Approximately 230 couples get divorced each day in Florida. With each individual case, the judge assigned tries to make things even and fair. However, because alimony has almost always been completely up to the judge’s discretion, what is considered “even and fair” varies from judge to judge. Permanent alimony has always been common in Florida, meaning alimony lasts until the recipient dies or remarries. But alimony has been under attack for years now. Many argue that permanent alimony is very outdated, and that Florida needs a formula for determining alimony, rather than leaving the decision up to individual judges.

The Legislature has been working on a bill to make permanent alimony a thing of the past. The bill proposes a set formula that would take into account the length of a marriage when determining alimony amounts. Marriages lasting less than 2 years would generally not qualify for alimony. The bill also proposes a capped amount of the payer’s income that would go to alimony and child support.

Many praised the bill, saying these alimony changes have been needed for years. But others attacked these proposed changes, saying that this only harms woman, who are most often the recipients of alimony. Lawmakers liked the bill, and it looked as though the alimony changes were coming soon. But the House suddenly adjourned, and the bill was not passed. Why? One of the Senators insisted on making 50/50 time sharing for child custody a requirement.

The Senate and the House disagreed on this, with the Senate pushing for the 50/50 requirement, and the House proposing that judges still get to choose.

The majority of people agree that alimony needs to be standardized, but does it always make sense for child custody to be standardized? Having a standard, required 50/50 time sharing law takes the emphasis off the children and instead puts the emphasis on the parents.

It will be interesting to see what alimony and child custody changes are in Florida’s future.

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If you are planning a divorce, you may wonder how property division works. Florida law provides for an “equitable distribution” of marital assets and liabilities. This means a fair division of marital assets, regardless of whose name is on the title. But how do the courts determine what is “equitable” when it comes to property?

First, the court will determine which property and debt is considered marital, meaning assets that were acquired during the marriage by one or both spouses. This includes real estate, vehicles, checking and savings accounts, investments, retirement plans, business interests, personal property of value, and so on. This also includes any debts incurred during the marriage by one or both spouses. Gifts given from spouse to spouse during the marriage are considered martial assets as well.

Next, the court will assign dollar amounts to the marital property and debts. Now the assets can be divided between the spouses in an equitable fashion, meaning not necessarily equal, but deemed fair by the court. To do this, the court considers several factors, including how long the marriage lasted, the contribution to the marriage by each spouse, the economic circumstances of both spouses, any interruption or contribution to career or educational opportunities for either spouse, as well as additional factors necessary to provide justice to both spouses. The court also takes into consideration any intentional depletion, waste, or destruction of marital assets within 2 years of filing for the divorce and after the divorce filing, which provides additional protection against a potentially spiteful spouse.

Each divorce case is different, which is why it is essential to work with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer. The experience a family law attorney has will help make the divorce process smoother and less stressful.

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A very unique case has made the news recently in Florida. A West Palm Beach man has filed for divorce from his wife. The unique part? He has dementia. He can’t name the president, doesn’t know what year it is, and can’t recall the date of a major holiday. Is this man mentally competent to file for divorce? This is the complex legal battle unfolding in court now between the man’s wife and his children.

Martin Zelman is 87 years old; his wife Lois is 80. They have been together for 22 years. Zelman’s 3 adult children claim that Zelman is miserable with Lois. Caregivers have testified that Lois has been mistreating Zelman. On the other hand, several friends and church leaders have testified that Zelman and Lois are a loving couple. The children and Lois both agree that Zelman has dementia, and both sides insist that they are trying to protect Zelman. Both sides also claim that this legal battle is all about money. The children stand to inherit about $10 million dollars if Zelman and Lois are no longer married when Zelman dies. They claim that Lois is only fighting the divorce because she wants the money. Lois answered, “I was with him for 22 years. The money wasn’t the be all, end all. He was handsome. He was charismatic. I married him because I loved him. I still do.”

Part of what makes this case so complex is the little-known Florida law which imposes a 3 year waiting period in cases where one of the spouses has been declared mentally unfit.  The law was designed to prevent healthy individuals from leaving mentally unfit spouses who would have no ability to defend themselves. A case like Zelman vs Zelman is extremely rare; the mentally unfit spouse almost never files for divorce in these cases.

It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.

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According to a national Pew Research Center report done in 2013, 40% of new marriages included at least one partner who had been married before. In 2010, a Pew Research Center survey found that 42% of the American adults interviewed have at least one step relative in their family, whether it be a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. Having a stepfamily is not something most of us plan for, and the reality of being in a stepfamily can be quite different than our expectations. But different doesn’t mean worse. All stepfamilies have to go through an adjustment period together.

A stepfamily is formed as a result of a loss of a previous marriage or relationship. Children and adults have to be able to grieve the changes that happen as a result of death or divorce. Children especially may feel a loss of stability as a result of living in two households. They may be left wondering where they fit in with a new parent and new siblings. A child moving into a stepparent’s home may feel like an outsider or unwanted guest. In situations where the stepfamily moves into the child’s existing home, the child may feel like “unwanted visitors” are invading, and the child may feel resentful. One way to make the transition easier on all family members is to start fresh in a home that is new to all. But because this is not always feasible or practical, here are some ways to help make the transition into a blended family a little easier:

  • Try to make the home more welcoming to all. If you have pictures on the wall, be sure the pictures accurately reflect all members of the family, not just the ones who have always lived in the house
  • Take on a redecorating project together, to make the home “yours” as a family
  • Try to incorporate furniture and furnishings from both homes
  • Be patient and sensitive regarding children’s feelings. The blending of a family is a big change, and to the child it may feel like things are moving really fast. If the child now has to share a room, this can be a particularly difficult adjustment. Try to lower your expectations about “happily ever after,” at least in the beginning. Remember, there will be an adjustment period for all family members!

Being empathetic and understanding of each family members concerns and needs will go a long way. You are all in this together. With a few adjustments, you will be able to fine-tune your home to better include all family members.

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Have you have been through a high conflict divorce? If so, it’s likely you feel that your ex-spouse is unbearable. You probably can’t stand to be anywhere near him or her. This is normal, and to be expected. But when it comes to special events for your child, it is so important to hold yourself together, put aside all your negative feelings and issues for the day, and be civil for the sake of your child. Events like a child’s graduation or wedding are about celebrating your child, not creating a tense war zone of awkwardness with your ex-spouse.

Ideally, in a divorce, both parties are civil and can agree on things like child custody, child support, division of property, and alimony without too much arguing. Realistically, this is often not the case. The end of a marriage is stressful and tempers run hot. Sadly, children often get caught in the middle of this fighting, and it only adds to the stress and pressure the child is already feeling due to the fact that mom and dad are no longer together.

We all want the people we love and care about to be there with us to celebrate our big accomplishments. Your child didn’t choose the divorce, and they would probably like to forget about the whole thing for just one day. Let your child be the main focus of the day, and shower them with your love and admiration.

It can definitely be hard to act civil with your ex-spouse, especially is they caused you great pain and anguish, but your child will be extremely grateful for happy memories of their big day. Celebrate with your child, and remember, this is their day to shine!

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Huffington Post’s “Blended Family Friday” series can bring hope to those who have just gone through divorce. Each week, the site features a different family’s story and explains how they have worked to blend their two families together. Huffington Post’s goal is to help families in similar situations find blended family bliss in their own lives.

In the most recent article, 24-year-old Rachel Ryan shares the story of her family, which includes her 2 siblings, mom, dad, stepmom, and stepdad. Her parents separated when she was 12, and both started new relationships shortly after separating. She says the first few years were “very difficult” as she and her siblings tried to make sense of their new living arrangements, and the 2 new adults in their homes and lives. She also talks about how, as a kid, it’s extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that your mom and dad aren’t going to be together anymore.

The best part of Rachel’s interview is her advice to children struggling to find their place in a blended family. She advises kids to remember that parents are human, and that they just want to be happy, too. A divorce is never the child’s fault; it is two humans that tried to make it work, but just could no longer be happy together, for whatever reason. Rachel says she and her siblings spent years hating their stepparents and being angry at their parents for getting divorced, and that it’s not worth it.

Rachel writes, “We are all human, make mistakes, change our minds and change our life goals. My parents – and your parents- just went in different directions with their lives somewhere down the line. Then they remarried and formed a blended family. Don’t hate your parents for that- I did that for too many years and it’s not worth it. Try to be happy that they have found happiness in their lives.”

The “Blended Family Friday” stories are ultimately uplifting. The major takeaway from these articles is: yes, change is hard, and it may take a LONG time for everyone to adjust and figure it out, but a big, happy, blended family IS possible, and it can be in your future, too.

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Getting a divorce can feel like a death; many people grieve and mourn the end of their marriage. Because it can be such a stressful process, it is important to take care of yourself mentally and physically. The following are ways to show your body and mind some TLC:

  • Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals. Any type of physical movement counts, even walking. Exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression, and improves sleep. Exercise also gives your self-confidence a boost, something anyone going through a divorce could certainly use! Try to find an exercise buddy to hold you accountable and who will help motivate you when you are feeling lazy.
  • Clean up your diet. Some people eat more when they are stressed; others feel like they can’t eat a thing. Either way, it is important to eat a balanced diet, and try to avoid over or undereating because of how you are feeling. A balanced diet will keep blood sugar levels stable, which helps keep your moods stable as well. Drink plenty of water, and try to include many antioxidant-rich foods in your diet, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain a “normal” schedule. Your life isn’t over because you are getting a divorce, even though it may feel like it is. Try to be consistent in your routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same times every day can help.
  • Spend some time in nature. Sunshine and fresh air can boost serotonin levels in your brain.
  • Stay on top of your health. Some studies suggest that divorced people are more likely to develop heart disease than non-divorced people. When it comes to your body, it is better to prevent a problem now than to try to fix it later. Seek preventative health education and medical care, and engage in heart-healthy habits.
  • Find a support system. It is common to lose friends when you divorce your spouse, because friends often choose a side. Find a new social network if you need to. Social isolation can make depression and anxiety issues worse.
  • Relax! If you can afford to, treat yourself to a massage on a regular basis. Peaceful activities such as yoga or meditation can be helpful in reducing stress levels as well.
  • Talk to a professional. The strategies above may not be effective in lessening the dark clouds of depression for some individuals. If you are really feeling stuck or think you are suffering from depression, talk to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  • Take a break from dating. Don’t rush into another relationship. Take care of your body and mind and make sure to fully recover from your divorce before seeking comfort in a new partner.

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Divorce is tough. Emotions are swirling and stress levels are high. No one is quite sure what the future will hold. Especially for children, it can be an extremely confusing time. When parents are splitting up, it’s very common for children to feel like their lives are being turned upside-down. This feeling can continue after the divorce is finalized. It’s important to work out a parenting plan so that both parents continue to have frequent and continuing contact with their children. A good parenting plan allows both parents to share in the rights, responsibilities, and joys of childrearing.

In Florida, parents can draft their own parenting plan, which then needs to be approved by the court, or the court will establish a parenting plan for the couple. When couples can agree on a plan and work out the details themselves, everyone benefits. But there are many divorces where the couple cannot agree, and the court must step in.

Parenting plans cover issues such as custody, visitation, and parental responsibility. The plan will state whether parents have shared parental responsibility or if one parent has sole parental responsibility. The plan describes how parents will share the day to day tasks associated with raising a child, as well as how the parents will handle healthcare, school-related matters, and other activities. The plan will explain how the parents intend to communicate with each other and with the child. Additionally, Florida legislature requires the couple to file a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) form as part of the parenting plan.

Whether the couple creates the plan or the court orders one, a parenting plan helps all parties involved know what to expect both during the divorce and after it is finalized.

To read more about parenting plans, click here.

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When planning and preparing for a divorce, there are many things to consider. If the couple has children, child custody and child support payments have to be worked out. Then there will be the splitting of assets. For most people, this includes houses, cars, material goods, and cash. But couples who own a business together are also faced with the tricky decision of how to split up the family business. For many, running a business together after a divorce is not a viable option.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are an estimated 3.7 million businesses owned jointly by spouses in the United States. The type of business owned and the role each spouse plays in the business will determine if and how the business will survive the divorce.

There are several options when it comes to splitting up a business. First, it must be determined who wants to keep running the business. Take for instance a medical office in which one spouse is the medical professional and the other spouse handles the clerical work. It would be possible to outsource the clerical work, so the medical professional would likely keep the business. In a case like this, one spouse will typically buy out the other spouse. Buyouts can be tricky, especially getting both sides to agree on how much the business is worth, and how much of that value should be applied to the buyout. If, in another example, a couple owns a medical office and both spouses are medical professionals, the business would likely be split. As a last resort, if no agreement can be reached on who will keep the business, selling outright and splitting the profit is the only option.

Getting a well-drafted prenuptial agreement before getting married can alleviate many of the issues that arise when getting divorced. If the business is started after marriage, the couple may consider a shareholder agreement that spells out the role of each partner. Having these documents can save couples from lengthy court battles that can end up destroying the business that they invested so much time and effort into building.

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As the saying goes, the best way to prevent a problem is to be prepared for it in the first place. Fortunately, no matter what issue you’re facing, someone has been there before, and has documented the pitfalls and secrets so that you don’t have to learn by experience.

This post today will be talking about an area that often is neglected until it is too late: Planning for post-divorce finances while still being married.

That might sound pessimistic, selfish, and even fatalistic, but the truth is that while married, any reasonable effort you expend on your own personal finances will benefit the marriage as well, so it’s a win-win.

One of the most important things to remember for any sort of future planning is the 4% rule. Known by financial experts the world over, the 4% rule states that for a retirement account to maintain itself for its desired length, withdrawals should be no more than 4% per year. As the market fluctuates, and people’s desired retirement age changes, that amount could fluctuate, but it’s a good rule of thumb to apply to any retirement situation.

Naturally, that requires quite a bit of advanced planning. If you plan to retire on $30,000 a year, that means that you should plan to have $750,000 saved up in retirement accounts. If that amount sounds shocking, it’s for a good reason: Retirement is expensive, and you do not want to turn 83 and find out that you are completely broke. There is no age where it’s too young to start saving for retirement, and it is a solid fact that the sooner you start saving, the better. It is always possible to be employed part-time while you are in your retirement years, but employment gets increasingly harder to find the older you get, and you will be simply unable to perform certain demanding tasks any more.

It might seem strange to talk about retirement planning and divorce together, but the reality is that middle-aged and elderly couples are getting divorced at increasing rates, and the absolute last thing you want is to walk out of family court single and virtually penniless in your 50s or 60s. You do not have to be actually facing divorce to plan for a single future.

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