Monday, 07 November 2016 14:38

Family Law In The News

Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and Your Divorce via Time.   This article reminds parties that no matter your financial status it is of the upmost importance to be specific when setting forth terms in an agreement.  Alimony provisions should be specific regarding payment of taxes and receipt of deductions including payments made to third parties.

In a Divorce, Who Gets Custody of Electronic Data? The Lawyersvia New York Times.  A good reminder that you should assume anything you put in a text, email or on social media will show up in court. And, if you have multiple devices that sync, if you leave one device unprotected other persons may gain access to your text, email and other information that you wanted to keep private.

3 Tips For Getting Along With Your Ex-In-Laws via Pop Sugar.   Great tips for getting along with your for in-laws any time of the year but especially during the holiday season.

Published in News

In Virginia, alimony may be terminated if there is clear and convincing evidence that the spouse receiving spousal support (alimony) has been habitually cohabitating with another person in a relationship analogous to a marriage for one year or more, pursuant to Code of Virginia §20-109. This includes the cohabitation of same-sex couples.

Samantha Cucco and Michael Lutrell entered into a Property Settlement Agreement pursuant to which Michael Lutrell paid alimony to Samantha Cucco.  Mr. Lutrell sought to terminate his alimony payments to Ms. Cucco when he learned Ms. Cucco had been cohabitating with her fiancé, another woman, for over a year.

Ms. Cucco argued that because her relationship was with another woman, she was not cohabitating pursuant to §20-109.  In Luttrell v. Cucco, The lower court agreed with Ms. Cucco, stating that “cohabiting in a relationship analogous to marriage” does not include cohabitation by same-sex couples, and the Virginia Court of Appeals agreed.  The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals erred when it concluded that same sex couples cannot cohabit for purposes of §20-109 and the case was remanded back to the lower court.

If you are seeking to modify alimony based on your spouse's cohabitation with another person, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney.  Contact Hess Family Law to discuss your particular situation and goals.

Published in Alimony

If you have a child applying to college or currently in college then you have probably assisted them in applying for financial aid.  There are two major financial aid forms: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile.   The FAFSA requires financial information only from the custodial parent, which for purposes of the FAFSA application is defined as the parent that the child lives with more than 50% of the time. This applies to students whose parents are divorced or have been separated for at least six months prior to filing the FAFSA application.   However, if the custodial parent remarries, the stepparent’s financial information must be included for financial aid purposes.  Additionally, any child support that a parent receives is considered income for both the FAFSA and CSS Profile.

Divorced or separated parents should note that most but not all colleges that require the CSS Profile expect the noncustodial parent to complete a noncustodial Profile form. Both the custodial and noncustodial parents’ income is considered.  However, the total family contribution from both parents is usually slightly less than if the parents were still married, because colleges take into consideration the added cost of maintaining two households.  If both parents income is considered by the college then a stepparent’s income is not usually included; however if the college only requires the custodial parent to report income and that parent is remarried, the stepparent’s income will also be considered. 

If a 529 college savings plan is owned by the non-custodial parent, you may want to consider changing the account owner to be the custodial parent. A 529 plan that is owned by the custodial parent is reported as a parent asset on the FAFSA (worst case impact, a reduction in aid equal to 5.64 percent of the account’s value) but distributions are ignored. If the 529 plan is owned by the non-custodial parent, it is ignored as an asset, but distributions count as untaxed income to the beneficiary on the FAFSA (reducing aid eligibility by as much as 50 percent of the distribution). Having a 529 plan owned by the custodial parent will reduce the impact on eligibility for need-based aid.

Generally speaking, a child of divorced parents will qualify for more financial aid if the custodial parent is the parent who earns the lesser income.  This may be a factor that parents want to consider when determing custody of their older almost college bound children.  However, if parents live in different school districts and the children attend public school it may be suspect for the custodial parent to live in one school district and the minor child attends school in the non-custodial parent’s school district.  Also, know that you may be asked to provide a court order demonstrating custody and/or a custody agreement so you need to make sure you take care of obtaining agreements and court orders before applying for financial aid. Attorney Geraldine Welikson Hess and Hess Family Law can assist clients with any initial or modification of custody needs.

While January has traditionally been the month when FAFSA applications can begin to be filed, starting with the 2017-2018 school year the FAFSA application can be completed as early as October 1st of the previous year.  Click here for more information regarding changes to the FAFSA during 2016.  If you have questions about the FAFSA or CSS Profile you should contact a financial aid expert or FAFSA directly.  

Sources: Paul Bishop February 12, 2016 Want More Financial Aid?  Get a Divorce 

Emma Johnson September 9, 2015 College Financial Aid Advice for Divorced Families 

Published in Financial Issues

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Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esq
Hess Family Law
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Geraldine Welikson Hess, Esq
Hess Family Law
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Suite 355
Vienna, Virginia 22180

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