Who Pays Private School Tuition After Divorce?

Divorce hurts everyone, and children are often the most severely affected. That’s why one of the primary goals of divorce court is to minimize the damage to children. As a result, questions often come up about who will pay for extracurricular activities, tutors, private school, and other child related expenses.

If you are facing a divorce and you’re not sure how to move forward, we can guide you through the process. Reach out to Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500 to talk to our team about your next steps.

Is Private School Necessary or a Luxury?

One of the questions that is sure to come up during negotiations is, “Is private school a luxury or a necessity in this situation?” Much depends on the child’s current circumstances.

If they are already enrolled in private school, the court may lean toward keeping them in that school. The court does not like uprooting children and causing any more change in their life when they are already going through a divorce.

However, if the child is not yet old enough to go to school or is currently enrolled in public school, the court may be less interested in forcing one parent to contribute to private school tuition. This depends largely on the circumstances of the marriage, if their other children attend private school, if they had prior plans to send the child to private school, and their financial means.

The Best Interests of the Child

No matter what, the decision comes down to what is in the best interests of the child. If one parent doesn’t want to pay private school tuition simply to cut off the other parent’s access to their money, the court is unlikely to allow that if it would hurt the child. On the flipside, if the child is happy in public school and one parent is pushing for private school to hurt the other parent financially, the court would probably not allow that either.

The Ability of Each Parent to Pay

If it is determined that it is necessary for the child to attend private school and that it is in their best interests to do so, who pays? This isn’t a situation that calls for an immediate 50/50 division. The court will look at how much each parent is able to pay toward the child’s expenses.

In a high asset divorce, for example, there is often a large discrepancy in income levels. In this situation, the court will likely order the high-earning parent to pay all or most of the school fees. The other parent may be expected to contribute if they have an income or if they have meaningful earning potential.

Agreement by Both Parties

Ideally, this situation will be resolved out of court. When you leave these decisions up to the judge, you lose control over the process. Even if no one is happy with what the court ultimately decides, you must still abide by it. When you come to a compromise out of court, you retain at least some control over the outcome.

This is where you need an attorney with strong negotiating skills. If it is very important to you that your child attends private school, you may have to compromise to get to a place where the other party will pay for it. This might mean giving up certain assets, taking on more debt, or agreeing to less spousal support. No one enjoys making these types of sacrifices, but if an issue is crucial enough to you, it might be the only way to get what you want.

Wherever you are in the divorce process, it is never too late to talk to a high asset divorce attorney and figure out your options. Whether you’re being urged to pay high private school fees or you’re up against a partner who doesn’t want to pay their share, we’ve been there, and we know what it takes to develop the right legal solution.

Let Kirk Drennan Law Help You During This Challenging Time

We know that you just want what’s best for your child during and after a divorce. Our extensive experience with high asset divorce cases makes us a natural choice for your case. To set up a time to talk, call our team at 205-803-3500 or contact us online.

Will I Have to Take on My Spouse’s Debt During a Divorce?

Debt in high-asset divorces plays a different role than it does in standard divorces. Debt is often used as a leverage tool by high-asset couples, rather than a survival tool. However, this fact can also make it much more difficult to divide debt during a split.

If you are concerned about how yours and your ex-partner’s debt could affect your divorce, we are here to help. Call Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500 to schedule a consultation.

Debt and Asset Division

In Alabama, debt and assets are divided in an equitable fashion. That means that, rather than being divided 50/50, debt is split up in a way that is fair to both parties. Factors that affect the division of debt include:

  • Who accumulated the debt
  • The circumstances of the divorce
  • Each party’s income and assets
  • Each party’s earning ability
  • The tax burden of each individual

Because debt is divided equitably, there is a lot of leeway in how you and your ex-partner navigate this part of your divorce.

Debt That is Divided in Alabama

Any debt that is not considered separate is divided in Alabama. For example, if one individual comes into the marriage with $40,000 of student debt, that will likely not be divided. It stays with the individual who brought it into the marriage. Other debt that would be divided includes:

  • Credit cards. This includes credit cards in one individual’s name. If the credit card was used for both parties or for the benefit of the marriage, the accumulated debt will likely be divided.
  • Tax debt. If you and your ex-partner have outstanding taxes, you may both be held responsible for the amount due.
  • Student loans acquired during marriage. If one or both individuals accumulated student debt during the marriage, it may be split up.
  • Medical debt. Medical bills are often the responsibility of both parties.
  • Personal loans. Personal loans to buy small-ticket items or pay off other debts are often considered the responsibility of both partners.
  • Real estate. Many high-asset couples have real estate debt beyond the mortgage on their primary home. If you have rental properties or vacation homes, the debt stays with the person who keeps the property after the divorce.

Debt You Didn’t Know About

Another factor to consider is the role of debt you did not know about. Unfortunately, this is relatively common as a marriage breaks down. One partner racks up a list of gambling debts, goes on a shopping spree with previously unused credit cards, or takes out a line of credit on the home. Unfortunately, even if you did not know about the debt your partner accumulated, you may still be responsible for part of it in the divorce.

This is a gray area in divorce, and it’s something to discuss in-depth with your attorney. Morally, you should not have to spend your post-divorce years paying for your ex-partner’s private debts. Legally, though, you may have to compromise to wash your hands clean of their debts.

How Debt Collection Can Become Complicated

Another factor to think about as you prepare for negotiations is how creditors look at divorce decrees. While some creditors will follow the terms of the divorce decree and only pursue the named partner for the debt, others will go after both parties.

This generally isn’t an issue as long as both parties stick to the payment terms of the debt and don’t default. However, if one partner is prone to forgetting payments or is spiteful enough to miss payments to hurt the other person, the effects of the divorce can drag on.

The same is true if one party is dependent on their credit score after the divorce. While the other party might be responsible for the debt, it’s likely that the debt will remain on their credit report and make it difficult for them to take out new lines of credit.

Protecting Yourself During the Divorce Process

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting what you want from the division of debt. You will not automatically be held responsible for your ex-partner’s debts, but you also won’t automatically walk away unscathed. If you want to walk away with less debt, you may have to compromise and give up other assets in exchange.

Find Out How Kirk Drennan Law Can Help You

Negotiating the terms of a divorce is a complex process, and you deserve skilled legal representation. At Kirk Drennan Law, we handle complex divorce cases and advocate for our clients every step of the way. Set up a time to talk, and we’ll discuss a plan for your divorce. To get started, call us at 205-803-3500 or get in touch with us online.

Advice for Stay-at-Home Moms During Divorce

Divorce creates stress for everyone, but perhaps no one is more worried during this process than those who stay at home to take care of their children. Knowing that your financial wellbeing is tied up in someone who no longer wants to be married to you—or to whom you no longer want to be married—creates intense stress and anxiety.

However, as a stay-at-home mother, you have rights, and you should be respected for the sacrifices you have made for your family. Learn more about how you can start this process and for more in-depth advice regarding your situation, call Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500.

Get Access to Marital Funds and Hire an Attorney

Quick note: getting access to marital funds does not mean emptying the joint bank account. That’s the type of action that will make you look very bad in court. However, you do need access to your own money. You will need it to pay your attorney, take care of household bills, and feed your family.

After you hire an attorney, you can follow their advice regarding creating a separate account, how much you are legally permitted to take from the joint account, and how you can protect yourselves and your children financially. If your ex-partner locks you out of all of your accounts, take note of that and pass the information along to your attorney.

Make Sure You Have Copies of Documents

For your attorney to fight for a fair and equitable division of assets, we need to know what type of financial situation you’re dealing with. This can be challenging in high-income divorces, as wealth is often spread across retirement accounts, multiple checking and savings accounts, real estate, and businesses.

Ideally, you should get your hands on these documents as quickly as possible after you have made the decision to divorce. Note, though, that your ex-partner may have assets or accounts that they aren’t telling you about. If they seem to always have enough money for items that aren’t in the family budget or are unconcerned with your use of marital resources, they may have a separate pool they keep hidden from you. Let your attorney know if this is a concern, because those funds could still be considered marital assets.

Consider Your Housing Options

For many stay-at-home moms, the first instinct is to keep the family home for the sake of the children’s stability and wellbeing. Before you go all in on this idea, though, think about what’s best for you. It may very well be that keeping the marital home is what you truly want and what is truly best for you in this new stage of life. However, you may also gain more leverage by not fighting as hard for the home.

If you and your children can maintain a similar quality of life in a different location, it could be beneficial to sell the family home and use your part of the proceeds for a new place that is easier to pay for and maintain. This is particularly true if you will have to re-enter the workforce and will have less time to tend to a large home.

Prioritize Different Assets and Outcomes

Earlier we talked about leverage. This is an important part of any high-asset divorce or any divorce where there are substantial differences in earnings. This is true for both amicable and contentious divorces. You have a certain amount of wiggle room during negotiations, and you have to decide carefully where to use it.

For example, you can’t ask for the marital home, half of all the investments, and lifelong alimony and expect everything to go your way. Instead, you might think about what matters most to you and throw your weight behind those issues.

If you’re worried about income and stability, you might give up the family home in exchange for long-term alimony or possession of a rental property that will bring in residual income for you. If your main goal is to get back into the workforce and make up for lost years of career development, you might ask for an alimony lump-sum settlement that will cover tuition and allow you to stay out of the workforce to raise your children until your education is complete. If you aren’t sure what your priorities are, your attorney will help you figure that out.

Kirk Drennan Law is Here to Help

Making the transition from being a stay-at-home mom to being a single mom is a huge change, and you do not have to go through this transition alone. With our team by your side, you can navigate divorce with less stress and plan for the future. Schedule a consultation now by calling Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-5000 or getting in touch online.

What Happens to Retirement Accounts During a Divorce?

The division of assets can quickly become one of the most challenging parts of a divorce, particularly if a couple has various assets with substantial value. If you or your ex-partner have retirement accounts, you may wonder how these accounts will be divided during your divorce. Learn more about how the courts handle these accounts and for more personalized assistance with your divorce case, call Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500.

Contentious Part of Many Divorce Settlements

It’s no surprise that retirement accounts are a sticking point in many divorce cases. They are some of the most valuable assets you may have since they continue to appreciate over the years. If the individual in possession of the accounts has invested aggressively or made particularly wise investments, retirement accounts can easily hit the seven or eight figure mark.

Regardless of who contributed to the retirement accounts, it makes sense that both parties want their fair share. If one spouse worked and contributed to the accounts while the other was a homemaker, for example, remember that the lower-earning spouse likely gave up career opportunities to care for the home, assuming that they would be able to live on those earnings in their golden years.

No matter which side you fall on, you need to have an effective strategy to get what you deserve. That’s why it’s crucial to work with an attorney who has extensive knowledge of issues with retirement accounts and other complexities that often arise in high net worth divorce cases.

Retirement Accounts Follow the Same Rules as Other Assets

In general, retirement accounts are viewed by the courts as identical to any other assets. That is, Alabama courts divide them in an equitable manner. This doesn’t mean that they are split 50/50. It means that they are split in a way that is considered fair, based on both parties’ other assets, earning potential, and other circumstances.

However, remember that the courts don’t make the decisions in most divorce cases. Most divorce settlements are reached through multiple rounds of negotiations between the spouses and their attorneys, so you do have some options here.

Know the Tax Implications of Each Option

As you discuss your options with your divorce attorney, keep in mind that divorce may trigger unexpected tax consequences. Liquidating assets can trigger capital gains liabilities, and retirement assets must be split in a specific way to avoid penalties. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, known as QDROs, allow for the division of retirement funds without tax penalties.

Leveraging Other Assets to Keep Your Retirement Accounts

You may be looking for a way to hold on to your retirement accounts and avoid the complications of dividing up your funds. There are multiple ways to do this, but the main option is to take advantage of other assets you have in your portfolio.

If you have large retirement accounts that you want to keep, you may have to trade away something else your ex-partner wants in exchange. If their primary concern is the family home, for example, this may mean giving up your share in the house to keep control of your retirement accounts. If they primarily want retirement funds for financial security in old age, you may give up rental properties that they can use for residual income.

If you are the lower-earning spouse and you want access to your spouse’s retirement funds during divorce, you should have the same expectations as you head into negotiations. You may have to give up other assets or benefits that you want, such as long-term alimony, the marital home, or other marital assets that you’d hoped to divide.

It is rare for a divorce case to give one side everything they ask for—a good compromise leaves everyone with something that they want while having to give up something else in the process. With that in mind, you have to think about what you’re willing to give up if the retirement account is a priority for you.

Turn to Kirk Drennan Law for Divorce Assistance Now

There’s a lot at stake in every divorce case, which is why it’s so important to secure a reliable legal team as soon as possible. Whether you’re facing an amicable divorce or a more contentious situation, you need a settlement that treats you and your contributions to the marriage fairly. Our team can help. Schedule a consultation with Kirk Drennan Law now by calling us at 205-803-3500 or contacting us online.

Challenges for Divorces with Special Needs Children

Children are often the primary concern when parents decide to divorce, and if one child has special needs, the worries only compound. A child with special needs may have a less concrete understanding of what divorce means or struggle with the sudden changes in their day-to-day life. As a parent, it’s important to be aware of these challenges ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

As you begin the divorce process, remember that you do not have to do this alone. Call Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500 to set up a consultation.

Child Support Calculations May Be Different

Calculating child support for a neurotypical child or a child without physical limitations is fairly straightforward. However, children with special needs often need more care in daily life. This may make child support payments significantly higher. If a child regularly receives physical or occupational therapy, attends after school programming unique to their needs, or requires occasional respite care, those expenses could change child support payments.

Custody Decisions Look At Who Can Best Meet the Child’s Unique Needs

Every custody issue comes down to what is in the child’s best interest. Making this determination may be more challenging when it comes to a child with special needs. Does one parent have more experience or training regarding the child’s medical needs? Is the child more comfortable with one parent? Does one parent’s work schedule prevent them from providing the ongoing care the child needs? If there are other children with typical needs, will their custody schedule be affected? These are all questions that must be answered before a satisfactory parenting schedule can be created.

SSI Payments May Be in Danger

If the child receives SSI payments for their disability, note that child support payments are typically considered income. It’s important to work with an attorney to find an arrangement that best meets the child’s needs.

Health Insurance Coverage is Paramount

Health insurance coverage is important for any child, but for a child with special needs, even a single day of lapsed coverage could be a disaster. Additionally, the child’s care needs may be extensive. Parents may need to compare the plans available to each party to figure out which plan will cover more of the child’s costs and choose accordingly. If this means going through one parent’s employer, child support may need to be adjusted to accommodate these expenses.

Special Needs Children Often Need Substantial Emotional Support During Divorce

Divorce is hard on any child, but children with certain special needs may struggle even more with the sudden change in their life. Kids with certain developmental or mental health challenges often rely heavily on routine. If one parent suddenly stops coming home after work or is only available on weekends, that enormously impacts their mental wellbeing. Children in this position may act out, regress in different ways, or lash out at the present parent. Before announcing the divorce to their children, divorcing parents should consider these possibilities and find ways to minimize their special needs child’s distress.

Long-Term Needs Must Be Considered

Parents of special needs children know very well the worries that come with aging. If their child is unlikely to support themselves or live alone as an adult, they know how important it is to plan for their child’s long-term needs. These issues should be part of the divorce agreement. Divorcing couples will need to discuss in detail what their arrangements will be throughout the child’s time in school, after they leave high school, and beyond. These discussions may even extend into estate planning as they determine what their child will need to live comfortably and safely throughout their lifetime.

Living Situations

If the child in question has particular physical needs, each parent’s living situation will need to accommodate those needs. This could seriously limit both parents’ options if the child has a wheelchair or requires a special lift. These considerations may impact custody, visitation options, and other parts of the divorce agreement.

Contact Kirk Drennan Law Today

Divorcing is difficult when you have a special needs child, but with careful planning you can minimize your child’s concerns and growing pains. To discuss your divorce and create a plan that meets your needs, contact Kirk Drennan Law to set up a consultation. Call us at 205-803-3500 or get in touch online.

Common Financial Issues During a High Asset Divorce

High asset divorces are considerably more complicated and drawn out than divorces between partners with a standard amount of assets. Whether you are a high earner in the marriage or not, you have a lot to lose in a divorce. It’s important to know the common pitfalls of a high asset divorce and avoid them with the help of a high asset divorce attorney.

To discuss your divorce in greater detail, contact Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500.

Proper Asset Valuation

A number of high asset families have money tied up in unique or “niche” assets. These require specialized valuation, as turning to a professional who handles this issue in “regular” divorces could lead to wildly inaccurate estimates.

Getting proper valuations can be time-consuming as parties may dispute the other’s choice of valuator. Your attorney can help you work through these issues.

Hidden Assets

When there’s a lot at stake, people are far more likely to engage in unethical behavior. Don’t be surprised if one party hides assets. Whether that means one party hiding some of their income in a separate account, “giving” assets or funds to family members, or squirreling away cash, these issues can lead to egregiously unfair agreements that leave one party with far more than the other. Whichever side of the divorce you’re on, plan on a full forensic financial audit to ensure that all assets are accounted for.

Maintaining the Family’s Lifestyle

The issues that are relatively easy to decide in a standard divorce become more complicated when lots of money is involved. Consider, for example, child support and alimony. The goal of child support is to ensure that a child enjoys the same standard of living at both parents’ homes. If one partner earns a large salary and the other earns much less, the higher-earning parent may have to pay a large amount of child support to make up the difference.

Alimony strives to support the lower-earning spouse until they have the chance to get the education or training they need to support themselves. However, in a high asset divorce, it’s likely that closing that gap is impossible. The parties must find a fair compromise that does not deprive either party.

Income Variances

Families with substantial assets often have multiple income streams. This makes it extremely difficult to determine child support and alimony when compared to a family that has a steady paycheck. The court must find a way to ensure that both partners are treated fairly while taking into account the fact that income could vary substantially from month to month.

Foreign Assets

If any of your assets are tied up in foreign businesses, properties, or bank accounts, your divorce could take much longer than expected. You may need to valuate and access these assets before they can be fairly divided in a divorce.

Drawn Out Divorce Process

All of these issues often lead to an extremely long, complex, and drawn out divorce process. Divorce moves most quickly when both parties agree on the important topics and compromise on everything else.

This is much less likely to happen in a high asset divorce than in a standard divorce. Both parties have plenty to lose if they compromise too much or agree too readily to the other party’s terms. While an agreement is generally reached before court, it often takes a substantial amount of time to come to a fair compromise on just a single topic. When you repeat that over and over for each asset and each issue within the marriage, you’re quickly spending all your time in negotiations.

While you should have a divorce lawyer regardless, it is even more important in a high asset divorce. You can expect the other side to fight hard for what they deserve, so you need your own attorney to avoid getting steamrolled.

Find Out How Kirk Drennan Law Can Help You

Are you in the midst of a high asset divorce? We can help. We know how much you stand to lose, and our goal is to help you get what you deserve. Schedule a consultation now by calling Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500 or contacting our team online.

Personal Space: Jessica Kirk Drennan

A one-on-one conversation with Jessica Kirk Drennan, family law attorney.

B-Metro: What got you into the law and specifically family law?
Drennan: I grew up in a small town, Alexander City, so the big guys on the block were the lawyers and the doctors…that’s who you respected in town. That’s how it was in a small town. I wasn’t interested in medicine, but I really was attracted to the law from the time I had a mature thought about it.

B-Metro: What attracted you to the law?
Drennan: I liked the analysis of it and the verbal aspects, the debate. I have always liked that. I don’t consider confrontation, confrontation, I consider it discussion. It’s a lost art. And it is civil not uncivil. So I just always loved the idea of justice and I have always been for the little guy. That’s what attracted me to the law.

B-Metro: What was your first job like?
Drennan: After Tulane I went to work for a judge at first. Then I came home and a lawyer in town, Tom Radney, who was a big personality, called and wanted to know if I wanted a job. So I went home, interviewed and got the job. He talked the judge into releasing me from my clerkship and I went to work for him.
Six months out of school I went home and started practicing.

(View full article)

Jessica Kirk Drennan to Serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers

As part of Kirk Drennan Law’s commitment to serving the community, Jessica Kirk Drennan will be serving as Vice Chair of the Board for the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program for 2017-2018. The Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program helps attorneys provide free legal services to low-income citizens unable to afford attorneys who need help with civil legal problems. The program provides legal help on issues such as evictions, collections/garnishments, divorce, child support, visitation, and other civil problems to those unable to afford it.

Visit the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers page here. You can read more about Jessica Kirk Drennan’s volunteer activities on her attorney profile.