Today TaxMama hears from Amy in the TaxQuips Forum with a very disturbing tale. Let me summarize. Amy’s ex forged her name to their joint 2004 tax return, stealing the refund. He stole her court-ordered share of his pension plan. No doubt, there is more going on. You can read her story and my detailed reply yourself.
I would like to address two things today.
1) The utter helplessness that happens in any nasty divorce – especially when there was an abusive relationship.
2) The need for speed when it comes to tax and legal issues.
Helplessness – Even in friendly divorces (like mine, in my early 20s), you just want to get it over with. You’ll do anything you can, give up anything you must, just to end it. Or you turn into an angry monster trying to get everything you can, to punish him or her, whether you’re entitled to it or not.
Both those paths are wrong. The most important thing you need during a divorce is a good, positive, well-adjusted friend who can help you maintain perspective – and fairness. You need a friend who will help you insist on looking after your (and your children’s) long-term welfare, by being assertive, not aggressive.
If you don’t have positive friends or family members to help you…well, that may just be why you ended up in a bad relationship in the first place. You can’t choose your family. But, perhaps it’s time to assess how you choose your friends? People who make you feel badly about yourself are people to avoid. Friends are people who cheer for you, make you feel good, and see the positive side of your experiences and stories – not always what you’ve done wrong. Being surrounded by good friends, you’ll never get into a bad marriage, again, either.
Speed – Amy’s problems are pretty serious. Both of the financial issues – the tax refund theft and the 401(k) theft – could have been avoided or corrected by acting swiftly. During divorce proceedings, as soon as you get a court order entitling you to the right to assets (especially pension plans), notify the asset holder immediately about the court order. In an abusive divorce situation, ask your attorney to have the court issue an order to freeze key assets until their dispensation is determined. This is rarely done. I don’t know why; since it is very common for spouses to steal or hide assets.
When something like tax returns are forged – you can correct the problem by notifying IRS immediately. And by filing your own, correct tax return – even if it must be a married, filing separately tax return. That way, you may still be able to get your share of the refund – or avoid being held responsible for your ex’s balances due.
There is always a statute of limitations (a time limit) to correct or undo tax and legal issues. By acting quickly, you can fix the problem. Waiting until you get over your grief, fears, or stresses – it becomes too late to recover your losses and fix the problems.
And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about fixing things and other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.[Note: If you were subscribed to the e-mailed TaxQuips, you’d be getting other exciting news and tips by e-mail, that never appear on the site. Please click on the join TaxMama.com link – it’s free!]
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