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Equitable Distribution: What Happens To Pets When People Divorce?

In Florida, a family law court is authorized to divide spouses’ marital assets and liabilities as part of a divorce.  This is known as equitable distribution.

A dog or cat adopted during the marriage would be considered a “marital asset” to be distributed.  A court will either ratify an agreement on the pet, or determine how to distribute the pet based on the factors laid out in section 61.075, Florida Statutes.

Interestingly enough, the legislature of Maryland is considering a bill that would treat animals more like children.  From the Washington Examiner:

Essentially, the law gives the court the power to issue a custody agreement for pets. While it may seem a little silly on the surface, to couples who don’t have kids, pets are the next-best thing. And — especially if it’s a bitter divorce — they’ll fight tooth and nail over them.

Here’s what the proposed law would allow the court to do:

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Divorce: Protecting Your Credit Score

An article from consumer website WalletPop.com discusses ways to protect your credit score as you go through a divorce.  The following issues (from both the article and my experience) should be addressed in any marital settlement agreement and/or final judgment:

  • Closing of joint credit card accounts;
  • Closing of joint charge accounts, such as J.C. Penneys or Macy’s;

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Special Issues in Military Divorce

If you are in a family law matter involving a servicemember, you will encounter some unique issues to which you must pay special attention.

Residency Requirement

Generally, one party to a divorce must have been a resident of Florida for at least six months prior to filing.  However, there is an exception for servicemembers.  A servicemember (or his or her spouse) who is not currently in Florida may petition for divorce in Florida if he or she (i) was a Florida resident prior to entering the military and (ii) never established a permanent residence elsewhere.  Even if the military member had not lived in Florida prior to entering the service, he or she may still be able to file for divorce in Florida if he or she is deployed but has an intent to remain a permanent Florida resident.  Such intent may be evidenced by the following: (i) Florida voter registration; (ii) ownership of a Florida home; or (iii) registration of a vehicle in Florida.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

Many of the military issues in a divorce stem from the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (the “SCRA”).  The SCRA was signed into law in 2003 and updated and replaced the Soldiers and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940.  Most provisions of the SCRA apply to the following people on active duty:  (i) members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guards; (ii) members of the National Guard; and (iii) commissioned officers of the Public Health Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Video: Professor Atwood Discusses Changes in Family Law Part 1

Barbara Atwood of the University of Arizona discusses how family law has changed in this video from Divorce TV:

 

Video: Reducing the Costs of Your Divorce

The following video from eHow describes how spouses may reduce the costs of their divorce:

Parties should utilize alternative dispute resolution techniques such as mediation to help them reach agreements and reduce time and expense.

Section 61.541, Florida Statutes

Application and construction.—

In applying and construing this part, consideration must be given to the need to promote uniformity of the law with respect to its subject matter among states that enact it.

History.—s. 5, ch. 2002-65.

Anger in Harmony: Do Not Interrupt A Judge

As I wrote in a previous post, it is important that parties in a family law matter (or any matter) act in a civil manner while in a courtroom.  Please do not follow the example of the wife in this Divorce Court clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpBD97Cq_tk

You should never interrupt an opposing party–and you should especially not interrupt a presiding judge–even if that interruption comes in the form of song.

Am I Required to Disclose My Finances in My Family Law Case?

Rule 12.285, Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, requires each party to a family law matter to disclose certain financial information to the other party.  Disclosure is strictly enforced in cases with money at issue, including child support, alimony, and equitable distribution or property division. Parties are required to follow Rule 12.285’s disclosure requirements in two ways: (i) providing a financial affidavit; and (ii) exchanging certain documents (also known as mandatory disclosure).

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All Alimony Awards are Not the Same

Section 61.08, Florida Statutes, and relevant case law, provides for several different types of alimony awards.  The likelihood of receiving each type of award depends on several different factors, including the need of one spouse for support, the ability of the other spouse to pay for that support, and the length of the marriage.  Below is a brief description of available types of alimony:

  • Permanent Periodic Alimony–  This type of alimony is regularly ordered for long-term marriages, defined as lasting for 17 years or more.  However, it may be awarded in (i) medium-term marriages (7-16 years) depending on certain factors such as the contribution of each party during the marriage and the standard of living during the marriage or (ii) short-term marriages (up to 6 years) if there are exceptional circumstances, such as a spouse contracting a debilitating disease.  As the name suggests, this award lasts for an indefinite amount of time and is paid on a regular basis.  However, it may later be modified or terminated by court order if there is a substantial change in circumstances.

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Facebook and Family Law: Be Careful What You Post

An article from Time Magazine recounts some horror stories and tales of caution emanating from the use of Facebook and other social networking sites.

A good general rule:  don’t post anything that you would be embarrassed to have your grandmother see.  This includes the following:

  • Don’t harass the other party;
  • Ensure that your friends are not harassing the other party;
  • Don’t post negative comments about the other party on your profile page, and ask others to avoid the same;

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