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Tampa Family Law Blog

Before divorce: tips for preparation

Some Florida couples might start the new year considering divorce. They are not alone, as there seems to be an increase in divorce filings after the holidays. An Independent online poll shows that one in five couples considers divorce after the holidays and a U.S. study of 15 years of data from Washington state reveals that divorce filings increase at the beginning of the year and peak in March.

For couples who find themselves in that situation, preparation before the divorce process might prevent further complications later on. Experts recommend that those preparing to file for divorce take a social media break or carefully monitor what they post and share on social media sites since everything that is posted can be used in the divorce proceedings.

When holiday lights go out, divorce filings rise

Holiday-themed music and movies might suggest that the magic of the season can solve every problem, but divorce filings reportedly spike soon after each new calendar year begins. January has long been unofficially called "Divorce Month" in Florida and around the country, and it is during this month that the stress of the holidays may push unhappy feelings present in some marital relationships to the breaking point.

As a result, some couples may set time aside in January to reevaluate their marriages as they plan for the year ahead. Couples who have been swept up in the fantasy and merriment of the season may find themselves facing a plethora of real-life problems as the holiday tinsel and trappings are swept away. For some couples, the season's belief that their marriage might be saved simply dissipates with the chilly reality of a quiet, back-to-work January day.

Calculating Social Security benefits after divorce

Some divorced people in Florida might be able to draw Social Security benefits from an ex-spouse's earnings records. However, it is necessary that the ex-spouse have a higher income, and several other elements must also be in place.

Social Security benefits are determined by taking the best 35 years of a person's earnings and calculating the monthly average. This is known as the Primary Insurance Amount. To figure out a person's spousal benefit, the PIA should be subtracted from half of the spouse's PIA. A negative number indicates no spousal benefit is forthcoming while a positive number is the amount the person will receive.

Same-sex divorce and parental rights

Same-sex Florida couples who are getting a divorce might run into issues surrounding child custody. Problems may arise if either person is not legally considered the child's legal parent. In Mississippi, the state Supreme Court is making a decision on a case in which a woman is requesting parental rights for the child borne by her ex-wife.

According to the 6-year-old child's biological mother, the other woman had the opportunity to assert her parental rights during the divorce process and did not. The woman's attorney says state laws that did not allow the woman to be included on the birth certificate at the time of the child's birth were unconstitutional. The woman pays child support and has visitation rights, but if the child's biological mother dies, another family could adopt the child without the woman's permission.

Retirement and divorce

Florida is a popular place for many people to retire. A thorny issue that comes up when couples are planning retirement is divorce, which can cause both partners change the plans they had made for many years. Divorce among older couples, also known as "gray divorce," is on the rise.

The impact of divorce can make life difficult after retirement. Dividing up assets as such as retirement plans, life insurance, real estate, stocks and life savings can have a devastating impact on a couple who had planned to retire together. Ending a marriage may force a person to take a different approach to retirement. Due to the costs of divorce, unexpected withdrawals from life savings and retirement accounts may be necessary.

Same-sex couples face particular challenges in divorce

Same-sex couples can run into the same types of obstacles as heterosexual marriages, and for some people in Florida, this can mean divorce. However, there are some additional complications that can arise for same-sex couples that are ending their marriages, such as the division of property and the handling parental rights and custody.

Many same-sex couples had relationships that lasted for many years prior to the legalization of marriage. This means that property division, spousal support and other issues that can be affected by the length of the marriage may be handled differently depending on the discretion of the court. Longer marriages generally carry more weight with judges when deciding on asset division and the assignment of alimony orders.

Steps for filing for a divorce

Couples in Florida who want to get a divorce may be uncertain about how to get the process started. While initiating a divorce can be a relatively simple process, filers should keep in mind that legally separating oneself from a spouse is a process that can be complicated.

Even though there are some main steps that will be a part of every divorce, filers should not expect to deal with their unique circumstances. There are many ways a divorce can be filed, with or without legal representation. There are also multiple options when it comes to how to settle the divorce, such as using mediation, litigation or a collaborative divorce process.

Several factors can indicate greater likelihood of divorce

There are a number of factors that can indicate whether a Florida couple is headed for divorce. Every couple is deals with their own situations, so statistical indications may have little value for any individual marriage. However, these risk factors can help highlight situations that may lead to the end of a marriage.

One of the factors that can indicate a higher divorce rate is the ages of the spouses when the marriage begins. Couples who marry as teens or in their mid-thirties or later have a higher divorce rate.

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