What is Abandonment? A Top Misconception in Divorce.

What is Abandonment? A Top Misconception in Divorce.

On an almost daily basis, clients and potential clients say to me, I can’t move out of the house because that’s abandonment, right? I recently spoke at a CLE for other attorneys, most of whom do not primarily practice family law, and some of the attorneys even harbored this misconception. Many people believe that you can forfeit your interest in the marital homeplace by moving out.

Ala. Code §30-2-1 lists several grounds for divorce, including the following at part (3): For voluntary abandonment from bed and board for one year next preceding the filing of the complaint.

As you can see, simply moving out of the marital home when divorce is imminent does not meet the definition of abandonment under this statute. That being said, there are many factors to consider when making the decision to move out, including but not limited to payment of household bills and custody of children, so it is essential to seek legal advice on your specific situation prior to packing your suitcase.

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

Divorce and the sale of your home often go hand in hand. Below are some tips from Carolyn Hasser, a local Realtor with Roberts Brothers.

Getting your home ready to sell

If you’re thinking of selling, here are a few tips to help you get top dollar for your home!

1. Spruce up your yard – plant a few flowers, hang a couple of ferns on the front porch, trim your shrubs back so that your windows can be seen, pull vines away from the house or eliminate them completely, edge, replace missing grass, and pick up toys. Curb appeal beckons your buyer to come inside, and if the outside doesn’t look neat and well kept, no one will want to go inside!

2. Declutter – Take personal pictures and put them away – buyers want to imagine their pictures and belongings in the house, and too many personal items like collectibles and pictures are distracting. Even too much furniture can keep the home from looking spacious. In the kitchen, remove as much as you can off the countertops. Either pack it away or put it into a cabinet. And don’t forget the garage! You’ll be moving anyway, so pack up as much as you can and store it. It may help to hire a professional stager to give his/her opinion and help you rearrange. Your realtor should be able to help you as well, or ask a friend whose taste you appreciate to be honest with you.

3. Clean out your closets – Space is a big seller, and if there are out of season clothes you don’t need at the moment, pack them away under beds or take them somewhere to be stored.

4. Keep rooms clean and neat – Sometimes a buyer will want to see your house at a moment’s notice – and you don’t want to pass that up, so keep everything in its place. If you have children (or a messy spouse!) just grab everything and put it in a container if you need to show quickly. Clean windows and bathrooms and make your kitchen sparkle.

5. Take Fido with you – or at least kennel him. You wouldn’t believe how many people are terrified of dogs. And if he does his business in the yard scoop it up!

6. List with a realtor – I know, it sounds self serving, but the fact of the matter is that realtors are the oldest profession in our country (well – maybe the SECOND oldest), and with good reason: a realtor can almost always sell your home faster, and for more money, than you can. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), over 78% of those who list a home for sale themselves either (a) give up, or (b) list with a realtor. Realtors have already prequalified buyers, so you don’t waste your time showing your home to someone who can’t afford it. And, realtors are trained to negotiate and can keep the “emotions” out of it.

You may reach Carolyn Hasser at 661-4660 or CarolynHasser@RobertsBrothers.com.

How Do You Determine Your Filing Status for Income Taxes?

How Do You Determine Your Filing Status for Income Taxes?

By: Brandi Morgan, CPA

It is very important to select the correct filing status as this will impact the amount of your standard deduction and your tax rate. You may fall into more than one category, so you should choose the one the produces the lowest overall tax. An individual may be single, a surviving spouse, head of the household, married filing jointly, or married filing separately. Filing status is determined on the last day of the tax year.

The basis standard deduction amounts for 2016 are:

  • Single 4,050
  • Married filing jointly and surviving spouses 12,600
  • Married filing separately 6,300
  • Head of Household 9,300

You are considered single for the whole year if on the last day of the tax year, you are unmarried or legally separated under a divorce or separate maintenance agreement. You are considered unmarried if you and your spouse did not live in the same household for the last six months of the tax year. If your home was the main home for a qualifying child or relative and you provided more than half the cost of keeping up your home for the tax year, you are eligible to file as head of household instead of single which provides a higher standard deduction and lower tax rates.

A single taxpayer qualifies as a surviving spouse during the two years following the death of a spouse if the household is maintained for a dependent child and you do not remarry. Tax brackets for surviving spouses are more favorable than filing single.

Married individuals may opt to file jointly or separately even if only one spouse had income. In most situations, it is advantageous to file a joint return due to higher deductions and lower tax rates; however, there are special circumstances where filing separately produces a lower tax bill. It is advisable to calculate your tax both ways and use the filing status that yields the lowest aggregate tax. Considerations other than tax savings should also be considered. If you believe your spouse is not reporting all of his or her income or you do not want to be held responsible for any taxes due because your spouse did not have enough tax withheld or pay enough estimated tax, filing separately may be ideal.

If you are unsure which status applies to your situation, consult your tax advisor.

Brandi Morgan is a CPA and Manager at Wilkins, Miller, Hieronymus LLC, Certified Public Accountants and Advisors. She can be reached at wilkinsmiller.com or 251-410-6700. Her office is located at 41 West Interstate 65 Service Road North, Suite 400, Mobile, Alabama 36608.

I’m Going Through a Divorce: Should I Keep the House?

I’m Going Through a Divorce: Should I Keep the House?

As we all know, one of the biggest issues in a divorce is the family home. It all starts to get messy when the decisions of what will happen to it and who is going to live in it become a concern for the parties. Typically, parties go from having two incomes to contribute to the mortgage and other household expenses during the marriage to having only one income to contribute to those expenses after the divorce.

Below are important questions people need to ask themselves when they aren’t sure if they should keep their home when going through a divorce.

1.Is your marital home a great fit for your new lifestyle?

2.What is your house worth today?

3.What would be the cost to keep the house up?

4.Are you willing to sacrifice financially in other areas to keep the house?

5.Is there any equity in the house or are we “upside down?”

6.If there is equity, can I afford to buy my spouse out?

7.Do I have the income and credit to refinance if the Court so orders?

8.Would it benefit me/us more financially to sell the house?

Having to choose whether or not to keep your residence could possibly be one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make during divorce, as there are likely many good and bad memories associated with your marital home. Its always wise to give yourself time to think it all through very carefully. Everyone needs to be able to manage their assets and develop a plan for financial stability and security in the future.