For many, pets are more than property division issue in divorce

In many families, pets take on the role as cherished members. For that reason, divorcing couples often consider the fate of a pet as much more than a property division aspect of their settlement. There are many Florida residents who are struggling to determine who gets the dog when the marriage is over.

In all but two states, family courts are required to view the issue of pets in the same way they approach the division of other marital property. In those two states, laws have been passed that allow a judge to consider what custody arrangement would be in the best interest of the pet. In some cases where the couple cannot agree on who should be the primary owner of a pet, the court will instruct the owners to follow the same parenting plan that is set up for their children. In this way, the emotional bonds between children and their pets can be retained.

In situations where there are no minor children, the couple may be at a loss on how to share the family dog. In some situations, a court could be inclined to order the pet sold and the proceeds split, or for one spouse to buy the animal from the other. For the most part, spouses are encouraged to reach an agreement outside of the courts that will ensure that the animal will remain in the care of one or both of its owners.

There are efforts underway to draft legislation that would provide these animals with the right to be considered a sentient being, which would protect them from being treated as an object in property division during a divorce. A dissolution can be emotionally difficult for all of the parties involved, and the idea of parting with a beloved pet may only exacerbate these feelings. Florida residents who are worried about all aspects of their impending divorce negotiations may benefit from the guidance of an experienced attorney.

Prenuptial agreements may help dictate social media usage

For countless decades, engaged couples often used legal contracts that would help ensure that family fortunes would remain intact in the event that the marriage did not survive. Over the past few years, with the ever-increasing influence of social media in the lives of the vast majority of people, there have been new applications for prenuptial agreements. Florida residents who have reservations about how these types of social media accounts can affect their personal lives may benefit from learning more.

Reportedly, more couples are electing to include a social media clause when drafting their prenups that stipulates under what terms and conditions social media posts that include the other party or their personal lives can be shared. This change has come about due to the increasing role that these types of sites play in everyday life. Couples are now attempting to mitigate the damage that some posts can cause to one’s personal reputation — especially in the event the marriage is faring poorly.

A prenup can dictate on which sites personal information and photos can be shared and under what conditions. If a spouse violates the terms of the contract, he or she can face heavy fines, depending on the conditions included in the document. The driving purpose behind these attempts to limit social media usage within the marriage may be to preserve trust and privacy, which has become a scarce commodity in today’s society.

Prenuptial agreements serve many purposes when a couple decides to wed. While in the past it was used primarily to preserve assets, they have evolved to address numerous issues that can occur during the course of a relationship — social media usage is only one of those purposes. Florida residents who have questions or concerns relating to these legal contracts may seek further information from an experienced family law attorney.

Property division and finances can be handled sensibly in divorce

Every family’s needs are unique, and each divorce proceeding reflects that. To that end, one issue that may have a significant impact on post-divorce finances is property division. Florida residents who are preparing to divorce may benefit from some sound advice regarding common errors that may have negative consequences on both asset division and finances in general.

One mistake that spouses may encounter when negotiating divorce terms is attempting to preserve the current way of life. A settlement agreement that only seeks to maintain a lifestyle may fall far short in the future. A sudden job loss or other unforeseen life change could result in a dire financial situation. Attempting to address future changes may work better than simply trying to preserve the status quo.

Individuals who are able to fully grasp their current financial situation and can gauge what their future needs may be can arrive at the negotiating table with a view toward what will be required as far as the property division. Keeping this in mind, many parents may struggle to refuse to indulge their children’s desires for any luxuries they enjoyed before the divorce. If these desires are indulged, it could result in sacrifices in future financial goals. Parents who are paying or receiving support for their children may benefit from keeping accurate records regarding all expenses in order to seek reimbursement on agreed-upon costs.

Those who have a thorough understanding of their finances both before and after a divorce may fare best going forward. Though the property division process may seem tedious and unending, having a solid settlement that addresses one’s future needs is worth the effort. Florida residents who are concerned about how their divorce will impact their life may seek the guidance of an experienced attorney who can help them reach an agreement that best meets their unique needs.

Can children voice preference in custody hearings?

One of the most important decisions to make in any divorce case relates to the matter of child custody. One bill introduced in 2017 in Florida offered the presumption of equal time in all child custody plans, but the governor vetoed the bill. 

As for now, if the couple is unable to reach a child custody agreement, then the judge will make a decision. The judge will weigh numerous factors, including evidence of neglect, the parents’ moral fitness and the child’s school history. However, in some cases, the judge may ask for the child’s preference. The child may not always get what he or she wants, but the judge can at least take it into consideration. 

Children do not have to provide preference if it is not essential

Many children are not comfortable taking the stand in a courtroom, so unless it is an emergency situation, the court will not force a child to take the stand. In the event the child does want to provide testimony, then the court will have the child undergo a mental health evaluation from a professional. This is to determine if the child is capable of voicing an articulate, mature opinion. 

Some states have a minimum age requirement for a child to voice preference. However, Florida does not have such a law. That is why the evaluation is necessary. 

It comes down to an independent decision

The child can have a preference, but the judge will need to determine if the child has received coaching from one parent. There is also the possibility the child wishes to rebel against one parent and will want the other, typically less strict, parent to assume a majority of responsibilities. Child custody involves an intricate process that varies on a case-by-case basis. It ultimately comes down to what the judge believes is best if the parents cannot reach a consensus. 

More women are being ordered to pay alimony and child support

In 1960, an estimated 11 percent of households had a woman as the primary wage earner. Even though media sources have often reported on the wage discrepancy between men and women for comparable employment, more women are becoming the primary provider in many households. Florida residents who are contemplating a divorce may be surprised to learn that more and more women are being ordered to pay alimony and child support.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 1,600 attorneys were surveyed concerning women paying child support and alimony. More than half reported that they have dealt with such cases. Over the past three years, there has been an estimated 45 percent increase in the number of women who are paying support to their former spouses.

It was not uncommon in the past for the wife to either stay home or hold a lower-paying position while her husband earned substantially more during the marriage. If they divorced, the man was often ordered to make alimony payments as well as child support. Society has seen a shift, however, in the number of women who are earning more than their partners. Though some women may attempt to counter that their spouse was underemployed during their marriage, a judge is still inclined to order the higher-earning spouse to help support the other after a dissolution.

One woman argued that her monthly alimony payments were being used to support her husband’s addiction to adult websites. The former husband’s lawyer countered, successfully, that it was part of his entertainment expenses, which was considered a permissible expense. Florida residents who are concerned about issues surrounding alimony or other support obligations may be best served by consulting with an experienced attorney who can provide assistance in securing a settlement agreement that best meets one’s needs.