On the final Friday afternoon in December one of Dallas’s best-known family law attorneys pored over paperwork in his office.
Holidays almost had to be ignored, because a deadline couldn’t be.
“Deadlines make deals,” said Scott Downing, a partner at Orsinger Nelson Downing Anderson.
Downing expects to spend much of Monday in court, finalizing as many divorces as possible before 2019 begins.
“If the deal isn’t done for any reason by the 31st, then you’re just out of luck,” he said.
Part of the tax overhaul that was signed into law in 2017 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019 and something that’s been in place for the last 75 years will change: alimony is no longer going to be tax deductible.
Divorces finalized by Dec. 31 are grandfathered in, so several of Downing’s clients that were considering divorce decided to speed things up.
“I got a bunch done this week and, knock on wood, we’ll get the last few done before Monday,” he said.
What exactly does the change mean? A husband or wife with a higher income has always been able claim the alimony check that he or she wrote to their ex-spouse as a tax deduction.
With that deduction gone, Downing said there’s little incentive for a higher-earning spouse to pay alimony to the spouse who makes less.
“You know a person who’s willing to write a $100 tax-deductible check may not be willing to write a $100 check that they’re not going to get any benefit for in the future,” Downing said. “So, I think it does hurt both people, and it hurts our ability to settle cases.”
The congressional committee that helped write the changes to the tax law called this the end to the “divorce subsidy”.
The change is expected to make up for an estimated one-half of one-percent of the $1.5 trillion tax cut plan.