Pet Custody in Divorce

Your pet may be like your child, but in the eyes of the law, Fluffy is like any other piece of tangible property that you own. We are not trying to be cruel – we do not make the laws. What we do want you to know is that we take your attachment to your pet very seriously. On top of an already emotionally draining divorce, we know how much having your pet with you means to you and your family. That is why we work with you regarding pet custody in divorce.

Only in Alaska and Illinois do the courts consider the best interests of the pet in question. Not only do these states obligate judges to consider the well-being of the pet, but also make it possible for sole or joint custody as well as monetary “pet support.”

Here in Florida, pet custody in divorce is not part of the legal proceedings. That does not mean that you cannot negotiate the terms of custody as with any other aspect of your divorce. Your pets will fall under the category of “equitable distribution” of assets.

Determining Pet Custody in Divorce in Florida

Mediation is an excellent way to determine pet custody in divorce in Florida. It enables both parties to focus on what is best for the pet. There are no laws in Florida that grant visitation or support for pets after a divorce. That can lead to considerable stress for both parties. The person who no longer has custody of the pet can experience feelings of separation. The pet’s caretaker now has the sole burden of feeding and caring for the grooming and health needs of the pet.

Although there may be fighting and adversity during the divorce, it is especially important to realize that some pets, especially cats and dogs, have their feelings, as well. You must be aware of the emotional needs of the animal. Is your pet acting out, not eating, causing damage, or soiling the house? These are signs your pet is not adjusting to the divorce. Putting aside your anger and calmly discussing what is best for the pet may help come to a positive resolution.

If you are contemplating a divorce, with or without pets in the picture, we can help. Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook will discuss your options and help you get the settlement that is best for you. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

Is the Mediation Process Right for Me?

You may be wondering if the mediation process is right for your divorce. Do you even know what mediation is and what it is meant to accomplish?

Let us discuss the mediation definition as it applies to divorce.

In a traditional divorce, a couple can go back and forth for months, (often through their attorneys), or spend 8 – 14 hours in one long session with their attorneys and possibly a mediator, trying to hammer out an agreeable settlement. If no resolution is reached, the parties go to court and leave the decision to a judge. Of course, either situation increases the legal fees and costs to both spouses exponentially.

The mediation process can help you reach an amicable conclusion to your divorce in a much shorter time-frame. Often taking weeks rather than months to finalize an agreement. Divorce mediation is a voluntary, private process where both parties sit down with a neutral third party to discuss their divorce issues and work out an agreeable settlement. The mediation is non-binding until the settlement is accepted and signed by both parties.

What is a mediator?

The mediator may be an attorney or someone with special training and licensing in the field of divorce mediation.

What Can the Mediation Process Help Settle?

As with any divorce negotiations, the mediation process can help resolve the following issues:

  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Time-Sharing (visitation)
  • Holiday sharing
  • Parenting plans
  • Asset division
  • Alimony
  • Debt division

You can work out all the same issues with a divorce mediator as you would through your attorneys.

Is There More Than One Type of Mediation Process?

When it comes to the mediation process, there are two primary options available to you:

  1. Direct Mediation

The two parties sit down with a mediator to discuss and negotiate their issues. It is typical for this to take multiple sessions. Divorces with family law issues such as child custody and support often require more time to negotiate. Each party will provide the necessary financial and other documents and state their concerns and desires. Attorneys are not present during direct mediation but may serve as outside advisors and strategists to the parties, reviewing the final agreement before ratification by a Family Division Circuit Court Judge.

  1. Traditional Litigation-Induced Mediation

This mediation process includes the individual attorneys with their clients in separate rooms. The mediator shuttles back and forth between the rooms to negotiate the terms of the settlement. The goal of this type of mediation is to conclude the process in one marathon session. Financial disclosure precedes the mediation meeting.

The traditional litigation-induced mediation is often a requirement of the courts before a judge will hear the case. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement through their attorneys, then the court may order legal mediation to try and resolve the differences. If that does not work, then the next step is on to the courts.

What Are the Benefits of the Divorce Mediation Process?

Utilizing mediation for divorce can help maintain an amicable relationship between the parties. It promotes cooperation and open lines of communication.

Here are some other benefits of the mediation process:

  • Children are not exposed to a long, drawn-out fight between their parents
  • Quicker and less expensive than traditional litigation- induced mediation
  • Provides confidentiality
  • Decreases conflicts between the parents
  • Both parties have the opportunity to consult with an attorney in advance of, during, and after the mediation to ensure they have proper advice, avoid common pitfalls, and see that the agreement reflects the intentions of that party

Divorce mediation allows you and your spouse to work together with a neutral third party to come to an agreeable settlement, while still providing the opportunity for the clients to work with outside, independent, settlement-oriented attorneys to provide advice, strategic planning, and a critical eye for the agreement to ensure its accuracy and effectiveness.

Attorneys at Brodzki Jacobs & Brook of Coral Springs will be happy to discuss your options for mediation and divorce. We are here to provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

How to Rebuild Credit After a Bankruptcy – 7 Helpful Steps

Filing bankruptcy may have been a difficult decision, but it can help you start over and restore credit with good standing. We are going to give you some pointers on how to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy.

Some people have a jump-start on reestablishing credit because they still make mortgage or auto loan payments. If you were able to keep your home or car, your timely payments are an excellent way of rebuilding bad credit. By continuing to make these payments on time, you are showing lenders that you are a good risk.

Depending on the type of bankruptcy you filed, it could remain on your credit reports for seven or ten years. That does not mean you have to wait that long to rebuild your credit. While paying for your home and auto loans during your bankruptcy were an excellent start, there are many other things you can do once your bankruptcy is discharged.

7 Ways to Rebuild Credit After a Bankruptcy

Each of the steps below will show you how to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy. You do not have to follow them in any set order, but we do recommend you perform numbers 1, 2, and 3 before going any further down the list.

The top 7 ways to rebuild credit are:

  1. Review Your Current Credit Report

Once every twelve months, you may request one free copy of your credit report from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. A free copy is also available by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Examine your report to check for potential errors that could prevent you from reestablishing credit.

Instead of requesting your credit report from each place at the same time, separate your requests four months apart so you can keep up on your credit rating throughout the year.

  1. Prepare a Monthly Budget

You learned about making a budget during your credit counseling, and hopefully, you are sticking to it. If not, it is time to create a budget that you can stick with and live within your means. Do not take on any credit that will put you over your budget.

  1. Build Up Your Emergency Fund

In an ideal world, you would have six months of expenses in a savings account. If you had that, you likely would not have had to file bankruptcy. The minimum you should have in reserve is $250 for emergencies and to prevent you from falling behind on a bill. Continue to build your reserves each month until you have at least three months in savings. Do not buy anything you do not NEED until you reach your goal.

  1. Get a Secured Credit Card

Some credit card companies will issue you a card with a balance equal to an amount you put into a secured account with them.

  1. Pay Off Your Balances Each Month

An important step in how to rebuild credit is to pay off any credit card balances you have each month. The credit card companies will report your payment history to the credit bureaus.

  1. Watch Your Charging Limits

Do not charge more than one-third of your credit limit each month. If you start maxing out your new cards, credit companies will see you as a risk.

  1. Do Not Close Accounts

Credit bureaus look at how many accounts you have and if you close them. Opening and closing new accounts demonstrate risky behavior. Rather than closing an account, simply put the card away and do not use it.

Rebuilding Credit in Other Ways

Aside from getting a secured credit card, other methods answer the question of how to rebuild credit. Not everyone will be able to use all the options below, but one or two of them might help rebuild credit after bankruptcy.

Other options for rebuilding credit:

  • Asking a family member or friend to co-sign a loan
  • Being placed as an authorized user on someone else’s account (ensure that the lender reports the payments to the credit bureaus)
  • Getting a new car, furniture, or appliance loan (expect higher rates without a co-signer)
  • Open a new bank account to demonstrate financial security
  • Take out a secured loan by borrowing against money you have on deposit
  • Apply for a retail or gas credit card that has lower credit requirements

Always do your research to ensure that you are a likely candidate for approval before putting in a credit or loan application. Negative results can worsen your credit rating.

When you begin to rebuild credit, do not fall into the same trap as you did before. Take it easy, be patient, and pay off your debts monthly.

Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook are here to help you with your questions regarding bankruptcy and debt. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

Health Care Proxy for College Students

Dorm supplies – check, financial aid completed – check, bags are packed – check, health care proxy for college students signed – wait, what?

Before you send your child off to college, a gap year of travel, the military, or the summer job at the restaurant across the street, make certain that he or she has signed a power of attorney for health care decisions. This is only one of the three crucial documents to complete when your child turns 18.

What is durable power of attorney for health care and why does my child need one since I am the next of kin?

The minute your child turns 18, he or she becomes a legal adult. Your rights to make decisions on his or her behalf disappear at the stroke of midnight. Even though you are paying the bills, supplying room and board, and taking care of all his or her needs, you no longer have the right to make medical decisions for your child.

What Is the Purpose of the Health Care Proxy?

The health care proxy for college students is a medical advance directive that gives you permission to make health decisions on your child’s behalf if he or she is not capable of doing so due to incapacitation.

Unfortunately, accidents happen more often than we want to think about, especially to young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. A serious illness could also land your child in the hospital. Without a health care proxy, you will not be able to decide on medical treatment for your child.

The advance medical directive authorizes the designated individual or individuals to make a decision on your child’s behalf. You will then have access to all medical records.

Is the health care power of attorney the same thing as the HIPAA form?

No, the HIPAA form only provides you with access to discussing your child’s medical records. It does not allow for you to make decisions regarding his or her care.

What Happens If There Is No Health Care Proxy?

If your child does not have a health care proxy in place and something should occur, the medical professionals will act as they believe in the best interest of your child. The medical durable power of attorney protects against the medical team deciding on a treatment that you do not wish your child to receive.

To act on your child’s behalf without a power of attorney for medical decisions, you would need to go to court and have a judge rule in your favor. Not only might this be an expensive endeavor, but it could use up valuable time needed to treat your child. The court might also designate a surrogate decision maker who also may not act in the way in which you desire.

You may also wish to discuss creating a living will with your child to determine what measures he or she would like to receive if a catastrophic event should occur. Many students and parents avoid this difficult discussion, as it is not something anyone wants to consider, especially at such a young age. Only you can determine whether or not to engage in this topic.

For additional information about getting a health care proxy for college students, please contact Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook at (954) 344-7737.

Three Documents Every College Student Needs

Graduating from high school is an exciting time in your child’s life. It also means serious legal changes in his or her status. Your child becomes an adult in the eyes of the law at age 18, even if he or she is still in high school. He or she is now of legal age to make decisions, sign contracts and documents, and determine medical treatments without your approval, or even knowledge. There are still times when you may have to act on your child’s behalf, which is why you need to know the three documents every college student needs.

Now, you may be thinking that your child is not leaving home for college, is entering the military, or is taking a job out of high school. Perhaps he or she is going to travel the world for a year. Those same three documents every college student needs is just as important for every child turning 18.

The three documents your child needs are:

  1. Durable Power of Attorney
  2. Health Care Proxy & Living Will
  3. HIPPA Authorization

Why does your child need these documents?

You never know what the future holds. An issue may come up that requires a signature, and your child may not be around to handle the matter. Even worse, a medical situation could arise, and you may not have any rights without legal authorization.

What Is a Durable Power of Attorney and Why Does My Child Need One?

The first of the three documents every college student needs is the POA. A durable power of attorney is a document that permits the child to designate a parent or parents to make legal decisions on his or her behalf, such as:

  • Dealing with financial institutions
  • Signing leases or loan documents
  • Arranging for renter’s or car insurance
  • Speaking to a landlord
  • Consulting with employees at an educational institution

This last bullet point is why some students do not want to give their parents general power of attorney. They do not want them to be able to access their grades. Some colleges require that the student sign their specific documents allowing that access, even if there is a durable power of attorney form on file. The HIPPA Release gives access to grades.

It is up to the parents to discuss their reasons for these forms with the child. Many people believe that if they are footing the bill for college, they have a right to access their child’s grades.

In many instances, an attorney may be able to explain the importance of the power of attorney form better than the parent.

What Is a Health Care Proxy and Why Do We Need That?

The second of the three documents every college student needs is the health care proxy. Also called a medical advance directive, this form permits the parents to make medical decisions for the child. You may think that this is not necessary because you are the legal next of kin. However, without proper authorization to do so, you may not be able to make a decision on your child’s behalf.

The health care power of attorney is part of the advance medical directive, as is the HIPAA release we will cover in the next section.

In the unforeseen situation where your child is admitted to a hospital and unable to make his or her medical decisions, the power of attorney for medical decisions will allow you to discuss the situation with medical personnel and make urgent decisions regarding care.

What is the HIPAA Form and How Is It Different from the Health Care Proxy?

The HIPAA form is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act document that you complete every time you visit a new doctor. It provides for the release and sharing of medical information with any designees. Health care providers are prohibited from sharing information with family members without this form.

While the HIPAA form allows for the sharing of medical information, it does not provide parents with the ability to make decisions on the child’s behalf. That is why you need the medical proxy form.

For additional information about the three documents every college student needs, or to arrange for their preparation, please contact Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook. We are here to provide answers to your questions. Contact us at (954) 344-7737.

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