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Tampa Family Law Blog

Extra effort needed to help children cope with divorce

When divorces in Florida involve children, parents must take into account additional emotional challenges. A family therapist with 25 years of experience advises divorcing parents to focus on the well-being of their children and insulate them from the adult issues that ended the marriage.

Kids frequently blame themselves for the breakup of their parents. To help children process these feelings, parents should open up a dialogue. This creates an opportunity to assure them that they are not responsible. Additionally, parents should watch out for sadness, anxiety or depression in their children. Bad behavior, especially in younger children, could be a sign that a child is upset about the divorce.

Modifying parenting plans in hostile situations

Divorced parents know all too well the stress involved with juggling child custody and visitation schedules. When parents divorce, many outline a parenting plan agreement that sets forth specific schedules, expectations and other provisions regarding time spent with the child after the separation.

But what happens when something unexpected occurs and a parent wishes to modify the agreement?

OCSE to improve child support collection process

Payroll deductions account for 75 percent of the $33 billion in child support payments collected every year in the United States. Florida parents who depend on employer participation to get their court-ordered payments will be pleased to learn the federal agency in charge has taken steps to increase efficiency and improve processing times for recipients.

The Office of Child Support Enforcement is tasked with coordinating between state child support agencies and employers. Within 20 days of hiring, employers are required to report names and social security numbers of new employees. The numbers are cross-referenced with a nationwide database of individuals owing support. Afterward, state agencies request employment verification.

Working out a parenting plan

Shared parenting or joint custody is one option for Florida parents who are getting a divorce. A judge may take a number of factors into consideration in deciding whether to grant shared parenting. For example, if the parents live too far apart, such an arrangement might not be in the best interests of the child. Other reasons might be because of concerns about neglect, abuse or the possibility of parental kidnapping.

Shared parenting can help children adjust in a divorce, but it is important that parents do not drag their conflicts into relationships with their children. Parents may want to work with a mediator to create a parenting plan. Shared parenting does not necessarily mean the child will spend exactly half time with each parent. Parents may divide up responsibilities in a way that seems reasonable to them based on their situation and their child's needs.

Custodial interference can be damaging to children

For parents in Florida, it can seem like one of their worst nightmares if their ex-spouses attempt to prevent them from seeing or spending time with their children. They may wonder what they can do about the problems they are facing due to their former partners denying them access to the children. Custodial interference is a term used to describe attempts by one parent to block or interfere with the custodial time of the other parent. It can be deeply damaging to the parent-child bond as well as the psychological health of the children in the long term. This behavior is not a matter of a failure to agree on a specific time or a scheduling problem but rather is a serious effort to undermine the relationship.

Custodial interference isn't only a matter for the family courts. It can rise to the level of criminal behavior and merit law enforcement involvement. However, in order to take action to stop custodial interference, it is important that a child custody plan is on file with the family court.

Navigating the challenges of open adoption

Although open adoptions are the new standard for adoptions, there are still misconceptions about how the process works. In open adoptions, the birth parent and adoptive parent have varying levels of contact leading up to and after the placement of the child. The contact may be mediated by an attorney, with the exchange of occasional letters and photos, or fully open and include periodic phone calls and visits.

Creating safe boundaries

Retirement funds require precision when divided in divorce

People in Florida who have decided to divorce often find that the financial aspects of the end of a marriage are the most complex, outstripping the emotional and practical concerns. Given the fact that retirement accounts are frequently the largest asset held by a divorcing couple and the importance of these funds to both parties' future financial health, these accounts can be the source of particular contention. In a 2016 survey, 62 percent of divorce attorneys said that retirement accounts are the most difficult issue dealt with by their clients.

Retirement accounts are often governed by an array of financial and legal regulations and requirements that make precision in dealing with the distribution of assets necessary for more reasons than concern about reaching a settlement agreement. In fact, if the distribution of a retirement account in a divorce is handled improperly, both parties could pay a substantial sum of money in taxes, penalties and fees, and the outcome achieved may be inequitable.

Early planning can prevent divorce headaches

Florida residents who are considering marriage may be well served to also think about what could happen to their finances if they get divorced. Many people think it's cynical to contemplate divorce, but the high rate of marriage failures makes divorce planning more likely to be relevant than many forms of common insurance policies found in most everyone's portfolio.

People often immediately think of prenuptial agreements when divorce planning is mentioned, but those are far from the only tool in the toolbox. Pre and postnuptial agreements can essentially adjudicate most aspects of a marital dissolution on the front end if proper steps are followed regarding disclosure of assets and other factors. However, there are some even simpler strategies that can be employed. The first is to simply maintain separate assets. Many couples elect to open individual accounts as well as a joint account from which joint bills are paid. Having separate finances can at least partially insulate one partner from the other person's creditors in the event of aggressive debt collection efforts.

Asset division can be complex in late-in-life divorces

Over the past 25 years, the rate of divorce for people in Florida and throughout the United States older than 50 has more than doubled, and this rate is continuing to rise even while divorce among other age groups has declined. However, divorce later in life can carry with it significant financial complications, especially as many couples who have been married for a large number of years have a deeply intertwined financial life that includes an array of assets such as retirement funds, investments and real estate.

These assets can be substantial, meaning that a divorce for a couple over age 50 can be a high-asset divorce requiring precise attention to detail during property division. One of the most important steps to ensuring that all assets are properly considered in the divorce is for a spouse to develop a complete inventory of individual and joint property that belongs to the married couple. This can be augmented by securing full records of past employment. Prior employers may be a storehouse of information on defined benefit plans, stock options, pensions and other funds that should be considered during divorce negotiations.

Federal government looking to take over child support data

Since 1995 when Congress passed the Family Support Act, Florida and all other states have been charged with monitoring child support orders and payment compliance. The budget proposal from the White House could replace the state-level system with one managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The budget for fiscal year 2019 has requested $63 million for the agency to purchase a federal information technology system to track child support nationwide.

Saving tax dollars forms the rationale for the request. States currently can gain reimbursement of 66 percent of their costs for operating child support databases. An HHS representative said that the department has sent approximately $1 billion to states in the last five years. By switching funding to a national child support tracking system, the agency expects to save $800 million over the course of a decade.

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