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Northern Kentucky Family Law Blog

Media depictions of noncustodial parents give rise to myths

When media outlets in Kentucky and around the country cover stories about noncustodial parents, they usually involve men who have failed to pay court-ordered child support or fathers who have turned their backs on their children to pursue careers or other goals. While it is true that most noncustodial parents are men, just about all of the other stereotypes about them are based more on myth than on fact.

The most common myth about noncustodial parents is that they are deadbeat dads. The vast majority of fathers who are required to pay child support do so willingly and conscientiously. Noncustodial dads who make sacrifices and do without to ensure that their children are provided for are far more common than deadbeat fathers who refuse to pay child support even though they can afford to, but stories about commitment and responsibility are not usually considered newsworthy by the media.

USDA calls for implementation of SNAP child support provisions

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs in Kentucky and around the country help nearly 40 million people put food on the table, and many of them are children. Studies reveal that 37% of the children in the United States who have a parent living outside the home live below the poverty line, and many of these children rely on food stamps to eat because their noncustodial parents do not make child support payments.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service is tasked with administering SNAP programs, and it recently sent a memo to state directors urging them to implement child support cooperation provisions that are authorized by SNAP regulations and the 2015 Food and Nutrition Act. These provisions allow states to deny food stamps to custodial and noncustodial parents who do not cooperate with child support agencies, but only a handful of states enforce them.

Military divorce rate continues its slow fall in 2018

The rate of divorce among active-duty members of the military has been falling slowly for about 10 years. Service members in Kentucky may be interested to learn that this trend continued in 2018, according to recently released data. The figure is calculated by comparing the number of service members who were married at the beginning of the year with the number who were still married at the year's end. The overall divorce rate is about 3%, which is down by approximately 0.1% from 2017.

Military divorce rates are much higher among female enlisted troops and officers. While only 2.6% of married male service members filed for divorce in 2018, the rate among female service members was more than twice as high at 6.3%. The national divorce rate, which is calculated differently and does not factor in data from several states, was 3.2% in 2016. This is the most recent year with up-to-date information.

Divorce often has a lot of financial implications

Like many people in Kentucky who divorce, you may have expected that you would encounter challenges during your transition from living in a single-family household to adapting to a new lifestyle under separate roofs. From working out custody issues to deciding what to do with your house, the negotiation process is a critical factor toward achieving a fair and agreeable settlement.

Even if you and your spouse are on amicable terms, it's a good idea to carefully consider your current financial situation and also what you might expect regarding finances down the line. The more you prepare ahead of time for your post-divorce financial future, the easier your transition might be. Any number of legal issues can arise regarding finances, as well, which is why it pays to know where to seek support if you don't feel equipped to handle a particular problem on your own.

Are your children victims of parental alienation syndrome?

When you divorced you knew that you and your ex would both continue to live in Kentucky and would likely share custody of your children. Once you got the court order in place, you were hopeful that you'd be able to co-parent in a peaceful, somewhat low-stress fashion, understanding that you might encounter minor challenges along the way.

What you never expected was that your ex would systematically and methodically attempt to turn your kids against you. In fact, you're not even sure that's what's happening, but you've noticed suspicious behavior and your children are not acting like their normal selves. It's critical to know your rights and where to seek support if you believe your ex is trying to undermine them.

Social Security considerations related to divorce

Even if a married individual in Kentucky has never worked or has a low income, they can still collect up to half of their spouse's Social Security benefits. This right doesn't necessarily go away simply because a marriage ends. If a couple was legally wed for at least 10 years, a former spouse can collect on their ex's record even if he or she has remarried provided they are still single and 62 or older. The ex must also be eligible for Social Security and have benefits greater than what their former spouse would receive.

If a divorced spouse meets these requirements, their Social Security benefits may be equal to half of their ex's full retirement amount or disability benefit, as long as they are at full retirement age. Benefits taken at the minimum age of 62 will be slightly less. Also, a former spouse divorced for at least two years may still be able to receive benefits from an eligible ex's record even if they haven't applied for them.

Family homes can be sticking points in a divorce

Real estate such as a marital home is generally among the most valuable assets a couple will buy during their time together. Therefore, it may be a source of frustration in a divorce. The first step in deciding what to do with a marital home in Kentucky or any other state is to get it appraised. This will help a person better understand how much equity it has. Equity is what is left over after accounting for a mortgage or other liens.

It may be possible for an individual to go through the cash-out refinance process to assume ownership of a home. This allows equity to be pulled out of a home and divided among the former spouses. However, this will require the person who is responsible for the new loan to borrow more money, and a cash-out refinance may come with a higher interest rate.

Marital incomes can affect divorce likelihood

While many couples in Kentucky aim for dual incomes and strong earnings and consider that women can earn just as much or more than men, social pressures and lingering sexism can undermine their marriages. One study indicated that marriages in which the wives earn more than their husbands are 33% likelier to end in divorce. These marriages are increasingly common since, according to federal labor statistics, around 38% of wives make more money than their husbands. However, federal analysis also shows that when these couples respond to surveys, they are likely to overestimate his income and underestimate her income.

The reasons for these issues can be complex. Despite vast social changes in recent decades, social expectations and stereotypes persist that put pressure on men to be the major income earner in a marital relationship. Men may feel emasculated or suffer a lack of confidence due to their lower earnings. Even in relationships where the wife respects her husband's contribution regardless of income, this dynamic can be strongly detrimental. These husbands may behave in controlling ways toward their high-earning wives, pushing them away and towards divorce. Other issues are common with other couples of mixed incomes, such as the higher-earning partner excluding the lower-earning spouse from financial decisions.

Financial concerns for stay-at-home parents

When people in Kentucky decide to divorce, there are a number of factors that go into the final settlement. While the emotional and practical aspects of ending a marriage can be the most prominent issues at first, the financial effects of a divorce can linger long after the decree is final. The concerns about financial impact can be especially severe when one spouse is a stay-at-home parent. Across the country, around 25 percent of mothers and 7 percent of fathers stay home to raise the children. This can be a strong choice for many couples, who often value family caregiving and want to provide their children with a nurturing home environment.

At the same time, stay-at-home parents may face a difficult transition after a divorce. People who spend years outside the workforce may face lower salaries and job titles than those who never interrupted their careers to care for children. This is true even for the 10 percent of highly educated American mothers with a master's degree or higher who choose to stay at home. These parents often give up a lucrative career of their own in a joint decision to focus on raising the children.

Behavioral patterns that can damage a marriage

Some couples in Kentucky might assume that the main dangers to marriage are major issues like infidelity or abuse. However, there are many "silent" issues that can chip away at a marriage and eventually be just as harmful.

Over time, some couples simply grow apart. This can happen at any age, but it may be the case for some retired couples in particular. Lying about money can also drive a wedge between a couple. Even if couples do not actively conceal information from one another, simply having different attitudes about money can lead to problems in a marriage. If one or both people in a marriage have unresolved baggage, they may bring those expectations to the relationship and expect the same thing to happen again. This can destroy the relationship if it's not dealt with.

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