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Fort Lauderdale Divorce Law Blog

Dividing property in a divorce: The marital home

Florida couples that purchase homes during their marriages know that doing so requires a significant financial commitment. Despite this fact, many people will automatically insist on keeping the family home if the marriage ends, without first considering the monetary ramifications of that choice. It may be more beneficial to take a step back and examine home ownership as a single person before dividing property in a divorce.

The first factor to consider is what happens to the mortgage loan. Rarely will the spouse who will no longer be living in the home be willing to continue making payments on it. Therefore, the individual staying in it will most likely need to obtain a loan in his or her name alone and "buy out" the other spouse for his or her share of any equity in the home. Even if it is possible to refinance the house, the payments may not be as affordable on one income.

Florida alimony law once again under consideration by lawmakers

Nearly every year, the Florida legislature attempts to reform the state's alimony laws. Up to this point, lawmakers have been unable to come to an agreement. The legislator putting together this year's alimony proposal believes he has come up with a plan that could work.

The new proposal reportedly includes a method to calculate alimony payments, much in the same way that child support payments are currently determined. In addition, the payments would only be made for a specified amount of time. If the payor's income increases, his or her obligation to the other party does not necessarily increase.

No prenuptial agreement? Sign a postnuptial agreement

These days, many more couples are signing prenups prior to marriage. However, in the organized chaos of planning a wedding, some Florida couples fail to consider executing a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle. Once they are married, they either realize they should have done so, or the circumstances of the parties change at some point during the marriage to make one or both parties wish such an agreement was in place.

Fortunately, the state of Florida recognizes postnuptial agreements. Like a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement is a contract between the parties that typically outlines how their financial affairs will be conducted and assets will be divided in the event of a divorce. These agreements often identify what property is to be considered separate, what is to be considered marital property and how debts will be handled.

Florida couples can avoid a costly and complex divorce

The end of a Florida couple's marriage can be challenging both emotionally and financially, even under the best of circumstances. What begins as a straightforward proceeding could easily become a complex divorce that may take its toll on both the emotions and finances of the parties. Nearly everyone has heard at least one story of a couple spending vast amounts of time and money in court battling over something seemingly unimportant to others.

Most Florida couples want to keep the cost of the divorce as low as possible in order to leave more assets available to divide. Even though at least some money is often spent on legal fees, the total amount spent on representation is often up to the parties. The more they are able to put aside their feelings and work together, the more likely it is that they will be able to avoid protracted proceedings. This does not mean, however, that each party should not negotiate as if his or her future depends on it -- because it often does.

Prenups can help keep property owned prior to marriage separate

Several people here in Florida and across the nation are marrying -- or remarrying -- later in life. This can present a challenge for those who have already accumulated assets considered as separate property. If an individual is not careful, that separate property could be converted to marital property, which would then be subject to division in a divorce. Prenups can help keep property owned prior to the marriage separate.

Separate property does not necessarily include only assets acquired before marriage. Assets such as inheritances, gifts from a third party and some restitution for personal injuries are considered the separate property of the spouse receiving them. Of course, any property that is commingled during the marriage may be converted to marital property if the receiving party is not careful. Any increases in the value of separate property during the marriage could be viewed as belonging to both spouses, however, which would make the amount of the increase subject to division in a divorce.

Child custody plans should include accountability of expenses

In a time when society and the media are pushing parents to "get along" after their divorce for the sake of the children, Florida parents struggle to avoid conflict. However, parents may not always be able to avoid confrontation -- especially when it comes to money. Therefore, it may be a good idea to include provisions in a couple's child custody agreement to require the parties to be accountable for the children's expenses.

For instance, money is often a factor that contributed to the parties' divorce. Merely calling up the non-custodial parent and telling him or her that money is needed for new shoes, a school event or any number of things can leave the parent providing the money wondering whether it is truly going toward the children's needs. Several companies have smartphone applications that claim to be able to increase accountability by tracking actual expenditures, but without some direction in a parenting plan, neither party is obligated to use these applications.

Complex divorce of Steven Collins will not go to trial

Florida residents may have heard that after nearly 30 years of marriage, Steven Collins -- best known for his role on the hit television show "7th Heaven" -- and his wife are divorcing. Their complex divorce, which was filed in 2012, was contentious in the beginning, and Collins' wife even accused the actor of behaving inappropriately with three underage girls between 1973 and 1994, which he is said to have ultimately admitted. Recently, however, the two were able to put their differences aside in order to come to a settlement that allows them to avoid going to trial.

Since the story broke about Collins past behavior, and an audio tape was somehow released from a therapy session, his ability to work as an actor has been compromised. Therefore, his ability to make money has diminished, which affected the divorce. In advance of a trial that was supposed to begin shortly, the couple decided to try to settle. Negotiations were successful, and the couple's divorce is now finalized.

Prenups can be a couple's saving grace in a Florida divorce

Wealthy people who consider marriage also tend to consider prenuptial agreements because it is obvious that they have assets to protect. A growing number of people in Florida with fewer assets are also looking at prenups, yet for slightly different reasons. The average ages of brides and grooms in 2013 were 29 and 31, respectively, which means that each party has most likely accumulated his or her own assets and debts.

At the very least, a prenup ensures that each party is provided a clear financial picture of what the other person is bringing to the marriage. This does not only include separate assets but also separate debts. A prenuptial agreement can specify that each party leaves with his or her separate property and debts. The agreement can also specify whether marital assets can be used to pay separate debts.

Preparing for a complex divorce while hoping it's not

When it comes to handling challenging situations, many Florida residents prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Applying this adage to an impending divorce might ultimately make things go more smoothly. For this reason, it might be beneficial to prepare for a complex divorce but do whatever possible to keep things amicable.

Taking a few simple steps might allow each party to have the necessary knowledge to enter into settlement negotiations. The more issues the parties are able to work out on their own, the less time they will need to spend in court. Therefore, gaining a clear understanding of the parties' financial situation is essential.

Preparing for life after a Florida divorce

Once a Florida couple decides to end their marriage, they must face the fact that nearly every aspect of their lives is about to change. Issues such as property division, child support and child custody will dominate the near future. Fortunately, the divorce process itself can be used to prepare for the changes that are coming for each party.

Ending a relationship is an emotional time for anyone. Changing perspective and looking at it as a beginning is one way to stay focused on the settlement negotiations. Each party needs to be able to retain some objectivity in order to work toward a fair and equitable settlement of the parties' issues.

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