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Northern Virginia Law Blog

Financial planning may reduce co-parenting stress

The American Psychological Association has reported that between 40% and 50% of marriages nationwide end in divorce. It is among the most stressful events a person can experience, and it can bring with it financial concerns, especially for couples who have children. Co-parenting after a Virginia divorce becomes much easier if the parents work together to minimize financial stresses.

The divorce decree is a good place to start. This is the document that makes the divorce official, and it usually sets forth the parents' responsibilities, including who will pay for education, extracurricular activities and health care for the children. Spending time with the other parent to focus on the details of the divorce decree can make problems less likely later.

Bankruptcy and your credit health

Financial struggles are common, and sometimes bankruptcy is the only way out. If this is the case, you have two filing options; Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy or “straight bankruptcy” allows you to often keep your exempt property (car, clothes, furniture, etc.). Nonexempt property, such as: property that’s not your primary home, valuable collections and investments are not safe. Anything the court appointed trustee can sell is nonexempt property. In turn for giving up your property and assets, some or all of your debts will be forgiven. Your income cannot be higher than a certain amount to qualify for Chapter 7. This amount varies by state.

Keeping separate accounts may not protect funds in divorce

According to a survey conducted by Bank of America, 28% of people in the millennial generation choose not to establish joint bank accounts with their spouses. Members of this generation in Virginia are more likely to keep their financial lives entirely separate than previous generations. Part of the reason may be that technology, including financial apps and services, has made it easier to share expenses, and part of the reason may be that millennials have seen how hard it can be to divide assets in divorce.

Simply maintaining separate accounts and financial lives may not be enough to keep assets separate in divorce. Most states have laws that call for equitable distribution of assets and liabilities, and property acquired by either spouse during the marriage might arguably be marital property, making it subject to division by the family court. Equitable division means the court will endeavor to divide assets fairly, but not necessarily divide them equally.

The benefits of personal loans for credit card debt relief

Virginia residents and others who have credit card debt may find it easier to pay off by converting those balances into a personal loan. Personal loans can come with an interest rate of about 5% for those who have good credit while the average credit card interest rate is about 18%. Another benefit for borrowers is that there is generally no need to use collateral to secure a personal loan.

Generally, borrowers will have about two to five years to repay their personal loan in full, and the most favorable terms may be available for balances repaid in 36 months or less. Ideally, borrowers will pay off their debt as quickly as possible to avoid paying more interest than necessary. Those who are looking to refinance their credit card balances may find that getting a personal loan is easier than qualifying for a balance transfer. Furthermore, this option can be best for a person who wants to wean themselves off of credit cards.

Divorce trends differ based on age

People in Virginia and across America are generally accepting of those who have gotten a divorce. However, the divorce rate has fallen from 4.7 per 1,000 American adults in 1990 to 2.9 per 1,000 in 2018. There are a variety of reasons as to why this is the case, and one of the reasons is that individuals tend to be older when they get married for the first time.

The average age for a man getting married in 2018 was 29.8 compared to 26.1 in 1890. Women also get married later in life today compared to 1890 as their average age at marriage is 27.8 compared to 22 in 1890. In addition to being older when getting married, younger adults tend to marry those who they feel especially bonded with. Finally, they tend to prioritize marriage only after achieving financial or educational goals.

How divorce can affect Social Security

When Virginia couples decide to divorce, there are some effects on Social Security that they may benefit from learning about. Since 96% of American workers are part of the Social Security system, these issues can affect a large number of people. There are some specific provisions of the system that are designed to protect spouses, including those who have been out of the workforce or served as homemakers. People with low earnings or no history of income can collect up to half of their spouse's full benefits under Social Security.

In some cases, people may lose access to that program after a divorce but not if they were married for a longer period. Even more, accessing these benefits does not affect the other spouse's benefits. People who were married for at least 10 years can claim benefits from their former spouse, even if the latter has married again. In order to do so, there are a few criteria that people must meet; they must themselves be currently unmarried and aged older than 62. In addition, their benefits under the former spouse's Social Security must be greater than their own. For people who start collecting benefits before full retirement age, they will see the same reduction as someone collecting their own benefits.

The downsides of a traffic violation not always readily apparent

Getting cited for a traffic violation is arguably akin to something like a bee sting for most people. That is, it’s irritating and even temporarily painful, but not deadly.

Ergo, most motorists simply view that ticket in hand as an annoying inconvenience in life. They might wince at its cost, but they don’t know what to do other than just pay up and move on.

Virginia schools under fire for use of restraints, seclusion

If you are the parent of a child enrolled in special education classes here in Virginia, you likely already have your own horror stories of teachers, principals and other school personnel who disregard your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) when it is expedient for them.

Advocating for your child begins early and typically is required through all phases of their educational journey to ensure that their rights to a quality education are upheld. This is something that was recently brought home to parents of children enrolled in the special ed programs at Fairfax County Public Schools just a few miles northeast of Manassas.

Bankruptcy in retirement: Protect your future

Retirement is not always the easy time of your life that people expect it to be. Costs are high, and if you don't have enough to make ends meet, you could end up facing bankruptcy during a relatively vulnerable time of your life. If you have to file for bankruptcy in retirement, there are some things that you should know.

To file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in retirement, you'll need to pass a means test. A means test shows if you have an ability to repay your debts based on the amount you currently owe. It takes into consideration your annual income and monthly expenses. The good thing about the means test is that your Social Security benefits won't be considered income for the purposes of the test, so you may qualify for bankruptcy even if you're getting a decent amount of money each month.

The truth about credit reports: What you need to know

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding which activities adversely affect a consumer's credit rating. For instance, some erroneously believe that checking their own credit reports will lower their score.

While there are numerous actions (and inactions) which can lead to a lowered credit rating, auto-checking your credit score is not one of them. In fact, routinely checking one's credit rating can help consumers detect and report any unauthorized charges on their credit card accounts.


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Bristle & Yi Law, PLLC
9200 Church Street
Suite 202
Manassas, VA 20110

Phone: 703-278-2027
Phone: 703-454-0701
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