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Fort Lauderdale Divorce Law Blog

Will joint child custody be the norm in the future?

Nearly everyone in Florida would agree that being a single parent is challenging. Even as more couples are sharing child custody, the National Parents Organization estimates that nearly 83 percent of all custody rulings give primary custody to one parent while the other is awarded visitation. Other statistics indicate that this arrangement has detrimental effects on the children, often through no fault of the single parent.

Despite a parent's best efforts, the data indicates that behavioral issues, teen suicides and other self-destructive behaviors are more common among children in single-parent homes. This is why many Florida couples are putting aside their differences in order to co-parent. Parenting plans are being negotiated outside the courtroom in order to allow each parent as much time with the children as possible.

Want a prenuptial agreement? Ask as soon as possible

Talking about finances can be awkward for newly engaged Florida couples. Moreover, neither party wants to think that the marriage may not last. Therefore, it can be uncomfortable to bring up the subject of a prenuptial agreement. However, waiting too long to discuss the issue can end up doing more harm than good.

Prenuptial agreements can be invalidated by a Florida court for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that the document was signed under duress. In the event of a divorce, one spouse may attempt to have the agreement invalidated by the court, and timing can be an important factor if that person is claiming that he or she felt as though he or she had no choice but to sign the agreement.

Dealing with child support issues as a Florida parent

When Florida parents first decide to go their separate ways -- regardless of whether they were married or not -- providing for the children's emotional and financial needs becomes a priority. This ordinarily entails dealing with custody arrangements and child support. Under normal circumstances, determining the amount of child support one parent pays to the other involves looking to the state's child support guidelines.

Most people already know that the parties' net income is the main factor in this calculation, but Florida judges may take other factors into consideration as well, depending on the needs of each child. For instance, if a child has special needs that require additional financial assistance, those needs will be examined and will dictate the total amount of the support obligation. The process can be overwhelming, but with the advice and guidance of an attorney, a fair and correct amount can be reached.

More details regarding Florida alimony reform come to light

On Feb. 24, 2015, we reported that alimony reform was once again a topic of discussion in the Florida legislature ("Florida alimony law once again under consideration by lawmakers"). Recently, more details regarding the proposed reforms were released, as bills in both the state House and Senate move forward. The changes go well beyond creating a formula for alimony similar to the one used for child support.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, parties who were married two years or less would not be eligible for alimony. For marriages over two years, Florida judges will have the ability to consider the income potential of the spouse requesting support. If a couple was married more than two years, but less than 20 years, payments would not last as long or be as high as they were in the past. Spousal support and child support payments combined would not be more than 55 percent of the payor's net income.

Look years ahead when dividing property in a divorce

In the midst of the upheaval often caused by the end of a marriage, many Florida couples struggle to look to the future. Everything is changing, and it can be challenging to take a step back and consider the effects of dividing property in a divorce on each party's future. Understandably, most people simply want to get through the process as quickly as possible, but that can lead to financial mistakes that have far-reaching consequences.

For instance, keeping the family home may seem like a good idea at the time since it provides continuity and a sense of normalcy for both the party keeping the house and the children, if any. However, being able to afford the mortgage loan alone can quickly become an issue. Further, if it is sold at some point down the road, the tax implications can be financially burdensome.

Florida couples are restricting social media in their prenups

Social media can be a good way to communicate with friends and family both near and far. However, not all social media content is positive, and more Florida couples are realizing that it may be beneficial to restrict what each party can post on social media. Therefore, an increasing number of prenups include social media clauses.

Many couples agree not to make any posts or upload any photographs that are embarrassing, insulting or unflattering about each other. The parties may also agree that in the event of a divorce, neither party will post at all during the proceedings. The parties may also restrict other social media content.

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.

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