Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Salt Lake City Law Blog

Co-parenting, alcohol abuse and divorce

Utah parents who are worried about their child's safety with the other parent might be able to take some steps to protect the child although they will probably need some documentation. One man was worried that his wife would drink and drive with their son in the car since she had an alcohol problem. He was also concerned about his wife cutting off contact with him while she had their son since he had been the main caregiver for the child.

Unfortunately, parents may struggle to prove that a child is in danger. An arrest report or witness testimony from a neighbor or child care provider might help, but even proving heavy alcohol consumption is not necessarily sufficient. Although one father drank nightly, a court found that it was not proof that he would imbibe when he was around his children.

What to do about "hard" assets in an estate plan

Utah residents who are creating an estate plan may be able to distribute assets such as cash and bonds among beneficiaries without too much difficulty, but what are sometimes called "hard" or "illiquid" assets may present more problems. Family members may have sentimental attachments to items such as art collections or jewelry or might fail to realize their proper value. Although conversations about these assets may be emotional, they may also prevent conflict later.

Understanding the value of these items is the first step, and it is important to hire a qualified appraiser. Even if they were appraised in the past, their value may have changed. The appraiser should be certified by an organization responsible for such accreditation such as the International Society of Appraisers.

Make sure your parenting plan allows you to parent well

The main goal of any child custody order or visitation arrangement should be to protect the best interests of the minor children above all else. What that means for your family depends on your individual situation, your goals and other factors unique to your situation. Some parents choose to craft a parenting plan together in order to avoid complications and give their kids stability and continuity of lifestyle.

If you and your spouse choose to work together on the terms of your custody order and parenting plan, there are certain things to remember and consider as you walk through their process. First of all, it is smart to never allow your emotions to be the driving force behind the decisions you make. Ultimately, you would be wise to keep your eyes on your kids' needs and your parental rights. 

Income level and credit scores may predict divorce

Whether living in Utah or anywhere else across the country, married couples often cite finances as a source of stress. A study produced by SunTrust Bank states that 35 percent of married couples pinpoint financial stress as the leading cause of marital discontent. This is often a concern faced by younger couples who are having to merge finances and adjust to making joint financial decisions. Furthermore, younger couples are typically less likely to earn as much as older, more experienced workers.

When it comes to credit scores and wealth, research by the Federal Reserve Board shows that couples with a larger disparity in credit scores are more prone to divorce within the first five years of marriage. However, couples who both start out having high credit scores and income were more inclined to stay together. The research also states that the division of labor can be a point of stress for married couples if one spouse is the sole breadwinner or if there is a great disparity in earning potential.

Charitable giving in an estate plan

Some estate owners in Utah might be interested in the benefits of incorporating charitable giving in an estate plan. Taxes are one reason to consider charitable giving, but it can also be a way for a person to create a legacy. Philanthropy can also be indirectly beneficial to other heirs.

First, a person must decide what charity to contribute to. Estate owners who are uncertain might consider their personal values and concerns. They might also consider what they want their long-term legacy to be.

Negotiating child support when the parents share custody

Utah parents who have ended their relationship and are negotiating child custody should be aware of how joint parenting and child support work in relation to each other. They should also consider that there are three aspects of custody that they must negotiate for as they work toward a fair, sustainable custody and support settlement.

The three aspects of child custody are legal and physical custody and parenting time. Legal custody gives parents the ability to make major decisions about their children such as medical and educational decisions. In some states, not having legal custody means a parent is considered non-custodial, which can take away more rights from the parents if not handled correctly. Physical custody is the time the child will spend with the parent, and the ideal is 50 percent with each parent. Parenting time helps protect the relationship between the parent and child.

Why an estate plan is important

Some Utah residents may think they do not need an estate plan because they do not have many assets, and other people simply put off creating one. One survey found that more than 40 percent of people do not have one. However, there are a number of reasons all adults should have an estate plan.

An estate plan designates who will receive which assets. At minimum, people should make sure their beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, life insurance and other accounts are current. Without a will or a trust, the state will decide how other assets are distributed. However, an estate plan is also important in making plans in case a person becomes incapacitated. Documents that appoint people to manage finances and health care can ensure that the person's wishes are carried out.

Preparing for a child custody case

When Utah parents decide to divorce or end their relationships, they may not know what to expect when they enter the child custody system. The idea of going to court to determine the future caregiver of a child can be intimidating and confusing. However, by preparing for a child custody hearing, parents can put plans in place so that they can achieve their desired outcomes. It is important for a person who is seeking custody to be aware of and ready for a court hearing, including dressing appropriately, being prepared to present positive testimony and readying relevant arguments.

A family law attorney can work with someone to prepare his or her presentation for a custody hearing. This argument can address how the person can provide for the child emotionally as well as practically and financially. It is important for parents to present solutions to logistical problems, such as how child care will be provided when they are at work. People should also be able to show that they can provide appropriate privacy and living space for the child. Witnesses can also help support a person's case for custody. People like babysitters and teachers can speak about the individual's parenting ability and personal experiences.

Protecting your relationship with your child after divorce

Utah parents know how difficult it is to navigate matters related to child custody and visitation during the process of divorce. These matters are emotionally complex and often quite contentious, and in some cases, can lead to complex disputes that do not necessarily diminish after the divorce. You may find yourself embroiled in custody difficulties even well after the finalization of the process.

Some parents may attempt to interfere with the other parent's relationship with his or her child through various methods. This is parenting time interference, and it is a type of custody dispute that can greatly affect your role in the life of your child. If you are experiencing this type of problem, you will find it beneficial to take quick action to protect your rights and interests.

Documentation and access vital for cryptocurrency estate planning

State law in Utah has begun to catch up with the realities of digital assets. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have become mainstream investments, and the law now recognizes that executors need to manage digital assets as well as traditional assets. A benefactor writing a will still needs to declare how to distribute these assets and how to access them.

Cryptocurrency accounts are kept safe with technological controls like personal identification numbers, passphrases, timelocks and multisignature systems. A person wishing to pass on these assets needs to record where and how to access them. Without access information, no one can ever claim the assets, not even with a court order. A person should create two copies of a printed list containing the access information and store them in places where heirs can access them when the time comes. An old-fashioned paper document could serve this purpose better than a digital storage device because a USB drive might not work with a future computer's operating system.

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