Do's and Don'ts of Divorce

Here are a few things to do if you are considering or are embroiled in a divorce:

  • Be honest and up front. Tell your attorney everything and fully make known all your assets and property.  Remember that you are protected by the attorney-client privilege and that anything you tell your attorney is confidential.
  • Be practical and flexible. Finding the middle ground often results in a quicker and easier conclusion in divorce cases.
  • Document everything that you might think will be important later on. Also keep a journal of important dates and events.  This helps your attorney develop a timeline for your case and can be a priceless asset at trial. 
  • Use good business sense when deciding what to fight for and at what cost should you fight for it.  Your attorney can quickly evaluate which issues are worth fighting for and which are not. 
  • Get professional help if you need it to cope with your divorce.  There is no shame in seeing a counselor.  Divorce is a radical change in lifestyle and comes with enormous amounts of emotional hardship.  It's their job to help you deal with this change in a constructive way. 
  • Make your children feel that your new home is also their new home. That should include making them responsible for any chores they were responsible for at your prior home and maintaining a set routine or schedule.
  • Remember that your children have a social life. They have soccer, birthday parties and friends. It is important that their social life be as normal as possible. They are not the ones who are divorcing, you are. So let them maintain a normal social calendar.
  • Show respect towards your spouse in front of the children.  Remember that your children are literally half of your spouse and half of you.  They are aware of that and any criticisms you make of your spouse will also reflect on them.  
  • Make sure that the children know they are not the reason for the divorce.

 

Here some things I often see people doing or trying to do in a divorce.  Refrain from the following:

  • Don't represent yourself. Even experienced attorneys that are getting divorced use an attorney.  The old adage "An attorney who represents himself has a fool for his client," holds true. 
  • Don't get greedy. It doesn't matter if it was you or your spouse that initially wanted the divorce. Just because you're hurt and your emotions are running high, does not mean that you are entitled to more than the law allows. This attitude will cost you unnecessary attorney fees.
  • Don't let your friends tell you what to do. Though they may have good intentions listen to your attorney. They know the law.
  • Don't pay your support late.
  • Don't pick up your children for visitation if have been drinking or have taken drugs.
  • Don't spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees fighting over a $150 piece of furniture.  Your attorney will be able to tell you what is worth fighting over. 
  • Don't discuss the details of the divorce with your children. They are not equipped to handle the emotional strain being placed on them even if they are willing to listen and want to help.
  • Don't make promises to the children that you cannot keep.  This usually involves custody and living arrangements. 
  • Don't make your children feel like a "guest" in your new home.
  • Don't put your children in the middle of your divorce. The divorce is between you and your spouse.
  • Don't put your spouse down in front of the children.
  • Don't question the children regarding the activities of your (ex) spouse.  Interrogating them puts them in the middle of the dispute and soon your children will not be talking to either parent. 
  • Don't refer to your visitation with your children as "Your time" and base things around your schedule.
  • Don't rehash the things that have happened in the past, you can't change what has already ready happened
  • Don't use the children as messengers. This puts them right in the middle. Not only are you risking their love and affection you are also relying upon the child to get the message to your spouse correctly and in the manner you meant it.
  • Don't use your children as a bargaining chip during the settlement process.
  • Don't stop the children from seeing the other parent because he or she owes you money.  Visitation is not contingent upon paying of support or maintenance; however, interfering with visitation unlawfully is a crime under Idaho Code 18-4506.  

 

Posted on January 29, 2014 and filed under Family law.

Things to Do After Your Divorce

THINGS TO DO AFTER A DIVORCE

There are many things to be done after the divorce decree is entered.  This should help you with navigating the waters of post-divorce life. 

 1.  Keep a diary of significant events relating to custody and visitations.

2. Make arrangements with medical providers so both spouses can have access to medical information on children.

3. Make arrangements with schools so both spouses can have access to all school information on the children. You may need to provide a copy of your Decree of Divorce to the school showing joint legal custody.

4. Obtain a school calendar of holidays and days off for children each year.

5. Prepare a joint calendar for the year and mark each parent’s visitation time, holidays, etc.

6.   Don’t let the children play you and your ex-spouse against each other.

7.  When possible, be flexible with requests for changes in visitation. You may also someday want to request a change.

8.  Consider purchasing life insurance and listing your children as beneficiaries.

9. Concentrate on establishing a good working relationship with your ex-spouse for the benefit of the children.

10.  Visitation and custody can be changed based on a change of circumstances and the best interest of the children.

11.  Try to maintain a working relationship and communications with ex-in-laws.

 

Child Support

12.  Keep a written accounting of financial obligations and payments with ex-spouse such as child support, daycare costs, health insurance premiums and medical bills.

13.  Utilize Idaho Child Support Services through the Department of Health and Welfare to pay child support or to collect it through wage withholding.  This agency keeps an accounting of all payments.

14.  A wage withholding order can be set up by contacting the Department of Health and Welfare at 150 Shoup Ave., Idaho Falls, ID 83402

15.  If you are paying child support, be dependable and stay current. Pay on the same day every month at the beginning of the month or as agreed with your ex-spouse.

16.  If you are receiving child support and it is delinquent, contact Health and Welfare to assist with enforcement, tax interception, driver's license suspension, etc.

 

Property

17.  Transfer all titles and deeds to property as required by the Decree of Divorce.

18. Get all of the property physically transferred properly between you and your spouse.

 

Personal

19.  Remove your ex-spouse as beneficiary from any life insurance, IRAs, 401(k)'s, etc.

20. Prepare a Will designating how to distribute your property, select a guardian for your children and establish a trust for minor children.

21.  If you remarry, you must rewrite your Will to avoid the new spouse taking most or all of your property and your children receiving none.

22.  Consider a prenuptial agreement before remarriage.

23.  Establish a budget and track your income and expenses. Adjust with more income or less expenses as needed.

24.  Establish credit in your own name.

25.  Have a savings account or a credit card for emergencies.

26.  Consider attending a Divorce Recovery Group.

27. Try to maintain appropriate communications with ex-in-laws.

28.   Let go of the past. Don’t carry around whatever problems led to the divorce, especially if you have children involved.

 

Posted on January 29, 2014 and filed under Family law.

What You Need to Know About Your Parents' Finances

For some people it’s difficult to talk about finances.  Most people, especially elders, believe that it’s nobody’s business but their own.  This can lead to a difficult conversation, but one that needs to be conducted with any aging relative whom you may need to care for. 

  • Have they named someone to have a durable power of attorney to manage their finances? 

The first step is to find out if they have named a Durable Power of Attorney (POA). Without a POA in place, you'll have to go to court to get guardianship of your parent in order to access accounts on their behalf. 

The difference between a power of attorney and a durable power of attorney is a simple, but extremely important one.  A power of attorney becomes ineffective when your elderly parent becomes incapacitated or loses competency to make their own decisions, usually due to a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or other health related complications.  A durable power of attorney becomes effective when your elderly parent becomes incapacitated.  If you need to know which you have or need one drafted, please consult a qualified Elder Law attorney. 

  • Where do they keep their financial records? 

Whether they keep their money and documents in a bank, a safe, or under the mattress, you need to know where to find records when you need them. You will also need codes and keys to any safes or other places they may keep their records and assets. 

  • What are their bank account numbers and names of their financial institutions?

In addition to knowing where they keep their money, you need specifics on all account numbers. You will also need to know: what banks they use, their mortgage company, the names of any investment firms they use, as well as information about retirement and pension accounts (IRAs, 401k, etc.)

  • What are your parent's monthly expenses?

Gather information on their mortgage, car payment, credit card debt, electric bills and other household expenses.

  • How do they pay their bills?

If there are automatic deductions being taken out of a checking account then you need to know about them as well. You will need to know if they bank and pay bills online or by personal check. 

  • How much is their annual income and where does it come from? 

You will need to know about any alimony, disability benefits, Veteran’s Assistance, investment dividends, rents, pension check, and any other sources of income. 

  • Do they receive Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security?

If your parent becomes incapacitated, you may have to investigate the status and eligibility of government assistance.  Eligibility in these programs are largely dependent upon meeting a means test based on assets and income.  Please speak to a qualified Elder Law attorney about planning for and apply to these programs.  It is better to plan sooner rather than later. 

  • What kind of medical health insurance do they have in addition to Medicare?

You will need to know if they have health insurance provided by an employer, if health benefits included as part of a pension, and if they are receiving VA benefits. 

  • Do they have long-term care insurance? 

A "regular" health insurance plan does not cover the cost of assisted living or a nursing home. You will need to know if they purchased a long-term care insurance policy to cover the cost of those residences.  This is usually referred to as a “Medigap.”  If not, and they can no longer live on their own, you need to know what you or they can afford in terms of housing.

  • Do they have an accountant or financial planner? 

Who is it and how do you contact them? Have they done any estate planning?

The National Council on Aging suggests that planning for this situation should begin in your parent's early 60s with a family council meeting. But for many, that time has passed without that meeting and it is up to family caregivers to provide the best safety net they can.

Health Information Checklist

Having up-to-date medical information for your parent(s) helps you to manage health care and medications. It is crucial to have in case of an emergency.

Use this checklist to make sure you have all of the pertinent information about your elderly parents’ health readily available in one place.

  • Parent's date of birth
  • Parent's Social Security number
  • Medicare/Medicaid information
  • Health insurance information (name, phone number, policy information)
  • Primary care doctor (name, phone number and location)
  • Specialists (name, phone number and location)
  • Medication (name, dosage, time of day taken)
  • Over-the-counter supplements (name, dosage, frequency taken)
  • Medical history (past illnesses and surgeries)
  • Family medical history (illnesses, causes of death for mother, father, siblings

Use this Printable Health Information Checklist from AgingCare.com

Many people consider information and decisions about their health to be highly sensitive and deserving of the strongest protection under the law. So, when it comes to your parent's healthcare, the law is very strict about who is able to participate in healthcare-related conversations and decisions.

Many people never think about their views and values regarding end-of-life decisions until a crisis hits – the time when decision-making is most difficult. Not planning in advance means that you might not be able to gain access to the information you need.  This can inhibit your ability to act on your parent's behalf if they are unable to act for themselves. In a worst-case scenario, you might be forced to fight in court for guardianship, a time-consuming and costly process, when time is of the essence. You can avoid this by working with your parent and an Elder Law attorney to prepare these documents.

HIPAA Authorization

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) keeps a person's health information and records private. Unless your parent authorizes, in writing, someone else to receive that information it is illegal for doctors to share any details with you about your parent's health. A HIPAA authorization is a simple document that authorizes the doctor to share necessary information with you on your elderly parent's behalf. It's very short and only takes a moment to complete.

Health-Care Proxy

Also known as a Medical Power of Attorney or Power of Attorney for Healthcare, a health-care proxy is a legal document that enables you to make health-care decisions for your elderly parent in the event they are unable to make those decisions themselves. This document must be prepared while your parent is still mentally competent to do so.

The designated person has the power to make all health care decisions for your elderly parent. To avoid the difficulties associated with making joint decisions, only one person can be given authority to act on your parent's behalf. An alternate person may be designated at the time the Health Care Proxy is prepared in the event the first person is unable or unwilling to serve.  It is usually a good idea to have an alternate named in the document in the event that the designated person cannot or will not serve as the proxy or in cases of abuse of the Power of Attorney.

It is crucial that the person who is named health-care proxy know what the elderly parent's wishes are in the event that they need life support, a feeding tube or intravenous fluids to survive. This is why the patient's living will or Advance Care Directive is a very important document to have.

It is also crucial that the person named as the proxy knows their obligations as a fiduciary to the elderly parent.

Advance Health Care Directive

This is commonly known as a living will. An Advance Health Care Directive lets people make their own end-of-life care decisions before a medical crisis strikes, even if they are unable to communicate their own wishes. With a living will, the caregiver and other loved ones don't have to agonize over difficult medical decisions. A living will should spell out: 

  • Whether the person wants to be resuscitated if he or she stops breathing
  • Whether artificial life support should be used
  • Whether a feeding tube should be inserted

A living will may indicate specific care or treatment the person does or does not want performed under specific circumstances.

Plan Ahead

Once a healthcare emergency strikes, it will probably be too late to prepare these documents, so talk to your parent about getting their affairs in order and spell out their wishes regarding healthcare while they are still healthy.

Consult an attorney specializing in elder law who will prepare these items and can provide advice on additional planning tools, depending on your family's circumstances.

Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2013

Dr. David Knopman explains how being at risk for certain types of cancers and the treatment for them can help combat the onset of Alzheimer's Disease.  He also answers questions about the speculative connection between Diabetes and a lower risk for Alzheimer's. 

Dr. Knopman also states that the more intellectually active a person is later in life, the less likely they are to develop Alzheimer's or Dementia.   Watch the video. 

Subjective Cognitive Decline and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Dr. Ronald Petersen discusses some of the earliest detectable signs of Alzheimer's disease.  These new studies have shown that Alzheimer's can be detected early than ever, but it depends on self-reporting by the aging person.    Watch the video.  

In a press release dated July 18, 2013 the AAIC stated that "Research shows that families and caregivers who learn about the course of Alzheimer's disease, and who take advantage of support and respite, often cope much better with the changes that come their way during the Alzheimer's disease process," said Beth Kallmyer, MSW, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer's Association.

According to the Alzheimer's Association 2013 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer's may nearly triple. Yet too many people with Alzheimer's or another dementia are undiagnosed — as many as 50 percent, according to some studies.

 

Posted on July 22, 2013 and filed under Elder Law.