Dispute over pet-related property division issues

During the course of a Florida divorce, many couples find themselves at odds over matters pertaining to their pets. People often feel a close connection to the animals in their care, and are concerned about their ability to take their pets with them when a marriage comes to an end. In some cases, pets are specifically addressed during the property division process, and an agreement is reached concerning their care. One couple is currently fighting a legal battle over costs related to pet care.

When the couple divorced after six years of marriage, the husband agreed to pay his soon-to-be ex-wife $200 each month specifically for the care of their beloved English bulldog. In addition to that amount, the husband agreed to pay for all feeding costs and half of any veterinary bills required for the dog’s care. In a recently filed lawsuit, the wife claims that her ex has failed to meet those obligations.

The lawsuit asserts that the woman has paid approximately $12,000 for the dog’s upkeep. That does not include an additional $18,000 for feeding and more than $2,000 in health care costs. The couple separated in 2012, and it is unclear whether any pet care payments have been made since that time.

If the matter eventually goes before a court of law, a judge may be tasked with determining the ex-husband’s responsibility to cover some or all of those costs. Arguing over pet care payments may seem trivial to some Florida readers, but other pet owners feel strongly about the issue. For those who are concerned about how their own pet might be treated in the event of a divorce, it is important to include this topic in overall property division negotiations.

Source: nydailynews.com, “Man owes Manhattan ex-wife $32,000 in dog alimony after financially abandoning pooch: lawsuit“, Chelsia Rose Marcius, Aug. 25, 2017

Marital settlement agreements and high asset divorce

When a Florida couple has achieved a significant degree of wealth, a great deal of effort is often placed in securing those assets from loss. That includes losses that occur during high asset divorce. Many a wealthy man or woman has watched his or her assets take a significant hit after a marriage fails. In some cases, those losses are sustained after only a few years of marriage, and when one party contributed far more to the base of marital wealth than the other.

Wealthy couples have numerous tools at their disposal to protect against financial losses. One such tool is known as a marital settlement agreement. This little-known legal document outlines a means through which one spouse provides financial support to the other while the couple remains married. While these agreements are often seen as a precursor to high asset divorce, that is not always the case.

An example is found in the marriage of David Rubenstein and his wife of 34 years, Alice Rogoff. One party lives on one side of the country, and the other resides on the other. They come together for certain social and family events but seem to enjoy largely separate lives. It was recently discovered that the couple has had a marital settlement agreement in place for many years.

A marital settlement agreement can help wealthy Florida couples outline financial transactions from one party to another. In cases where personal and business finances are highly complex, having an agreement in place can help clarify a number of matters, including tax obligations, estate planning and more. In the event of a high asset divorce, a marital settlement agreement can be used alongside a prenuptial agreement to determine how assets will be divided.

Source: The Washington Post, “Billionaire David Rubenstein and his wife have a “marital settlement agreement”“, Emily Heil, Aug. 18, 2017

Finding a happy medium in negotiating prenuptial agreements

Faced with a request for a prenup, some Florida residents will initially react by taking offense. Once the practicalities of prenuptial agreements are examined in closer detail, many people will come to see the benefits of having a carefully drafted prenup. One way to smooth ruffled feathers is to underscore the fact that the agreement is not a one-size-fits-all product, and entails a degree of negotiation. The final outcome should reflect the interests of both parties, not just one.

For example, a person who already has one or more children, and brings considerable assets into a marriage, may want to ensure that the bulk of those assets pass down to his or her children in the event of a divorce. Once that individual begins to talk about his or her concerns, however, it may become apparent that the real concern is protecting wealth if the marriage is short-lived. In cases where a marriage lasts for many years, few spouses truly wish to withhold assets from a spouse.

A solution to this type of dilemma is to draft a prenup that outlines a schedule of property division. As such, the agreement could state that if the marriage lasts fewer than five years, all assets brought into the union would remain the property of that spouse. If the marriage lasts for 15 years or more, then the non-moneyed spouse could claim 30 percent of assets. This type of agreement can be structured any way that the parties see fit.

For most Florida residents, negotiating prenuptial agreements can be a way for both parties to open up and discuss their hopes, plans and fears about their marriage. Being open and honest is the foundation of a solid relationship, and couples who are able to move through this process with grace are on track for a healthy marriage. A prenup should always be thought of as a “worst case” financial planning tool, one that will hopefully never need to be called into action.

Source: bostonherald.com, “Betrothed fears looking greedy in prenup“, Wendy Hickey, Aug. 13, 2017

Considerations in choosing a divorce attorney

Navigating through a divorce is rarely easy, but you may find the process goes much more smoothly if you take time and care when selecting a family law attorney. Choosing the right attorney from the outset can help you save money, streamline the process and even salvage or improve the relationship between you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse. Therefore, it is important you take the task seriously and avoid making any hasty decisions.

To improve the chance you find the right attorney for your needs, consider taking the following steps:

Ask yourself what you really want

You may consider hiring someone who can assist you with a collaborative divorce, which seeks to maintain the co-parenting relationship between the two of you.

Shop around

Just as you would probably check out more than one property before buying a home, the same should be true in choosing a divorce attorney. In addition to finding someone who is highly capable, you want to select someone who has experience with the particular kind of divorce you seek. In other words, if you want to maintain a successful co-parenting relationship with your old partner, you may want to consider a legal professional with ample experience in collaborative divorce.

Ultimately, choosing a family law attorney is about finding someone who can accomplish your end goals, but it also about finding someone who shares your philosophy and general approach to divorce. Doing so improves the chances that you will feel satisfied with the final outcome, and it may also help you sleep better at night.



The changing role of prenuptial agreements over time

When many Florida couples sit down to plan their wedding, they also consider what level of financial protection to include in the process. Prenuptial agreements are far more common now than they were in years past. In fact, the very concept of a marital contract is a relatively new thing, and is an issue that has only been widely accepted in the past 25 years or so. Over that span of time, the reasons leading individuals to consider a prenup have changed.

In the 1970s, when prenups began to be widely considered, the contracts were more about estate planning than anything else. Only those couples that had a sizeable difference in wealth were likely to enter a prenuptial agreement. Today, prenups are used by couples from all walks of life.

Very often, the provisions laid out within a prenup are intended to address future financial matters, not just inherited or existing wealth. Younger couples are focused on ensuring a fair division of assets in the event that one party earns a considerable amount on future endeavors. For example, a prenup might state that each party is entitled to all assets stemming from his or her own career. If one spouse develops the next big phone app and makes a fast fortune, he or she would not have to share the resulting wealth in the event of a divorce.

Prenuptial agreements have certainly shifted in focus over time, and will likely continue to do so. Today’s documents are very flexible, allowing Florida couples the chance to create a custom agreement that covers their particular circumstances. Best of all, they can also address future outcomes, which means that they are protected from loss under many different circumstances.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Why you’re more likely to have a prenup than your parents were“, Jonnelle Marte, Aug. 7, 2017

All spousal payments are not alimony under the law

When a Florida family goes through a divorce, ongoing payments are often made from one party to the other. Those payments are usually classified as either child support or alimony. It is important to understand, however, that there are instances in which payments may not fall under either category, making it hard for the paying party to claim them on his or her taxes.

In order for a payment to be considered alimony, it must meet certain requirements. To begin, the payments must be made after a divorce has been made final or a separation agreement or court order has been filed. The payments must be in cash (or through checks or money orders) and there can be no obligation to continue making payments after the recipient’s death. Payments must also not be voluntary, meaning that they must be governed by an official order or agreement, and not just pass from one party to the other on an arbitrary basis.

In order to be included on a tax return, payments cannot be child support. Money that exchanges hands is also not alimony if is paid to address specific items in the divorce agreement. For example, if a husband is permitted to live in one of the couple’s homes without paying for rent or upkeep, then the value of that rent and the cost of maintaining the property do not qualify as alimony.

When negotiating a Florida divorce agreement, it is important to understand how payments that are exchanged between a former husband and wife are classified. If having the ability to deduct alimony on one’s taxes is important, then the agreement should clearly outline that payments are to be considered alimony. That seemingly minor detail can make a big difference when the time comes to pay one’s annual taxes.

Source: Forbes, “Ask The Taxgirl: Are Payments Made To An Ex Always Alimony?“, Kelly Phillips Erb, July 23, 2017

3 good choices to make for a more positive divorce

The phrase “positive divorce” may seem like an oxymoron. However, it is entirely possible to go through a divorce where both people ultimately end up being better off. 

According to a report by Florida Health, over 80,000 divorces took place in the state in 2015. That was an increase from the previous year, so dissolutions of marriage are not going anywhere. In the event a married couple decides to divorce, it is vital for both parties to make the right decisions. The right choices now will greatly impact the divorce, and both people will have a greater likelihood of getting what they want. 

1. Put any children first

When a couple has children, the divorce process gets a lot more tumultuous. Therefore, both parents need to set aside differences and do what is best for the children. This involves not arguing while any kids are present and trying to keep the school situation relatively normal. Divorce can greatly impact children psychologically, especially younger children, so it is best to limit exposure to it as much as possible. 

2. Practice responsible dating

Going out on dates is a tricky proposition while going through a divorce. Therefore, both spouses should have a discussion about what dating can entail. This can include agreements such as when to introduce new partners to the kids. It can also involve the spouses informing one another of when they are dating someone else. This prevents any awkwardness from one spouse finding out about a new relationship on Facebook. 

3. Only speak highly of former partner

Children need to be able to respect both parents even after a divorce. As such, neither parent should speak negatively about the other. This prevents children from taking sides or preferring to spend more time with one parent over another. Kids need positive influences, so if couples are able to show maturity during the divorce, then children have a better likelihood of developing positive perceptions of relationships later in life.