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On top of the emotional impact of separating from your spouse, the process of divorce can take a real financial toll on your life. At least, that might be your fear when entering a divorce settlement.

Do not let horror stories scare you into accepting a worst-case scenario agreement, though. Learn the basics of how your finances are viewed and split after a divorce. A Florida family lawyer can help you navigate these financial issues and get you the best settlement once your divorce is finalized.

How Do Florida Courts Split Assets During a Divorce?

Let’s start off by saying that if two parties agree on the terms of a divorce and present this mutual agreement to a judge, they can get a divorce finalized much faster – not to mention creating a plan that suits both parties’ interests. This is called an uncontested divorce.

However, when the divorce terms are contested, Florida will split assets based on an equitable distribution of property. Rather than a 50/50 split, Florida will determine what agreement is most fair to all parties involved. Florida is also a common law property state. Property that is acquired by one spouse is owned solely by that spouse.

How Do Florida Courts Determines Liabilities During a Divorce?

Spouses will not just acquire property during their marriage – they will also acquire liabilities and debt.

Florida determines liability in a similar manner to how they determine the distribution of property. If the debt is under one spouse’s name, they will most likely take it on after the divorce.

However, judges may also look at the spending habits and income of each party during the marriage. If one spouse behaved in a reckless manner to incur the debt or inhibit the couple’s ability to pay the debt back, they may be held liable to pay back the debt after the divorce.

How Do Florida Courts Determine Alimony During a Divorce?

While the income of both spouses will have an impact on how a judge will determine alimony and child support payments, income is not the only factor that goes into the monthly or yearly payments made to the “non-custodial” parent or lower-earning spouse.

If one party is paying for education to further their career, or if they spend a certain amount money each month to care for the children, these expenses and efforts will also go into how much money is sent to the other party.

How Do Florida Courts Determine Expenses During a Divorce?

Once the divorce process begins, the expenses of each spouse will be considered separate. This includes court fees or expenses made out of spite when the divorce is announced.

So, if your ex decides to make a big purchase as revenge for filing for divorce, do not worry. This can be brought up in court, and a judge will fairly place other expenses on your ex – or even order them to relinquish their property over to you.

Property distribution will also have an impact on expenses. If you fight hard to own the family house, for example, you will most likely incur more of the expenses due to maintaining a house.

Overall, Florida works to be fair in their decisions. Make sure you gather as much financial information as you can to bring to court in order to present the most accurate look at your situation and get the best outcome.

The post The Finances of Divorce: Assets, Liabilities, Income, and Expenses appeared first on .

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If you want to legally leave your spouse, there are generally three possible options available to you – divorce, annulment, and separation. Most states recognize all of these in some way, shape, or form, and offer the ability to make them legally binding.

Unfortunately, that is not the case with separation in our state. For some reason, the powers that be in Florida have never seen fit to formally recognize separation legally. This is a big deal for people who need the legal protections that come with divorce, but don’t want to actually get divorced – for religious reasons or otherwise.

Before you start thinking about moving to a different state, though, hang on. Even though there is technically no way to get legally separated in Florida, there are things you can do to create a legal separation in practice. In other words, there are workarounds to provide you with the same protections that people in states with legal separation enjoy – you just have to understand how to use them.

Here, we’ll tell you how you can separate from your spouse and ensure that both of you are legally protected.

File for a ‘Limited Divorce’

While you can’t file for separation from your spouse, you can offer grounds for a limited divorce – which is essentially the same thing. If you agree to voluntarily separate and ask the court for help, they will determine where any children will have their primary residence and help to create a visitation schedule for the noncustodial parent.

Both of you will be required to list income and resources, and the court will determine any child support that the noncustodial parent must pay.

Turn in Petitions for Support

There are also specific petitions that can be filed in Florida which deal with support requests for couples that are not getting a divorce. They fall under the umbrella of Petition for Support Unconnected with Dissolution, and offer a way to request child support, help with a parenting plan, and even alimony.

Create a Postnuptial Agreement

Perhaps the most all-encompassing way to get legal protection for a separation is to create a postnuptial agreement. Most people believe that these agreements are just for divorcing couples, but that’s not actually true.

While they absolutely do cover each party’s rights and obligations in the event of divorce or death, they also apply during the marriage. This is particularly beneficial in situations involving separation, because it is possible to set out specific rules and guidelines that must be followed depending on the actions of either party.

So, for example, if you decide to separate and one of you moves out, a postnup can detail things like:

  • Who gets the kids
  • How parenting time will be shared
  • What alimony will be paid
  • What child support will be paid

In order for nuptial agreements to be valid, they must meet certain requirements that the State of Florida has determined.

What all of this means in the end is that if you’re hesitant about getting a divorce in Florida, you have options. There are a number of ways out of an uncomfortable relationship situation. The trick is in knowing how to get what you want and make sure you and your loved ones stay legally protected.

The post Legal Separation Doesn’t Exist in Florida – But You Can Still Get One appeared first on .

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Your divorce has not been what anyone would call “fun.” You’ve divided bank accounts, stocks, and retirement accounts. Sold the house and split the profits. Laid claim to cars. Bickered over tchotchkes and artwork you’re not even sure you want. Thank goodness the court has clear rules and guidelines covering timesharing for children, or that battle might still be going on as well.

There is one thing left to hash out though: who gets custody of the family pets?

How Family Pets Have Been Traditionally Handled in Florida Divorce Cases

Two words: personal property.

Under the laws of our state – and just about every other state – pets are considered personal property and are subject to Florida equitable distribution laws when a couple divorces. The “value” of the animal lies in its’ financial value, which can be incredibly difficult to ascertain and can’t begin to account for the potential emotional value of the animal to both parties.

How do these types of policies work out in the real world?

A few decades ago, in San Diego, a judge awarded joint custody of a dog to both ex-spouses. However, neither one was satisfied with the agreement. They spent two years and around $150,000 in legal fees to decide the ultimate outcome (the ex-wife was eventually awarded sole custody).

In another case, in Las Vegas, the judge came up with a novel way of deciding who got the family dog. He sent them both to a local dog park and said whoever the dog came to would get custody. The ex-wife was the “winner.” The ex-husband got $500.

Things in Florida right now can be handled just as haphazardly, expensively, or both – because judges have no real guidelines to follow. Because of this, the way pet ownership is decided after a divorce in our state varies wildly from courtroom to courtroom. It depends almost entirely on the personality of the judge.

It is a situation that almost no one is happy with, but so far little has been done to fix things. Except in one state…

What Alaska’s Pet Custody Legislation Says and How It Might Impact the Country

In 2016, the State of Alaska was the first state in the nation to pass legislation related to pet custody, essentially tying it to existing child custody laws.

The legislation does a number of things. It says that the court must take into account the well-being of the animal in making its’ decision. It specifically allows decisions involving time sharing (previously something that was very rarely done), including having both ex-spouses share in pet-related expenses.

In cases where domestic violence is involved, this will be strongly considered in regards to awarding custody. And family pets may even be included in domestic violence protection orders.

Perhaps most importantly, it calls for judges to use objective criteria similar to what they would use in resolving a child custody decision.

What kinds of objective criteria?

  • Determining which spouse has had the most responsibility over the pet historically
  • Determining which spouse spent the most regular time with the pet
  • Determining which spouse is better suited to care and provide for the pet both financially and emotionally

In short, it is a way of recognizing that animals are more than property and shouldn’t be treated as mere possessions.

Florida Pet Custody: We’re Not There Yet

Unfortunately, Florida – like most of the country – just isn’t there yet.

Until then, your best bet is to work with your spouse in coming to a decision. This may be difficult, but the two of you are probably the ones with the clearest sense of what your family pets need and how to meet those needs.

Just as you would if children were involved, try to focus on the well-being of your pets first and foremost as you work to come to a solution. A Florida family lawyer with mediation experience can help.

The post Florida Divorce: Who Gets the Family Pets? appeared first on .

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Everyone has experienced a time in their life where it seems like everyone is getting married – but have you ever noticed a time when a lot of peers are getting divorced?

The decision to separate isn’t always spoken about, even with close peers, but questioning couples should not feel alone. By now, you probably know that the divorce rate for American couples is between 40-50%, but what age does this typically happen? Is there a specific time frame when marriages tend to fall apart?

The answers, especially relating to recent divorce trends, may surprise you.

Florida Family Lawyers See a Lot of Couples in Their Late 40s Filing for Divorce

Many marriages follow similar timelines. The couple gets married in their 20s, start having children a few years after, and spend the majority of their 30s and 40s raising a family. By the time their late 40s and early 50s come around, they are anticipating a new step in their lives.

This new step may be retirement, or an empty nest. It makes sense that a person would want to experience a new chapter after a decade or two of raising children and family. So it’s no surprise that family lawyers tend to see a lot of couples in their late 40s seeking a divorce.

An empty nest and retirement plans don’t top most guesses of what commonly causes a divorce, but studies that have looked at thousands of marriages can’t point to just one or two top causes for divorce. Everything from job stress to raising children can put strain and challenges on a marriage.

How Long Do Floridians’ Marriages Last?

The average length of a marriage in the United States is eight years. The “seven-year-itch” has been around for a long time, and with divorces lasting up to a year, seven years could still be the cursed number.

Researchers have also noticed a pattern of infidelity divorces happening more often after the first two years of marriage, which is why 10% of marriages that end in divorce only last up to two years. However, infidelity can also be a cause for divorce at any stage of a marriage.

 “Gray” Divorce Is on the Rise in Florida

The rate of divorce is highest among couples that have been together for two years or less, but that doesn’t mean that only couples in their 20s or 30s are heading to the courtroom. “Gray” divorce is becoming a more common trend. In fact, the rate of over-50 couples seeking a divorce has doubled since the 1990s. The rate of over-65 couples seeking a divorce has tripled since that time.

The rise in “gray” divorce is due to a lot of factors, including:

  • Baby Boomers have entered the 50+ age group in the past 25 years, and there are a lot of them
  • Society has become less shocked by divorce in general
  • People are living longer

As adults are making the decision to get married later (a trend that possibly stems from the higher rate of divorce,) divorces are also happening later in marriages.

Couples in their 50s and 60s may also have had previous marriages in the past. Couples with partners who were married once or twice before are significantly more likely to get divorced. Additionally – and this may be shocking – but men and women over the age of 55 are more likely to engage in infidelity.

The divorce rate for over-40 couples has also risen since the 1990s, but not as dramatically as “gray” divorces.

Other Age Factors That May Increase Chances of Divorce

Your current age may not be the only number that influences the chances of a divorce. The age when you decided to get married may also increase your chances of separating.

Women who get married between the ages of 15-20, or 45 and over, are most likely to see their marriages end in divorce. If the woman is getting married to a man who has been divorced before, they are also likely to end up separated.

The age of your children may also increase your chances of getting a divorce. Couples have children at many stages of their marriage, but as children get older, the likelihood for divorce increases. Waiting until children are adults not only allows the children to handle the separation more maturely, there will also be less questions about child support and time sharing issues once children turn 18.

Seeking a Divorce? Call an Affordable Florida Family Lawyer

No matter what age you are or how long you have been married, you deserve to have a fair and speedy divorce trial.

Don’t let the fear of high costs or a spiteful spouse get in the way. There are Florida family lawyers who offer affordable rates and fight to get you a fair share in your divorce. Reach out today for a free consultation about your divorce options.

The post When Are Florida Couples Most Likely to Get Divorced? appeared first on .

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Divorce proceedings tend to be less dramatic in real life than they are on television. Most can be settled amicably and out of court.

That being said, there are certainly real-life cases of divorces that can take years of fighting over property or custody. These two types of divorce – the amicable ones and the battles – are called uncontested and contested divorces.

If the couple has a prenuptial agreement or mutual views about how to handle property distribution and other arrangements, proceedings can actually go quite smoothly. These types of divorce proceedings are called “uncontested divorces.” Neither spouse makes a fuss, and the entire process can be completed in 90 days.

However, not all divorces are settled with both couples agreeing on who gets what (or who gets to care for their children). In cases where couples contest (disagree) with one or more arrangements of the divorce, they will have to go through a contested divorce.

How Does a Florida Contested Divorce Work?

To start the divorce proceedings, one party will have to file the petition of divorce and serve it to the other party, who will need to respond. In Florida, after the petition is filed, a judge will review the petition and decide if they want to move forward with the divorce or throw out the petition. At this stage, the judge may recommend counseling.

Once the judge approves the petition, each spouse will have to collect information about their finances and witnesses to present at the trial. This is called the “discovery phase.” During this phase, spouses can also try to come to an agreement on certain aspects of the divorce (time sharing, alimony, etc.).

If you can agree on these issues before you go to trial, you may be able to settle out of court. This discovery period, along with pre-trial hearings, can go on for months if spouses still can’t come to an agreement.

If spouses cannot ultimately come to a settlement, they will have to go to trial to determine the outcome of their divorce. Florida aims to fairly – not equally – distribute property between spouses.

This is why gathering financial information (including income, assets, etc.) is so important. Each spouse’s role in caring for children and the house, and what efforts they made to further their career (education, job training, etc.) will also be considered.

Similar to equitable distribution of property, Florida aims to fairly give each parent custody of their children. Joint custody is typically awarded unless one parent has been abusive or violent toward the children or other spouse.

Floridians Should Always Strive for an Uncontested Divorce

If you are close to coming to an agreement with your spouse, you may want to spend the extra time working toward an uncontested divorce. The entire process gives you and your spouse more control over the outcome and timing of your divorce, and you will finalize everything faster than with a contested divorce. More time in the courtroom and negotiating with attorneys can also mean more bills to pay after the divorce is finalized.

That’s not to say that contested divorces can’t end with a positive outcome, but you will need to fight hard for the property and arrangements that you deserve – and you’ll absolutely want a good family lawyer on your side.

Want to make sure your divorce ends with a fair ruling and is completed in a timely manner? Talk to a Florida family lawyer today for more information on contested divorces and your next steps.

The post What Does It Mean to Have a Contested Divorce in Florida? appeared first on .

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If you don’t pay the alimony you are legally required to pay, stiff consequences await you under Florida law. Below, we’re going to discuss these consequences and let you know how to get help.

Alimony Law in Florida

A judge may require that alimony be paid to one of the spouses after divorce. This alimony payment is based on the circumstances surrounding the divorce, including the following:

  • Whether adultery occurred
  • Financial need
  • Standard of living
  • Length of marriage
  • Age of receiving spouse
  • Physical and/or emotional condition of receiving spouse
  • Assets of both spouses
  • Earning ability of both spouses
  • Other factors affecting fairness to both spouses

Alimony can be set up in different ways under Florida law:

Bridge-the-gap Alimony

This type of alimony helps the receiving spouse for up to two years of transition time. As with all alimony cases, it is not binding if either spouse remarries or dies.

Rehabilitative Alimony

If the receiving spouse needs redevelopment of workforce skills, or new training to be eligible for employment, this type of alimony can apply. It is formed according to a specific plan, and it ends when the plan is completed.

Durational Alimony

With this type of alimony, payments are made for a certain time period determined by the judge. The length of durational alimony cannot be longer than the length of the marriage.

Permanent Alimony

If the receiving spouse is unable to meet his or her financial needs after divorce, the alimony agreement may be permanent. This is more likely to be true after marriages of long duration than short-term marriages.

Consequences of Failing to Pay Alimony

You could face several serious consequences like these for failure to pay court-ordered alimony.

Contempt of court

The judge may find you in contempt of court, which could result in a fine, a brief stay in jail, or both. You may also be ordered to stay in jail until you pay what you owe.

Wage garnishment

The judge can order that a portion of your wages is automatically reserved for alimony payments before you receive your portion.

Property seizure

Any of your valuable assets could be seized by the courts if you fail to pay. These include bank balances, dividends, rental income, royalties, or physical property.

Property liens

The court can place a lien on your property, which will prohibit the finality of its sale until your alimony is paid.

Tax refund designation

The court has the right to demand that your income tax refund be used for unpaid alimony.

Judgment and Interest

If you owe a large amount of unpaid alimony, your former spouse can file for a judgment against you. If the judge decides to award your former spouse, you will be responsible for the full amount plus interest, in addition to your former spouse’s legal fees.

If You Can’t Pay Alimony in Florida

If you’re having a hard time making regular alimony payments, you have several options to consider. An experienced Florida family law attorney can help you make changes to your alimony agreement.

Whether you have lost your job, experienced a pay cut or suffered from medical problems, you may have a legitimate reason to get your payments reduced, suspended, or eliminated.

Need legal help for making changes to your alimony agreement? Call for a free consultation today with a trusted Florida family law attorney.

The post Consequences for Refusing to Pay Alimony in Florida appeared first on .

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Opinions are mixed on whether it’s best to move out or stay put when you are divorcing in Florida. In this post, we’ll show you the pros and cons and tell you how a qualified attorney can help you make the right decision.

A home is normally a couple’s most valuable asset. Deciding which spouse should stay and which one should leave during divorce can be a tricky ordeal. Here are several thoughts to consider on either side of the argument.

Reasons to Move Out When Divorcing

If you decide to leave, here are a few reasons that may be a good idea.

Safety from Abuse

If you are divorcing due to domestic violence, leaving is a must for your safety and the safety of your children. You also may need to file a protective order against your spouse for further protection. If you are taking your children with you, you’ll need a temporary custody court order to avoid being accused of kidnapping.

Reduction of Conflict

If your relationship has a high level of conflict, moving out can provide relief and clarity. This decision may be best for your children if they are regularly exposed to negative behaviors.

Reasons to Stay Put When Divorcing

Of course, you aren’t required to leave your house unless a judge forces you to do so. These may be some of the benefits of staying.

Custody Issues

Divorce is hard on everyone, especially children. Staying put can help you retain a greater sense of normalcy during divorce. Moreover, leaving can work against you in a child custody case. However, if you are the spouse who stays, your spouse may argue that he or she is being punished for leaving – even if their leaving reduced the conflict in the home.

Some couples have even developed creative options for the sake of the children, such as bird-nesting. Utilizing this method, spouses alternate living periods in the home so that the kids never have to move around and get to retain some sense of normalcy.

As you can see, it’s complicated. A skilled Florida family law attorney can help you draw up a parenting agreement that establishes a schedule of visitation and eases this issue for both sides. Speak with a lawyer to know what is best in your situation.

Financial Issues

Divorce can be expensive, and not every couple can afford to financially support two households.

The spouse who earns more will be ordered by the court to continue paying the majority of household expenses. This means that if the higher earning spouse moves out, her or she may be forced to find a less satisfactory living situation.

If you are the spouse who decides to stay in the home, you may need to give up other assets in the divorce to be able to keep the house. However, there’s no guarantee that either spouse will be able to keep the house once the court divides all property. Florida courts divide property as equally as possible, and depending on your overall financial picture, keeping the house may not be equitable.

Again, it’s important to consult with a divorce attorney who can advise you on what to expect. You may be able to divide a large home into separate living areas so both spouses have private space. Some couples use a schedule for common areas like the kitchen and living room.

Want help navigating these complicated issues? Call today for a free initial consultation, and we’ll help you make the best possible decision for everyone involved.

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Divorce is often painted as a negative or even traumatic event. However, while it is typically the result of a “failed” marriage or negative situation, it is not uncommon for divorcees to find that they actually benefit from their new status.

After the initial heartbreak has worn off and they are able to move on, many people find that they have more freedom and lower costs after their divorce. If you are considering getting divorced, stop focusing on the negative and recognize those things you have to look forward to.

In this post, we’re going to detail some of the benefits that come with leaving an unhappy marriage.

Cheaper Nursing Home

Some older couples get divorced not because they are unhappy, but because they want to reap the financial benefits of a divorce and spend less when they enter a nursing home. How does this work?

Basically, Medicaid doesn’t cover nursing home costs until a couple’s assets have been used up. So it’s not unheard of for older couples to get divorced and for one spouse to give everything up to the healthier spouse. This way, the spouse entering the nursing home can use their Medicaid benefits to pay for care without using up everything else that they have first.

More Benefits and Fewer Fees

A look at census data over the past few decades show that divorced women who never remarry fare better financially around the age of retirement. Why?

Because after divorce, women tend to go back to work. When they do, they are eventually able to secure higher-paying jobs than they had during or before their marriage. Partially because of this, they were also found to take more time to withdraw Social Security benefits.

Your marital status can also have a big impact on the amount you have to pay for insurance and the amount you receive from federal funding. Not all insurance coverage is going to be cheaper for single people, but you may find yourself paying less after divorce.

Additionally, you may be able to get some of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits, provided  you were married for at least 10 years and do not remarry. If you meet these conditions, your ex will still get 100% of their benefits… and you can get 50%.

Moreover, if you do need to dip into your retirement fund early, your divorced status limits the fees that you would normally face. Having early access to a higher cash flow can take away a lot of financial stress later in life.

Financial Aid for Higher Education

Financial independence after a divorce can even extend to your children. For example, if your kids are filling out a FAFSA for college financial aid, they may benefit from your divorced status. How so?

Because while child support and alimony information about the non-custodial parent is required on the form, their income isn’t. In other words, relying only on one parent’s income may help them qualify for a higher rate of financial aid, thus making college more affordable.

More Freedom… Financial and Otherwise

Studies don’t need to prove that being divorced gives you more freedom.

You will be less obligated to attend to the needs of your former partner. If you get joint custody of your children – something that the State of Florida prioritizes over sole custody – you will have more time living alone with less responsibility over them as well.

Additionally, divorce gives you more time to reconnect with friends, try new things, and learn about yourself. Since you’ll have independence over your finances, you will be able to make more appropriate decisions for funding your life.

Bottom line? Even if the divorce involves some heartbreak or stress, you will come out of the divorce a stronger, smarter, freer person.

A Better Chance at a Successful Marriage

If your current marriage isn’t working out, you gain experience and knowledge that can help you in your next relationship or marriage. A study from the Marriage Foundation revealed that while 45% of first marriages end in divorce, only 31% of second marriages end in divorce.

Researchers credit age, experience, and higher incomes as factors that make second marriages more successful.

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Getting Divorced? Call a Florida Lawyer

Divorce settlements can have a significant impact on the benefits you can earn after a divorce. An ugly settlement can leave you in arguments and financial troubles for a longer period of time.

In order to get the arrangement and finances that you deserve after a divorce, reach out to a skilled Florida family lawyer today.

The post Five Ways Floridians Can Benefit from Getting Divorced appeared first on .

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