Divorcing? Learn From LeBron

In emotionally charged situation, its not so much what you do, but how you do it.

Just ask LeBron James.

One of my colleagues is a Cleveland native.  I never understood why the people in Cleveland hated James so much after he left.  After all, he had created a lot of money and good will for Cleveland for years (about $300 million per year according to one estimate). Then I talked to my colleague.  He explained that it wasn’t the fact that LeBron left.  Rather it was how he left that caused the hard feelings.  James’ timing, and the show he made of his signing with Miami kind of rubbed it in Cleveland’s face.  Clevelanders feel that James hurt his old team as much as he could on the way out.  At the very least, they feel that he was coldly disrespectful in his departure process.

As a result, James is a pariah in Cleveland, and even in Ohio at large.  In case you didn’t know, James is a Cleveland native.  But, now he can’t even go home without hearing it from local fans.  He literally went from hometown hero to public enemy number one.  And only recently has he acknowledged this mistake.

James could easily have preserved his name and reputation in Cleveland if he had handled things in a more effective manner.

What does this have to do with divorce?

I don’t know of a much more emotionally charged situation than divorce. 

Like the James situation, divorcing couples are facing changes.  However, divorcing couples are facing a much more personal and emotionally charged situation than the melodramatic James debacle. 

The repercussions of a divorcing couples’ divorce process will have far more serious consequences for their children, families and financial lives than a sports story.

Therefore, the “how” of a divorce typically has a far greater impact than the actual decision to divorce.  Couples can choose to resolve their differences in the co-parenting and financial aspects of a divorce without losing their dignity or the respect of their spouse.  Or, they can choose to go about things in a deceitful, combative, and positional fashion. 

Couples can choose to work together in a collaborative divorce or even mediation.  Or, they can choose to go after each other in court. 

Child specialists will tell you that the way a couple divorces typically has more impact on a child than the fact that the parents are divorced.  Mental health experts will tell you that this is true for parents as well.

If you are considering a separation or divorce, then give some serious thought to how you handle that divorce

After all, as LeBron James learned, it’s not necessarily what you do, but how you do it.

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an avid sports fan and an experienced family law and collaborative divorce attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

 

The Divorce High Road

Historically, few people travelled the high road of divorce.  This has been true in the past because the adversarial nature of the American justice system creates a “me versus you” structure to divorce. 

However, as new “non-court” legal processes like mediation and collaborative divorce have developed, lawyers have been able to offer clients a chance to take the high road in resolving their child custody, alimony, property division, and child support issues (while usually saving untold amounts of time, money and destruction).  These processes reject the “me versus you” approach of the courts with a joint problem solving approach borrowed from psychology, business and politics.  

As highlighted by this Huffington Post article on taking the high road in divorce, most people’s greatest concern in their divorce is their children.  The article highlights how taking the high road actually protects children from the negative impacts of divorce. 

This divorcee’s story is an example of the changing face of divorce:  From fear based mudslinging to respectful and dignified discussions.   As the author’s personal story reveals, taking the high road is not the easiest road, but it is usually the best road.

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney catering his practice to clients who want to walk the high road of divorce in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

The Best Video on Collaborative Divorce

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has released a video that follows a real couple through their collaborative divorce.  These people are not actors.  

It provides the best idea of what the collaborative practice looks and feels like of any resources that I have seen.

If you or someone you know is contemplating a separation or divorce, please share this video with them.  It could literally have an impact on their families and children for years to come.  

It may be the biggest favor that you ever do for them.  

Horror Story: Estate Planning and Divorce

I got a call last week that serves as a cautionary tale for divorcing couples. 

I tell all clients that they need to review and revise their estate plan and the documents involved in that plan when they get divorced.  These documents include Wills, trust instruments, general powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and beneficiary designations, among others.

However, understandably, many clients do not get around to following this advice.  Many people are emotionally spent during the divorce process.  The last thing they want to do is to go see an estate planning attorney to review documents that remind them of their ex and the life they used to have. 

So, if you are in that boat, let this tale motivate you to call an estate planning attorney today. 

The caller told me that her fiancé had been married in 2004 and divorced in 2010.  During the marriage, her fiancé had executed a durable power of attorney in favor of his then wife.  (Durable means that it survives the incapacitation of the person who executes the Power of Attorney).  Her fiancé recently suffered a medical condition that prevents him from rescinding the Power of Attorney.  So, this man’s ex-wife is exercising the broad authority granted under the Power of Attorney, including managing her ex-husband’s bank accounts and other finances.  And, his fiancé is powerless for now.

You might imagine the unpleasantness that this has caused.  And, it all could have been avoided by reviewing this man’s estate plan after his divorce.  

If you want to avoid your ex having a hand in your finances and other business after your divorce, take the time to review your estate plan as a part of your divorce.

New Divorce Options Presentation

I find that many clients are completely unaware that they can actually choose the process for resolving their family law or divorce issues.  

As many people are stunned to discovery, in North Carolina you don’t have to go to court to resolve the issues of property division, cash flow, support (alimony and child support), and co-parenting (child custody).

While a legal divorce does require court action, the other and usually more pressing issues can be resolved privately, through a number of other processes.  

I have created a presentation that explains the basics of each process and briefly analyzes the pros and cons of each.  This was initially presented to a large Triangle company through its employee services program.  But, I think many more people can benefit from this information.

This informaiton may help you discuss your options with each other, and with any professionals that you consult.  

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about this information.  

Divorce and Taxes

As this article from Time Magazine points out, there are many tax issues involved in a divorce.   Even parents who have never been married (and therefore never divorce) face tax issues related to sharing time with their child.

There are special tax treatments for alimony, post separation support, property division, dependency exemptions, child tax credits, head of household status and a myriad of other issues in family law.  

While the five issues mentioned in the article about divorce and taxes are important, they are not the only issues involved.

I generally recommend that clients at least consult a CPA or other tax professional before and after their divorce to determine how the tax ramifications of the divorce may affect them.

A good family law attorney will understand most of the tax issues involved in divorce.  But, a family lawyer is no replacement for the advice of a good tax professional. 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law and collaborative divorce attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

Do It Yourself Divorce Trap: Retirement Accounts

I received a call this week from a couple that handled their divorce without attorneys.  They had a mess.

They intended to divide the husband’s 401(k) retirement account as a part of the divorce.  However, they did not know that dividing this kind of account requires a special legal document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order or “QDRO”. 

So, they obtained their divorce.  They then contacted the 401(k) administrator to divide the funds.  Only then did they find out that they needed a QDRO. 

Unfortunately, it will be far more complicated for them to divide this retirement account now.  What would have cost them less than $1,000 if they had involved attorneys in the beginning will now cost them several thousand dollars or more.

They called me to find out whether the account could be divided, whether a court could enter the QDRO now, and how much it would cost.  Needless to say, they were upset that their efforts to save money would cost them much more in the long run.

This just one real life example of why it is smart to consult a lawyer to handle the legal intricacies of divorce from the beginning.

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

Getting Divorced: What Should We Do With the House?

Perhaps the most common property division issue in divorce matters is “what do we do with the house?”

The marital home is a big issue for several reasons.  The house is often the largest asset that a couple owns.  Cash flow issues frequently create the need for more cash, creating a need to liquidate the equity in the house.  One spouse may be emotionally tied to the home for sentimental reasons.  The parents may want to keep the house for the sake of the children.  

Suffice it to say, there are often many issues at play when making decisions about the family home. 

That being said, most couples’ decisions regarding their home fall into one of the following options:

1. Selling the house

This is frequently done when a couple cannot afford to maintain the marital home as well as a second home for a spouse that moves out.   It also works for couples that no longer need a large home.  This is also the only option if neither the husband nor the wife wants to keep the home.

2. One party keeps the house. 

This may work when one of the spouses wants to keep the house, and the other spouse does not.   This is also common when the parties feel that is important to keep the children in the house for continuity.   Frequently one spouse “buys out” the other’s interest in the home.

  3. One party stays in the house for some period of time, then the house is sold.

This works for a lot of couples that need to buy time.  The couple has to then determine how the expenses of the home will be paid until the home is sold.

  4. The parties keep the home, but rent it to a third party.

This option is less popular, as most clients prefer to simply sell the house if neither wants to live there.  And, finding renters can be a challenge. However, in the days of declining equity, this option may allow the couple to avoid a loss on the sale of a home until the market turns around.

  5. Nesting

Nesting occurs when the parties keep the home and alternate time in the home.  This is an option when the couple puts a high priority on keeping the kids in the home.  The parents have to figure out where they will live on their “off” days, which sometimes requires keeping up three homes instead of just two. 

 

The marital home is often a central issue in a divorce negotiation.  There are many possible ways to address the house.  The important thing is that the couple finds the solution that works for them and their family.  In a collaborative divorce, the parties have the time, space, safety and advice to do just that.

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.  

Unexpected Costs of Child Custody Battles

There are many costs involved in fighting a custody battle in court.  Some of these costs are obvious;  attorneys’ fees, delays in reaching resolution, acrimony and stress for parents, families and children are par for the course in a child custody lawsuit.

But, as Halle Berry’s recent custody battle highlights, custody fights can take a toll on all areas of the parents’ lives, including their careers.  

Berry recently left the set of a movie she was filming due to her custody battle.  While we can’t know for sure, I would venture to guess that she gave up a large sum of money when she left that set. 

Berry has the luxury of leaving a high paying job to manage the stress, work and trauma of a custody battle. She will easily find jobs in the future and she will hardly miss the income from this one movie. 

But, most of us cannot afford to sacrifice a job to keep up with a custody lawsuit.  Therefore, we have to manage the stress, time demands, emotions and financial costs of a custody battle while also trying to keep our jobs.   Many parents find this very difficult, but only discover the difficulties of litigation after they are neck deep in the quicksand of a lawsuit.

Before you decide whether to resolve your child custody dispute in court, analyze whether you can afford all of the potential costs.  If you have any doubts, I would encourage you to investigate non-litigation options before filing a lawsuit.

 

Randolph (Tré) Morgan III is an experienced family law attorney accepting cases in Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Smithfield, Wake Forest, RTP, Durham, Chapel Hill, Holly Springs and surrounding areas.  He focuses his practice in divorce, child custody, alimony, child support, equitable distribution, property division, paternity, guardianship and other family related matters.