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Divorce negotiations may change under new tax law

If you are one of the many spouses in New Jersey who is considering whether or not to stay in your marriage or to pursue a divorce, you will want to know about how changes in the tax code might impact you differently this year than next year. Updates to tax laws, deductions and more are not unusual but the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may have significant ramifications for divorcing couples.

As explained by CNBC, starting in January of 2019, a person who receives spousal support does will no longer need to report the payments as income on a tax return. This means that they will be able to receive the money with no associated tax responsibility as has been the standard for several decades now. Instead, the spouse who is ordered to make alimony payments must pay income taxes on the money. Up until now, payors of spousal support have been able to deduct these payments from their taxable income.

What is a qualified domestic relations order?

New Jersey residents who get a divorce may be worried not only about their current finances, but also about their money in the future. This is particularly true if you were relying on the idea of having retirement benefits or a pension through your ex-spouse. Fortunately, there are still ways to get your share of retirement and pension benefits.

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) defines qualified domestic relations orders (QDRO) as an order that assigns or acknowledges your right to get some or all of your rightful retirement or pension benefits from a plan shared with your ex-spouse. This differs from domestic relations orders, which is a more general term that applies to the division of property rights, alimony, or child support payment.

How does a legal separation affect your taxes?

When you and your spouse are legally separated in New Jersey, you may think most about the day-to-day aspects of your separation. Your separation usually affects your taxes, though, and as tax season approaches, it is important to understand what factors you need to consider.

Your child support usually affects your taxes when you are legally separated. According to, you and your spouse cannot both claim your children as tax exemptions. You may want to decide in advance which of you will benefit most from these tax savings. If you have more than one child, it might sometimes be best if you each claim one of the children on your taxes. It is important to remember that your child support payments usually are not tax-deductible. Additionally, your spousal support is another factor to consider as you prepare to file your taxes. If you currently pay spousal support, you can usually deduct these payments. If you receive these payments, though, they are considered taxable income.

Child support COLA

To most in Hackensack, the word "cola" is associated with a refreshing drink. Yet bring it up with some of the clients that our team here at Melinda L Singer, Esquire has worked with, and they may shudder. That typically has less to do with their beverage preferences than it does the circumstances of their divorce agreements. If you are just beginning to fulfill the terms of such an agreement (specifically in regards to a child custody obligation), then you may soon understand their feelings. 

You might naturally assume that the amount that you owe in child support cannot be changed without the input of either you or your ex-spouse. In most circumstances, you would be right. Yet there is one exception to this rule: COLA. This stands for cost of living adjustment, and it is a factor the courts in New Jersey use to determine what amount you need to pay in order to continue meeting your children's needs.

Can alimony change?

When you get a divorce in New Jersey, you may think that the amount of alimony you receive cannot be changed once it is determined by a court. However, there are several ways that your alimony might be altered.

Your circumstances can often affect your alimony. According to, you may sometimes receive an increased amount if you have a financial emergency. This includes situations when you might have unexpected medical bills or a loss of income. Additionally, a disability can affect your financial support. You may ask to receive more money if you are unable to support yourself. In both of these situations, your alimony might be decreased if your ex-spouse is the one who experiences a financial emergency or disability.

Can you collaborate through a divorce?

New Jersey couples like you may eventually reach a point in which you decide that splitting up would be better for everyone. In these situations, Melinda L. Singer, Esquire, is here to help guide you through all aspects of a divorce: legal, financial, emotional, and more.

When you're handling your divorce proceedings, there's the opportunity to collaborate through it. You may be able to work together with your attorney and your partner in order to reach resolutions that work best for you and your family.

Unsure if you want a divorce? Consider legal separation

One of the most difficult decisions you might make in your life is whether or not to get a divorce. You might be unhappy in your marriage, but still love your spouse. Financial or parenting reasons might be other factors keeping you from filing for a divorce. Whatever the reason, you and other New Jersey residents might not feel as if a divorce is the best move for now. At the law office of Melinda L. Singer, Esquire, we understand your feelings. You might decide a legal separation is a better option.

According to Forbes, legal separation might offer you numerous benefits while you decide if you want to move on with a divorce. This is also known as a trial separation, especially if you and your spouse are “testing the waters” to see if you are better off without each other. Filing for a legal separation can allow you and your spouse to work out co-parenting schedules and child support without the pressure of rushing for a divorce. During your trial separation, you and your spouse might get marriage counseling to decide if your marriage can be saved. It can also give you some time on your own to work things out emotionally.

Choosing bankruptcy and divorce timing

People in New Jersey who are experiencing serious financial hardship often also experience marital or other relationship troubles at the same time. This is actually quite logical given the stress that can accompany being under a mound of debt. Couples who are considering getting divorced but who may also be thinking about bankruptcy will need to decide which one of these life events they tackle first.

When it comes to thinking about filing for bankruptcy before filing for divorce, The Balance indicates there are some situations in which this may be beneficial for both spouses. People who file a joint bankruptcy will enjoy greater levels of exemptions than people who file single bankruptcies. This may allow them to keep some of their assets that may otherwise be lost in a traditional Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Why do you need alimony?

After you get your divorce, you may be feeling so relieved that this stressful period in your life is over that it can be tempting not to think too much about what happens next, at least regarding legal matters. Finally, you can begin to move on. However, financial difficulties can make it difficult to rebuild your life. You and other New Jersey residents should understand why alimony exists, and how it might help you after your divorce.

Alimony, or spousal support, is a payment ordered by the court to support the spouse who earned less or did not work during the marriage, according to Forbes. If you were like many spouses during the course of your marriage, you might have stayed home to raise children and take care of the house, while your spouse worked. You might have emotionally supported your spouse during his or her college education and building his or her career, giving up your opportunities for a career and high earning potential.

How can I co-parent through the holiday craze?

The holiday season that starts in the month of November and lasts until the beginning of the following year can be some of the most looked-forward to but also some of the most stressful times for residents in New Jersey. If you are the parent of a minor child and you have recently gotten divorced from your child's other parent, you may be expecting this coming holiday season to be one of the hardest for you and for your child.

However, as Psychology Today suggests, there are ways that you and your former spouse can work together to help both your joint child and yourselves navigate this sometimes challenging season with grace despite the changes that will be inherent in the experience. Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is to plan ahead. Make your schedules now for where the kids will be on which day so everyone including extended family can prepare for events.


Melinda L. Singer, Esquire
3 University Plaza
Suite 207
Hackensack, New Jersey 07601

Phone: 201-870-0826
Fax: 201-678-9595
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