IN THE MEDIA: SmolenPlevy Principals On Air to Discuss Sharing Your Child’s Expenses After Divorce

It’s back-to-school season, and for divorced or separated parents, the question is: Who is paying for the expensive TI-84 calculator their child needs for class? Alan Plevy is featured on WTOP and Mandy Walker’s popular Since My Divorce blog to weigh in on what is covered with child support and how parents can decide who will pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson shares her own insights on these complex family law issues on WUSA 9’s Great Day Washington.

Child support doesn’t cover the costly tab of #2 pencils, paper, clothes and computers, which runs on average about $600 per child, adding more stress to what can already be a tense situation between parents. Plevy says cooperation goes a long way to helping exes–and their children handle back-to-school season.

Plevy says there are typically two ways parents can decide to handle back-to-school expenses: Split the expenses down the middle, or use the same income ratios often used for reimbursement for medical expenses. “For instance, one parent may have 66 percent of the income, so one parent pays 66 percent of the cost, and the other pays 33 percent of the cost.”

For divorced or separated parents struggling to provide normalcy for their children, “This actually forces the parents to come together and try to talk about these expenses,” Plevy said. “Sometimes they’re able to do it, sometimes they’re not, but if they’re not it’s really the children who suffer.”

Listen to Alan Plevy on WTOP Radio and on the popular podcast Since My Divorce:

Watch Kathryn Dickerson on WUSA 9’s Great Day Washington: 


Five Questions Single Parents Should Ask About Their Estate Plans

In many respects, estate planning for single parents of minor children is similar to estate planning for families with two parents. Parents with minor children want to provide for their children’s care and financial needs. But when only one parent is involved, certain aspects of an estate plan demand special attention. If you’re a single parent, here are five questions you should ask:

1. Are my will and other estate planning documents up to date? If you haven’t reviewed your estate plan, including any wills or trusts recently, do so as soon as possible and regularly to ensure that it reflects your current circumstances. You want a court to have to decide how to allocate your assets or determine who should care for children who were not born at the time you initially created your estate plan.

2. Have I selected an appropriate guardian? If the other parent is unavailable to take custody of your children should you become incapacitated or die suddenly, does your estate plan designate a suitable, willing guardian to care for them? Will the guardian need financial assistance to raise and educate your children? If not, you might want to preserve your wealth in a trust until your children are adults.

3. Am I adequately insured? With only one income to depend on, you need to plan carefully to ensure that you can provide for your retirement as well as your children’s financial security. Life insurance can be an effective way to augment your estate. You should also consider disability insurance as an way to address your needs in case of incapacity.

4. What if I become incapacitated? It’s particularly important for you to include in your estate plan an appropriate directive to specify your preferences for the use of life-sustaining medical procedures and to designate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. You should also have appropriate powers of attorney or other estate documents that provides for the management of your finances during any period when you are unable to do so.

5. Should I establish a trust for my children? Creating a trust can be one of the most effective ways to provide for children regardless of their age. Trust assets are managed by one or more qualified, trusted individuals or corporate trustees, and you specify when and under what circumstances funds should be distributed to your children. A trust can be particularly useful if you have minor children. Without one, your assets may come under the control of your former spouse, the child’s other parent or a court-appointed administrator.

If you’re a single parent, we can help answer your estate planning questions.

In the Media: Kyung Dickerson Discusses ‘Cyberspying’ on WTOP

Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson Discusses Cyberspying on WTOP Divorce often brings out the worst in people, but ‘cyberspying’ shows how low they can go. SmolenPlevy principal Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson discusses the disturbing new trend on air with WTOP.

Cyberspying occurs when one parent uses technology to spy on the other parent while he or she has custody of the child. It can be as simple as forcing the child to Skype or FaceTime when the other spouse has custody, or as complex as planting a tracking device in the child’s shoelaces.

Angry and suspicious parents fail to realize how much cyberspying affects the children who are caught in the crossfire.

“The worst part of it all is, the children are put right in the middle of the debate,” says Dickerson. “As the children get older and are aware of what’s going on, that’s really not healthy for the children.”

“Cyberspying” Between Parents: A Sly Game That Nobody Wins

Plevy and Dickerson

“Cyberspying” by a parent, who uses technology to monitor what their kids are doing when they’re with their other parent, is a disturbing trend among divorced couples and parents who do not share a home. Parents use these tactics to try to keep an eye on their children or the other parent for various reasons, including trying to change custody arrangements. Recently, SmolenPlevy family law attorneys Alan Plevy and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson have noticed a number of parents engage in this behavior.

Checking up on what the other parent is doing when they have custody is easy when the children have smartphones or access to computers with webcams. Some examples include:

  • Tracking the kids via their cell phone’s GPS or the “ Find My iPhone” app.

  • Chatting with the children on webcam sites like FaceTime or Skype, then scrutinizing or questioning what’s going on in the background.

  • Insisting the kids connect via webcam at particular times to prove they’re doing certain things, like taking their medication or going to bed on time.

  • Setting up webcams on the kids’ laptops to automatically record what’s going on.

“This is an example of when the law still needs to catch up with technology but more than that, this behavior puts the children in the middle of their parents’ conflict,” says Dickerson, “and to make matters worse, if the parent being watched takes away the phone or computer so they cannot be spied upon, the child feels punished by losing their technology.”

When Used Correctly, Technology Connects Parents and Children

“When used appropriately, technology is a wonderful tool when kids split their time between parents,” Plevy says, such as when the kids are away and mom or dad can read them a bedtime story via Skype or help them with their homework online. And in unfortunate situations when a parent is abusive or has an alcohol or drug problem, cell phones enable children in danger to contact the other parent for emergency help when necessary.

Plevy advises parents who complain about what’s going on in the other parent’s household to consider what’s really important. For example, if you want the kids in bed by 8pm and the other parent lets them stay up until 9—is that really worth a big fight? He adds that compromise and communication go a long way in settling custody disputes, though there are certain issues like abuse which may require the intervention of the court. “Generally, the best course of action is to negotiate with the other parent,” says Plevy. “Try to agree on points of contention like bedtime or where you’re taking the children on vacation, so that there’s no need to spy.”

Divorce: A New Year’s Resolution

Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson Fox 5 DC Divorce as a New Year's Resolution

While no one can predict the future, it is safe to guess that the New Year will bring change: new opportunities, new friends, new diets, and possibly a divorce. Divorce is a common New Year’s resolution.

According to Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson, principal at SmolenPlevy, a number of people begin the process of divorce in January and February — mainly because people do not want the emotional turmoil of divorce proceedings in the middle of the holidays. “They’ve survived the holiday season,” said Dickerson in a FOX5 interview, “they’ve maintained the image of a family, they’ve maintained that one last good Christmas for their children, and now they’re ready to move forward.” Dickerson adds that there are also more practical reasons for getting a divorce early in the year, as January also means receiving end-of-the-year tax forms, making it “a great time to learn what you’re holding, what you owe and how you’re going to consider dividing those things up should a divorce happen.”

Dickerson also has some suggestions for people considering a divorce. When it comes to dividing up physical possessions, Dickerson recommended focusing on things with emotional value, rather than “[spending] thousands of dollars arguing over the lamp.” She also emphasized being clear with your attorney as to what you want your relationship with your spouse after the divorce to be like, as not everyone separating wants to take a “scorched earth approach”. Dickerson also recommends consulting with an attorney even if you don’t want a divorce but think your spouse may want one, so you can be better prepared for the process.

You can watch the full interview below. Make sure to follow SmolenPlevy on Twitter @SmolenPlevy and visit their website if you are looking for information on divorce or other legal services.

Alan Plevy Discusses Reducing Holiday Stress for Children of Divorced Parents

Divorce and the holidays Alan Plevy

The holidays can be a very stressful time for children whose parents are divorced. Alan Plevy, SmolenPlevy Co-founding Principal is featured on WTOP and News Channel 8 offering practical suggestions that divorced parents can use to make things easier on their kids, who are often caught in the middle of their difficult relationship.

Plevy recommends that parents agree on a plan for where their children will be and when well ahead of time, in order to alleviate confusion and stress. “Confirm the plan in writing,” says Plevy. “A text or email will do. Something as simple as ‘Yes, I agree we’ll meet at Starbucks at 4 p.m. on December 24’ will go a long way in minimizing family tension.”

He also cautions parents to avoid getting into competitive situations over gifts. “Children,” he believes, “value peace over presents and they don’t care about which parent gives them the most or the biggest gifts.” Additionally, when parents separate and eventually divorce, often there is disparity between their finances, so parents should try to be equitable with what they give the children. Plevy believes that children, no matter what their family situation, just want to be with their parents and their parents’ families during the holidays. Above all, they want to be happy.

Creating new holiday traditions can be fun for children and help make the time they spend away from one of their parents special. They will look forward to knowing that each year they’ll have a dinner on Christmas Eve with Dad or go ice skating on Christmas Day with Mom, for example.

Lastly, good behavior can also go a long way in keeping the holidays peaceful and happy for the children of divorced parents. Adults need to be mindful of not speaking poorly about the absent parent. This goes for extended family – grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles– in addition to the parents themselves. “Everyone will benefit from the old adage that you should ‘treat people the way you want to be treated,’ “says Plevy. Keeping this simple rule in mind will make the holidays less tense for children and parents alike.

Watch Plevy’s interview on NewsChannel 8 below:

SmolenPlevy in the Community

October has been a busy month for SmolenPlevy Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson and Daniel Ruttenberg, as they have made several presentations to different groups in the area.

On October 15, Dickerson led a seminar at The Women’s Center in Vienna, Virginia entitled Divorce, Custody and Support: The Discovery Process – Preparing Your Case. The seminar was designed to help women who are going through a divorce or expect they may be soon understand the different aspects of discovery and the rules that govern it. Dickerson explained the different aspects of discovery, the rules that govern discovery and ways to approach discovery in order to streamline their case, keep costs down and ensure that the relevant evidence is preserved for trial.

Dickerson joined Daniel Ruttenberg as he presented, “From Trial Court to the Supreme Court: My 3 ½ Year Journey to the Highest Court in the Land” to the Elder Law Section of the Fairfax Bar Association on October 15.  Ruttenberg also gave the presentation, which details his recent precedent-setting United States Supreme Court case Hillman v. Maretta, to the ReedSmith Litigation Group earlier this month. Ruttenberg will deliver remarks to the Capital Area Chapter of the American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants on Thursday, October 24.

In the Media: SmolenPlevy Attorneys Note Effect of Recovering Economy on Rise in Divorces in Virginia Lawyers Weekly

SmolenPlevy attorneys Alan Plevy and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson provide insight into the increase in divorces in a healthy economy in the September 2, 2013 issue of Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

Plevy and Dickerson were among the first attorneys to notice the trend of couples holding off on filing for divorce when the economy began to struggle in 2009.  Couples stayed under the same roof during the recession because 401(k) plans, stocks and home prices were so low they could not afford to split.

Roughly four years later, things have improved for couples wanting a divorce.

“People couldn’t even think about divorce before – they were just focused on survival,” says Plevy. “Now the economy has changed with people being able to refinance and a lower unemployment rate.”

Dickerson noted a silver lining from the recession: the economic downturn forced couples to be more civil and practical. “If both people are worried about how to pay the utility bill, then they were more respectful of each other in the process.”

To read “Till Death do Us Part…Or the Housing Market Rebounds,” click here.

In the News: Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson in Huffington Post

SmolenPlevy’s attorneys were among first to discuss the negative effects of social media on divorce and custody battles. But in a just posted Huffington Post article, Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson, SmolenPlevy Principal, explains how social media can be used constructively by divorcing couples, especially when it comes to their children.

Dickerson suggests that by logging on, you can keep up with your children’s friendships, activities and interests through postings, pictures and videos. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give insight into your child’s thoughts, moods and day-to-day experiences in a way that speaking with them for 10 minutes in the evening does not. Skype and Google Hangouts allow you to see, hear and talk with your children in real-time and can serve to augment in-person visitation or help you to keep in contact with children who may not be local.

Social media can also help reduce interference by the other parent and give you the ability to establish a relationship more directly with your child, says Dickerson.

In the News: Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson Interviewed on the Positive Uses of Social Media during Divorce

SmolenPlevy’s attorneys were among first to discuss the negative effects of social media on divorce and custody battles. But now, in a just posted interview, Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson, family law attorney and Principal, explains how social media can be used constructively by divorcing couples, especially when it comes to their children.

Dickerson suggests by logging on, you can keep up with your children’s friendships, activities and interests through postings, pictures and videos. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give insight into your child’s thoughts, moods and day-to-day experiences in a way that just speaking with them for 10 minutes in the evening does not. Skype and Google Hangouts allow you to see, hear and talk your children in real-time and can serve to augment in person visitation or help you to keep in contact with children who may be located in another country.

Social media can also help reduce interference by the other parent and give you the ability to establish a relationship more directly with your child, says Dickerson.