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Pensacola Family & Estate Planning Legal Blog

Property division and the prenuptial agreement

Years ago, many couples would get married soon after high school graduation. In today's world, however, the average Florida couple is typically several years older and each individual has already begun to establish himself or herself financially. With this in mind, many couples are discovering that a prenuptial agreement is a useful tool in both a possible property division agreement in case things do not work out as well as an avenue to discuss current financial situations and philosophies.

The first step in creating a prenuptial agreement is to develop an accurate statement of all assets and liabilities. This statement should include any property owned, stocks, bonds, savings accounts, insurance policies and more. Additionally, an accurate assessment of all liabilities should be included, including mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and student loans. A copy of these documents should be provided to the attorneys representing each individual.

Divorce and property division spikes after vacation

Labor Day weekend ended too quickly, and the kids are returning to school. For many Florida families who trudged to the beach or the mountains for a last hurrah at summer's end, this festive celebration may be their last as a family unit. Instead of packing for next summer's vacation, they may find themselves packing for property division and divorce.

At least, this is the conclusion of a university study published last year that focused on the seasonal patterns of divorce. Apparently, in the months following Christmas and summer holidays, divorces spike. Researchers believe those family gatherings carry such high expectations that couples often come out of them with feelings of dissatisfaction and resentment. If those emotions are merely enhancements of an already stirring discontent in the marriage, a stressful or disappointing vacation may push one or both spouses to take steps to leave.

Figuring divorce into an estate plan

When most people think of estate planning, divorce is not a part of the picture. For most people, the estate planning phase is when they try to ensure that their spouse will get most of their assets. In some cases, however, it is necessary to try to keep the spouse from getting them. In Florida, as in other states, special care should be taken when divorce figures into an estate plan.

Before retirement accounts can be divided up in a divorce, both parties must make a tally of all of the money that they each have. A summary plan description will work for accounts that are employee-based, such as pension plans and 401(k)s. IRA balances, Roth balances, CDs, real estate, savings accounts, money market accounts and any other financial asset must be accounted for and valued. Once this has been taken care of, it can be determined how the assets will be divided.

Should people negotiate divorce terms with spouse alone?

Numerous Florida marriages end in divorce. In fact, an article from the Miami New Times states that several cities in the state, including Deltona, Palm Bay and Jacksonville, have some of the highest divorce rates out of any city in the United States. 

The divorce process understandably costs a lot. Many couples wonder if the two of them can negotiate terms on their own without an attorney present. It is certainly possible, but in most cases, it will be best to have an attorney or mediator on hand. If a divorcing couple does plan on doing this, then it is vital to keep the following points in mind. 

Military parental custody rights during deployment

The number of service members who are being deployed has increased in recent years, leaving many military parents concerned about their custody rights. When military parents divorce during deployment, there is a real worry that they could lose custody of their children. For those facing these issues in Florida, there are steps that can be taken in order to avoid this.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, issues related to the visitation and custody of their children can detrimentally affect these parents. In fact, worry over such issues can even make it harder for military personnel to complete the missions that have been assigned to them. That is the reason for the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which provides a 90-day, mandatory stay of any legal or custodial proceeding when a service member has been deployed. Many need more time than this, however.

A pound of prevention is critical in estate planning

For most, the thought of making financial plans for the future is a terrifying one. For others, estate planning consists of buying life insurance, and hoping it is enough to get their loved ones through the financial difficulties could come when they are deceased. The truth is, neither of these is true. For those in Florida who are facing the daunting task of planning their financial futures, the most overlooked step is anticipating risks and working to prevent them.

Most people work toward their plans based on what they believe will happen. All too often, they ignore the factor of randomness. Totally unexpected and random events happen all of the time to people who are not expecting them. And just one random event could leave a person with funeral costs, court costs from a lawsuit, medical bills and other unexpected losses. A family could lose their home, vehicles and all of their possessions within minutes during a natural disaster; and some of those are not even covered by a person's insurance.

Debate over shared parenting could affect military parents

A new law is being considered in another state which could have an effect on parents all over the U.S. Military parents in all states, including Florida, should especially be aware of this bill, since it could have long-reaching implications. One state's lawmakers are attempting to make mandatory shared parenthood a reality. That means that, if the bill passes, judges will be required, in most cases, to grant 50/50 shared custody of children to parents who are going through a divorce.

Supporters of the bill gathered to encourage people to show up at a rally known as Putting Kids First. The stance of these supporters is that it is best for the children of divorce if they are given equal time with each parent. They feel that the current custody laws pit one parent against the other and only make things more difficult for the children involved in divorce.

The differences between wills and trusts in estate planning

For those who are planning their estates, it can be confusing to understand the terminology. For example, many are uncertain of the distinction between wills and trusts in estate planning. In Florida, as in other states, it is helpful to know the benefits of each.

There are a few primary distinctions between trusts and wills. For one, a will has to go through probate court, while a trust usually does not. The fees and costs of will and trusts vary, as do the types of assets that are managed by each. Wills take effect upon the maker's death, while trusts may be effective during the maker's lifetime and/or after death. 

Minimizing the effects of divorce on children

Divorce is typically hard on everyone involved, and with about half of all American children now dealing with the divorce of their parents, it is becoming unreasoningly critical to understand the effects it can have on your own.

When you go through a divorce, you must learn how to shift your role from that of a spouse and parent to that of only a parent, and many parents take missteps in doing so, even if they have only the best intentions. To make things easier on your children as you navigate through your divorce, consider taking the following steps.

How much does a Florida divorce cost?

One of the many negative consequences of getting a divorce is its high cost. Between asset division, court fees, child support and alimony, your finances will take a hit, especially in the Sunshine State. You may decide to try a DIY divorce and skip legal representation.

Do not let the potential cost deter you from ending your marriage in the best way for your circumstances, which will save you money in the long run. Many factors contribute to how much you will pay, some of which you have control over.

  • The Florida Bar| Board Certified | Marital & Family Law
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