Divorce attorney

An experienced divorce attorney can protect your rights every step of the way. From alimony to child custody, get informed about the divorce process from the NJ & NY lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman.

What the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Has to Do with Divorce

Stressed man listening psychologist's analysis. Male patient lying on sofa during psychotherapy session.

NY & NJ divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner at the NY & NJ law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. Mr. Goldhamer was named by the prestigious Superlawyers.com as a “Super Lawyer” in 2014 for his work in matrimonial and estate law. Paul keeps busy with teaching, lecturing, charity work and as a guest on a wide range of media outlets.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-5,  is a published book describing mental disorders. It has been used as the “bible” for recognizing mental disorders. But it has been subject to severe criticism in the last 25 years, sometimes for excluding disorders and sometimes for including what may be in the normal range of human conduct. “Normal” cuts a wide swath.

Published first in 1953, it has gone through 8 reiterations, starting from a small pamphlet and growing to a 1000 page tome. Some diseases do not make it into the book and some work their way in over the years.

Big pharmaceutical  companies sell drugs that are cures to diagnosed illnesses. Insurance reimbursement is often contingent on conditions having a recognized diagnosis. Many psychological professionals disagree on the value of some of the diagnoses. The DSM always rears its head in custody cases. Let’s face it…no 2 adults parent the same way and often one parent objects to the other’s parenting style. Sometimes the objector is too rigid and imagines issues. Sometimes, a parent’s conduct is actually unsafe.

We at KGG help parents work out custody arrangements. Sometimes we must fight in court for our clients with skills acquired over 4½ decades.

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What Not to Do During Your Divorce

Woman divorcing and taking off wedding band

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale ranks the stress of divorce second only to the death of a spouse or child. Divorce stresses people out more than imprisonment, death of another family member, personal injury or illness, or losing employment.

High levels of cortisol stress hormone can alter the brain’s ability to function properly, including:

  • Disrupting synapse regulation
  • Causing a decline in sociability
  • Killing brain cells
  • Making it harder to make decisions
  • Shrinking the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning
  • Increasing the size of the amygdala, which can make the brain more sensitive to stress
  • Putting you in constant fight-or-flight mode

So, the best step you can take is to assemble a team of trusted counselors who can help you navigate this troubled time. A New Jersey or New York divorce attorney at KGG Law brings decades of experience in divorce law. Here we discuss common mistakes people make during divorce proceedings that can spell financial ruin and lasting regret.

Failing to Adjust Your Lifestyle and Mind Your Finances

Once the divorce seed has been planted, you will need to immediately set money aside for all the expenses that will arise and for the change of lifestyle you may encounter. If you’re used to living in a $200,000-a-year household, you will not be able to maintain the same standard of living on a $100,000-a-year salary. Downgrade your expenses, wherever possible, and prepare for the inevitable. The average divorce costs between $15,000 and $20,000.

Don’t think you can hide money in a new bank account, “gift” thousands of dollars to your best friend, or sell off your assets quickly and pocket the cash. A lot of times, nefarious activities can be traced back, and it leaves a bad taste in the judge’s mouth.

Instead, make copies of all your financial records – bank and investment statements, tax returns, property deeds, insurance policies, vehicle titles, wills, and trusts. Don’t rely on electronic copies, as a vindictive ex could block your access. Keep these copies in a secure, private location. Hire a trusted financial advisor you connect with – one who can explain the situation in a way you understand.

Reacting Dramatically, Erratically, and Impulsively

While experiencing a flood of emotions may be inevitable, how you react is under your control. You may feel blamed, shamed, or manipulated, and crave revenge to regain the power you feel you have lost. Fear causes some people to spread salacious rumors about an ex. They send angry emails, leave hate-filled voicemail messages, and dish their personal business all over social media. They scream, cry, and fight in front of the kids. Some people medicate with drugs and alcohol, or flee to the arms of a lover. All these hasty actions could result in big losses. As one financial planner put it: “If you go to war, you’re basically giving away your money.”

The best you can do in this situation is nothing. Recognize that anger and sadness are natural parts of the grief cycle – and, in due time, they will subside, as acceptance moves in. Instead of projecting outward, turn inward. Journal and seek counseling from an experienced divorce therapist to help you keep an even keel and take reasonable action toward healing. If you have children, focus on taking care of them during the process.

There is no amount of “talking it out” that will resolve the heartache at this point. It’s over. Now you must look at the relationship as a business deal. Divorce court cares little about photo-documented evidence of infidelity or “he said / she said” accounts of the events leading up to divorce. The judge is going to care about the financial statements above all else. The stress of divorce makes it difficult for the smartest people to make good decisions, which is why working with a team of advisors is so crucial. 

Trying to Represent Yourself in Divorce Court

You may be able to represent yourself in small claims court, but it is not recommended that you attempt to proceed through divorce without legal representation. Even if the divorce seems amicable enough, as if you agree on all fronts, unexpected twists and turns often arise. Pro se litigation is much more time-consuming and often more expensive.

Instead, hire an experienced divorce or family law attorney, rather than relying on a friend who happens to be a lawyer or calling a “Jack of All Trades” firm you saw online. Divorce law is complex and varies from state to state. The process can last months or even years, so finding a lawyer you feel comfortable with is key. The best divorce lawyer is someone who:

  • Gives you the confidence to speak candidly
  • Listens to what you say
  • Assuages your fears about the divorce process
  • Answers your questions
  • Outlines the costs in a transparent manner

The attorney you seek will provide an informed, honest opinion of what you can expect in divorce proceedings. You will receive assistance filing paperwork, assembling documents, and dividing assets in an equitable way. If you’re still on the fence about the divorce, a marriage counselor may be a better bet.

Looking for more direct help with a divorce in Bergen County, NJ or Rockland County, NY? Contact KGG Law.

Additional resources:

  1. https://goodmenproject.com/divorce/9-things-you-should-never-do-during-divorce-cmtt/
  2. https://www.mydomaine.com/things-you-should-never-do-before-during-and-after-divorce-1102731
  3. https://www.divorcemag.com/monthly-newsletter/one-thing-not-to-do-during-divorce/
  4. https://www.businessinsider.com/things-you-should-never-do-if-youre-about-to-get-divorced-2017-2
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Can Alimony Payments Be Terminated When You Retire?

NY and NJ divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, with office locations in Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland County, New York.  Among many other awards and citations Mr. Goldhamer has accrued over the years, Superlawyers.com honored Paul with its prestigious “Super Lawyer” designation in 2014. When not practicing law, Mr. Goldhamer keeps busy with speaking engagements, media outreach and charitable services.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

RETIREMENT: Do you wonder if your support obligations can cease upon retirement?

Another good job by KGG:

“The motion judge considered that defendant was seventy-five. He also considered defendant’s health, and noted he had cardiac problems, a pacemaker, was hospitalized for cardiac arrhythmia, and required thirteen different medications. Plaintiff did not rebut this evidence. In her certifications, plaintiff provided the judge a description of her recurring health conditions. She stated she had a “decreased level of energy which accompanies the age of [seventy,]” suffered from arthritis for the past forty-five years, had been hard of hearing since the age of five, and suffered from depression since her forties. Plaintiff also certified she had other long lasting issues, including sleep apnea, diabetes, a thyroid-condition, and memory loss….The decision to terminate alimony on the basis of defendant’s retirement was supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. The motion judge’s application of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(j)(3) was not an abuse of discretion….Affirmed.”

Frangipani v. Frangipani, New Jersey App. Div., February 19, 2019

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How Will Divorce Impact My Social Security Benefits?

Social security benefitsSocial Security can be an important benefit for older people because it supplies income once one has retired. In general, people become eligible at the age of 62, although benefits taken then are lower than they will be at full retirement age (FRA). FRA is reached between 65 and 67, depending on the year of their birth. (For people born between 1943 and 1954, for example, the FRA is 66.) The Social Security benefit amount rises roughly 8% per year if you work and contribute longer, up to the age of 70. There is no increase past the age of 70.

Will a divorce impact your Social Security benefits? Yes, there are multiple impacts, depending on your situation. Length of the marriage, whether you have worked, how much you made vis-à-vis your spouse, and remarriage are all factors that can affect your benefits.

If Your Spouse Is Eligible for a Higher Benefit

In general, the higher-earning spouse is eligible for a higher benefit, as Social Security benefits are on a sliding scale based on one’s earnings.

If you are divorced, you may be able to collect Social Security benefits based on the work record of a higher-earning spouse, provided that you 1) are not currently married; 2) were married to the spouse for a minimum of 10 years; 3) both of you are at least 62 years old; 4) they are eligible for Social Security; and 5) you have been divorced for a minimum of two years.

The spouse doesn’t have to have taken Social Security for you to be eligible. If your spouse has remarried, there is no effect on your Social Security benefit rights, or that of the spouse and their new spouse.

Bear in mind that you may receive only half of your divorced spouse’s Social Security benefit if you take benefits before your FRA.

If You Are Eligible for a Higher Benefit

If you are eligible for a higher benefit, you will receive your own Social Security benefit rather than your spouse’s. No one can receive both their own Social Security benefit payments and that of a spouse. You will automatically receive the higher of the benefits.

If You Remarry

If you have remarried since you divorced, you are not eligible for a divorced spouse’s benefit unless your remarriage ends as well. If it does, and both marriages lasted over a decade, you will can receive the larger of the two ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit.

If Your Divorced Spouse Dies

If your divorced spouse dies, you are eligible for survivor benefits as long as your marriage lasted 10 years. If it did not, you are not eligible for survivor benefits.

Survivor benefits are equal to what your ex-spouse would have received had they lived.

If you marry again before the age of 60, you will lose your eligibility unless that marriage ends. Remarriage after you’re 60 has no effect on survivor benefits.

If You Need a Divorce Attorney in New York or New Jersey

Because all these factors are complex and variable, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer to make sure you know what Social Security benefits you are entitled to.

At Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, divorce lawyers have been helping clients in New York and New Jersey for over four decades. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Additional Resources:

  1. Miller, Jim T. How Divorce Can Affect Your Social Security. Huffington Post. January 23, 2014. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-t-miller/how-divorce-can-affect-yo_b_4251411.html.
  2. Thornton, Russ. How Divorced Women Can Get More From Social Security. Wealthcare for Women. December 4, 2012. https://wealthcareforwomen.com/divorced-women-social-security/.
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New Year Brings New Alimony Tax Rules

alimony divorce

The new year ushered in big changes in the federal tax law – one that now impact alimony payments. While the change directly affects how alimony is treated, it is expected to indirectly influence the way other settlement and divorce divisions are implemented as well.

Tax burden shifts under new tax law

Historically, the party paying alimony (the higher-earning spouse, who is the man in 97% of divorces) was permitted to deduct the payments for federal income tax purposes. The recipient then received the payments as taxable income. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reversed this, with the payer of the alimony bearing the tax burden and the recipient receiving the payments tax-free.

It is important to note that this change is not retroactive; it only applies to divorce agreements finalized or modified in 2019 or later. The old tax rules still apply to divorce and settlement agreements that were finalized by the end of December 2018. If former spouses who divorced before 2019 wish to proceed under the new tax structure, they may do so if they both agree and enter into a modification agreement.

Widespread effects of alimony tax change

The former tax structure of alimony payments has traditionally played a major role in divorce settlement negotiations. Because the payer received the tax deduction, it typically made it advantageous to both exes for the alimony payments to be higher.

By shifting the tax burden to the paying spouse, on the surface the change may appear to primarily benefit the lower-income spouse (who is more often the woman). However, the shift makes the payment more costly to the payer, and conceivably will lead to lower negotiated alimony payments to the recipient.

Knowing about the tax change in advance, there are other financial planning options that divorcing couples can take to compensate for the effects. For example, changing the way property is treated in the settlement agreement may reduce the impact of the alimony tax. For some couples, the child tax credit may also provide some relief. However, it is hazardous to become creative in your settlement terms without the help of a knowledgeable lawyer; to be treated as alimony, payments must meet certain requirements or they could be characterized as child support or something else.

NY and NJ court response remains to be seen

Many former couples come to an agreement on settlement terms, which are then formally entered by a court. When the couple cannot agree, they may head to litigation and leave it to judges, magistrates, and mediators to hash out. There is no indication yet of whether jurists will factor in the tax changes in issuing spousal support decrees. Having a well-prepared and experienced attorney is the best way to minimize the uncertainty.

Law changes can always cause a period of uncertainty in divorce proceedings. If you are anticipating a divorce in Bergen County, New Jersey, or in Rockland County, New York, trust an experienced divorce lawyer from Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, an established firm that has successfully navigated many changes over the past 40 years. Call today to schedule a confidential consultation.

Additional Resources:

  1. MarketWatch, New tax law eliminates alimony deductions – but not for everyone, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-tax-law-eliminates-alimony-deductions-but-not-for-everybody-2018-01-23
  2. CNBC, How to manage your divorce as new alimony tax rules go into effect, https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/18/this-checklist-can-help-you-manage-your-divorce-after-new-alimony-tax-rules-go-into-effect.html
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4 Lessons for Dating After Divorce

Woman divorcing and taking off wedding band

After the emotional roller coaster of a divorce, settling into a new normal can come as a relief. Starting to date again may be a key step that helps you move forward. However, there are plenty of things you can do when you start dating after divorce that can torpedo the experience. Here are some hard-learned lessons from others who have been through re-entering the singles scene.

Learn how to flirt again

We fall into communication habits with people we spend a lot of time with. For someone who has been married for a length of time, the flirtation muscles may not have been exercised in years. Practice them in everyday, nonthreatening places like in line at the bank or waiting for library checkout.

Be yourself, whether that means cracking a joke to the next person in line or offering him or her a compliment. When it comes to flirting, non-verbal cues are key. Smile, but not desperately. Stand close, but not too close. It may take a few practice rounds but flirting will become natural again.

Do not trash your ex

It is natural to feel self-conscious about a former marriage, and this can lead to over-compensating in order to let a prospective mate know that you were not the bad guy. But saying negative things about your ex can have the opposite effect. Not only can it signal an unattractive and unhealthy preoccupation with the past, it can lead your date to wonder whether you can focus on the current relationship rather than dwell on the past.

Wait until the divorce is final

Jumping into a new relationship might sound like a great way to take your mind off your divorce, but not waiting until the divorce is final can create problems. It can lead to questions about the timing of the relationship and suspicions of adultery. It can even lead to your new mate being called as a witness. Best to be patient and avoid these issues.

Take it slow if you have children

Professionals agree that it can be unfair to children to introduce them to a boyfriend or girlfriend before things are serious. While getting a taste of just how many fish there are in the sea can seem like a great way to get over your ex, viewing a parent with a parade of love interests is often confusing for children and leads to hurt feelings when relationships end. Take your children’s feelings into account and consider not introducing a date until you have a sense that this one could be a long-term fixture in the family.

Get expert guidance through your NY or NJ divorce

Going through a divorce can be physically and emotionally draining. Put your trust in an experienced divorce lawyer who has been through the process many times. The Bergen County, NJ divorce lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman are here to help you understand the divorce process, from state filing requirements to division of assets to child custody issues. Call today to schedule a consultation.

Additional resources for dating after a divorce:

  1. Divorce Magazine, 3 Reasons to Wait for Your Divorce to Be Finalized Before Dating, https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/reasons-to-wait-for-your-divorce-to-be-finalized-before-dating/
  2. Metro Parent, 9 Rules for Parents Interested in Dating After Divorce, https://www.metroparent.com/daily/parenting/divorce-family-law/dating-kids/
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What Questions Should I Ask a Divorce Attorney?

A divorce can be a long road; you and your attorney will be working together for the length of the proceeding, anywhere from six weeks to a year, and possibly after that if the order needs enforcement action.

Having a good rapport with your attorney ensures you will communicate effectively, easing the process and helping to ensure you are working toward the same goal. Here are some things to ask a prospective divorce attorney to see if he or she is a good fit for you.

Relevant experience

Not all legal experience is of the same value. Not all lawyers practice family law, and those who do may not all handle divorces. Even among divorce lawyers, some may have experience with specific issues or types of clients and their related needs. For example, you may prefer a lawyer who has handled many divorces involving members of the military, hospital employees, or other situations that involves special types of retirement benefits. Consider asking:

  • How long have you been practicing family law?
  • How much of your practice is dedicated to divorce?
  • How many cases like mine have you handled?
  • How many of your cases have you taken to trial?

Strategic approach

It is important know that you and your attorney see eye-to-eye on the plan for your case. While your attorney may have to tell you things you do not like to hear, make sure you have compatible visions for the case.

  • What is your plan to accomplish my goals?
  • Are there preemptive actions I should take before filing?
  • If I have a choice in jurisdiction, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Would a collaborative or other non-traditional approach be beneficial?

Costs involved

Cost can play a significant role in some of the choices you make. Your overall satisfaction with the process will be much greater if you ask detailed questions to gain a clear understanding of the costs involved from the very start. It is usually not possible to give a definite answer at the start of a case, but these kinds of questions should give you an idea of what the divorce will cost you.

  • What are your retainer cost and hourly billing rates?
  • What other fees will be involved?
  • What is the total cost you anticipate?
  • Do you offer alternative or flexible payment options?

Hands-on representation

The big-picture questions are important but it is the daily handling of your case that will give you some sense of control over the situation. Try to gain an understanding of how responsive the attorney will be to your needs.

  • Who will be available to answer my calls?
  • Who in your office will work on my case?
  • How quickly will you return phone calls?

Divorce lawyers serving New York and New Jersey

If you are contemplating a divorce, call the dedicated NY and NJ divorce lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. With offices in Rockland County, NY, and Bergen County, NJ, we have helped clients all over New York and New Jersey for the past 40 years.

Call (888) 624-4916 today to schedule a confidential consultation.

 Additional Resources:

  1. NY Courts, Divorce Basics, https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/family/divorceBasics.shtml
  2. org, Divorce: New Jersey, http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id=187&state_code=NJ
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How to Let Your Spouse Know You Are Filing for Divorce

Woman divorcing and taking off wedding bandIf you are thinking about filing for divorce, it’s important to know how to let your spouse know it. In some couples, the idea of divorce may be in one partner’s mind, but far from the other’s. In others, there may be dissatisfaction or even counseling and separation, but not an agreement on divorce.

There are two aspects to letting your spouse know: the emotional and the legal.

Emotional Aspects

You need to let your spouse know respectfully that you are filing for divorce. First, you need to choose a place and time when you will have some time to discuss your plans. It needs to be a place where you can talk privately and without interruption, especially by phones, other adults, or your children.

Second, plan what you will say. You will to make it clear that you are moving ahead with divorce. Never equivocate. The break has to be clearly stated, or arguments can ensue, especially if your spouse doesn’t want to divorce or is highly anxious or agitated about the prospect.

Third, never blame your spouse during the discussion. That only lays the groundwork for recrimination later on. You must separate for the happiness of both should be your message.

Fourth, if possible, emphasize your desire to reach a fair settlement in terms of spousal support and children. 

Can I File for Divorce Without Notifying My Spouse?

Note that the initial discussion is just for information between you and a spouse. It has no legal standing.

For divorce proceedings to begin, you will need to visit an attorney specializing in divorce or family law.

Sometimes, we are asked if a divorce filing can be done without notifying a spouse. While it is possible to begin the proceedings without notification, a spouse must eventually be served court papers, called a divorce petition or summons, that indicate a divorce action is pending in court.

These papers must be filed in the appropriate court, and are then served to the spouse.

There are several ways to serve these papers, including via mail, a process server, or hand delivery by a person neither yourself nor one of your children. Your lawyer can advise you as to the customary method.

One of the points of serving the papers is so the spouse can respond if the divorce is to be contested.

If You Need a Divorce Lawyer in New York or New Jersey

If you need a Rockland County divorce lawyer, Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have been helping clients with divorce and related processes in New York and New Jersey for more than 40 years.

If talks with your spouse are not viable, we can negotiate and fight for your rights via litigation.

We are here to guide you through a range of issues, such as child custody, visitation rights, child support, alimony and spousal support, division of marital assets, modification after divorce, parental relocation, and conservatorships.

Additional Resources:

  1. Dillon, Cheryl. “How To Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce.” Equitable Mediation. https://www.equitablemediation.com/blog/how-to-ask-your-spouse-for-a-divorce.
  2. Margulies, Sam. “Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce.” Psychology Today. November 12, 2009. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/divorce-grownups/200911/telling-your-spouse-you-want-divorce.
  3. Women’sDivorce.com. How To Serve Divorce Papers. https://www.womansdivorce.com/how-to-serve-divorce-papers.html.
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Why You Should Consider Postponing Your Divorce

Bergen County divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner at the NY & NJ law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. Mr. Goldhamer was selected by the prestigious Superlawyers.com as a “Super Lawyer” in 2014 for his work in matrimonial law and estate law. Mr. Goldhamer also keeps busy with teaching, lecturing, charity work and as a guest on various media outlets.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

The new Tax Law, Divorce & Business Valuations:

There are reasons to delay a dissolution. Tax-driven divorce issues require caution. One is how private businesses should be valued. This has always been an important component of divorce settlements.

But the new tax law increases the cash flow of certain pass-through entities — businesses where the taxes on the earnings are paid by the owner, not the company — in a way that may raise their value. With increased cash flow and reduced taxes, a business could have a substantial increase in value. The Forensic Accountants will have to examine the result. A family owned business is almost always the most contested asset in a divorce.

It affects many issues: child support, alimony & sometimes Equitable Distribution. You must get the valuation done correctly. Higher cash flow from the change in the tax law this year will not be known until the business owner files a tax return next year. The difference can be big or small. A good accountant can run the numbers both ways.  But, not knowing that exact valuation throws more uncertainty into the negotiations. So for couples going through a divorce now, and expecting a big increase in the value of their business next year, it might be better to postpone.

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Why Prenuptial Agreements Drafted Prior to 2019 Are in Jeopardy

New York & New Jersey divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a co-founding partner at the law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. When not practicing matrimonial and estate law in NY & NJ, Mr. Goldhamer packs a busy schedule with charitable efforts, lecturing, TV & radio appearances and more. Paul was named a “Super Lawyer” by Superlawyers.com in 2014.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

Prenuptial Agreements & the Tax Law Change:

Prenuptial Agreements drafted prior to 2019 are in jeopardy. The deductibility of Spousal Support payments are in question.

It is common in prenuptial documents for lawyers to insert language calculating alimony (or Spousal Support) and stating the alimony payments are deductible by the Payor.

But the Tax Law has changed. Alimony or Spousal Support is no longer tax deductible after Dec. 31st, 2018.

Lawyers cannot know whether these clauses will hold up in 2019 and beyond. On one hand, you have a written contract, but can you count on its validity? Without a court ruling, or direction from the I.R.S., the deduction might not be valid if alimony is no longer deductible. A married couple might want to consider renegotiating the agreement, even if it might be a tough conversation.

Call Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. We know how to fix this.

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