Divorce is about change and moving from the marriage that dominated your life to a new chapter. You and your spouse were connected in many ways. Whether you are in the process of divorcing or it is already behind you, you must take steps to be more independent. This is especially true if you have a difficult spouse who may use information against you.  

Should you have keys to each other’s homes?  

Probably not. There are the occasional, genuinely friendly divorces, and you may want your ex to have a key to your home in case of an emergency (or you lose your keys). However, this is generally not a good idea because it creates the possibility of dangerous situations and stalking by someone with whom, in the past, you shared a deep connection. Even someone who seems to have taken the divorce well may harbor serious grudges that could play out in what you think is the security and privacy of your own home. 

Should I allow my ex in my home? 

If you are both parents and want to, at the very least, maintain the appearance of civility, you could allow the other parent to come in momentarily to pick up your kids. If the relationship has broken down, that can be done outside or at a neutral site.  

If you do not want them in your home, clearly communicate that. If they drop by just to annoy (or worse, threaten) you, document what is happening. You could also install security cameras because a picture is worth a thousand words. We could have a protective order put in place if needed. If they are threatening or stalking you, get the police involved. 

Should I change my passwords? 

Yes, especially if the app or website concerns financial matters. Creating a new email address may also be a good idea. If they know the email address you use, unless there is a two-step identification process, they may be able to change your password and lock you out of the account.  

Not only might your spouse access social media accounts and post embarrassing or spiteful content, they could also steal your money. You could lose your job if your ex, using your accounts, posts racist ramblings on LinkedIn or sends a resignation email to your boss. It is a mess you would rather prevent than try to clean up afterward.   

Should I get a new job? 

Many of us meet future spouses at work. We may marry business partners. This may have worked for a time, but keeping your professional and business lives separate during or after a divorce may be too much to ask. 

If you co-own a business, there should be an ownership agreement spelling out how one party can sell their interest to fellow owners or others. Leaving a job you love or one with a lot of potential may be necessary if it is impacting your performance.  

Should you or your ex leave? That is a discussion worth having. Your ex may be more willing and able to go than you, or this may become another test of will to see who can outlast the other (which could get very ugly). 

How many connections should I break? 

You may have any number of things in common. You may volunteer for the same charity, belong to the same religious organization, or like the same neighborhood restaurant. How far you need to go to move on in your life depends on you. Not everyone needs to reinvent their life, but you should make necessary changes to move on after a divorce.  

Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, PC, today if you are considering getting divorced and have questions or have decided it is right for you and need legal representation. If your ex is threatening or stalking you, we can also help you put that to an end. 

A divorce can be an emotionally difficult time. A supportive network of people can make it easier to manage and help you start your new life. Every team needs a qualified attorney and others who will provide you with emotional support and practical help. Here in Bucks County it can be helpful to have the following individuals on your team:  

Who Makes the Team? 

1. Your Attorney 

Your lawyer is the captain of your team, the trainer in your corner. There is no more critical teammate than the one guiding you through the legal process. It is our job to ensure your legal rights are protected and put you in the best possible position to start your new life. 

Without an attorney, or by retaining one who is learning while they work on your divorce, you could create massive problems for yourself and your kids now and in the future. This process is too complicated, and there is too much at stake to have no attorney, or the wrong one, on your team. 

2. Therapist or Counselor 

A divorce could be one of the most stressful events in your life. However, with the right team on your side, it need not be. A mental health professional can provide you with a confidential and safe space to talk about your feelings and work through your challenges. They can also offer strategies for managing stress and coping with difficult emotions.  

3. A Support Group 

Joining a support group of people who are also going through a divorce can help you connect to others who understand what you are going through. It may be a huge relief to know you are not the only one thinking your thoughts or feeling your emotions. They can support you emotionally and provide you with practical advice on how to handle current and future issues.  

4. A Divorce Coach 

Divorce coaching is part of the larger profession of life coaching. A divorce coach focuses on separation, divorce, and life after divorce. A good divorce coach can help you make sound decisions before, during, and after your divorce, set and achieve goals, and cope with this significant change in your life. 

5. Family and Friends 

Some friends and family members will be better at helping you than others. The better you know and trust the person, the more likely they will be helpful to you. Not everyone will be good in this role, so choose wisely.  

They should be someone you can turn to for emotional support and who will listen to you. Choose someone supportive and nonjudgmental and with whom you feel comfortable talking about your feelings and experiences. Someone who has also gone through a divorce may be particularly helpful.

If you have young children, someone who can help with childcare could greatly help. Having an attorney, divorce coach, support group, or therapist is great, but if you cannot meet with them because you do not have someone to look after your kids, they will not do you much good. 

The attorneys and staff at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., understand how difficult a divorce can be. We are privileged to have our clients rely on and depend on us during this critical time. They trust us with this life-changing event, and we work to earn that trust every day. 

If you rely on your spouse for health insurance and retirement benefits, losing them will be one of the costs of a divorce. There are also tax benefits to marriage that will end. But your losses may be lessened with planning and the right advice and preparation from your divorce attorney.

Health Insurance 

Most people get health insurance as a workplace benefit. The US Census estimates that in 2019, 55.4% of those with medical coverage got it through the workplace. If you currently work and are covered by your spouse, find out if your employer offers health insurance benefits, and if so, its benefits and costs. If you are looking for a new job after your marriage ends, these benefits may be a key to making a position attractive. 

If your spouse can get health insurance through their job, and you have children, it probably makes the most financial sense to have them covered by these benefits.  

The federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) changed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code to require group health plans to provide a temporary continuation in situations where it may otherwise end.  

If you were covered by your spouse’s medical benefits when you divorced, it could continue. But you will pay your entire premium (there will be no employer contribution), and it will not be available forever (it lasts up to 36 months). Because of its expense, COBRA coverage is often a “bridge” to your subsequent, more affordable health coverage. 

If coverage through your job is not an option, you should consider plans available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) marketplace. If your income is low enough, you may qualify for a subsidy. Your cost will not be affected by pre-existing conditions, but the coverage’s quality,  your age, whether you are covering your children, and your location will impact the premium. You have 60 days from your divorce to enroll. If you miss that deadline, you must wait until the next open enrollment. 

Tax Breaks 

The impact on your taxes will vary. If your income is higher or equivalent to what your spouse earns, you will probably pay a higher tax rate after your divorce because married couples filing jointly usually pay fewer taxes. There is also a larger limit on charitable contributions. If you make substantially less than your spouse post-divorce, you may be in a lower tax bracket and pay less. 

If your divorce was finalized after December 31, 2018, and you pay alimony, you cannot deduct it from your income. If you collect alimony, it is not taxable income. Likewise, child support payments are not deductible and are not considered income for the parent obtaining the support. 

Retirement Benefits 

Retirement benefits like 401(k) accounts and pensions are generally considered marital property, so they could be equitably divided during the divorce. During the divorce process, all marital property is inventoried. A fair amount for each is negotiated by the parties or ordered by a judge after a trial. It is common that instead of retirement benefits being split up, they will stay with the spouse who earned them, while that party gives up an equivalent amount of other assets to make up for it. 

There are many moving parts to a divorce, and the number and size of those parts vary with each couple. Contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., today because we are here to help you with a divorce. If you are considering getting divorced and have questions, or you have decided it is right for you and you need legal representation, call us today. 

Getting a divorce can be costly here in Bucks County, but you can make the best of what could be a bad situation. If your relationship is ending, you should not allow the cost of a divorce to prevent you from starting your new life. This is especially true if your spouse abuses you and wants to manipulate you through the process (driving up legal bills).  

How Much Will a Divorce Cost? 

In most cases, the cost will vary. Carefully read the costs and fees spelled out in our representation agreement before retaining us. There will be an upfront retainer (like a security deposit). You then will be charged hourly for our services and your costs will be drawn down from the retainer.  

There are also fees for filing legal documents, using experts, obtaining custody evaluations, and other costs. Most law firms bill their time in six-minute increments. Partners, associates, and paralegals bill at different rates. 

We disclose our costs early in the process, so there will be no surprises. Most of the fees are incurred when you need to appear in court. Courts are very busy and cases back up. Depending on the scheduling and how a day goes, we may spend a lot of time waiting. We also spend time preparing for the matter before going to court.  

Simplifying the Divorce Makes It More Affordable 

As your case’s complexity increases, so do the costs. That can come about in three ways: 

  • The facts are complicated  
  • One or both parties are combative and unreasonable 
  • A combination of the two 

We need a good grasp of your case’s issues and facts. That takes time which costs money. We may also need to hire an accountant if one or both parties own a business or substantial investments are involved. Relationships with children, who may have special needs, and how they should reconcile with the divorce may require the help of a child psychologist. 

The divorce will get costly if one or both spouses see the legal proceedings as another venue to drag the other through the mud and make their lives miserable. The more in dispute, the more time we spend: 

  • In court 
  • Writing letters 
  • Writing, responding to, and filing motions 
  • In meetings with clients 
  • On phone calls with opposing counsel 

We may also hire a mediator to try to get the parties to agree to put out the fire. In the worst-case scenario, the parties battle it out during a trial and then stretch the process further with appeals. 

Do the Homework 

You will save some money if you do a good job gathering and organizing evidence. The more complicated your financial and family lives, the more documents and evidence there will be. This can involve: 

  • Tax returns 
  • Bank records 
  • Investment accounts 
  • Retirement accounts 
  • Documents about a family-owned business 
  • Stock options 
  • Job benefits 
  • Titles to vehicles, real estate, and artwork 
  • Documents of a child’s school performance and physical, emotional, or psychological disabilities 

Our time costs you money. The more documents you obtain, the fewer we must try to find. The better you organize these records, the less time we must spend putting them together, and the less time it takes to review them. 

You May Qualify for a Flat Fee 

The simpler your lives, the lower your cost. If you have no assets, custody, or alimony issues and only need a simple divorce, you may only pay a flat fee (assuming nothing unexpected comes up. If it does, we will charge extra by the hour). This may be because you simply lack these issues or the two of you have a valid, comprehensive prenuptial agreement that neither of you challenges. 

No Matter What You Can Afford, We Can Answer Questions 

We understand our clients do not have limitless resources. If you are considering a divorce and want to learn more about what it may cost, contact Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., today to see how we can help you.