116029268-charity-donation-form-gettyimagesThe holiday season is when many people do a significant portion of their charitable giving for the year. Once you have decided which charitable organization to support and how much, you should also consider how to give that support. What I am getting at is that you can be charitable and tax-savvy by donating highly appreciated stock. Donating a highly appreciated stock or mutual fund is a great strategy for getting rid of an investment that you have been holding because you do not want to pay the capital gains tax. The beauty of donating “in-kind” some or all of a security holding is that you get the full charitable deduction without paying the capital gains tax. “In-kind” means that the investment is not sold, but is transferred as-is to the charity instead. This way you do not have to pay the capital gains tax, because you did not sell the investment. The charity will likely sell the investment to meet their funding needs, but as a non-profit organization, they pay no tax on the sale. The catch is that you have to have owned highly appreciated investment for more than one year. If you transfer an investment that you have owned for less than one year, you can only deduct your original cost in the investment and not the appreciation! Of course this strategy is a bit more complicated than writing a check. You will need to obtain account information from the charity as to where to transfer the highly appreciated investment. You will then need to contact you investment broker and direct them to transfer the investment to the charity’s account. It is not difficult though; most charities are more than happy to help and it is something that investment brokers handle for their client on a regular basis. The transfer has to occur by December 31st to qualify as a current year contribution. You cannot donate investments that have lost value and deduct their higher original cost. If your donation totals more than $250, the donation must be recorded – meaning that the charity must send you a written statement describing the donation and its value. You or your tax preparer will also need to fill out and include Form 8283 Noncash Charitable Contributions in your tax return, listing information about the charity and investment contributed. Despite the extra work, donating highly appreciated stocks or mutual funds can be a win-win for you and the charity. This holiday season think about sharing some of your investment success with your favorite charity instead of with the IRS in April.
I have practiced law for almost 15 years. As a collaborative divorce attorney and mental health professional, I fundamentally believe my non-adversarial approach is better for children. The outcomes protect children’s best interests and provides them the best opportunity to thrive in a future, bi-nuclear family. Research confirms this notion, but not until recently was my personal belief proven in my practice. For the first time in my career, I had a potential client come into my office who was referred to me by her 12 year old son. This woman and her husband had decided to divorce and before starting the legal process told the children. They sat down their 12 year old son and 9 year old daughter and told them that mom and dad had decided to get divorced. Amongst the various reactions, their son asked “could you get divorced in the way Tommy’s parents divorced?” Their son said of all his friends with divorced parents (as expected, there are many) he noticed that there was something different about Tommy’s parents and the way they divorced. They were different, he told his parents, and that was what he wanted. At their son’s request, the parents reached out to Tommy’s parents to learn more. Tommy’s parents had had a collaborative divorce. Despite great challenges emotionally and financially, Tommy’s parents had put their greatest interests ahead of individual gain and brought their best selves to the divorce process. The outcomes reached were unique and tailored to provide the very best for everyone in Tommy’s family. Tommy probably didn’t know his parents “did divorce” differently. Tommy just experienced what he experienced…but his friend noticed. I represented Tommy’s dad in his collaborative divorce and I am so grateful that kids notice how well Tommy is doing. This experience is a reassuring and lovely example of the far-reaching benefit of collaborative law. It shows that children really do notice and, more importantly, the community at large can see how children of divorce can thrive … If the divorce is done well. Kids notice.
167810616-mature-couple-relationship-difficulty-gettyimagesThe most significant increase in divorces nationwide has been among baby boomers, essentially those people born between 1945 and 1965. That is not terribly surprising given the high number of people in this age range. However, it does present new dynamics to divorce to the point where the notion of “boomer divorce” has started to reshape the way divorce happens. Baby boomers who face divorce tend to have different issues, and different priorities, than other generations. For the most part their children are grown, or nearly grown. As a result, they do not need significant help with issues of custody or parenting. However, they tend to be very concerned about the well-being of their grown children; whether it comes to making sure that college is financed or addressing their children’s desire to have their parents behave amicably. Children in their late teens or early twenty’s often care deeply about their parent’s divorce and the way that their parents face divorce can have an impact on their lives. If they are in college, they want to be able to visit each parent during school breaks and acrimony between parents can make that awkward or difficult. When they look ahead toward important life events like weddings, graduations, births and baptism, they want both parents to be able to participate without bringing unwanted tension to these life events. I have heard many stories about parents who attend their child’s wedding and cannot be in the same room together. It is very sad to imagine a young bride or groom, on the most important day of their lives, having to focus on have to protect or care for one or both of their parents rather than focus on this important occasion. Many of have witnessed these sad occasions. At the same time, we have witnessed divorcing parents who are amicable with each other and can share the experience of their child’s wedding in a way that truly honors the event. Baby boomers also care a great deal about planning for their financial future and in creating a divorce agreement that allows them to eventually enjoy their retirement years.   With people living longer and remaining healthy will into their later years, there is generally a great deal of fear about the divorce altering their retirement plans. While divorce does take a financial toll on all of the family resources, including a division of retirement assets, boomers who use creative planning, including working with an interdisciplinary team that includes financial professionals, can find acceptable creative solutions. The unique problems faced by most boomers are increasingly causing them to look for more amicable and creative options to help them divorce in a way that preserves their sanity, their co-parenting and their financial nest egg as much as possible. For information about those options go to www.collaborativelaw.org or www.divorcechoice.com.
91538368-womans-arm-reaching-for-a-floating-balloon-gettyimagesNo one imagines they will find themselves single, divorced, and living in a 4 bedroom house in the suburbs alone, and then it happens. So what do you do when you wake up and realize that your life is not at all what you ever imagined it would be? How do you “cope” and “mourn” the loss of the life you had been planning for yourself? First, remember you are not alone. You are never alone in this. Lean on your friends, family, and a good support group – whether it’s a support group you created with a network of friends and family, or a more formal divorce support group in your area. There are so many resource out there, find people/places/networks that you feel comfortable with. Seek out professional counseling or therapy, sometimes just talking about these hopes and dreams that could have/should have/would have been to a neutral party can be such a relief. Know that it is ok to mourn this loss. For you it may be the loss of the “perfect family” you had envisioned – whether you never had kids and always wanted them, or had 1 or 2 and had wanted more. Maybe for someone else who is forced to go back to work because of the divorce, it may be the loss of being able to stay at home with the children. Perhaps it’s the loss of a certain lifestyle one may have gotten used to or thought they would attain someday, whether financially or within a certain social circle. Maybe divorce forced you to move to new area and you are mourning the loss of being close to your friends, in a certain school district for your children, or even simply mourning the loss of your home. It’s not irrational to mourn these things, whether they are lifestyles and material items you no longer have, or were simply hopes for the future – it is ok. Take comfort in knowing that you never know what the future has in store for you. Maybe you always wanted kids and suddenly find yourself dating someone with children that you simply adore (young or old). Think you’re too old for that reality? Maybe you will remarry and have pile of grandchildren in your future. Maybe having to go back to work will one day lead to a promotion that allows you to take your children on trips of a lifetime and provide for their college education. There is a quote by Joseph Campbell that reads, “We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Remember that.
As a neutral child specialist, I believe Collaborative Practice should be available to all families who want a child-focused, respectful, out-of-court divorce process.  However, a critique often made of Collaborative Practice is how unaffordable it must be for families with limited financial resources. How could it be otherwise for a process that involves two attorneys and likely several neutral financial and/or mental health professionals? 487701729-senior-african-american-woman-paying-bills-gettyimagesMost of these critics are not aware that the Collaborative Law Institute has had ongoing Pro Bono/Low Bono Programs for over a decade.  The goal of the current CLI Low Bono Committee is to provide very low cost but high quality services to clients who qualify, including the option of working with a full multidisciplinary team of divorce professionals. We understand that financial hardship not only profoundly complicates day to day life but compounds the stress of getting unmarried.  We realize that many parents who struggle through the massive amount of paperwork required for a do-it-yourself divorce eventually end up in court trying to sort out issues they hadn’t anticipated or   didn’t fully understand at the time.  We believe families in financial distress deserve a choice that will empower them to make their own decisions, but with the benefit of skillful professional support. If you are in financial hardship and contemplating a divorce, we hope we can help.  Go to the website for the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota and click the About Us tab at the top right of the homepage.  Next, click on No Cost or Low Cost (Pro Bono) Programs to find the online application for low bono Collaborative services.  Applications are screened for eligibility by the Low Bono Committee, but are otherwise completely confidential.   If you are interested, we hope to hear from you!