Full Time Employees or Spouses
Full time employees, both those who serve as the primary fee earner in a marriage or marriages where both spouses work full time, have different considerations when divorcing than those who are retired, don’t work outside the home, or own a privately held business. Erin Colgan Law has experience working with these divorcing couples and is familiar with the challenges they may face on Staten Island.
Full time employees may have assets to be divided, such as a pension, 401 (K), health care and other insurance benefits that may affect their children and spouse. Even Social Security benefits can be considered part of the division of assets if your marriage was 10+ years or longer.
Fast Fact: If you are approaching retirement, you may be able to claim Social Security spousal benefits on your ex-spouse’s work record or even survivor benefits if your ex-spouse dies. The timing of your divorce proceedings may matter in this situation.
Should I Tell My Employer I am Divorcing?
Divorce can be stressful. It is important to let your work supervisor or Human Resources department know you are committed to staying on track with your job and its responsibilities while going through a divorce. Your company should be made aware of the possibility of scheduling issues that may come up during this time, such as a court date or an attorney meeting. Of course, you will need to keep your performance at the same level it has always been and ensure that it does not fall below your company’s standards.
Most Human Resources professionals should have experience working with others who have also divorced and can guide you on how to correctly handle changes to your retirement or pension plan payees, your health insurance premiums and coverage, and your life and disability insurance since your employment records will need to be updated once your divorce is finalized. However, your lawyer will advise when to do these things as part of the divorce agreement. If you are a full-time employee with your spouse covered by your health benefits, dropping a spouse or dependent in anticipation of divorce is not a good idea and can lead to complications for both the employee and employer.
At Erin Colgan Law we caution our clients to be mindful of stress – and to stay as clear headed as possible while at work. We coach our clients to manage their stress levels, and frequently refer clients to local professional resources that might be needed to help them to do so.
Can My Employer Discriminate Against Me If I Am Divorced Or Going Through A Divorce?
In some states, including New York, it is illegal to treat employees differently due to their marital status, which includes divorce. New York City and New York State have Human Right Laws that govern workplace rights. You cannot be discriminated against by your company; however, you also have a responsibility to perform your job consistently satisfactorily. If you do suffer a negative change in your employment status on the heels of notifying your company about your divorce, that change may be considered illegal and discriminatory. If you are experiencing severe emotional distress, you have the right to request flexibility or other accommodation from your employer – known as “reasonable accommodation.”
Will My Financial Situation Change With Divorce?
In the short term, divorce may be more expensive, particularly as two households are being set up on earnings that previously supported one. You will need to assess your short term and longer-term financial situation and monthly household budgeting. This may include whether and when you may want to switch jobs to increase your earnings potential or return to school to aspire to a higher paying career.
We advise our clients to not conceal or minimize income to reduce alimony or child support payments. Or minimize income to receive a higher amount of alimony or child support. Doing either of these may work against you in the divorce proceedings.
For full time federal employees, the division of benefits in divorce may have additional complications because state laws may conflict with federal laws. A state court order related to the division of assets such as an annuity, retirement contribution, health insurance, or the assignment of life insurance may conflict with spouse equity provisions in federal law – where QDROs (link to QDROs page-consumer) (Qualified Domestic Relations Orders) will dictate divisions of pension and/or retirement benefits.
What should I not do in anticipation of a divorce and a divorce settlement?
Whether you are a full-time employee or self-employed we advise the following:
- Do not try to minimize income or collude with your employer to delay a promotion, bonus, or stock option award.
- Do not set up custodial accounts in a child’s name to avoid asset distribution.
- Do not underreport your income, particularly relevant if you are a full-time employee in a business where you receive cash tips or payments or if the household has earnings from a second, side job.
- Do not attempt to conceal cash by making withdrawals for deposit elsewhere.
- Do not start to buy expensive new things with the intent to sell them after.
- Do not announce that a previously unknown family loan is needed to be repaid.
- Do not incur significant new debt without consulting your divorce attorney.
In these instances, Erin Colgan Law works with skilled private investigators and forensic accountants to determine if assets are being hidden by a soon to be ex-spouse.
What About Tax Filings During The Time I Am Divorcing?
Erin Colgan Law coaches our clients to connect with trusted local resources to help determine how taxes should be filed during the period before your divorce is finalized. Many factors need to be considered including how you file (married, separately, or married filing separately), child dependency claims, medical expense deductions, child tax credits, alimony payments and asset transfers (such as a home sale).
If you are a full-time employee with concerns about your divorce, call to schedule a consultation with Erin K. Colgan, Esq., Staten Island’s premier divorce attorney and certified mediator at (718) 981-5505.