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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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Alimony Tax Tips

Robert D. Flach of MainStreet.com provides the following advice regarding tax treatment of alimony:

To be deductible, alimony payments must be in cash (or check) and required as a condition of the divorce decree. You and your “ex” must not live together in the same household, and payments must end upon the death of the “ex.”

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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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Video: The Family Law Project – Child Support

In the following dramatization from Aspen Publishing, child support guidelines are reviewed:

You should note that Florida utilizes the “Income Shares” approach (the second guidelines approach discussed) to determine a child support amount.  However, in addition to including the pro rata share of income from each parent, the Florida child support guidelines also factors in deductions–such as daycare and healthcare expenses–as well as the amount of time children spend with each parent.

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Kristen Houghton’s “Happiness May Be A Prenuptial Agreement”

Author Kristen Houghton brings up some interesting points in her article, Happiness May Be A Prenuptial Agreement (from the Huffington Post):

[A] pre-nup isn’t just for royals or the wealthy, anyway. Though much more common in the case of a second marriage (especially if children from a previous one are involved), a prenuptial agreement is not such a bad idea for a “first” marriage either. And you don’t have to be Donald Trump to request a pre-nup. Many young couples are either toying with the idea or have actually seriously talked about it.

The classic pre-nup is a legal contract which operates by ensuring that if a couple divorces, any possessions each had before marrying would remain their own and not be divided as part of the marital pool. You can make a pre-nup very individual, but traditionally, both sides are entitled to 50 percent of any income earned during the marriage period. If one of the partners earned little or nothing throughout the marriage, they’d be allowed to be given a percentage of their partner’s earnings and possibly part of a future pension.

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Mediation FAQs

The Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Florida (DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties) provides the following FAQs for family mediation:

What is Family Mediation?

Family Mediation is an informal meeting where the parties work out mutually agreeable settlements in Family Court cases.  Parties have the opportunity to explore options and negotiate voluntary agreements that may be submitted to the Court for approval.

Who participates?

Family Mediation provides an opportunity for parties involved in family litigation to engage in a facilitated discussion about the specific issues in their case.  Counsel for each party may attend the conference.  Other third parties may only participate if both sides agree.

What issues can be discussed?

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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.

Spanish-Language Video on Children and Divorce

As I wrote in my previous post, the Virgina State Bar Association’s Family Law Section produced a video entitled “Spare the Child” which discusses how to safeguard the emotional well-being of children during divorce and other family law proceedings.  The section has also produced a Spanish-language version of the video, entitled “Proteger al Niño.”  You may access this video after the jump:

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Helping Children Cope With Divorce

The Virginia State Bar’s Family Law Section has produced a video which discusses the impact of divorce on children and how parents can go about easing the transition.  The video, entitled “Spare the Child,” utilizes personal stories and everyday language to promote the emotional well-being of children as they go through a family law proceeding.  You may access the video after the jump (click “continue reading”):

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Diana Mercer: 10 Best Ways to Screw Up Your Divorce

The Huffington Post offers an intriguing read entitled 10 Best Ways to Screw Up Your Divorce.  This article, authored by a mediator and former family law attorney, explains how to waste money and minimize your opportunity for a successful outcome.  It includes the following tidbits:

  • “Be Disorganized…Either bring none of your financial records to your attorney’s office or court hearing, or bring all your financial records in a paper sack overflowing with miscellaneous papers.”

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