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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Chattanooga Divorce Law Blog

The effect of divorce on child tax deductions

The Internal Revenue Service recognizes that raising children is expensive and extends valuable exemptions and tax credits to parents in Tennessee. When parents divorce or separate, they cannot share in the tax benefits of claiming a child as a dependent. Only one parent can claim the child as a dependent. The IRS will not recognize any agreements or court orders that attempt to spread the tax benefits between divorced parents.

In general, the IRS views the custodial parent as the person providing more than half of a child's support. In most cases, the custodial parent has a right to claim the child as a dependent and gain access to tax exemptions and credits. When a noncustodial parent provides more than half of the financial support for a child, that person might qualify under certain conditions to list the child as a dependent. To accomplish this, a noncustodial parent will need to include in a tax return a Form 8332 Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorced or Separated Parents signed by the custodial parent.

Hip-hop celebrities' child custody battle turns new page

Many divorced parents in Tennessee struggle to deal with child custody issues. These problems can also be shared by celebrities, as in the case of hip-hop stars Nas and Kelis. The rapper and singer are divorced parents of an 8-year-old son, and their post-divorce relationship has included ongoing forays into court before reaching a custody agreement in March.

Since then, However, Nas has returned to family court asking for penalties against Kelis, who he claims refused to allow him to have their son during Passover. He says that he was to have the weekend with the child according to the custody schedule, but Kelis reportedly claimed that their son wanted to remain at her home for the holiday. In the documents, Nas alleges that there is an ongoing pattern of difficulties exercising his custody time. He claims that he has been turned away from her home when going to pick up the boy and that he has been denied the right to take him home from school.

How abusive parents might still pursue child custody

Tennessee parents who are leaving an abusive marriage may face a custody challenge from the other parent. The American Psychological Association found that while most people assume that an abusive parent will be kept away from the children once the other parent leaves, this is often not the case. In fact, because family courts are focused on trying to keep children in contact with both parents, they may downplay reports of abuse. A study in 2012 by the American Judges Association found that in more than two-thirds of challenged cases, abusive spouses convinced a judge that the abused parent should not have sole custody or was unfit.

One issue is that many custody evaluators may not have experience with domestic violence. They may expect an abused parent to act in a certain way, such as sad and depressed instead of angry or confused, or they might decide that a parent who suffers from depression as a result of abuse is mentally unstable.

Visitation schedules

When Tennessee parents of young children end their marriage, child custody and visitation is often a primary concern. In most cases, parents want to want to maintain good relationships with their children. Court systems also recognize the importance of parental influence in their children's lives. Unless a parent is somehow deemed unfit due to behavioral issues, the courts will usually provide him or her with visitation time.

When parents divorce, they usually share legal custody. However, it is not unusual for one parent to have primary physical custody, which means that the children live with that parent most of the time. In such a case, a visitation or parenting time schedule will need to be worked out.

Parent-child relationships at risk from custodial interference

Parents in Tennessee may face some of the most difficult aspects of their divorce when dealing with the issue of child custody. In many cases, both parents want to fight hard for more time with their children. Eventually, the custody issue should be resolved with a formal agreement and court order, but unfortunately, some parents refuse to accept the outcome of the child custody decision. These parents might repeatedly attempt to undermine the relationship with the other parent and keep their child away, breaking the parent-child bond over time. This is often referred to as custodial interference, and it can rise to the level of a criminal matter.

Custodial interference happens most frequently as part of an ongoing custody dispute, even after a child custody order is settled. A parent may refuse to hand their child over for scheduled custody time, pick up the child from school while in the other parent's custody or wage a campaign to influence the child to press for a different custody agreement. In some extreme cases, a parent may attempt to leave the area with the child. This kind of interference can damage the parent-child relationship and can also be highly damaging to the emotional well-being of the child.

Common child custody issues in Tennessee

There are many issues that come into play during a child custody proceeding. For instance, a judge may need to take a look at whether a parent is physically or mentally abusive toward a child. Ideally, a parent will stay in one geographical area to provide a stable environment for a son or daughter. Parents should also have a job or steady source of income if they are seeking custody.

In some cases, a child advocate will observe the interactions between a parent and child. The advocate might also observe the type of environment that is provided for the child. This information may help a judge determine what is in the best interests of the child when determining who should have custody. As a general rule, siblings will be kept together to provide stability for them both. However, custody could be split depending on what is best for each child.

How to get a parent to pay child support

When two parents are not raising a child together, whether because of a breakup or because they were never in a relationship, the noncustodial parent may be required to pay child support to the custodial parent. The underlying idea behind child support is that parents have an obligation to support their biological children.

A judge takes the income of the noncustodial parent into account along with the expenses of both parents when awarding child support. However, some parents do not pay support. They may offer a number of excuses for not paying, saying that the amount is too high, they cannot afford the support, they dislike the visitation agreement, or they did not want a child.

Relationships with both parents critical for kids after divorce

Anger and disappointment often drive parents in Tennessee to choose divorce, but the decision does not mean that children divorce their parents. Many children grow up without regular access to their fathers: One-third of children live in homes without their biological fathers.

As many as 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce. If parents split up, they should make co-parenting a priority. This arrangement either involves shared custody or regular visitation with the noncustodial parent, allowing children to access the benefits of being raised by both parents. As long as a person has not displayed abusive behavior, the other parent should not block children from maintaining a relationship.

Federal budget proposes national child support system

The Family Support Act requires lawmakers in Tennessee and around the country to set up state systems to enforce child support orders and collect delinquent payments, but efforts to comply with the 1995 law have often met with little success. The systems in many states are hampered by problems with technology and provide little in the way of useful information, and noncustodial parents who are struggling to make ends meet are paying the price. A new budget proposal addresses this issue by earmarking $63 million to establish a national system that could then be used by the states.

According to the Oval Office and the Department of Health and Human Services, the system created by the proposed Child Support Technology Fund would save the nation's taxpayers as much as $10 million each year for the next 10 years. The HHS currently reimburses 66 percent of the money states spend to set up their own child support tracking and enforcement operations. These systems cost an average of $120 million each, and the amount spent by the HHS has already reached about $1 billion.

Choosing a home after divorce

For Tennessee couples going through a marital separation, picking a place to live is an important decision. Divorcing couples must balance emotional, logistical and financial implications to find the right situation.

Some exes may want to continue living in the marital home. When children are involved, the marital home can offer some stability in a time of stressful change. Having familiar neighbors and patterns can also provide comfort during the turmoil. After a divorce, however, that person will be left with the responsibility of upkeep, which includes insurance, repairs and lawn care. Mortgage qualification without the other spouse is also an important issue to consider.

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