When couples decide they will divorce, there’s often a power struggle over the couple’s home, which in many cases is the largest marital asset. One spouse may order the other out of the home. Both spouses may refuse to leave, fearing that by doing so, they are giving up legal rights to the home. They may also not wish to pay for another place to live, or may not feel comfortable allowing the spouse to live in the home alone until things are settled.

By law, you do not have to move out of the home unless and until your spouse gets a court order granting him or her exclusive possession of the home. This is true even if the home is in your spouse’s name only. You may decide it’s best to remain in the home until the divorce is final, and you are legally within your right to do so until the court decides otherwise. You may decide that it’s in the best interests of the children for both of you to remain in the home until the divorce is final, or you may not wish to pay for two households until the financial terms of the divorce are nailed down.

Spouses also fear that if they do decide to move out of the marital home during the divorce, it is considered abandonment. They may worry that by moving out, they lose their right to a percentage of the equity in the home. They may also think that a judge would be more likely to award the home to the spouse who chose to remain in the home.

These are myths. Divorce can be highly contentious, and it’s natural for spouses to not wish to reside in the same home while the divorce is underway. A spouse does not lose abandon his or her interest in the home by moving out.

If you have any questions about divorce in Florida, including who gets the house and how to protect your legal interests in the house, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. Dale works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and will provide you with a consultation on how to protect your legal rights. Call to learn more.

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A person receiving Social Security Disability Income who is in the process of a divorce may be concerned about getting to keep that SSDI, or how the receipt of alimony affects SSDI. For a spouse receiving SSDI, that income is counted as regular income in determining whether alimony will be awarded. The court will look at that, as well as any other sources of income, in determining whether or not to award alimony. Courts have discretion in awarding alimony, and can take into consideration that your income is related to a disability in choosing to award alimony.

Normally, SSDI benefits are not considered marital property. Therefore, if a separate account is established that contains only disability benefits, the court would most likely not consider that as marital property, and probably would not divide it among both spouses. The court can, however, consider that disability money in calculating how the other assets should be divided.

If you receive SSDI, and you are awarded alimony, this will not affect the amount of SSDI you will receive. However, the court will factor in your disability benefits in determining the amount of alimony you receive. If you are ordered to pay alimony and you are receiving SSDI, if you fail to pay your SSDI benefits may be garnished. This means that the Social Security Administration would pay the money directly to your former spouse rather than to you.

If you are in the process of a divorce and you are receiving SSDI or SSI, you should speak with an attorney. It’s important to negotiate alimony carefully during the divorce process, especially when government benefits are involved.

Call Florida alimony attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works in the divorce courts in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties and will be happy to provide you with a consultation on your case. Call to learn more.

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Your divorce decree should address all marital debts. Marital debts are normally those debts that are acquired during the marriage, regardless of which spouse’s name they are in.

The debts may be split equally in the divorce, or one spouse may be responsible for more of the debts, if he or she gets a larger property settlement, makes a much higher income, or was responsible for accumulating those debts by spending in a reckless manner.

If you discover a debt that was not addressed in your divorce decree, you have a few options. You should approach your ex-spouse to ask if you two can pay the debt equally. It’s possible that your divorce decree has a general provision that states that all marital debts that are not otherwise mentioned in the decree are split equally.

If your spouse refuses to pay his or her half, and your divorce decree provides that your spouse is responsible for half of all marital debts, you can take your spouse to court for enforcement proceedings for failing to pay his or her half of the debt.

You should also contact the creditor to let the company know what has happened. Credit card companies and other creditors exist to make money, and if your name is on the account they will try to collect from you, regardless of whether your spouse is responsible for half or not. If you fail to pay, your credit score will probably take a hit.

If you have the money, you may consider paying off the debt and then suing your spouse for half.

A well-drafted divorce decree should address specific marital debts to be divided in the divorce, as well as all other debts. If you are looking for a divorce attorney to help with your divorce, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250.

He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and can help you with your divorce decree and accompanying paperwork. Call to schedule a consultation.

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If your former spouse died, and owed you alimony or child support at the time of his or her death, you can sue the estate to attempt to recover what you were owed. Normally alimony ends upon the death of either spouse, so you aren’t entitled to any additional alimony going forward. You can sue the estate to attempt to recover what you were owed.

However, just because you are able to sue the estate does not mean that you will recover anything. Life insurance normally passes outside of probate. Therefore, the proceeds will pass to whomever your spouse named as his or her beneficiary of the policy, and that money is not part of the estate. In the event that your former spouse either failed to name a beneficiary, or named his or her estate as the beneficiary, you can make a claim on those life insurance proceeds.

There may also be other assets against which you can make a claim. If your former spouse held real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, or other assets you may be able to claim those. It’s important that once you learn of your former spouse’s death, that you file a claim with the estate so that if there are any assets, you can receive a portion of them.

If you are divorcing, you may wish to plan in advance for what will happen if your former spouse were to pass away. Although that may seem unlikely, depending on the circumstances, sometimes unexpected deaths happen. You may wish to ask that the spouse pay for a life insurance policy payable to you in the event of a death.

If you have any questions about divorce in Florida, including unpaid alimony and the death of a former spouse, call Florida alimony attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He helps clients work with divorce courts in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and can help you with your case. Call to learn more.

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Getting a child ready for college can be a huge undertaking. The biggest concern for most parents is how to pay for college without straddling the child with a lot of student loans. With college costs increasing much faster than inflation, proper planning from the outset is critical.

If the parents are divorced, they should try to work together to help plan and pay for college, to the extent possible. If parents are divorced, separated, or never married, the custodial parent is the party responsible for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The custodial parent (for student aid purposes) is the parent with whom the child lived the most during the prior 12 months, which may or may not be the same as the parent with legal custody. If a child lived with both parents equally, the parent who provided the child with the most financial support should fill out the FAFSA.

The FAFSA is a federal form that is used to make a lot of college financing decisions, such as whether a student is eligible for grants, student loans, or certain scholarships based on income. The federal government does not consider the income and assets of the non-custodial parent in determining whether a child is eligible for financial aid, but it does consider child support received.

If you are divorcing and you have children, you should address each parent’s obligation concerning college support. Your agreement can put limits on how many semesters of support each parent will provide, restrictions on which colleges the child can attend, index payments to the tuition at a certain college, and address which other expenses of college the parent will pay for. In the absence of such an agreement, typically parents are not required to pay for any child support once the child reaches the age of 18, unless he or she is still in high school.

Paying for college can be tough for anyone, but it can be an especially sticky situation when the student’s parents are divorced. It’s important that you plan for college expenses before a divorce is final, and address them in your divorce agreement.

If you have any questions about divorce and paying for college, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and will be happy to speak with you about your case. Call to learn more.

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It can be very frustrating when a spouse quits paying alimony, upon which you are relying to pay your bills. The court system can be extremely slow and collecting alimony can be tough. However, if you want to enforce your court order to make your spouse start paying again, you have no choice but to go back to court.

In most cases, you will not have to travel back to the state from which your divorce order was obtained. However, in order to require your spouse to pay, a court will need personal jurisdiction over him or her. Therefore, you will need an attorney in the state in which your former spouse currently resides. If it’s Florida, where you live, you can use a local attorney. Otherwise, you will need to find an attorney in the state in which he or she is located.

The attorney may be able to file a petition with the court in that state in order to enforce the prior court order in the new state. Once the court order has been filed in the new state, the attorney can file a motion for contempt for the non-payment of alimony. Although this process will not be quick, it’s the only way to legally enforce your rights and to begin receiving alimony again, unless your spouse decides to start paying you on his or her own.

If you are seeking to enforce an order for alimony from another state, and if your former spouse now resides in Florida, call Florida alimony attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. Dale Bernstein works in the area of divorce, alimony, and child custody, and will be happy to help you enforce your out-of-state alimony order. He works in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, and will be happy to help with your case.

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No, you should absolutely not agree to that, and no ethical attorney would agree to represent both spouses. In most cases in which this occurs, the attorney is actually representing your spouse, but you mistakenly believe that the attorney is representing the interests of both of you.

Legal ethics rules require attorneys to zealously represent the interests of their clients, and an attorney cannot represent two parties with opposing interests.

If your spouse has hired an attorney, you need to hire an attorney as quickly as possible. If you fail to do so, you are an amateur and you are attempting to fight professionals. If you are not going to hire an attorney, it is probably because of financial reasons. Many people who have gotten a divorce and did not hire an attorney end up paying much, much more money in the divorce than they would have had they hired an attorney and paid the attorneys’ fees.

Attorneys know your rights regarding child custody, child support, alimony, and property division, and will fight for your rights. If you end up owing a large amount of child support or alimony because you didn’t know how to fight your spouse’s claims in court, you may spend far more money later trying to get that modified.

There may be a lot of reasons your spouse is trying to convince you to use his or her attorney. Your spouse may be worried that he or she will be responsible for paying part of your attorney’s fees. Your spouse may be trying to hide something, and may be worried you will find out if you hire an attorney. Your spouse probably knows that you will be more likely to get more favorable property settlement, alimony, and child support rulings if an attorney is involved.

The bottom line is that if you don’t have an attorney, you can expect for the outcome of your divorce to come out worse than if you do, especially if your spouse has an attorney. If you are seeking an attorney in Florida to help with your divorce, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, and will be happy to vigorously defend your rights in court. Call to set up a consultation.

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Multi-state child custody cases are governed by a law called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).

According to the UCCJEA, any litigation over child custody should take place in the child’s home state. The child’s home state is the state where the child has lived with a parent for the six consecutive months prior to filing the action.

In the event the child has not lived in any state for at least six months, the courts in the state that has “significant connections” with the child and at least one parent, and a state in which there is substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, are in charge of the custody matters. If more than one state could qualify, the courts of those states should communicate in order to determine which state has the most significant connections to the child.

Once a state has determined custody, that state keeps jurisdiction over custody matters, unless one of two things happens – either a court in that state determines that the child and parent do not have a significant connection with the state and there’s no evidence available in the state; or a court of any state determines that the child and both parents don’t reside in the state any longer.

For an example, John and Jane got divorced in Wisconsin. Wisconsin courts decided Jane should be allowed primary custody. John later moved to Illinois and Jane moved to Florida with the children. John decides to fight Jane for primary custody. In that situation, Wisconsin would have to relinquish jurisdiction of the custody matter to Florida, where the children currently live.

Multi-state custody matters are generally not easy or inexpensive to litigate. However, in many cases that I work on in Pasco County and Hernando County, that is the only option for parents who wish to fight for their legal rights. If you are involved in a multi-state child custody fight that involves Florida, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. Call him today to learn more.

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In some states, there are requirements about how long a couple has to be separated before filing for divorce. However, in Florida there are no requirements about how long you have to be separated before filing for divorce. You can be living in the same house at the same time you divorce.

There is a requirement, however, that at least one of the spouses has been a resident of Florida for at least six months immediately prior to and at the time you file for a divorce.

Although there is no law requiring a separation prior to a Florida divorce, there may be reasons you would want to separate for a time before divorcing, as well as reasons you may not want to separate for a long period of time before divorcing. A separation can sometimes actually lead couples to get back together.

A separation can interrupt emotional drama, which can give spouses time to work on their marriage. A separation can also let both parties see what a divorce may be like, which can help to clarify spouses’ decisions on whether to stay together or not. A trial separation may be best for the children, to ease them into the idea of a split, as well as to get them out of the emotional drama.

If you do decide to separate, both spouses should agree to some ground rules, such as how the finances are handled during the separation and how long the separation will last.

However, there are some bad things that can happen during a separation, most of which involve money. A separation gives spouses a good chance to hide assets and to spend money in a way of which the other spouse may or may not approve.

A long-term separation could give a spouse the chance to move to another state with more beneficial alimony laws. A long separation can be damaging to the children, because they may feel like they are in limbo.

Finally, you may also feel like your life is on hold during the separation.

If you are considering separating from your spouse, call Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. He works with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties in Florida, and he can help advise you on whether a separation would be in your best interests or not, as well as what steps you can take to protect yourself during a separation.

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It’s understandable to be nervous when you are meeting with a divorce attorney for the first time. You may not have fully accepted the state of your marriage, and you may not have shared any information with anyone about your marriage yet.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that your divorce attorney is on your side. He or she is there to represent you and your interests. Some common things that divorce attorneys may ask you during your meeting include:

  • Your name, date of birth, address, social security number, and contact information.
  • Your spouse’s name, date of birth, address and social security number, and your spouse’s contact information.
  • Your employer, length of employment and salary history, as well as your spouse’s employer, length of employment and salary history.
  • Where and when you were married.
  • The name of your spouse’s attorney.
  • Information about your Florida state residency.
  • The names, dates of birth and social security numbers of your children.
  • Information about with whom the children reside and whether there is likely to be a custody dispute.
  • A list of marital problems.
  • Who provides health insurance for the children.
  • Detailed financial information, including properties, mortgages, assets, debts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc.

Often, before choosing a divorce attorney it’s helpful to meet with two or three to get a feel of their personalities and what their practices are like. After all, you may be spending a lot of time with this person in the months to come, so it’s important that they not only have excellent legal skills, but also that you are compatible.

I am a divorce attorney in Florida and I work with clients in Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties on issues involving divorce, child custody, alimony, and more. Call me, Florida divorce attorney Dale Bernstein at 727-478-3250. I will be happy to speak with you about your case.

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