If you are planning to use your IRS tax refund to pay for a divorce this tax season, it has to be your own tax refund, and it has to be a real tax refund, not a fraudulent check or a counterfeit. Thousands of married people in the United States who are planning to divorce are looking forward to the prospect of extra cash this season in the form of an IRS tax refund. That’s the money they plan to use to “make the break” from their marriages and pay the legal fees for divorce. One police officer in Tampa, however, needed just a little more money for her divorce than her own tax refund provided, and she made a very bad choice.

1

Tampa Detective Jeanette Hevel stole bogus tax refund checks – to pay for her divorce – that were being held in the Tampa Police Department’s evidence locker. In January, the former police officer was sentenced by a federal judge to five years on probation. Hevel stole approximately $88,000 worth of fraudulent tax refund checks, a $3,000 refund anticipation loan check, and $10,000 in money orders. According to court records, Ms. Hevel took the checks to a “street criminal” who cashed the checks for ten to twenty cents on the dollar.

After a 27-year career in law enforcement, Ms. Hevel could have been sentenced to ten years in a federal prison for the theft of government property. Of course, you don’t want to make your troubles even worse by stealing money – especially from the government – to pay for your divorce. To prepare the right way for the costs and the other financial consequences of a divorce, get started right away by taking these six essential steps:

  1. Start new bank accounts in your own name.
  2. Reexamine your complete financial situation and review your credit report.
  3. Design a budget you can live with and adhere to it meticulously.
  4. Cancel any joint credit cards. Otherwise, your spouse might run up debts that potentially could become your obligation to pay.
  5. If the beneficiary on your bank accounts and life insurance is your spouse, change your beneficiary.
  6. Arrange to speak promptly with a good divorce lawyer about the legal fees for a divorce.

Yes, “to everything there is a season” as the ancient Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, and January through April is the divorce season in the United States. Summers are for fun and holidays are for families, so for many people, the best time of year to seek a divorce is when the holidays are behind us, the year is new, and some extra cash is anticipated from the Internal Revenue Service. If you are planning to pay for your divorce with your IRS tax refund this season, consult at once with a good divorce attorney, and here in central California, with an experienced Fresno divorce lawyer.

WHY DOES DIVORCE REQUIRE AN ATTORNEY’S HELP?

Don’t even think about launching a divorce procedure by yourself or without the sound advice and legal guidance that a seasoned divorce attorney can provide to you. Far too much is at stake. If you have decided to file for divorce upon receiving your tax refund this season, you need to know that divorce almost always brings considerable change to at least one partner’s lifestyle and financial condition. You could be headed for serious financial trouble subsequent to your divorce if the financial aspects of your case are not scrutinized closely and handled properly by the right attorney.

In every state and in every region of the United States, the cost of obtaining a divorce will be different, and honestly, the cost will also be different in every case. Most family attorneys can offer you an affordable and practical payment plan, but the final amount you’ll pay for a divorce will hinge mostly on how much cooperation or acrimony exists between the divorcing spouses. The California Family Code is supposed to be designed so that no one is disadvantaged simply because of income inequality in a California divorce. In some divorces, you may be able to have your legal fees paid by the spouse you are divorcing as one part your settlement or verdict. In central California, let an experienced Fresno divorce lawyer fully explain to you the legal fees that might apply in your own divorce proceeding.

HOW IS THE COST OF DIVORCE DETERMINED?

The cost of a divorce will also be determined by the exact kind and quantity of services an attorney is obligated to provide on your behalf. The fewer issues that are disputed, the less a divorce will cost. If you and your partner can settle differences outside of court, you can substantially reduce your eventual costs. Matters that typically require resolution during a divorce include the division of assets, property, and debts; alimony; child support, custody, and visitation; legal fees and additional claims for reimbursement; and claims for the breach of fiduciary duty. Take full advantage of the legal guidance, knowledge, and resources that an experienced divorce lawyer offers. After all, you’ll be paying for it.

2

California was the nation’s first no-fault divorce state. It adopted the country’s first no-fault divorce system back in 1970. Thus, if you are divorcing in this state, you do not have to prove, for example, that your partner is mentally incapacitated or has committed adultery. There is a residency requirement, however. To obtain a divorce in California, at least one partner must have resided in this state for at least six months, and that partner must have resided for at least three months in the county where the divorce is filed. It takes at least six months for a divorce to be finalized in California.

HOW IS PROPERTY DIVIDED?

Jointly-owned marital property – property, that is, obtained during the marriage – will be divided in a divorce unless the partners can reach their own settlement. It may not sound difficult, but the division and distribution of property and assets can be quite problematic, especially if the procedure becomes contentious or if the properties and assets in question are considerable. Marital property is almost always more than homes, cars, and bank accounts. One matter, for example, that is often controversial in divorce cases is the division of retirement savings. If you are divorcing in California, you must do what you can to safeguard your retirement. Talk with your divorce attorney regarding retirement accounts and other important concerns early in the divorce process.

3

The payment of alimony – now legally called “spousal support” – is a common consequence of divorce in California. When one partner has contributed to a marriage by managing the household, caring for the children, and supporting the other partner’s work and career, that partner entitled under California law to request alimony. The final alimony amount that a court eventually orders will depend predominantly on each spouse’s financial condition and income. If the partners can come to terms on an alimony agreement, the court will usually sign off on that arrangement, but if there’s a conflict, the court will make the final ruling and determine who will pay how much in alimony.

WHAT IS THE COURT’S TOP PRIORITY?

Law as well as tradition tells us that both parents have a responsibility to support their minor children. In California, both prior to and subsequent to a divorce, both parents are required to support their minor children financially. In every California judicial proceeding that involves a minor child, the courts will always make that child’s best interests the highest priority. When divorcing partners are parents, California courts first presume that joint custody is best, but even if only one spouse is awarded child custody, the other in most cases will have visitation privileges. The non-custodial parent typically will be ordered by the court to pay child support to help with a child’s clothing, food, housing, schooling, healthcare, and other routine expenses.

4

When a court in California orders a child support arrangement, it considers a number of factors including the financial situation of both parents, the number of children, and the best interests of those children. Child support – with rare exceptions – is paid until the child reaches age 18. California courts follow guidelines set forth by the state’s lawmakers when determining child support sums, and California aggressively enforces the child support obligation. When your own situation or your ex-spouse’s situation changes in the future, you or your ex may ask the court to change or “modify” the visitation, custody, and support orders as necessary. Your divorce attorney can defend your interests and represent you in a modification request hearing in the future if necessary.

Whenever you seek a divorce – in any season or in any state – you must work with an experienced divorce attorney who will make sure that you’re treated fairly and rightly in the divorce proceeding. You need someone who understands all three aspects of divorce: the emotional, financial, and legal aspects. Tax season is divorce season for many, but for yourself, you should divorce only when you are fully emotionally and financially prepared. For the high-quality legal counsel and representation that you’ll need if you are divorcing, speak with a trustworthy divorce attorney, and in the Fresno area or elsewhere in central California, contact an experienced Fresno divorce lawyer promptly.