Ringing in the New Year with Alimony Tax Changes, Pet Custody, Moving to Vermont, and More!

January 8, 2019

Every year, the stroke of midnight on December 31 brings with it a host of resolutions and the promise of changes for the new year.  In light of this, NBC News ended 2018 with an article highlighting some interesting new laws taking effect across the country in 2019.  One city will see a change in what to expect from take-out orders, and one state will have a much more difficult choice of what beer to buy in grocery and convenience stores.  Sorry, the last one is not Pennsylvania!

One state is even taking an interesting approach in trying to increase its dwindling population.  Vermont is offering $10,000 to those employed by out of state employers who are willing to make the move.  If Ben and Jerry’s and maple syrup are your thing, and your job allows you the opportunity to work remotely, then pack your bags!

An interesting tidbit- three of the new laws are geared towards our furry friends.  Washington state is dealing with people claiming pets are trained service animals to sneak them into public establishments.  This is a frequent problem occurring in all states and having unfortunate effects on those truly requiring the assistance of a service dog. Check out this post from my colleague, Aaron Marines, for more on service animals versus support animals.

California has stepped up big time to protect our beloved pets with two new laws for 2019.  The first law states that pet shops can only sell animals from either a rescue or shelter, and are no longer able to go to breeders to fill their cages.  The second law is a big one for the country. Under California state law, the kids are no longer the only ones at issue in a custody battle.  The state becomes the third, behind Alaska and Illinois, to enact a law where animals are no longer considered property and the courts are afforded the ability to consider the best interest of the pet and determine who is best for custody.  Find out where Pennsylvania lies on the issue here.

One law discussed effects the nation as a whole as part of the 2018 Tax Reform.   As of January 1, 2019, alimony is no longer a taxable event, meaning the party paying alimony will not be able to deduct any alimony payments and the party receiving alimony will not declare the alimony payments as taxable income.  For a more detailed explanation of the new tax law pertaining to alimony, check out our recent post from Holly Filius.

This law is only for alimony agreements signed on January 1, 2019 or after.  What’s important to remember is that any modification to an existing alimony agreement changes the date of the agreement.  This does not mean that you will automatically lose your tax benefits as the payor of alimony if your current agreement is revised.  You can preserve your benefit of a tax deduction unless the newly signed modification states otherwise.  For this reason, if a modification to an existing alimony order is in your future, it is imperative that you have the agreement reviewed by an attorney familiar with these changes to the law.   Unfortunately, if you sign an agreement that fails to safeguard this benefit, it is gone forever!

Check back with the Lancaster Law Blog in 2019 to stay up to date on laws as they change throughout the year and new laws go into effect.

Kathleen Krafft Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas.