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Broward County Divorce Law Blog

We're not rich; Do we need a prenuptial agreement?

Florida attorneys hear this question more often than ever during client consultations. Celebrity news stories usually have a thing or two to say about prenups, which piques the interest of non-celebrities and people without a great deal of wealth. These people, who are just like you and your intended, all wonder the same thing -- do they really need to sign a prenup before marriage?

The world in which we live has changed a lot even since your own parents were newlyweds. Couple considering a divorce have to factor in a lot more than mere assets or real estate. Online social media accounts and often overlooked digital assets are among the newest technologies couples have that might complicate an otherwise simple divorce.

Understanding Florida marital property law

Many Florida residents who have never experienced divorce know very little about the state's marital property laws. In an imminent divorce situation, this lack of knowledge can be a detriment, meaning those who have made the decision to split will want to learn about marital property division early on. A saving grace in many cases is that a divorce attorney can fill in any missing blanks to enhance a divorcing couple's growing knowledge about marital property law.

Below are a few basic legal points to consider before you seek more in-depth knowledge from a lawyer, beginning with the court's initial assumption that the distribution of property should be equal between both parties.

To seek alimony or not: A personal choice

Spousal support has remained a hot topic during the first five months of 2015 and everyone seems to have a valid opinion. While alimony is often a big issue when divorce is imminent, some dependent spouses in Florida may choose to forego spousal support. As with all aspects of ending a marriage, the question of whether or not to accept alimony is personal choice but here are two sides of the issue for those who have not yet made a decision.

Reasons to accept alimony:

Census numbers show grandparents with parental responsibility

Florida residents may be interested in some statistics about the prevalence of grandparents with parental responsibility in the state. Government statistics reveal some interesting facts regarding demographics, as well.

In the state of Florida, 2010 census data revealed that grandparents or other relatives were the head of household for 12 percent of children under the age of 18. In all, this included 476,474 minor children, of which just over 350,000 were with their grandparents. Of these, grandparents had parental responsibility for 161,689 children, with nearly 60,000 of these children living solely with their grandparents. The total number of Florida grandparents responsible for their grandchildren was approximately 150,000. In Jacksonville, this amounted to just over 7,500 grandparents. Miami had just over 3,000 grandparents with parental responsibility, according to the census.

Conversations about prenuptial agreements awkward but advisable

The media reports regularly on celebrity marriages and divorces and the use of prenuptial agreements to determine the division of assets. However, any Florida couple considering marriage may want to deal with the sensitive issue of a prenuptial agreement before the wedding in order to minimize possible disputes in the event of divorce or separation.

Statistics indicate that many individuals believe that prenuptial agreements are important for other people but not necessary for themselves. It is often difficult to even raise the subject of a prenuptial agreement during the romance and excitement of wedding planning. But a prenuptial agreement is one of the primary asset protection tools available to protect both spouses if the relationship fails.

Invalid premarital agreements

While not all Florida couples decide to discuss what should happen to their personal assets prior to getting married, others make the point to have a prenuptial agreement drafted and signed. Prenuptial agreements can keep certain assets safe in the event that the couple later decides to get a divorce. However, certain things can render a prenuptial agreement invalid.

One of the biggest mistakes that couples can make is to not have the agreement written out. Premarital agreements that are based solely on spoken agreement cannot be enforced. Likewise, if the agreement was not signed prior to the marriage, the agreement may also not be valid or enforceable. Additionally, if a person was pressured into signing a premarital agreement, was not given enough time to read the document or was not given time to consider the terms, the agreement may not be enforceable.

Understanding the definition of alimony and how it affects taxes

Broward County couples who are looking for a divorce may be interested in how alimony payments may affect their taxes. The answer generally depends on some specific qualities of the payments themselves.

When a person has to pay alimony to their former spouse after a divorce, this can have some serious implications for both parties on their federal income taxes. The person who is making the payments is allowed to deduct those payments on their tax return, resulting in less taxable income. The ex-spouse receiving alimony, however, needs to declare these payments as income on their own return. Each spouse must give the other their social security number so that it may be included on their respective taxes. Failure to do this may result in penalties levied by the IRS.

How alimony reform could affect Florida divorces

Floridians who are preparing to divorce may need to learn about proposed legislation that could greatly impact alimony orders. The bill, which was unanimously approved by the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee, would make several important changes.

According to the bill, permanent alimony orders would no longer occur. Instead, courts would use a formula to determine the length of the payments and their amounts. The bill would also provide 50-50 child-sharing for divorcing couples who have children. It would not apply retroactively to divorce cases that are settled prior to the law's passage.

How a divorce after 50 impacts Florida residents

For couples over the age of 50, the beginning of the calendar year is a prime time to file for divorce. Between 1990 and 2013, the divorce rate has doubled for couples over the age of 50, and those who remain single after divorce may encounter financial difficulties. Research shows that 30 percent of divorced single women over the age of 62 are living at or below the federal poverty line.

Of men who divorce after the age of 62, 14 percent of them are in poverty. There are many reasons why older people who get divorced may have financial issues. Two of the biggest reasons include the fact that many investments held by older folks are not liquid, and there is greater salary uncertainty as workers get older. To further complicate matters, it can be difficult to divide Social Security benefits among those who have been married for more than 10 years.

Florida custody agreements

The issue of child custody is a primary concern for most parents seeking a divorce. A custody agreement aims to emphasize an arrangement between the parents that will keep the best interest of the child a priority. In Florida, a family court judge will indicate the parameters regarding physical custody, visitation and decision-making on the child's behalf.

In order to promote consistency in a child's routine, most parenting agreements indicate which parent will have physical custody. Physical custody refers to the residential arrangements for the child. The custodial parent will be responsible for meeting the child's daily needs. In the event that joint custody is granted, both parents will be expected to consult with one another in accordance with the terms of the custody agreement when handling important decisions involving the child, such as educational or medical issues, regardless of which parent was granted physical custody. When one parent has sole custody, on the other hand, the custodial parent may not be obligated to include the non-custodial parent in these decisions.