Estate planning issues for divorced parents of minor children

Updating your estate plan is on your to-do list after your Ohio divorce; you know your ex-spouse is not the one you want to name as your health care proxy or life insurance beneficiary. However, the two of you have a child together, and that complicates the issue. The legal team at the law office of Gregg R. Lewis, Esq. - Harry Lewis Co., LPA, often counsels divorced parents with minor children in estate planning matters.

You and your spouse spent a long time considering before you chose the guardian who would take care of your child if both of you die. In your new will, you may name someone else, but this could lead to litigation and will contests if your former spouse names another person. If at all possible, the two of you should cooperate and name the same person in your updated wills to reduce the chance of conflict and emotional distress for your child in the event that he or she loses both parents.

What are some common mistakes that occur in a gray divorce?

If you are thinking about leaving your spouse after being together for 20 or more years, you may be surprised to learn your situation is a lot more common than you think. According to, during the last 28 years, the divorce rate for couples who are 50 years old and older has doubled. Late-life separations are commonly called gray divorces. 

Not all marriages are capable of surviving. Common causes of separation for older couples include growing apart, having different priorities, boredom and financial difficulties. It is important for you to realize that a late in life divorce in Columbus is not always easy. Review the following pitfalls you should avoid in your gray divorce. 

How is debt divided in a divorce?

While you may be focused on dividing assets and determining custody during your divorce, one other thing you will have to handle is debt. The general rule when it comes to dividing anything in a divorce in Ohio is that whatever anyone brought into the marriage or whatever is yours only remains so after the divorce. For example, if you owned a classic car before you got married and maintained it as only yours, then it will remain yours after the divorce. The way debt is handled is different, though, according to the Ohio Bar Association.

Ohio family law does not address debt in a divorce at all. There are no laws saying how a court must divide it. This makes it a tough situation when you have a lot of debt in a marriage and need to separate it out in the divorce. The final say remains with the judge who can do what he or she feels is best. 

Financial infidelity can quickly cause marital issues and divorce

For decades, infidelity in a marriage has referred primarily to emotional or sexual relationships that develop outside of the marriage. One spouse starts to seek love, affection and validation elsewhere. This leads to lying, sneaking around and broken hearts. In some cases, that infidelity can have a financial impact or even put the other spouse's health at risk.

Financial infidelity is something that marriage experts are only just starting to explore. Despite the relative newness of the term itself, the practices involved with financial infidelity are generations old. In fact, there has long been an adage that the three things spouses most likely fight about are money, intimacy and in-laws.

What mistakes should I avoid in a high-value divorce?

When it comes to high-asset divorces in Columbus, many people do not realize how easy it is to make mistakes. If you are contemplating leaving your partner and there is a considerable amount of assets involved, you might want to take some time to strategize your next steps. According to FindLaw, “mistakes can make the divorce process more complicated and painful than necessary.”

Regardless of what your goals are for divorce, you should consider the impact potential settlements may have on your post-divorce life. Take some time to review the following mistakes that commonly occur in high-value divorces.

How can divorce be beneficial to children?

Many couples in the Columbus area who are contemplating divorce, often find themselves procrastinating because of their children. They believe that separation is more harmful to their kids than it is for them to stay together. What they might not realize is that kids are very intuitive. According to Live Bold and Bloom, children are more likely to suffer emotionally from the negative effects of their parents’ relationships than they are from divorce. 

Sometimes relationships do not work out. Regardless of why they fall apart, one of the best things parents can do is to separate so they can become healthier and happier. Distance in the form of divorce and separate households can help parents to regain the respect they used to have for each other and become better parents. Divorce forces parents to reevaluate their lives and take measures to ensure their children do not grow up in toxic environments, do not suffer from a loss of attention and are able to recover from it. 

How can I avoid financial hardship after divorce?

Divorce is a situation that can make you feel as if the world is ending. While you are grieving your relationship, you should consider how it can break you financially if you are not careful. Divorce in Columbus is not always easy or cheap to resolve. If there are kids, pets and a large amount of wealth and assets, your separation could be an expensive one. 

Disagreements about property division, alimony, custody and child support are the most common reasons divorces tend to drag on. The longer it takes to finalize your separation, the more money you and your partner will pay out in legal fees and other related expenses. NerdWallet states you should plan for the likelihood of conflict during divorce so you can strategize ways to avoid and resolve them. 

Can’t pay child support? A modification could be the answer

After divorce, you'll still share the expense of raising your child with the other parent. Even though you're no longer married or living together, you still need to be on the same page in regard to what you're responsible for from a financial perspective.

If the court orders you to pay child support you realize that this is a great way to provide your child with the money he or she needs for life's necessities. Unfortunately, your financial situation could change at some point, which leads to a situation in which you are no longer able to make your regularly scheduled child support payments in full.

What should you do with estate planning before remarrying?

After a divorce in Ohio, many people begin dating again and some get remarried. This typically means not only a new spouse but possibly stepchildren or more biological children. The addition of a new family can complicate the estate planning process. Even if changes were made after the divorce, more changes need to be made when the family structure changes.

According to Forbes, one of the best options for ensuring your wishes are carried out after your death is to create a trust. This will help prevent issues with your children from a previous marriage not receiving their inheritance. You also want to ensure anything you brought into the marriage is protected and reserved for your children, if you want those assets to go to your children from your previous marriage. It can prevent your spouse from having full access to assets meant for your children if your spouse remarries and stop your assets from becoming the property of your spouse and his or her new spouse.

Your property division checklist should include the following

You should never assume that the divorce process will go as planned. Even if you have the best intentions, there are sure to be sticking points along the way.

This is even more so the case if you have children with the other individual and/or have many assets to divide.

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Gregg R. Lewis, Esq. - Harry Lewis Co., LPA
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Columbus, OH 43206

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