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Pensacola Family & Estate Planning Legal Blog

Changing tax law muddles alimony and property division for many

As if divorce was not hard enough, now Florida couples have to contend with new alimony laws that may turn teh proceedings upside down. Alimony was once a useful tool for negotiating property division and for providing a lesser-earning spouse with some stability in the early years after the divorce. However, the new law removes the incentive for negotiation and may create a rush to court for many couples who have been postponing their divorces.

Previously, the spouse paying alimony could deduct those payments from his or her taxes. The person receiving alimony was required to pay taxes on it. The benefit of this arrangement was that it frequently gave the payer incentive to agree to alimony. This often kept couples out of court because a high-earning spouse was willing to consent to paying alimony to gain the tax break.

Should you and your spouse negotiate on your own?

During a divorce, many soon-to-be ex-spouses try to save money and time by negotiating with each other. In a few cases, it works. Many times, though, this move turns into a giant headache and worsens the situation. For one thing, you could make an offer that is not exactly legal or give up much more than you think you have to.

If you are thinking about negotiating on your own, consider the following few things.

Overcoming the stress of deployment in military marriage

Being married to someone who serves in the U.S. armed forces may be one of the most challenging partnerships a person can face. Service members and their spouses must quickly adapt to changes, including moves to unfamiliar places and prolonged periods apart during deployment. Because of the stress involved, the rate of divorce within all branches of the military is high. Some advisors suggest ways for Florida couples to overcome the common complaints about military marriages.

Since a military marriage may mean spending time apart, many successful couples plan ahead for a date night each week. These dates are never used for discussing bills or resolving conflicts but merely to enjoy each other's company. It is also important to hold family time sacred, protecting it from long hours at work or outside interruptions. This will be helpful during that time of rebuilding that occurs after a long separation when the spouses may have adapted to life without each other.

Bitcoin is an important part of estate plan for many

Many in Florida and around the world are discovering the convenience and flexibility of cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and other virtual wallets allow people to control their financial transactions without going through a bank. However, since no bank manages the accounts, those who invest in cryptocurrency must keep track of their own holdings. Additionally, because cryptocurrency accounts can be managed anonymously, they may be lost if they are not included in one's estate plan.

The way things stand now, such accounts can exist without one's heirs knowing about them. Regulators in the United States do not require identification when one opens a virtual account, although this may change in the future as it has in other countries. Because of the anonymity of the accounts, they do not require their owners to name beneficiaries as they would on a bank account or retirement fund.

Parental responsibility in blended families takes its toll

Since the coining of the term "blended family," stepfamily advocates have sought to bring out the best in the very difficult task of uniting a married couple with the children of their spouses. Each blended family has its own unique dynamic, and the assimilation of two worlds into one often seems like an impossible goal. In fact, divorce experts claim that when parental responsibility includes stepchildren, the result may lead to many Florida divorces at the beginning of each new year.

Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce, according to the latest data. However, if the spouses bring children into their new marriages, the risk rises to 70 percent. One reason may be that one spouse may be overly critical about the parenting style of the other spouse. On the other hand, one partner may refuse to allow the spouse to discipline the partner's biological children. The lack of flexibility and consistency may make it difficult for children to adjust.

Why is it a mistake to post on Facebook during your divorce?

First things first: Yes, some people are able to use social media just fine during their divorce without experiencing repercussions. However, it is a good idea to, at the very least, avoid Facebook use and other social media use. To cover your bases altogether, the recommendation is to suspend your posting until the divorce is over.

Otherwise, you could end up posting something that hurts your case or that turns an agreeable divorce sour.

Don't neglect health insurance during property division

While going through a divorce, the process may consume a person's thoughts. There is much to consider and plan, including child custody issues and property division. However, one factor many in Florida may neglect to consider is the how the divorce will affect their health insurance coverage. While health insurance is not considered an asset to be divided, some may mistakenly think they can continue on their spouses' policies, and this may leave them dangerously unprotected.

Individual spouses may have their own coverage through their respective employers, but some find it more cost-effective to share a policy through one spouse's job. A couple going through a divorce may believe their coverage continues until the end of the year, despite the divorce. This is typically untrue. In fact, once the divorce is finalized, health insurance coverage for a spouse ends.

For business owner, estate plan is crucial

The steps one takes to prepare a business for the future are similar to the steps one takes to prepare one's family for the future. Leaving these to chance means placing family or business at risk of meeting difficult times and perhaps serious financial struggles. For a business, it may even mean its demise if its owner does not take the time to make an estate plan.

For many who form a Florida business and bring it to success, the dream continues with the expectation of passing the business, or at least its assets, to loved ones at the end of their lives. However, this transition cannot happen without taking careful, legal steps to ensure the transition happens smoothly and with little burden to loved ones. The most basic tool a business owner can use is a will. Similar to creating a will for personal assets, a will has its limitations when dealing with a business.

Service member rights protected by federal law

Those who serve their country in the military often face many harsh conditions in the fight to preserve freedom. Because of this, the federal government has enacted numerous laws to protect service member rights when they may otherwise be violated. One such protection is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. In addition to numerous other rights, the law protects those who serve from civil lawsuits, including divorce, while they are on active duty and up to 60 days afterward.

By delaying Florida divorce proceedings, the SCRA allows service members to focus their attention on their military assignments. In such cases, it may not be possible for a service member to respond to divorce papers, and the law protects him or her from being held in default for failing to respond. On the other hand, a service member is not exempt from responding when able to do so.

Act fast if you are served with divorce papers in Florida

Has your spouse served you with divorce papers in Florida? Now is the time to inform yourself about the necessary next steps. Florida state law has a very specific timeline in which you must respond, and if you do not respect the procedure you could find yourself in difficulty.

Being served with any type of legal documents is a serious matter that you must not neglect. You must be attentive to deadlines and the precise legal procedures in the divorce process. Here is some information about what to do now that your spouse has served you with divorce papers.

  • The Florida Bar| Board Certified | Marital & Family Law
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