Post-Divorce Checklist: 7 Steps for Success After Your Divorce

Divorce
You did it! Your divorce has been finalized. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for surviving that process. Your fresh start is on the horizon. To help you begin your fresh start, we have compiled a checklist of common action items following a divorce.   
  1. Review Your Final Judgment
    • Create a list of the items you and your ex-spouse need to complete 
    • Calendar deadlines for each item that must be met
  2. Close Joint Accounts
    Joint accounts include bank accounts, credit cards, and utilities, and may include removing a spouse from joint real estate pursuant to the final judgment.
  3. Update Insurance Coverage
    • Property Insurance: remove the property you no longer own and add the property you now have
    • Automobile: be sure to remove any vehicles you no longer own
    • Life insurance: update beneficiaries which may include removing your spouse as beneficiary (unless otherwise ordered in your final judgment)
    • Medical, dental, vision, accident
  1. Name Change (if included in your Final Judgment)*
    • Order at least two certified copies of the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage
    • Take a certified copy of the Final Judgment to the Social Security Administration to change the name associated with your social security number
    • Take your new social security card or temporary card to the DMV for your new license
    • Keep a certified copy for your records
  2. Contact Account Holders To Update Your Name:
    • Professional Licenses
    • Bank Accounts
    • Credit Card Accounts 
    • Utilities 
    • Medical records

*Changing a name after divorce can become complicated, and the attorneys at McCart & Tesmer, P.A. are ready to help. For a free consultation to discuss your matter, please call (813) 498-2757 or email info@McCartTesmer.com. Read more about the process in our blog, “Name Change After Divorce.”

  1. Taxes

Schedule an appointment with your accountant or a CPA (a Certified Public Accountant) to determine which filing status is most beneficial to you. Read our blog, 7 Family Law Tips For Managing Tax Season, to prepare for your meeting ahead of time.

  1. Update Your Estate Plan 
    • Remove prior designations naming your ex-spouse
    • Nominate a guardian for minor children
    • Create a trust to control the money that you plan to pass to children to prevent an ex-spouse from receiving and managing funds left to your children

The lawyers at McCart and Tesmer can help you sort out many of the complexities of your family’s restructuring after divorce, from time-sharing and decision-making to child support and everything in between. We can give you the tools necessary for your new journey. For further questions regarding post-divorce plans, please contact us at McCart & Tesmer, P.A.

4 Vital Co-Parenting Tips for Military Deployment

Military Deployment
Timesharing is hard enough when both parents are physically present, so imagine what it is like to have one parent far, far away. This is the reality for thousands of families in America when their co-parent is on military deployment to another country or American territory. Sometimes a family will only get a week’s notice before the deployment date. So, learning what to do long before anyone receives orders to mobilize is definitely our recommended course of action. McCart and Tesmer want to share a few tips on co-parenting plans for military deployment. 

Coping with Deployment is Tough for Kiddos

When a parent leaves on deployment, it can be very confusing for kids. This goes double for ones aged younger than 10. Your child will likely need time to adjust to their new reality and they might feel a little confused about what exactly is happening. The most important thing to do if your co-parent deploys is be as transparent as possible about timelines and the co-parent’s whereabouts. This will help make the situation less abstract, and the more concrete it feels, the easier a kid can digest what’s happening. Here are a few tips to guide your child through that process:

  1. Talk about the parent that is deployed. You can share memories with the kids or go to your co-parent’s favorite place and make an afternoon of it. You could recreate a special dish they make or you could coordinate calls with the deployed parent. Whatever you do, do your best to ensure the child feels that co-parent’s love.
  1. Take note of behavioral changes. If they are toddlers, they might throw fits and tantrums or act out in other ways in response to the co-parent’s departure. Pre-schoolers might have lapses in thumb-sucking, toilet training, or emotional regulation. Teenagers might become distant or angry. It’s likely for any school-aged child to perform differently academically and behaviorally in school. Do your best to notice any changes in your child; the earlier you can help them, the better.
  1. Reassure them about safety. No matter how old or young, your child will likely understand to a degree that deployment can be dangerous. Tell them they are safe with you and the trouble is far away. If they seem concerned about the co-parent’s safety, make them aware or remind them that the military has strenuous training to prepare for deployment. The situation won’t last forever, and your child will need to hear that.
  1. Create a coping strategy with them. This one is a little tricky as each child will have different needs. A safe space could be talking with their siblings, a therapist, or you. Coping could be an activity they can access to calm them down like physical movement (dance, sports, ect) or simple meditation. Consider any groups or resources in the area like Military Kids Connect, which provides age-appropriate resources for kids during the deployment process. Again, this tip is easily the most fluid because the right solution will differ depending on age, finances, family structure, and the child’s emotional regulation process. Talk to them about their needs and prioritize their feelings when you plan for the length of deployment. 

We have years of experience with the needs of families who are serving or retired from the military. Please visit our website for all family law-related issues if you’re interested in learning more. Our law firm at McCart and Tesmer is well versed in all types of family law, including special needs children, estate planning, and much more. If you need legal expertise, get in touch with us today to set up a free consultation! 

Special Needs Children and Divorce: Intentional Co-Parenting is Key

special-needs-co-parenting

Divorce is hard. Co-parenting is tough. Add in special needs for your child and it is almost impossible to hold it all together for the child. Divorced co-parenting with a special needs child requires frequent communication from both parents. The conflict level and circumstances of the divorce can make co-parenting straightforward or strenuous. The way you choose to co-parent will impact every child differently. Their special needs, individual temperament, and the child’s age are additional factors to be considered. Divorced parents who are co-parenting with a special needs kid is a subject that just isn’t talked about enough. Since we focus on Family Law  at McCart & Tesmer we decided to change that.

Special needs is an umbrella term that can refer to physical or cognitive disabilities,  autism, ADHD, and so much more. Whatever the case, when it comes to co-parenting your special needs child, it is crucial to consider the nature and gravity of their needs. There is no one-size-fits-all special needs plan, but there are things that all parents with special needs kids need to consider. 

  • Being Flexible for the Child’s Fluctuating Needs
    When a child has special needs, there are extra considerations. Things like medications, emotional irregularities, physical distress or comfort, Individual Education Plans, equipment that can vary in mobility are not always static. These things will fluctuate and change and must always be at the top of your mind. Pro-Tip — Remember that some battles are not worth fighting if your co-parent is not on board with certain needs-related decisions. As they say, “Pick your battles.” Is it about “being right” or the child’s best interests?
  • Create a Decision-Making Structure
    Medical, emotional, educational, and financial needs will often vary. A go-to decision-making structure can relieve some of the stress involved in the ever-changing day-to-day. We suggest prioritizing the decision based on urgency. Consider where your and your co-parent’s strengths, weaknesses, and expertise lie in order to divide options by category or split everything 50/50. Finding what works best for you and your co-parent will significantly reduce all decision-making stress. For example, Mom handles scheduling doctor’s appointments, and Dad takes on in-home care communication.
  • Stick to Routines
    No matter the custody agreement or what conflicts may arise: routine is critical. If possible, schedule medical or therapeutic appointments that do not change month to month. Stick to whatever dietary routine has been agreed upon and established. Changing something simple like a bedtime ritual can seriously disturb a special needs child’s sense of stability. Divorce is already a layer of instability for your child’s world, and it’s essential to do everything you can for their comfort. Maintaining consistent routines is a huge part of that.
  • Take Stock of Available Resources
    Support groups, therapists, caretakers, non-profits, and government supplements to income can all be possible resources. There are groups for sensory integration disorder, autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and more in the Tampa area. Programs range from art to equestrian activities. There are non-profits like the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities(AAIDD) that offer educational workshops and journals. Since the start of the pandemic, many more groups offer virtual components as well. Do some research to find what meets your needs.
  • Preparing Them Together for the Future
    Disabled adults often face many things non-disabled adults would never have to consider. Disabled adults risk losing needs-based government aid like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income if they get married. Depending on the state, possessing more than $2,000 in the bank can disqualify a disabled person from receiving government aid. Implementing a Supplemental Special Needs Trust can help. If the child’s independence is not possible, when will conservatorship or guardianship be necessary? To ensure the child’s success growing into an adult, devise a plan with your co-parent to educate your child on their legal protections and available resources before turning eighteen.
  • Take Care of Yourself
    Just because this is last on the list doesn’t mean it’s not essential. Parents of kids with special needs should still be able to have a life! Caretaking is incredibly stressful, so it is easy to get burned out. When you add divorce and everyday responsibilities, it can be incredibly tough to make time for self-care. Taking care of yourself can model important behaviors like setting and understanding boundaries, self-care, and independence, to name a few.

Parents take extra steps to ensure proper development psychologically, physically, and emotionally for their special needs kids. In previous posts, we’ve written about parenting planning tools, and all of these can be starting points for special needs kids as well. Please contact us at McCart & Tesmer, P.A. for additional guidance and support on parental planning.

7 Back-to-School Resources For The Upcoming Florida School Year

The upcoming school year is quickly approaching which means it is time for parents and children to start getting prepared! With schools allowing students to return to campus, access to back-to-school resources is essential for a successful school year. 

Based in Tampa Bay, Florida, the team at  McCart and Tesmer decided to gather a few back-to-school resources for the families in our area to ease the stress of returning to classrooms this year.

  1. Tax-Free Week – By far, one of the most helpful back-to-school resources for parents is Florida’s Tax-Free Week. From Saturday, July 31 to Monday, August 9, back-to-school shoppers can take advantage of tax-free school supplies. Tax-Free Items include most school supplies selling for $15 or less, accessories, clothing, footwear selling for $60 or less, and more! Click here to learn more about Florida’s tax-free week at.
  2. School Supplies – Going back to school requires buying all of the supplies necessary for the new school year. School supplies can become expensive as lists grow longer each year. Luckily, Hillsborough County Public Schools is putting on their “14th Annual Back to School Fair” at WestShore Plaza mall in Tampa. The back-to-school fair is free to attend and will offer free backpacks to the first 500 kids in line! The event will include giveaways, performances, activities, and over 60 different vendors. Click here to learn more about this valuable back-to-school resource.
  3. Back-to-School Health Clinics – COVID-19 is still a looming issue among children returning to school. To protect the health of students, faculty, and staff, The Back to School Coalition of Hillsborough County has organized “Back-2-School Health Clinics”. The “Back-2-School Health Clinics” are available to students in kindergarten through high school. The clinics provide physicals, eye exams, dental screenings, immunizations, and shot record updates. The COVID-19 vaccine will also be available to children 12 to 18; however, space is limited. Click here to register!
  4. School Meals – Having a healthy meal at lunch is essential for school children. Hillsborough County Student Nutrition Services offers free breakfast for all students and low prices for school lunch meals. Many children do not have access to fresh and healthy meals. If you are in a household receiving benefits, your child may be eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals. Click here for more information about this back-to-school resource.
  5. After-School Programs – Keeping children motivated and active is paramount during their developmental years. After-school programs are a great way to provide physical, social, academic, and emotional growth for children. Hillsborough County Public Schools provides a before and after school program called HOST. HOST is an affordable option for parents who work full-time or are looking for physical and academic support for their children. To register your child, visit https://www.hillsboroughschools.org/Page/3768. For a list of other exceptional after-school programs click here.
  6. Homework Help –  Children need a little homework help sometimes, math in particular. Hillsborough County Public Schools offers a free service to all students called the Math Homework Hotline. Students can call in and ask specific questions about any of their math problems. On certain Thursdays, the Math Homework Hotline conducts a live show broadcasting math questions and topics. Topics include everything from Linear Functions to Ratios and Rates. Click here to utilize this back-to-school resource.
  7. Mental Health – With the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic, it is crucial now more than ever for students of all ages to take care of their mental health. After a far from typical year, students returning to school may be struggling a bit with their mental health. Mental health problems can interfere with children’s learning, relationships, and emotional development. The Florida Department of Education provides resources and contacts for children struggling with their mental health. Parents also have access to speak with a member of Student Services, a school social worker, school nurse, school psychologist, or school counselor. Click here to learn more!

After a hectic year (and summer!), returning to the classroom can be a little less stressful with these 7 Back-to-School Resources for the 2021-2022 school year. Make sure you take advantage of all of the back-to-school resources available for the best success. The lawyers at McCart and Tesmer want to wish you and your families an incredible academic year filled with in-person learning, laughs, and lots of fun! Give us a call for all of your family law needs.

4 Unique Challenges of Gray Divorces

Recent high-profile divorces of later-in-life couples such as  Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, and most recently, Bill and Melinda Gates have renewed the interest in Gray Divorces. The phrase “Gray Divorce” refers to divorcing couples where both spouses are 50 years or older. Gray Divorces, also known as “Silver Splitters” or “Diamond Divorces,” are on the rise with 1 in 4 couples over the age of 50 divorcing as opposed to 1 in 10 couples in 2010. More interestingly, while the overall rate of divorce has continually declined over the last 20 years, the divorce rate of people over 50 is increasing. 

Why are these types of divorces on the rise? A few main reasons that stand out in our modern society. Divorce may simply be a result of overall dissatisfaction in the relationship which leads to divorces. When there are children in the marriage, sometimes the parents have a “postponed divorce” where the parents wait to divorce until the children have graduated and moved out. The new “empty-nesters” now see no reason to stay together. 

Additionally, we have seen a drastic change from when our grandparents were married to what marriages look like today. In general, humans live longer and are typically more financially independent now than ever before. Longer life expectancy and financial independence have lifted the once strong-held belief that the inferior financially dependent spouse must stay married.  Now, both partners typically work outside of the home and are seeking to live their remaining days happy and healthy, relying on their own financial earnings to seek that happiness. This combined with the lessening stigma placed on divorce makes it easier for spouses, typically women, to initiate divorce when unhappy. 

Ending a marriage at a later age, especially after many years of partnership between the spouses, poses unique challenges compared to divorces of younger spouses. There is less time for the parties to “make up” for any losses, particularly finances. Dividing accounts, attorney fees, and paying for two households instead of one will significantly impact the financial health of a Gray Divorcee who has less time to rebound or regrow their wealth. 

We’ve put together the Top 4 Financial Impacts that are especially important in Gray Divorces.

  1. Retirement and Investment Accounts – Since both people in the divorce are heading toward retirement age or are already retired, both partners have likely been planning their retirement with the idea that there would be 2 people and 1 household as they age. When separated, now both parties must find a way to make their retirement cover all expenses solely. It is imperative for the soon-to-be singles to start planning for their new retirement reality right away, working with their attorney and financial advisors to weigh and compare income sources, short term and long-term goals, and the impact of distributing none, some or all of the investment account to the other spouse.
  1. Alimony – Gray Divorces come in all shapes and sizes including spouses who have been together for decades, spouses who are briefly married for the second ( third, fourth, or fifth) time. It is common for one of the spouses to make more money than the other. In this case, it is important to make sure that the person who made less is compensated for the loss of income upon the divorce. However, it is also important to plan for and anticipate the higher-earning spouse to retire and for their income to change. Having someone in your corner who is well versed in figuring out all of these sticky areas will greatly improve the end result. 
  1. Estate – In Florida, spouses are married until the moment the judge signs the final judgment divorcing the couple. This means that even if the divorce has been filed but the final judgment has not been signed, the spouses are legally entitled to inherit from each other. The amount of inheritance can be reduced to the legal minimum with a proper estate plan. By employing a team of experienced family law and estate planning attorneys you can mitigate inheritance to your future ex-spouse.
  1. Beneficiaries and Decision Makers – It is important to make sure you have updated your beneficiaries and decide who should now have your authority to make your financial and health care decisions. This can become difficult with determining decision-makers such as children (from current marriage or prior marriage) and now ex-relatives. All policies need to be reviewed and revised accordingly by professionals to ensure the beneficiaries and decision-makers are consistent with your desires and do not include ex-spouses or relatives (unless you want that).

In these later-in-life divorces, understanding what tools and benefits are available and how they can be distributed is paramount as you plan for a new future. At McCart & Tesmer we specialize in all of the above arenas and would love to sit down and discuss how we can help you. Whether your separation is amicable or more contentious, you need a team by your side to make sure your Gray Divorce goes as smoothly as possible. Give us a call today!

Remarriage: What you should know before saying “I Do” again!

There is much to celebrate in finding another companion for your life, but there are more things to consider before you tie that knot again than you might think. According to statistics, remarriage is very common nowadays. In fact, remarriage in the United States today is 3 times as high for 2nd and 3rd marriages as we saw in 1960. Did you know that four out of ten new marriages include at least one partner who has been married before? Pew Research Center found that the number of adults who have ever remarried was at an astounding 42 million!

Although many of the considerations and tips in this blog apply to Same-Sex couples as well, there isn’t quite enough data that has been collected since the legalization of marriage equality to be included. That being said, it’s widely known that men are much more likely to remarry a younger spouse than women. The percentage of men marrying younger spouses is 67% by age 40 and 73% by age 70. Regardless of these statistics, both men and women should know what to expect before they remarry again so that both parties are successful in this new relationship.

So what should you consider before remarrying? First off, there is likely to be a disparity of the partners’ income if there is a significant age gap. This is due to the older spouse having more time in the workforce which means more time to grow their career and income. Another consideration is when one partner is retired and the other keeps working. Both of these scenarios are important to consider because, without proper planning, an income disparity could cause a rift in the relationship.

Secondly, there are some very important rules regarding Social Security for couples that decide to remarry. A remarriage could result in a loss or reduction of Social Security benefits, depending on the type of benefits received and the age of the Social Security recipient. The last consideration to keep in mind involves alimony. Alimony in Florida is based on need and ability to pay. Alimony awarded in a prior divorce could be modified or terminated based on a change in the parties’ financial situations. If one (or both) of the partners are receiving alimony from a previous marriage, they may want to reconsider marriage and/or cohabitation altogether as these circumstances could cause this income to be terminated.

With all of these considerations in place, how do you protect yourself? Get a Prenuptial Agreement. A Prenup, as it is commonly known, has many benefits. For one, it allows you to avoid a lengthy divorce process (if applicable). With a prenup, you can also set the amount of alimony payments, waive entitlement to each other’s estates and inheritance and set rules in place to provide life insurance funds if the greater earning spouse dies. It is also important to consult with an attorney to make sure that your desire to remarry, or even cohabitate with someone will not have a negative impact on current alimony you may be receiving or other benefits you may be entitled to.

Our team at McCart & Tesmer are well versed in all things involving marriage rights and family law in accordance with the state of Florida. Our team of lawyers would love to help you navigate and plan your future so the outcome is the maximum benefit for both parties involved. You can also read more about the rights of unmarried couples in Florida here. Contact us below!

The Rights of Unmarried Couples in Florida

rights of unmarried mccart and tesmer law

There are many benefits to marriage – higher tax deductions, another person to navigate life with, rights to property, children, and more. But what about the rights of unmarried couples? Living in Florida means no state tax, sunshine, white sand beaches, and benefits for unmarried couples! Our team has spent years understanding and working for those rights. So what rights do you have if you are navigating life with your partner but are not legally married?

Couples decide not to legally marry for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Reduction or termination of Social Security or Survivor’s Benefits
  • Ineligibility for Medicaid and long-term care
  • Move one partner into a high tax bracket 
  • Increase tax liability 
  • Reduce or terminate alimony for recipient partner
  • Loss of Financial Aid for a college-aged child

For most of us, we have a pretty good idea as to if we want to marry someone or not, but for those of you who have yet to decide, there are a few things to prepare for to have a successful future with your loved one. From property rights to alimony and paternity to inheritance, there is a slew of legal documentation that can help set you and your partner up for success.

Property Rights of Unmarried Couples:

When you are married and own property together, you automatically have statutory rights to each other’s property. This property can be both tangible or intangible whether it is houses, cars, electronics, pets, intellectual property and so much more. For couples who are not married but cohabitate, you are not subject to various property laws. These laws that were set up to protect married individuals do not benefit the unmarried, however, this isn’t the end of the road. 

As your relationship blossoms so do your assets, and with this growth comes wealth. To prepare you for this growth we suggest you create a property agreement with your partner. This agreement is a legally binding document that states the ownership right per individual and states who is entitled to what in case of a separation. Without this agreement, there is no guarantee that you will be able to claim anything from the relationship as your own. Depending on your situation, this agreement may be the only thing protecting you from ending up with nothing. 

Inheritance Rights of Unmarried Couples:

Inheritance is one of those terms that tends to lend itself to drama. Whether you heard the words from one of your favorite true crime podcasts or heard it while watching one of your soap operas, you know that when a loved one passes inheritance is a big topic of discussion. 

For those who haven’t heard the term, inheritance means the passing down of private property, debts, privileges, rights, titles, and obligations upon the death of a loved one. But what does that mean for unmarried couples? Unfortunately, it means that upon the death of you or your partner, the other party has no legal right to your property. In unmarried cases, the next of kin or the parents of the departed is the next in line to be awarded your joint property.

Bummer, right? Well, don’t fret, you have other options besides getting married and that comes with your estate planning. If both you and your partner agree, you will have to name each other the Agent in a Power of Attorney as well as a Surrogate to make healthcare decisions. You will also need to name each other as a Personal Representative and beneficiary in your Last Will and Testament or Trustee and beneficiary in Trust.

Alimony Rights of Unmarried Couples:

You may have heard this term before, but alimony is a legal obligation of a person that requires them to provide financial support to their long-term spouse before and after a divorce. Alimony takes into consideration the quality of life that you and your former spouse created while in your relationship and awards the individual with the lesser income enough support to sustain life after a divorce. Unfortunately, when this comes to unmarried couples, you are not eligible for alimony. 

However, for those of you that are now divorced, receiving alimony, and in a new relationship, you need to be careful if you want to continue to receive your benefits. Although your last thought maybe marriage, cohabitating in an unmarried relationship may terminate your previously ordered alimony. According to Florida law, when the recipient of alimony starts to live with another person in a way that suggests they intend to live like a married couple, it could terminate the alimony or modify it downward.

Paternity Rights of Unmarried Couples:

In Florida, when an unwed couple has a child, the mother is presumed to have all legal rights to the child. Until a circuit court determines who is the legal father, the mother can decide all aspects of the child’s life. From where the child lives, what medical treatment they may need, and even if the child can visit with the biological father, the mother has all of the control.

Although many would believe that having the father’s name on the birth certificate of their child would be enough to prove legality, it is not. To be considered as the child’s legal father and retain custody of the child, the father must sign up for Florida’s Putative Father Registry to preserve his right to notice and consent in the event of an adoption or custody battle. The father will also need to consent to a DNA test, which does not automatically guarantee the father’s rights or timesharing, but will get them one step close to becoming the legal father of the child.

Once the legality of the father is proven, the father can petition the court in a paternity case and the court will enter a parenting plan which is a written directive of each parent’s rights and obligations to the child. The court will then determine the number of nights in a year the child resides with the Mother and the Father.  With this information plus each parents’ monthly income and child expenses, a child support amount will be calculated pursuant to the Florida Child Support Guidelines.

With all that said, there are a lot of factors to think about when deciding to stay unmarried with a partner. The Law offices McCart & Tesmer is here to help you with the process whether you are looking to start the estate planning process, needing a property agreement for a large purchase with your unwed spouse, or navigating a paternity case. For more information, call us at 813.498.2757 or email us at info@mccartandtesmer.com.

Co-Parenting During the Holidays

The holidays have arrived, which means it’s time to put up the decorations, wrap the gifts, spike the eggnog, and get prepared for a possible co-parenting nightmare! The holidays are already stressful enough so adding the idea of sharing your children with your ex, can make it quite a bit difficult. Because of this possible co-parenting fiasco, we have decided to create a go-to list of tips and tricks on how to co-parent during the holidays.

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