Divorce

Does My Family Lawyer Need to Talk to My Estate Planning Lawyer in a Divorce? 

There is no question that lawyers are not all cut from the same cloth. Some attorneys specialize in family law, while others focus on personal injury cases. The law is complicated and includes multiple different facets. Someone who works primarily on defending accused criminals shouldn’t represent a client trying to file a medical malpractice case. What does this have to do with divorce? Plenty.

At Kessler & Solomiany, LLC, we want your family law matter to be resolved favorably. We strive to provide honest and upfront answers to some of the most common divorce-related questions we encounter in our practice. One of those questions revolves around involving family lawyers with estate lawyers. Here’s what you need to know:

Do My Lawyers Need to Talk to Each Other When I’m Divorcing?

The quick answer is yes, your estate planning attorney and your family law attorney should be in contact with one another for multiple reasons. First, to fairly estimate what you deserve in a divorce settlement, your attorney needs to understand your complete financial standing. To do this, they need access to all your finances and your partner’s. While you may keep meticulous records about your assets and debts, your estate planning attorney will have the information your family law attorney needs about your family’s assets, insurance plans, retirement accounts, and property holdings. This financial information is crucial for helping to estimate potential alimony or child support payments.

Remember, attorneys are nothing if not resourceful. Preventing a family law attorney from talking to an estate planning attorney does not mean you are effectively hiding assets. If you are concerned about your financial situation and how it may be impacted by a divorce, share those concerns with your family law attorney.

Second, a divorce settlement can have an impact on your estate. Your estate planning attorney needs to be kept in the loop by you and your family law attorney. This way, your estate planning attorney can respond to changes in your assets, insurance beneficiaries, and retirement and property holdings. With this vital information at hand, your estate planning attorney can help you transition and create a new plan that meets your future goals.

A divorce may also impact your taxable estate. If your estate planning attorney is in contact with your family law attorney, it can help them prepare a plan for when you no longer have the benefit of certain tax exemptions.

Again, family law is different from estate planning law. You want attorneys experienced in each field to help you manage your situation. With the input of both attorneys, you can better understand and adjust to the changes that a divorce can bring to your financial standing.

Do I Need an Estate Planning Attorney and Family Law Attorney?

It is wise to have a separate attorney addressing your estate and your divorce. Often, an estate planning attorney knows or represents both partners in a marriage. An estate planner can be your best friend in the world, but they may potentially have a bias towards either you or your spouse. Let your family law attorney interact with your estate planning lawyer. During the divorce, you may want to consider talking with a new financial advisor or accountant about your situation. This independent advisor will have no “skin in the game,” so to speak, and can offer you objective financial advice because they don’t know your partner.

After the divorce is finalized, you can consider your estate planning options and decide how you want to address your future needs. You may wish to utilize the experience of your current estate planning attorney, or you may choose to find a new consultant depending on your goals and relationship with your ex-spouse. This is another reason why it may be wise to consider including a third-party accountant or financial advisor on your team. They can help you manage your finances in the interim while you pursue an estate planning path that makes you feel comfortable.

Get in Touch with an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

Have more questions about divorce or how estate planning can impact your separation? Reach out to the experienced Atlanta divorce attorneys of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC today. We’ll take a proactive approach to help you resolve your case. We want to see you and your family achieve a favorable outcome, even when difficult circumstances are at play.

Call our office at (404) 688-8810 to set up a confidential consultation. We offer upfront and honest legal advice about your situation and will aggressively represent you.

 


Five Tips for Winning Your Divorce Case

Facing down a divorce? You are probably wondering where to start and what to do. Read on for the top five most important tips for winning your divorce case.

Don’t Leave the Marital Home

You see it in movies, on TV, and you may even hear about it from friends and family: the first thing that happens after divorce is someone moves out. One of the spouses moves to a friend’s house, or a cheap apartment, or even lives in a hotel for a while. And this makes sense, right? After all, either both or one of the partners have decided to end the relationship — why would you want to be in the same space?

However, while you might be tempted to leave the marital home, you should wait until your divorce is finalized. There is going to be an absolute mountain of material and financial possessions to divide, and if you leave the marital home, you can almost guarantee that the court will argue you have given your spouse ‘de facto possession’ of many of those items. In other words, if you wanted to keep certain valuable items, why did you so quickly leave them behind?

In addition to helping you ‘stake your claim’ on material items, remaining in the marital home can also work in your favor in a child custody case. Staying in the marital home demonstrates your commitment to giving support and reassurance to your child during this difficult time. So, it is critical to stay in the marital home if possible.

Copy Records

While your spouse might not be devious or cunning, divorce typically brings out the worst in people. Your spouse may start spending erratically, hiding sources of income, paying themselves on Zelle or Venmo in an effort to reduce their net worth, or even creating secret bank accounts.

As soon as the conversation of divorce is brought up, start copying records. Keeping detailed notes of your own assets and debts, as well as your spouse’s, will help make the divorce settlement fairer. Pay attention to records that could show evidence of other assets your spouse has. You’ll want to collect tax returns, credit card bills, loan statements, bank statements, and the like.

The Head Over the Heart

The hardest part of the legal aspect of divorce is checking your emotions at the door. Divorce is incredibly painful, but it is critical to think long-term when making legal decisions. You might want revenge, or for your spouse to know how much they hurt you, but those motivations will evaporate with time, and what endures is your finances, your treasured possessions, and most importantly, your kids. Make decisions based on what is best for your future and you’ll feel much better than if you use the divorce as an opportunity to take it out on your spouse.

Assume Anything You Say Will Be Used In Court

Emotions are going to be running high during your divorce. There’s a good chance you’ll say things you don’t mean, or blab to the wrong friend, or maybe lash out at your spouse on social media. It happens, you’re human. However, bear in mind that what you say can and will be used against you. Your spouse’s lawyer will be looking for reasons to give you less than what you deserve and will use any attacks — vocal, via social media, in texts, in voicemails — against you.

Some of the best advice our team will give you as seasoned divorce lawyers is to Zip. The. Lip. Before you say anything to your spouse or about your spouse, think ‘would I want this read by a judge in court?’ If the answer is no, save it. Focus on moving through this divorce quickly, with fairness, and with the focus on your kids. Remember that the goal is to prepare for the new life waiting for you after this difficult time.

Hire a Winning Team

The most critical thing to do when getting a divorce is to hire an experienced team of lawyers that you trust. The team at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC has helped hundreds of people in your community. Our attorneys will keep you organized, help you build a winning strategy, and make sure you stay focused on the future.

In addition to your attorney, look into hiring a financial planner. Your financial life is going to look radically different after your divorce, and a financial planner can help you set yourself and your kids up for long-term success.

Finally, as previously mentioned, you’re about to experience one of the most trying periods of your life — it would serve you and your family well to hire a therapist. A therapist can help you process complex emotions, and make your and your kids’ journey through this separation much smoother.

Call Us Today

If you are getting a divorce, call the Atlanta divorce lawyers of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC at (404) 688-8810 today. We are here to walk you through every step of the process and will help launch you into this next phase of your life.


How are IRAs Divided in Divorce?

Splitting up financial assets is usually one of the most complex parts of any divorce. Even when both parties are still communicating effectively, such as in an uncontested or collaborative divorce, deciding who gets what can be a contentious affair, especially with long-term assets such as retirement accounts.

There are many steps a couple must take in a divorce to ensure these assets are divided equitably and legally. Read on to find out more.

What Is an IRA?

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a financial tool used for long-term savings which offers several tax advantages over traditional savings accounts. They are provided by several banking institutions, investment companies, individual brokers, and credit unions. The money deposited into an IRA can typically only be accessed after the age of 59½ and is either untaxed or taxed at a lower rate, depending on the type of account. IRAs are similar to 401(k) accounts, except 401(k)s are only provided through employers.

There are several different IRAs, such as Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs. Each has different requirements and is geared toward either individuals or businesses. For example, businesses and self-employed individuals can use SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, while traditional and Roth IRAs are meant for individuals who are not business entities.

The money deposited into an IRA is meant to stay long-term and cannot be removed or transferred to other accounts without paying taxes and fees. Contributions to IRAs are limited to a certain amount each year, and the tax penalty for withdrawals varies based on the type of IRA. For example, a traditional IRA usually has a contribution limit of $6,000 per year, and any withdrawals taken before the age of 59½ would incur a tax penalty equal to your standard income tax rate.

The good news is that for most individuals, traditional IRA contributions are tax-deductible.

Are IRAs Considered Marital Property?

The answer to this question depends on when the IRA was established and who contributed to it during the marriage.

Suppose the IRA was started by one party before the marriage, and only one party contributed to it throughout the relationship. In that case, it may be considered separate property, but in most cases, IRAs are regarded as marital property. This holds true regardless of whose name is on the IRA.

An exception would be an inherited IRA that is kept separate from any joint accounts. In that case, the IRA would be separate property.

How Are IRAs Divided in Divorce?

In Georgia, the process usually begins with the final divorce decree. This official legal document formally outlines how all marital assets and rights will be divided between the parties, including retirement assets like 401(k)s and IRAs. If an IRA is to be divided, the party receiving funds must have an IRA established in their own name. IRAs can only have one name per account.

The divorce decree is sent to the custodian of the IRA, which is the bank, brokerage, or credit union that manages the retirement account, with instructions to transfer funds from one IRA to another. Depending on the circumstances, one party may be required to open a new IRA under their name with the current custodian before transferring funds.

What Are the Tax Penalties of Dividing an IRA?

As long as the transfer of IRA funds is a direct owner-to-owner transaction, no tax penalties should be incurred. If funds are withdrawn from an IRA to give to one of the parties as a part of the separation, then the tax penalty would be the recipient’s responsibility.

How a Georgia Family Law Attorney Can Help

Hiring a lawyer to help with your divorce is essential to help protect your rights and ensure an equitable division of marital assets.

Your lawyer will take an objective viewpoint and look at the facts without bias. We will take the emotional aspects of divorce out of the equation and use our skills and experience with divorce proceedings in Georgia to get you the positive outcome you need to move on with your life.

An attorney can make the entire divorce process easier for all parties and may decrease the time it takes to finalize the separation. We can explain procedures, help gather documentation, and provide the support you need during this challenging time.

Call Kessler & Solomiany, LLC Today

If you need help with the division of assets, child support, alimony, or mediation, contact the attorneys at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC. We have the experience and skills to get the outcome you need. Call us today at (404) 688-8810 for a confidential consultation, and let us help you get through your divorce in the best way possible. Call Kessler & Solomiany, LLC today.


How are 401(k)s Divided in Divorce?

Nothing about divorce is easy, least of all dividing up financial assets. A 401(k) is a long-term investment that takes years and years to build up. The thought of losing that money is enough to create considerable stress in even the most amicable of divorces.

The best way to navigate the financial un-entanglement is with an experienced attorney. The lawyers of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC have years of experience helping folks in the Atlanta community through their divorces, and we’re prepared to help you, too.

What Is a 401(k)?

A 401(k) is a retirement savings investment plan that is offered by most American companies. In companies where this benefit is offered, employees can designate a percentage of their paycheck to be directly contributed to their 401(k) plan. Most companies will offer to ‘match’ their employees’ contribution up to a certain value, or sometimes for the full amount of their employees’ contribution.

There are limits set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the amount employees may contribute to their 401(k) every year. As of 2020-2021, the maximum amount an employee under 50 can contribute is $19,500 per year. Employees over 50 can contribute up to $26,000 per year. Importantly, these values do not include employer contributions. With employer contributions, employees under 50 can contribute up to a total of $58,000 per year, and employees over 50 can contribute up to $64,500 per year.

Traditional 401(k)s Versus Roth 401(k)s

While most employers offer traditional 401(k)s, Roth 401(k)s are a bit less common. Traditional 401(k) employee contributions are pre-tax. That means that the money is taken from an employee’s gross paycheck — the paycheck value before it is taxed. No tax is paid on the 401(k) until it is withdrawn. Upon withdrawal, both the contributions and the gains will be taxed.

Employees must be at least 59.5 years old or meet other requirements designated by the IRS if they wish to withdraw from their 401(k) account. Hardship withdrawals can be made to cover medical or burial expenses or to keep your home from being foreclosed upon. If an employee wants to withdraw from their traditional 401(k) account before they meet said hardship requirements, they pay a 10% early distribution penalty in addition to taxes on the contribution and earnings they owe.

On the other hand, Roth IRA contributions are taken out of an employee’s after-tax income. Unlike with a traditional 401(k), an employee with a Roth 401(k) does not have to pay any taxes on their contributions or earnings upon withdrawal, as long as they fulfill the requirements set out by the IRS. Those requirements include having the Roth account open at least five years and that the distribution is made after you’re 59.5 years old or because you’re disabled.

Are 401(k)s Considered Marital Property?

As you can plainly see, that money adds up. Most everyone would want to hang onto their hard-earned retirement funds in the case of divorce. Importantly, no money contributed to a 401(k) before marriage is marital property — that value is still individual property and will be yours upon divorce.  However, all money contributed to a 401(k) during the course of a marriage is considered marital property. That means it is subject to division according to Georgia law. And Georgia, like most states, divides marital property 50/50. This means that the money accruing interest and waiting in your 401(k) plan will be split down the middle, and half will be given to your ex-partner. The only exception to this rule is if a valid prenuptial agreement was drawn up that addresses the division of retirement account assets.

When the money residing in the 401(k) is divided, a QDRO is drawn up. A QDRO or Qualified Domestic Relations Order is a court order that reassigns a portion of the retirement funds to the former spouse. This is how the funds are legally transferred and how a record is made of the split in the divorce proceedings.

How Kessler & Solomiany, LLC Can Help

Divorce is complicated. On top of the emotional stress, you are going to be wading through paperwork, dividing furniture, boxing up clothes, and filling your days with appointments. Hiring a lawyer can take the pressure off you.

You can trust the experienced attorneys of Kessler & Solomiany, LLC. We have years of experience helping folks just like you through their divorces. We are here to help you answer even the most complex questions concerning your assets and get you on to the next step in your life. Give us a call today at (404) 688-8810.


Randy Kessler Notes Divorces Ramp Up

The article by Atlanta Jewish Times posted on March 29, 2020 features Attorney Randy Kessler as he discusses how the pandemic is affecting marriage and divorce.

Click here to read the article.


What happens with lottery winnings if a couple divorces?

Attorney Randall Kessler was interviewed by WSB-TV news about how lottery winnings can affect divorce procedures.

He touches on a different situations that can arise when a couple wins the lottery, including what happens when one spouse hides their winnings from the other.

To see the video, click here.


5 Tips To Help You Through Your Divorce

By Randall M. Kessler

Tip 1. Help your lawyer help you.

Lawyers do not “know it all” and they certainly do not know you or your spouse. In fact, you probably know your spouse as well as anyone. So give your lawyer suggestions as to how to get through to your spouse. Does your spouse like to feel in charge? Does he or she love to win? If so, tell your lawyer so you can perhaps settle the case by “letting your spouse feel in charge or like they won”.

Tip 2. Make sure your lawyer has all the facts.

Write out as detailed a history of your marriage as you can. Your lawyer may not remember it all, but it will be very valuable for your lawyer to be able to review it just before a big event like mediation, deposition or trial. 

Tip 3. Keep your divorce a priority.

If your lawyer needs you, be available. Not being available to discuss your case, or to mediate or to meet with an expert witness (accountant, psychologist) will send a message to your lawyer and maybe others, including evaluators like a Guardian for the child, or even a judge, that you are too good for the case or too busy. That’s a bad impression to give.

Tip 4. Spite will hurt, not help.

Resist the urge to be spiteful and to win every little battle. Yes divorce is painful, but do your best to focus on the big picture. What is your top priority? Keep mindful of it. If it is ending the marriage quickly, then be sure to remember that while you forego money you might otherwise be entitled to. And resist the urge to “rub it in” if you get a good result in court or by agreement. That goes back to part of tip number one, letting your spouse feel like they won.

Tip 5. Get regular “check-ups”

By scheduling regular meetings with your lawyer (monthly?) you will force your lawyer to pay more attention to your case. While most lawyers will keep your case on track, when you set an appointment with them, they will focus more on your case to be able to give you direction and to discuss strategy. Face to face is almost always best so that each of you can gauge facial expressions, and the meeting takes on more importance.

And finally, a bonus tip

Bonus TipRead up

Top Tip: Read books, magazines, blogs, FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on your lawyer’s site and on others and anything else that helps you prepare. Who knows, you may come up with a good idea your lawyer hasn’t thought of (mediation, late case evaluation, arbitration, special master, bifurcated trial, etc.). I’m not embarrassed to say that clients have made good suggestions to me for their own cases. It should be a joint effort.


How to discuss divorce with your young child?

Such a discussion is unfortunate, but in today’s world, much more common than perhaps it should be. Nonetheless, circumstances often beyond our control (although some would argue that whether or not to divorce is within our control), require such a conversation, which must be handled with a great amount of tact and thoughtfulness. Such a discussion with a young child about the fact that his or her parents will no longer be living together is truly sad, but also an opportunity to set the tone for the child’s future relationship with both parents and extended family. So how and what do we do? Therapeutic help and guidance can be invaluable. And while not therapists, divorce lawyers see these problems over and over and based on that, I offer my opinion, as a minor but hopefully useful contribution to the planning for such a talk.

As lawyers we are taught to simplify things. We must simplify complex legal statutes to make them easier for our clients to understand. We must also often simplify complex financial situations so that judges can understand what the marital estate is comprised of, so that they may divide it fairly. We must simplify our legal documents so that the legal arguments can be easily and quickly digested. They are referred to as “briefs” after all. But how do we help our clients explain divorce to a 3 year old? That is something parents must deal with and must get right, to help their children. Whether it is explaining divorce to a 3 year old, a 6 year old, or a teenager, it is never easy, especially when it’s your own divorce. And while I think I have some good suggestions, truly it is beneficial to work with a therapist you trust to help guide you through that most difficult, but most important discussion.

If you must discuss divorce with a teenager, at least they already know the concept. But to explain the concept of divorce to a child who does not yet, or has just begun to understand the concept of marriage, can be overwhelming. There are many good books (e.g. “When Dinosaurs Divorce”). But there are so many questions. As a non-therapist, but simply someone who has seen more than my share of divorce in my practice, my best suggestion is that there be a united front. Children want their parents to love each other and to get along. And at the very moment that a child must learn that parents cannot get along well enough to stay married, it might soften the blow for them to see that they can at least get along when it comes to their children. Unfortunately I see much too much of the opposite behavior. Parents trying to “beat the other to the punch”. To tell the child their side of the story.

Children want their parents to love them (and to love each other). And if parents disparage the other parent to or in front of a child, doesn’t that encourage the child to do the same (disparage the other parent) so that they can ensure the love of the criticizing parent? And isn’t that wrong? Remember, the child is the sum of the two parents, so anything negative said about the other parent is in essence a complaint about a part of the child.

So as hard as it may seem, take a joint approach. Remind your child repeatedly how much you both love him or her. And as hard as it may be, compliment the other parent, in front of, and to the child. It may be hard, but certainly you can do it. Think about your own parents. How nice it was (or would have been) for you your own parents to be sweet to each other. To talk respectfully and positively about the other. Aren’t those the memories you want your child to have? Explain it together, politely and with as much love as you have ever expressed. You can do it. Your children deserve it and you have the capability.


Everything you wanted to know

When to file for divorce is a question only you can answer (except, unfortunately, if your spouse has filed or files first, then you will be thrust into a divorce, even if you aren’t or weren’t ready for it).  A good lawyer or friend or therapist will not tell you that you must file.  All they can do is to tell you what they advise or what they think may happen if and when you file.  And no one ever knows for certain what will happen.  So what should you do? Be prepared. Read, learn and consult.  Read everything you can about the process and consult with whoever you can, but do your best to find those respected in their professions.  I recently wrote a short piece on this which you can find at:

divorce is never easy.  Though some cases are shorter and simpler than others, they always involve emotions across the spectrum and it may be hard to think rationally when going through the process. So learn as much as you can, think about the consequences of acting hastily, and then, after you have consulted and read and learned, be sure to make the decisions you are comfortable with.  It is your life and you will live with the results, so think things through, get as much advice as you can, and perhaps do your best to try, if at all possible, to act rationally, not emotionally, even though the emotions can be overwhelming.


Divorce: Protect Yourself

(Copy of my newest “Influencer” blog for LinkedIn)

Divorce:Protect Yourself Book Cover

I am so excited/relieved to announce that the book I started writing over fifteen years ago is done. We just received the first copies this month and I am really filled with all sorts of feelings seeing a book with my name as the author. I started this project to help people considering or going through a divorce. It is basically an overview of what I want my potential clients and others about to go through a divorce to know. Certainly it cannot encompass everything and each situation is different. But I wanted people to have hope, to understand the process and to understand that there actually is a process. There are answers to the questions they have and that they will have.

So many people helped me along the way (most are listed in the Acknowledgements), but really, my clients have taught me. I have learned from them how to endure hardship, how to react to the unimaginable. How to be patient when you want to scream in righteous anger. And I wanted to give back by writing a book. “Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future” (available at https://divorceprotectyourself.com/) is that book. It is a general overview of the divorce process. It is NOT legal advice and anyone going through a divorce should hire their own lawyer and rely on that lawyer’s advice. The book can be a supplement, a starting point, but of course a lawyer in the jurisdiction where you live is who should be advising.
The week after the book was printed I appeared on the Today Show (http://youtu.be/um_kH0e_Zrw) to discuss how words can affect divorce and it has been selling quickly ever since on Amazon, Kindle and directly from the book’s website https://divorceprotectyourself.com/.

I am so grateful to those who helped me get it done, and again, to all of the good people who have hired me and my firm over the years. This is for you. I wish you happiness and a future that is all you desire.