January 5, 2002
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:
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
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.
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."
Divorce doesnt 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
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
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
Couples in protectorate marriages, especially long ones, may find out that pre-nups
really arent 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
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
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
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
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
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 childs 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 childs well-being and health, as well as emotional and
financial stability. Without a dad in the picture, the odds are stacked against the child,
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.
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
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
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
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.