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U.S. News Archive
January 01 - January 06, 2002



This page contains news for the period January 01, 2002 through January 06, 2002.  

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Saturday, January 5, 2002

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Using the right filing status when doing your tax return

A story published today by the Daily Record reports that according to the IRS, the filing status on your federal tax return is a category that the agency identifies you based on your marital and family situation. It is an important factor in determining whether you must file a return, the amount of your standard deduction and your correct amount of tax. If more than one filing status applies to you, you may choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.

There are five possible filing statuses:

1. Single.

2. Married Filing Jointly.

3. Married Filing Separately.

4. Head of Household.

5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child.

Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your status for the entire year.

Generally, if you are unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to your state law, your filing status is single.

If you are married, you and your spouse may file either a joint return or separate returns. If your spouse died during the year and you have not remarried, you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year of death.

To qualify for head of household status, you must be unmarried and have provided more than half the cost of keeping up a home that was the main home for yourself and a qualifying relative for more than half the year. You may also qualify if you are married but did not live with your spouse at any time during the last six months of the tax year and you provided more than half the cost of keeping up a home for you and your dependent child for more than half the year.

If your spouse died during 1999 or 2000, you may be able to file as a qualifying widow or widower. To do this you must meet all four of the following tests:

1. You were entitled to file a joint return with your spouse in the year of death,

2. You did not remarry before the end of 2001,

3. You have a child, stepchild, adopted child or foster child who qualifies as your dependent for the year, and

4. You paid more than half the cost of keeping up your home, which was the main home of that child, for the whole year.


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Christian singles ministry focuses on the needs of singles socially and spiritually

A story published today by the St. Petersburg Times reports that Carol Thompson has a burden for singles. It was seeing so many people in her church in Florida lose their spouses in 2000 that touched her heart and led her to start a singles ministry.

Thompson shared her burden with Phil Lilly, the minister of education at the First Baptist Church of Crystal River. Lilly suggested that the singles ministry should include all of Citrus County and neighboring areas. A leadership team of 14 people was formed from several area churches that were interested in the singles ministry idea.

"Phil had a great deal of material on singles and with what I had, we complied a handbook and made copies for the leadership team members," Thompson said. "We had our first meeting April 30, 2001, and our Kick Off Event July 28."

Thirty-three singles came to the first event and the numbers attending subsequent events have been about the same. Thompson would like to see the numbers grow.

"My goal is to let singles know that there are people out there that care."

Thompson said those attending are 20 and older. Discussion groups gather according to age: 20s and 30s; 40s and 50s; 60 and above.

Some of the group's events have included a recent holiday party with concert, visiting the Holy Land Experience in Orlando and a Thanksgiving spiritual retreat. Future plans include a singles conference and a healing seminar.

Along with the fun, Thompson said the ministry has a serious purpose.

"In the group discussions, we're wanting to know where the singles are in their life," she said. "We want to know what their problems are and how we can address them. Very often people have experienced the same problems and some of them have overcome them. Just in the discussion group itself, it can be healing. The group has widows, widowers, some divorced, and some never married. We want to reach out to all of them and address their needs. Right now we're trying to establish what their needs are."

Thompson would like to hear from potential members as well as any churches or organizations willing to host the group. She is open to ideas to make the group better.

"We're still young and we're growing," she said. "There is nothing that's impossible. There is nothing written in stone. We're very flexible and we just want to extend our helping hand.

"We offer fellowship without any pressure. I know in a lot of singles groups, it's more like a meat market. That you don't find. Being Christian based, our desire is to help them where they are, not tell them what to do. We just bring singles together so they can get acquainted in a very nonstressful situation."


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Divorce doesn’t mean the relationship is completely over

A story published today by the Chicago Tribune reports that marriage does not end after all the legalities of the divorce have been signed and sealed. In reality, it'll take more than a wave of paperwork to iron out the tangles that follow the official end of a marriage, says Anita Wyzanski Robboy, a divorce lawyer at Schnader Harrison Goldstein & Manello in Boston and author of "The Myth of Divorce: Unspoken Marriage Agreements and Their Impact on Divorce".

Divorce is a legal fiction," says Robboy, a woman in her 50s, herself divorced and now happily remarried. Entwined finances, emotions, family responsibilities and other effects of marriage stick with a couple long after the dissolution of marriage, she explains.

Indeed, the faulty perception of divorce--that it ends a marriage--begins with the legal definition of marriage, Robboy says. The law views all marriages as one type of partnership.

In fact, there are many. Robboy isolates five types of marriage "bargains," as she calls them: the classic, the companion, the protectorate and the complex. The fifth, which she terms a short, childless arrangement, does not rate a name.

Classic marriages come straight out of the 1950s. The chief purpose of the marriage is to produce children; the wife stays home and cares for the children while the husband supports the family. Companion marriages are more millennial: couples believe they have married their best friend; they strive for a perfect balance of power in their union.

Protectorate marriages, another throwback to the past yet not uncommon today, exist when one party agrees to provide for and protect the other. Older, wealthy men with trophy wives and women with trophy husbands fit this category. Finally, complex marriages include more than the husband and wife--for instance stepchildren, former spouses and in-laws, whose presence figures into the marriage's survival.

The facts of each marriage predict what will happen in the aftermarriage, Robboy's term for divorce. Women in classic marriages, usually blind to their husband's finances, may be hugely surprised, and not pleasantly, when it's time to nail down a dollar amount for support. Women in companion marriages are often shocked that, despite their marital efforts at balancing power, most of the post-marriage burden of child care falls on their shoulders.

Couples in protectorate marriages, especially long ones, may find out that pre-nups really aren’t worth the paper they are typed on, and those in complex marriages will discover they have to deal not only with their divorce, but also with the divorces of everyone else in their marital house.

The point, Robboy says, is to understand the concept of divorce before it happens. "I can't say my agenda was to reduce the divorce rate," she says. "But I wanted to present the realities of what divorce can and cannot do."

Thursday, January 3, 2002

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Nevada dad seeks to change state law in child custody cases

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that a divorced Las Vegas father who says a child custody order doesn't give him enough time with his two daughters has launched an initiative petition to help resolve child custody battles.

Barry Michaels, who runs a computer software business, said Thursday he's not sure the initiative petition would help him since a judge has already ruled in his case but believes that other parents who are in the middle of divorce proceedings might benefit in future custody cases.

"I reached a dead end in the court system," said Michaels. "I fought for joint physical custody for four years to no avail - and it's the children who lose out. I think children have a constitutional right to both parents."

Michaels said he learned of the initiative petition process while taking a Nevada history course. He must collect about 46,000 signatures by next November in order to force the 2003 Legislature to consider his proposal.

Michaels' petition, filed with the secretary of state on Wednesday, calls for a presumption in court rulings that joint physical custody and shared physical custody are in the best interests of a child.

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

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Texas program helps single dads become better fathers

A story published today by the Waco Tribune-Herald reports that according to the Texas Council of Camp Fire Boys and Girls, young fathers may be dead broke but are not necessarily "deadbeats."

The program by the council called the Fragile Families Initiative helps single dads to work flexible hours to tend to parenting responsibilities, while earning money for the future.

The objective of the Fragile Families Initiative is to help young fathers expand their role in providing emotional and financial support for their children — even when the parents are not married. The initiative derives its name from the Ford Foundation's national Strengthening Fragile Families Initiative, which defines "fragile families" as young, unmarried fathers and mothers and their children.

Ashley McClure, a spokeswoman for the council, said 35 young men participated in the first year of the program, and organizers anticipate serving 60 males ages 14 to 24 this year.

She said most of the young men she's participating in the initiative have never finished school, a major blow to their earning potential. That's why they are urged to get their General Equivalency Degrees and take part in the job training, resume writing, mock interviews and career counseling portions of the program.

Texas Fragile Families, a statewide project with the support of 27 foundations, including the Waco-based Cooper Foundation, brings together community organizations and government agencies to provide education, job training and counseling services for young low-income, never-married fathers.

"This represents a much larger, national trend to think about how we infuse traditional family values of shared child rearing and the importance of the father in a non-traditional family structure," said Maggie McCarthy, executive director for the Rapoport Foundation. "Clearly, it is in the child’s best interest to encourage these dads to play a role, to find decent jobs and to continue their own education."

And research bears that out, she said. The presence of a caring and involved father is a key predictor of a child’’s well-being and health, as well as emotional and financial stability. Without a dad in the picture, the odds are stacked against the child, she said.

According to The Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based non-profit policy research organization, the statistics are sobering about fatherless children:

- Children are twice as likely to drop out of school and more likely to commit suicide.

- Sons are 300 times more likely to be incarcerated.

- Daughters are more likely to have children during their teen years.

Pat McKee, Camp Fire director, said the public has the wrong impression of these young males, dismissing them as "deadbeats."

"They really do care about their babies and often work two jobs and late shifts just to buy diapers," she said.


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Virginia court rules in child-support case

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled that divorced parents do not have to go back to court for every change in child support, as long as the changes are in the best interests of the children.

In February, a three-judge panel of the 11-member court ordered a Fairfax County father to pay nearly $34,000 in back child support, even though he had not violated a separation agreement.

In the agreement, the father said he would pay $2,177 monthly to support his three children, but the obligation to provide support for each child ended when he or she turned 18.

When the oldest child turned 18 in November 1995, the father reduced the support payment to his former wife by a third. In May 1997, he reduced it by another third when the middle child became an adult.

Circuit Judge Kathleen H. MacKay concluded that the judges and not the father could reduce the amount of child support, and she ordered him to pay $33,830 in back child support.

The panel agreed 2-1 with Judge MacKay, but the full court decided to rehear the case. In a ruling issued last week, the court unanimously reversed Judge MacKay's decision.

Requiring parents to return to court for approval "would undermine the commonwealth's policy in favor of promoting resolution of disputes concerning the maintenance and care of children upon divorce," Judge Rosemarie Annunziata wrote for the unanimous court.

She said the judge who signed the divorce decree had found that the support agreement was in the best interests of the children, and nothing in the decree prevented either parent from returning to court to modify the agreement if circumstances changed.

Judge Annunziata sent the case back to the trial court for a determination of whether the father reduced his payments by more than the child-support guidelines allow.


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