Monday, 28 December 2015
6 Ways to Put Divorce Behind You in New Year
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The New Year is a good time to rethink how a recent divorce may still be impacting your daily life. While I respect that your marriage was significant, and ending it was a real lifetime trauma, there is life after divorce. Look around you and see all the happy people, many of whom are divorced, and you wouldn't even know it.

As you contemplate what you want 2016 to mean for you, consider these suggestions for diminishing the role that your divorce will play in your everyday thoughts and activities:

1.Stop talking about your divorce. No one wants to hear about it and it is just not healthy to remain so stuck on something that is done, over, and cannot be changed. Move on. Most of all, do not relive it, play by play, or discuss its implications with your children. They cannot handle it, nor should they be expected to. This includes adult children.

2.Develop at least one new interest. You should have some time now that you did not have before. Think of a sport or hobby that you always wanted to develop but never quite got around to it. Make a commitment to take some initial steps toward doing that. Take some classes, join a relevant group, team up with others who can help make it happen.

3.Love yourself more. Focus on your positive traits rather than perceived shortcomings. Chances are, people who know you do not even see those flaws. Be truly grateful for what you have. Literally make a list, of things for which to be grateful, if you need to and look at it often. Treat yourself to some small luxury, according to your means, once in a while. This is not because you "deserve it," or "earned it," but simply because it is nice to be nice to yourself.

4.Fully assess your financial stability. This is the opportunity to make a fresh new start in many ways. Do so with a strong sense of financial responsibility. Money is the cause of tremendous stress and anxiety, on many levels. Part of your new self-care is to not cause yourself unnecessary harm and pain. Seek the advice of a financial advisor who is familiar with post-divorce issues and can most relate to your situation.

5.Reevaluate your work life. This is a time to start deriving more satisfaction from all that you do, and that includes your work. If it is no longer a source of great satisfaction and pride, then you need to be doing something else. Open your mind to all the interesting things you hear of others doing. You know, those articles that profile the most interesting things you can ever imagine? They are being written for you, so pay attention.

6.Be open to new relationships. Sooner or later, there will be a post-divorce "first date." Give yourself permission to move at your own comfortable pace. Maybe just an impromptu lunch with a colleague or a friend you might like to get to know better. Meeting at a destination, rather than being formally picked-up at your home, may make it more tenable. And easier to get away from if it was a mistake. Like anything else, this may take some practice before you are ready to really "put yourself out there." That's fine. The last thing you want is a rebound doomed for disaster. 

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Posted on 12/28/2015 9:41 AM by Rosemary Frank
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Friday, 4 December 2015
Major Social Security Changes Hit Divorcees Hard
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The biggest Social Security changes in 30 years are in effect immediately and directly impact all divorcing persons.

Social Security rules for claiming benefits, especially spousal benefits, have been dramatically changed by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which was signed November 2, 2015. These changes became effective immediately. Everyone is scrambling to understand them.

This was all done with virtually no advance notice and no public government review or congressional hearings. Explanations have been scarce. The changes will directly impact how both spouses in a divorce negotiate for maintenance or alimony and how they anticipate future income from Social Security benefits.

In the past, ex-spouses were able to anticipate making independent decisions regarding when they would file for Social Security benefits. Being divorced, they each had their own individual qualifications to meet for filing a claim:  age, marital status, benefit entitlements, etc. If an ex-spouse wanted to file a claim based on a worker's benefit, the ex-spouse could do so without consideration of the worker's filing status. That has changed. Under the new rules, a worker must be actively collecting benefits in order for an ex-spouse to be able to collect a spousal benefit based on the worker's benefit.

This is a significant change. Perhaps it is in the worker's best interest to delay benefits until age 70 so as to maximize their own benefit. That means the ex-spouse must also wait until the worker collects benefits. However, there is no monetary benefit to the spouse to wait, since their benefit will not increase beyond the worker's Full Retirement Age (FRA) benefit which may have been at the worker's age 66. The spousal (or ex-spousal) benefit is equal to 50% of the worker's FRA benefit, adjusted for reductions if the ex-spouse is under their own FRA.

Negotiating trade-offs in Social Security claiming strategies just became part of your divorce negotiations. Such trade-offs have associated costs to each party and will need to be compensated with other assets of the marital estate.

As part of the negotiations, the exact birth dates of each party will need to be taken into consideration and their respective FRAs aligned. This is complicated by the tiered levels of FRAs for persons born between the years 1954 and 1960. FRAs are at two month intervals (66 yrs. and 2 mos., 66 yrs. and 4 mos., etc.) up to age 67.

Determining the FRA of each party is the first step, then each must commit to a time for collecting Social Security benefits. Hence, the negotiation. These terms should then be specified in the Marital Dissolution Agreement (MDA). Future enforcement of these terms will be similar to enforcement of all other terms of the MDA.

Another aspect of the new rules are that an ex-spouse is completely at the mercy of the worker spouse regarding the availability of benefits. The worker spouse can actually block the ex-spouse from receiving much needed benefits by simply not collecting benefits themselves. This is not a favorable situation, given the continued animosities that occur between some ex-spouses.

In all instances, discuss these issues with your attorney during your divorce. If they are not familiar with these new rules, find someone who is. Financial Advisers who have a specialty in the finances of divorce will be the most likely professional who can assist you.

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Posted on 12/04/2015 11:24 AM by Rosemary Frank
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