‘Now’s not the time to wait’: Divorce lawyers urging clients to separate now due to Trump alimony tax law changes
Deep down in the GOP tax plan signed by President Donald Trump are major changes to alimony tax laws that have attorneys advising clients considering breaking up to speed up the process in order to garner savings that will go away in 2019.
According to a report in Politico, a 76-year-old deduction for alimony payments in the tax code will disappear in 2019 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by Trump last December. Loss of that deduction — often for thousand of dollars — can have a serious financial impact on a couple already saddled with the financial difficulties that come with setting up separate households.
Lawyer Mary Vidas, the former chair of the American Bar Association’s section on family law, explained the implications of the tax law change succinctly, stating: “Now’s not the time to wait. If you’re going to get a divorce, get it now.”
According to the report, under current law, the deduction substantially reduces the cost of alimony payments — in the case of high-earning couples every dollar they shell out to support a former spouse costs them a little more than 60 cents.
In 2019 that deduction goes away, which had divorce attorneys saying separations are acrimonious enough already when it comes to alimony during the 2017 tax negotiations.
Noting that child support payments are already not deductible, lawyers claim the real victims of the tax law change will be women facing tougher fights in cases where their husbands make substantially more than they do.
“The repeal reduces the bargaining power of vulnerable spouses, mostly women, in achieving financial stability after a divorce,” explained Pittsburgh family law attorney Brian Vertz. “How do I live? Get me before a judge so I can plead my case,” attorney Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich said her clients often ask.
A spokesperson for House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) defended the tax law change in a statement, saying, “This is one of the many provisions of the law that removes special rules applicable only in certain circumstances in order to help simplify the code and reduce tax rates for all Americans. It is unfair to offer a special break to divorcees, saying the repeal prevents divorced couples from reducing income tax through a specific form of payments unavailable to married couples.”
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 813,862 divorces reported in the U.S. in 2017 in the 45 states that submitted data to the agency.
A report in Time stated that divorces in the U.S. declined last year — dropping for the third year in a row and reaching its lowest point in nearly 40 years.
You can read the whole report here.