Whose Company? Whose Money? 5 Learnings From the Bezos Divorce

Whose Company? Whose Money? 5 Learnings From the Bezos Divorce

Earlier this month the bombshell news dropped that the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie Bezos, were getting a divorce. Headlines of this divorce permeated the news with conjecture around settlement amounts, leaked info of text messages between Jeff and his “love interest” and theories about what actually went wrong in their marriage.

I want to explore my top issues with and what we can learn from what will certainly be the most expensive divorce the world’s ever seen.

1. Divorce Can Happen to Anyone

Divorce has become widespread in the last twenty years. It permeates race, wealth, religion, gender, and geography. No one “group” is impervious from the effects of divorce. Even the richest couple in the world. 

2. Money Can’t Buy Happiness

If you’ve ever thought that money could buy you happiness, let this serve as a prime example of why it can’t. Money is just a means to an end. Happiness is derived from things like relationships, experiences, family, fulfillment, etc. Money couldn’t keep the Bezoses, who could buy anything they wanted in the world, from divorce. In the end their money was not as important to them as their happiness.

3. Divorce Doesn’t Have to Be Hostile

Oftentimes divorce can bring out feelings of hostility towards our partner. Jeff & Mackenzie Bezos exemplified, at least to the public (I stress this), the epitome of an amicable divorce. There are no doubt hurt feelings involved, but they are handling their divorce like adults. This is how we encourage all of our clients to approach divorce. It always ends better for both parties. Here is the letter released by Jeff Bezos on Twitter:

The problem is, after this amicable tweet, we found out about Jeff Bezos’ love interest. We know no-one ever likes being cheated on. And no one ever deems the person who betrayed them as a “cherished friend”. Honesty, maturity, and authenticity go a long way in securing non-toxic divorce. But, you don’t have to cherish your ex-partner. Just don’t be toxic and don’t be nasty. Which leads me to my next point.

4. Divorce Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum

Certainly billions of dollars could have purchased the right legal representation and the right PR team to “quash” the salacious text messages and the pictures of the “bombshell Latina”. Divorce does not happen in a vacuum. Others are effected. Pay for silence in the interest of your kids. Jeff made comments that he respects the free press and reporters can report. Nonsense. Not when the reports can hurt your innocent kids.

5. Sexism in Divorce Still Exists

Think about the headlines you’ve read regarding this high-profile divorce. They were all about “The World’s Richest Man” or “How Much Will Mackenzie Bezos Receive in Settlement”. There is something inherently wrong with this idea that the money earned by the Bezoses during their marriage belongs to Jeff. Amazon was founded after their marriage meaning that half the fortune is Mackenzie’s. If Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest man, then doesn’t that make Mackenzie Bezos the world’s richest woman? The headlines don’t reflect this and it’s appalling.

This bias stems from the 19th Century, where law actually did consider the assets of a family that of the man. Yes, it’s true that Mackenzie raised her family while Jeff went to work every day, but neither of those responsibilities outweigh the other in importance. Simply put, the world’s richest couple is getting divorced.

Want a more in depth look at this topic? Penelope Trunk does a great job of laying this out in Will Jeff Bezos Get Half of MacKenzie Bezos’s Fortune in the Divorce

Harvest,

– Mia Poppe, Esq.

The Disruptive Changes to How Alimony Will Be Taxed Starting in 2019

The Disruptive Changes to How Alimony Will Be Taxed Starting in 2019

Big Tax Changes to Alimony Payments in 2019 and Going Forward

Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is a common word in divorce proceedings. Essentially alimony is awarded to a spouse who is not able to meet his or her needs without financial assistance from a spouse that can afford to pay it.

And, as of Jan 1, 2019, there are some big changes that you need to know about when it comes to alimony payments. It’s for this very reason that many spouses rushed to complete their divorce before year end. Or, why some tried to delay until 2019.

The Tax Cuts and Job Act (TCJA)

Do you remember the Tax Cuts and Job Act that was passed by our federal government in late 2017? Well, part of this law changed how alimony is taxed on both the receiving and paying end.

The law stated that as of 2019 two things would happen:

  1. Individuals who pay their spouses alimony will no longer be able to deduct that money from their federal taxes.  
  2. The recipient of alimony will no longer pay federal taxes on that money.

This is huge! Good for some (the recipient spouse). Worse for others (the paying spouse). But, to be clear, if you divorced anytime before Jan 1, 2019 and no matter how long you receive alimony you are not subject to this change in law. However, in 2018, by settlement agreement, spouses could opt into the 2019 change.

The Real Life Impacts of the TCJA

As a result we will most likely see alimony alimony orders go down.

Newly divorce recipients will be able to keep much more of their alimony payment compared to those who divorced pre-2019 because these new payments are tax-free from federal income tax. And alternatively, payers will now bear the full out-of-pocket expense of alimony. So, it’s not unreasonable to think that new orders will be lower than previous to adjust for this fact.

It’s likely that new payers will not pay the same amount in after tax dollars as those who paid in pre-tax dollars. Expect to see states starting to change their laws surround alimony. Legal practitioners like myself are waiting to see the impact of the TCJA on maintenance awards.

Lawyers have numerous ways to mitigate the effect of TCJA on a client by client basis as each will vary. No two divorces are ever the same.

Consult with a Qualified Attorney

These changes involve tax laws which are extremely complex. So, do NOT take this as financial or legal advice. This is a starting point for your awareness. Every situation is different.

We’d encourage you to consult with a qualified attorney like the Law Firm of Poppe & Associates. Schedule your consultation today.

Harvest,

– Mia Poppe, Esq.