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Pensacola Family & Estate Planning Legal Blog

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.

Child custody analysts debate sharing parental responsibility

One of the more positive trends in family law from the past year is the increasing acceptance of shared parenting. While Florida's attempt to pass applicable legislation was not successful, over 20 states are now entertaining bills that could make equal parental responsibility the legal presumption in child custody cases. Such a trend mostly affects fathers, who have traditionally been reduced to the role of a visitor after a contentious divorce. While fathers' rights groups applaud the shift, some factions are still reluctant to support legislation.

Some lawmakers oppose forcing judges to presume the equality of both parents because they say it removes the court's ability to act in the best interests of the child in cases of domestic violence. However, the bills introduced around the country apparently directly address the possibility that one parent is abusive. Proponents of shared parenting say rejecting the bill on this account deprives children of the benefit of building a strong relationship with both parents.

High net worth couples: Lauer and Roque heading for divorce?

When couples with ties to show business fail to sign prenuptial agreements, few are surprised if the couples end up facing tumultuous divorces. Pre and postnuptial agreements allow high net worth couples to settle matters more easily because many issues are already covered in the written agreement. For one power couple who seems to be heading toward a divorce, the terms of a postnuptial agreement may be only a starting point.

Scandal surrounded Matt Lauer's recent firing as host of NBC's "Today Show." Accusations of sexual misconduct came to light in November, and to the shock of viewers in Florida and elsewhere, Lauer was unceremoniously terminated from the network. Lauer's wife of 20 years, Annette Roque, was recently seen visiting the offices of a divorce attorney, and some have reported that she and Lauer have a long-standing postnuptial agreement.

Health care directive saves confusion and painful decision-making

Few people care to dwell on the possibility that they may become seriously ill or incapacitated at some point in their lives. While many would desire that any means be taken to preserve their lives, some have clear convictions about how they want to die and the care they do not desire at that time. For those in Florida who have made firm decisions about the ends of their lives, estate planning is important for making those wishes clear. One element of estate planning that would most benefit them is a health care directive.

A health care directive assigns authority to a trusted individual to make medical decisions in the event the assigner cannot voice his or her wishes. These instructions may include whether to provide nourishment through a tube or whether the person does or does not want to be on life support. Without such documentation, loved ones are often left making critical decisions, and these situations may tear families apart.

Divorce raises issues concerning military benefits

Florida service members have a lot to think about when they first enlist. In addition to their instructions and physical training, they may hear lectures about the military benefits and obligations that may apply to certain circumstances, such as financial issues or divorce. Recently, a U.S. Supreme Court decision has brought about changes in the rules states must follow concerning retirement pay for ex-spouses of service members.

States may award a civilian spouse up to half the service member's retirement pay following a divorce. The amount the civilian receives is based on the date of the service member's retirement, not the date of the divorce. If a service member opts to accept disability pay, which is untaxed, the service member's retirement pay must be reduced by the amount of disability pay he or she receives. Of course, if the retirement pay is reduced, that means the civilian's share of the retirement pay is also reduced.

Shared parenting fairly divides parental responsibility

Shared parenting is becoming more widely accepted in Florida family courts and across the country. What used to be known as joint custody has been given a more positive name to promote the positive aspects of sharing parental responsibility. The concept of parenting as partners after a divorce may seem difficult to some, but encouraging evidence pointing out the benefit to children may be enough to dispel some of the common misconceptions surrounding shared parenting.

Many people believe shared parenting is too difficult. There is too much animosity between parents to pull off a truly positive experience for the children. However, parents who have been willing to make use of resources like counseling and mediation have found healthy ways to work through problems, setting a fine example for their children. While some may feel it is enough for one parent to have custody and the other to have scheduled visitation, studies show that this arrangement can have devastating, long-term effects on children.

3 steps to take after being served with divorce papers

If you receive divorce papers, you may have trouble thinking clearly for a few hours or even days. While you have 20 days to respond to the divorce filing, you do not want to wait until the last minute to figure everything out. It may just sound too overwhelming to you right now, as the thought of getting a divorce can be extremely disheartening.

What can you do when you get the terrible news that your spouse officially wants out of your marriage? Here are the first steps you should take. 

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