii couple. In many cases, retirement accounts are some of the largest assets held by spouses. Especially if they have been married for many years, a divorce may mean a substantial division of these funds between the two parties. Even when retirement is years away, divorce can still have a serious impact. That's why it is important to understand how ending a marriage can affect different kinds of savings plan.

Even though retirement funds are often held in one person's name only, they are generally considered marital property. This is almost always true for the funds' increase in value during the length of the marriage. Therefore, longer marriages may have a more significant effect on property division than a short marriage. This applies to IRAs as well as 401(k) plans and other pension funds. Even though pension funds are tied to one spouse's job, they are considered marital assets.

How property is divided in divorce

Divorcing couples in Hawaii might approach the issue of property division with some confusion about how the law decides which spouse gets what. Though some states divide marital property equally on the basis of community property law, Hawaii uses the legal theory of equitable property division. While community property states divide property in a 50-50 split, equitable division means a fair division that is not necessarily equal.

Judges weigh many factors into the decisions of property division. Formulas are used and include each spouse's income and other numbers, but judges also weigh arguments and consider factors that are more personal. In an equitable division state, there is more room for individual considerations since the division is not required to be mathematically equal.

How can I help my kids adjust to my divorce?

Your divorce is inevitably a time of change for everyone in your family, and it will take time for each family member to adjust. However, there are some actions you can take as a parent to help make sure your children have as easy of a transition as possible.

Explain the situation in a way your children will understand

Creating a parenting schedule during divorce

Hawaii parents who are facing divorce may need to make a parenting schedule that outlines when the child will spend time with each of them. They should not think of this as a document that involves winning or losing and should not try to use it to undermine one another. Instead, the parenting schedule should serve its purpose of ensuring that the child keeps a relationship with both of them.

Parents should try to imagine themselves in their children's place and what would be important to them in that situation. If they have older children, those kids might have some input into the schedule. Convenience should not be a priority for parents, but they should think about their child's schedule. They should also consider logistics like the distance of their homes from one another and how close each lives to the school.

How might finances impact a divorce?

There are plenty of reasons to get divorced, and it's the sometimes best option for couples to move on. Some experts, however, say that economic realities might make it prudent to reassess the situation. Hawaiians may find it helpful to plan for their finances when considering divorce.

According to one finance specialist, couples who split can face unexpected expenses. For example, those who want to keep their homes might have to do so with significantly reduced incomes, and their bills aren't guaranteed to decrease. On the other hand, those who sell the marital home too hastily might run into unscrupulous buyers who try to take advantage of them. This possibility is particularly relevant for divorcees who rush to sell in an attempt to put their old lives behind them.

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