Helping divorcing couples deal with health insurance issues

No one should stay in an unhappy marriage because they don’t want to lose the health insurance coverage they receive under their spouse’s plan. Unfortunately, too many Floridians have done that — particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions who feared that they wouldn’t qualify for a new insurance policy.

Fortunately, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s illegal for an insurance company to deny someone coverage because of a current or previous medical condition. A divorce may qualify you to apply for coverage under the ACA at any time.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily solve everyone’s problem. They may not be able to keep their current insurer. For some people, the cost of getting the level of insurance they’ve been used to may be prohibitive. The cost of staying on your spouse’s plan through COBRA may also be prohibitive.

At Sheldon E. Finman, P.A., we help divorcing couples work out issues of health care coverage. We specialize in cooperative and collaborative divorce. In these types of divorces, couples work together to dissolve their marriage in a manner that’s respectful and fair to both. By avoiding a contentious, litigated divorce, they can save stress, time and money. If they have children, it’s best for them to see their parents working amicably to reach a settlement that will help them move forward as co-parents whose focus is on the well-being of their children.

If you or one of your children are suffering from a chronic illness or other medical condition that would make a change or interruption in insurance coverage problematic, we can help you work with your spouse and his or her attorney to help ensure that necessary medical care and coverage is continued. The same is true if your spouse is currently on your health insurance plan.

We realize that health insurance may not be at the top of most people’s concerns when going through a divorce. However, even if you and your family are all healthy, you never know if and when you may need it to cover an unexpected illness or injury. That’s why it should be one of the issues addressed during the divorce.

We have experience helping divorcing Florida couples deal with health insurance issues. Call or contact us online for more information on how we can help you.


Florida lawmakers seek to provide new, clearer alimony guidelines

When the 2016 session gets underway, Florida state lawmakers will be debating bills containing a number of proposed changes to our state’s alimony and child support regulations. Those supporting the three bills (two in the Senate and one in the House) say that the intention of the proposed legislation is in part to provide judges with clearer guidelines and formulas to use when determining the amount and length of these payments.

Those seeking to reform Florida family law point out that the current laws on the books date back to the 1960s — a very different time. They also contend that the changes would help reduce litigation time by having more clear-cut, predictable guidelines for both judges and attorneys.

Among the proposed changes in the bills are the following:

— The various types of alimony (permanent, rehabilitative and durational) would be eliminated. There would only be one type (with the exception of temporary alimony, which may be awarded to one spouse while the divorce proceedings are ongoing.)

— Alimony and child support payments would be capped at 55 percent of the payer’s income. If that cap is exceeded, child support payments would be reduced.

— The formula for determining alimony would take into consideration the length of the marriage. Those married for two decades or more would be eligible for larger awards.

Alimony would be modified or eliminated if the receiving spouse has a significant income increase (greater than 10 percent) or enters a relationship where he/she is being supported economically. It would also be modified or eliminated when the paying spouse retires.

Attempts to reform the way that these payments aren’t determined aren’t new. Gov. Scott vetoed a bill in 2013 because it would have made the changes retroactive. While there has been some objections by those involved in family law to some of the provisions, the House version of the bill has the support of The Florida Bar’s family law section.

The legislation could have a significant impact on the roughly 80,000 Florida couples who divorce each year. Florida family law attorneys will be able to help their clients make sense of the new law and how it impacts them if and when it passes.

Source: Herald-Tribune, “Proposed changes to divorce laws gain strength — and opposition,” Lloyd Dunkelberger, Dec. 13, 2015

Dealing with pet issues in your divorce? Talk to your attorney

When two people get divorced, those who depended on that couple for love, support and care can find themselves in a very difficult position. They may have to get used to moving between houses, seeing one person much less or never again and new care environments when no one else can be home.

You might think it is only children who are in this situation, but pets can also be greatly affected by a divorce. Increasingly, courts across Florida are dealing with issues like visitation and requests for support to take care of pets as people want to have some control over the well-being of their animals. However, it can get pretty complicated.

Many of the problems that arise in these situations stem from the fact that in the eyes of the law in Florida, pets are considered property and should be divided in accordance with state equitable distribution laws. This means there are no formal guidelines that specifically address how to work out pet custody or what a fair support arrangement might look like.

However, this is not to say there aren’t solutions. Recently, for example, actress Mandy Moore filed a request for support from her ex, singer Ryan Adams, to cover the costs associated with caring for their eight pets. Moore states that after the couple split, Adams never took the two pets he had promised to take and instead left Moore in charge of care for all of them.

She is requesting $37,000 per month in support from Adams and also wants him to take at least four of their pets. It will be interesting to see what the courts have to say.

This type of situation is not uncommon. People often fight to protect their animals but don’t want to be left taking on the added expenses of pet ownership alone. In many cases, it is possible to work with an ex to find a fair, agreeable solution through negotiation and collaboration. In other cases, it may be left in the hands of the court. 

In either scenario, it can be crucial to have the guidance and support of your attorney to help you through this complicated aspect of your divorce.

Source: Fox News, “Mandy Moore reportedly wants her ex Ryan Adams to pay for her 8 pets,” Dec. 13, 2015

The roles people play in your divorce

Getting divorced can be an incredibly difficult experience. On top of the anger, sadness and guilt you may be struggling with, you can also feel intimidated and scared about the legal process ahead of you.

Knowing what to expect from the process, however, can be a great help in allaying some concerns you may be having. For instance, one reason you may be frightened about the future is that you do not have a clear understanding of who does what in a divorce and what role you will have in securing a fair resolution to issues like property division and child custody.

To begin with, there is the judge. We discussed the role of the judge in family law matters at length in this article available on our website. Generally speaking, we note that while judges are the ultimate authority when it comes to settlement negotiations, they often focus much of their time and efforts on helping you and your ex come to a decision on your own.

Your attorneys will also play a critical role in pursuing a successful outcome. Whether your divorce is litigious or collaborative, your respective attorneys will help you understand your rights and pursue those solutions that meet your needs and goals.

It is important to remember, however, that you play the most important role in your divorce settlement. You know what is in your best interests and you will need to make some crucial decisions on how to protect these. Based largely on your input, the decision will be made to pursue collaboration or litigation. Ultimately, it is your actions and decisions that will dictate how your divorce proceeds.

Too many people make the mistake of thinking that divorce is an all-or-nothing process: you either have complete control of the situation or no control whatsoever. But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. By understanding this and discussing the process and your intentions with your attorney, you can be better prepared to pursue a fair and satisfactory solution.


How important is negotiation when it comes to a prenup?

If you and your soon-to-be spouse have decided to sign a prenuptial agreement, you likely already appreciate how important and helpful this document can be. A prenup can protect individual assets, set expectations for spousal support and establish guidelines for a settlement in the event of a divorce.

By addressing these financial matters before getting married, people typically find that it makes the very difficult process of dividing assets in a divorce a little easier. However, challenges can and do arise when it comes time to enforce the document. For example, Florida courts may invalidate a prenup or certain clauses if there is reason to believe one party was at a significant disadvantage when signing the document.

In order for prenup to be valid, there must be an indication that both parties understood what they were signing and had the opportunity to change certain aspects. If a person did not have an attorney review the prenup or if he or she felt compelled to sign the document without making changes, a challenge could be successful.

For example, one person could argue that the prenup was an adhesion contract. This means that it was a standard document that did not allow the disadvantaged party to make any changes or negotiate any of the terms. This could be interpreted as a failure to understand the contract or an indication that the disadvantaged party had no power to negotiate.

Evidence of negotiation, therefore, will be crucial. It can be an indication that both parties were active in the drafting of a prenup and that there were conscious efforts made to understand and make changes to the document.

Enforcing prenuptial agreements can be far more complicated than people realize. Because of this, it can be crucial that each party has an attorney by their side when they sign a prenup and in the event that it comes under scrutiny.