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Pensacola Family & Estate Planning Legal Blog

Florida military divorce: Military benefits and retirement funds

Divorce is difficult no matter if one is going through the dissolution process as a civilian or as a member of the U.S. armed forces. While there may not be a lot of difference between a civilian and service member divorce in Florida, how certain assets are treated is different. For example, military benefits and retirement funds may or may not be accessible to a non-service member spouse following a divorce.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act does allow non-service member spouses to keep some of the benefits to which they've become accustomed if the length of the marriage and their ex's military services lasted a certain amount of time. For example, for one to collect retirement pay from a service member the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years and the military member must have been in the service just as long. This is known as the 10/10 requirement. To qualify for other benefits, marriage length and service time must overlap a much longer amount of time, generally 15 to 20 years.

Parental responsibility: Minimizing divorce effects on kids

When it's over, it's over, but that doesn't mean it's easy on anyone involved, particularly for children. Divorce isn't as ugly a word as it used to be decades ago, yet it still comes with the parental responsibility of putting the children first. Even in the best circumstances, some children in Florida can suffer long-lasting effects of their parents' divorce. 

A recent study conducted by sociologists shows that who are younger than seven when their parents divorce are likely to suffer long-term health effects than if their parents divorce when they are older. Those who parents divorced before the kids were old enough showed more ill health by the time they turned 50. The study showed that parental divorce during this time is also associated with lower physical functioning.

Parental responsibility: Pluses and pitfalls of joint custody

There are good aspects and less than stellar aspects when separating parents have legal joint custody of their children. When it comes to parental responsibility in Florida, parents who have joint legal custody both have a say legally in making decisions for their children. Some of those decisions can include health care, religious affiliations and education. Legal and physical custody are two different entities, however, in that physical custody means the children live primarily with one parent, while the other has visitation with them even though they may both have joint legal custody.

A joint custody situation forces parents to talk about what continues to be important in their relationship -- their children. Having both parents involved in their lives in this fashion can be beneficial for children as they feel the positives of their parents collaboratively co-parenting. Seeing their parents agree on what's best for them can be very rewarding for children.

A Florida power of attorney needs to remain powerful

Estate planning documents are in place for a reason. One of those -- a power of attorney (POA) -- legally authorizes a person to be able to handle affairs and to make health care decisions on behalf of the maker in case the person should be unable to do so for him or herself. The last thing Florida residents would want is for their POA to be rendered powerless.

Laws can change and new laws can be added to current legislation. It's important these changes are reflected in estate planning documents, including a POA. Medical and financial powers of attorney need to reflect any necessary changes in the law. For instance, changes have to be made to a medical POA if written before the adoption of the Uniform Health Care Decisions Act. Similar changes have to be made to financial POA if it fails to disclose some Uniform Power of Attorney Act provisions.

3 costly divorce mistakes to avoid

Leaving your spouse may be emotionally devastating, but it may also be harmful to your financial wellbeing. Breaking up is costly, and you will probably see an increase in your cost of living. If you are getting a divorce, it is important to consider the monetary risks you may face.

Whether you are the breadwinner or stay at home to raise your family, divorce will impact your financial health. However, you can make your divorce more affordable by avoiding some common mistakes. Here are expensive errors you should avoid making while you end your marriage:

Child custody: Keeping children out of the conversation

Emotions may be out of control during a divorce situation. But no matter how angry or hurt parents are at each other, they must make it a priority when it comes to keeping children out of the conversation regarding divorce and custody matters. Divorcing Florida parents are best served by not putting their children in the middle of their problems. Children may already be feeling the pain of their parents splitting up and adding to that pain by involving them in issues they shouldn't be involved in is not in their best interests.

Kids are already feeling enough guilt when trying to come to terms with how to love both parents without betraying the other. Although their marriage has ended, parents will always be parents together, and not involving their children in their personal issues will help them to co-parent in a healthy, successful way. This outlook, experts say, will serve positively in child custody situations.

Right of first refusal expands parental responsibility

Divorcing parents face many challenges. Of course, the most difficult adjustment may be having time with one's children limited to a set schedule. This can be especially frustrating if the parents do not share equal parental responsibility but instead end up with an arrangement where one parent has custody and the other has time-sharing rights. When this is the case, many parents do not realize there is an option they can request in their custody arrangements that may offer them additional time with the children.

The right of first refusal is not required by Florida law, but parents can ask for such a stipulation in their court orders. This clause requires the custodial parent to offer parenting time to their former partner before seeking the services of a babysitter, day care provider or other relative. In other words, if the parent who has custody is not able to spend the time with the children, the other parent must be contacted first to take the children if he or she is able.

How will deployment affect chances of child custody?

For Florida military families, divorce can cause more complex issues than for civilian families. For one thing, military parents must always keep in mind the potential for reassignment or deployment when considering child custody issues. The fluid life of a service member means being ready at a moment's notice when an assignment requires a move to another part of the country or world. Technically, this should not affect the outcome of a child custody ruling, but unfortunately, it often does impact a court decision.

Deployment is a disruption to the life of a family, and courts tend to agree that the best interests of the child include protecting them from such an upheaval. However, a service member who shares custody of his or her children must be prepared for the possibility of deployment by creating a family care plan. This plan designates trusted friends and family members to take care of the children day or night if the service member is activated to duty without warning.

Child custody and parental responsibility

Divorce is a fact of life for many Florida couples. Property is divided, debts are addressed and each individual begins life independent of the other. However, when children are involved, each individual still has parental responsibility that often require them to work together for the benefit of the children.

The degree to which they must work together typically depends upon the type of custody arrangement. In many cases, one parent retains physical custody of the children. This is the parent who is primarily responsible for taking care of the child on a day-to-day basis. This is the parent who the child lives with the majority of the time. Typically, the other parent has scheduled visitation such as every other weekend and two weeks during the summer or some other such arrangement that takes into account what is in the best interest of the children.

How involved should children be in a divorce?

There are many opinions about whether children should get a say during divorce proceedings. Some experts say kids should absolutely voice their opinions while others suggest keeping them far away from everything as possible. Ultimately, you need to consider the age and maturity level of your children before deciding whether to ask for their input. 

You should remember if you do ask, you may not like what you hear. However, it is vital to remain open and caring during a divorce, so the children maintain respect for both parents even after separating. 

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