Do I have to show how I’ve spent my child-support payments?

The popular rap artist T.I. has had his share of run-ins with the law. But he’s also recently gone to court voluntarily to protect his own interests. When his ex-girlfriend, with whom he had two sons, sought to increase his child-support obligations from $2,000 to $3,000 a month, T.I. went to court to challenge this, arguing that she was spending the money on herself rather than on the kids. He demanded an accounting of how she was spending the money.

T.I. isn’t alone. Many non-custodial parents are suspicious about how the other parent is using their child-support payments and would like similar accountings. So are they entitled to it?

In many states, they’re not. But some states do make provisions for such accountings in particular circumstances. [Read more…]

Ex-wife can’t touch husband’s interest in ‘spendthrift trust’

An “irrevocable spendthrift trust” is a popular vehicle for parents to pass along wealth to their kids while protecting the trust’s assets from their kids’ worst instincts.

Here’s how it works. The parent sets up a trust and names the child or children as beneficiaries. The trust document also includes language stating that if one of the beneficiaries owes someone money, that creditor can’t touch the assets in the trust before they’ve been distributed. And the person named as “trustee” is in charge of these distributions.

Once a beneficiary has received a distribution from the trust, creditors can go after that money, but only money in excess of what the beneficiary needs to support him or herself. [Read more…]

Plan ahead for bringing a new spouse home from abroad

Traveling or working abroad can be very exciting. You get to experience new cultures, see new places and meet fascinating new people. In fact, you might just fall in love and decide you want to bring this special someone back to the U.S. and spend the rest of your lives together.

Congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful future! But remember that this could be a recipe for heartache and disappointment if you don’t follow some necessary steps along the way. That’s because returning to the U.S. with a non-citizen spouse isn’t necessarily as simple as you think and takes advance planning. Otherwise you may arrive in America ready to live as a family, only to have immigration officials block your spouse from coming in.

So what do you have to do? [Read more…]

Undoing your divorce: What happens when you have regrets?

A lot of times after a divorce agreement is finalized spouses may have misgivings. Not necessarily about being divorced, but about the divorce agreement itself. Hindsight is 20/20, and they might feel they got a raw deal and could have walked away with a lot more. So if you’re unhappy with your divorce agreement, can you undo it?

Generally the answer is “No.” In most states, courts won’t revisit judgments lightly.

Still, there are a few situations where a court may decide to give a divorce judgment a second look. [Read more…]

Courts expanding definition of ‘parent’ to recognize ‘de facto’ parenthood

Traditionally who was a parent was pretty clear-cut. If a child was yours biologically or if you adopted him or her, you were considered a parent. That would give you the right to seek custody and visitation if you and the other parent were no longer living in the same home.

But just as traditional notions of “family” have evolved in recent years, so have traditional notions of who a parent is. Two recent court decisions make this clear. Both decisions appear to recognize the idea of a “de facto” parent: a non-adoptive, non-biological caretaker who has earned parental status through the bond he or she has developed with a child and who deserves to be viewed on equal legal footing with the biological parent. And while both decisions involve same-sex couples, the reasoning behind them could extend to any non-adoptive, non-biological “parent.”

The first case is from Maryland and involved Michael Conover, a transgender man (a person who was born biologically female but identifies and lives as a male) who married a woman before undergoing gender transition. Before his transition, he and his wife, Brittany Conover, lived as a same-sex couple. [Read more…]

Realtors survey: First-time home-buying is down

In reviewing 35 years of survey data on home buyers and sellers, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced five notable real estate trends.

The organization’s survey, called Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, dates back to 1981 and is the longest-running series of national housing data evaluating the demographics, preferences, motivations, plans and experiences of home buyers and sellers.

Here are the key takeaways over the past 3 ½ decades: [Read more…]

Financing for energy improvement loans now easier to obtain

Residential properties encumbered with a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) obligation are now eligible for FHA-insured mortgage financing.

The change applies both to new purchases and refinancing, under a guidance issued in September by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

PACE is a popular program that provides an alternative way to finance energy improvements to properties, such as energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy upgrades. The financing is provided by private entities in connection with state and local governments. [Read more…]

Clean-up not disclosed; Seller sued for fraud years later

A recent case highlights the importance of disclosing any environmental contamination and clean-up that took place on your property when you sell it, even if you sell it “as is.”

A New Jersey appeals court decided that a seller’s failure to disclose such information could expose him to liability for fraud many years after the sale.

In the case, the seller had owned the property since 1983 and defaulted on the mortgage in 1987. The seller’s mortgage lender took possession of the property and made plans to sell it. The lender had an environmental consultant take soil samples and learned that the property was contaminated with perchloroethylene (“PCE”). [Read more…]

The surprising effect of Airbnb income on mortgage refinancing

Renting out your house when you’re out of town or offering up an extra room while your son or daughter is away at college sounds like a great way to make some extra cash. And services like Airbnb have made the process rather simple.

But it might not be quite so simple when you go to refinance your home. Recently, some big banks are raising an eyebrow because making money off your home can be construed as turning your residence into commercial property.

According to a report in the Wall St. Journal, some banks — including Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. — have been telling borrowers who make income from Airbnb that they’re no longer able to get certain types of loans or that they must pay higher interest rates. [Read more…]

Everyone knows someone who missed the boat

This year’s April 18 tax deadline has come and gone, but not everyone has filed a 2016 tax return. While many have filed an extension and intend on getting their return in order, too many taxpayers who should file, simply do not. Common culprits are older, retired parents and young adults who are new to tax filing requirements.

Here are some of the reasons why it will help them to file a tax return.

Get withholdings. People who work but earn less than the required filing threshold should file a tax return so they can get back any withholdings their employer may have taken out of their paycheck. [Read more…]