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June 2012 Archives

Obesity as Custody Factor

The issue of obesity among both children and adults is a regular topic in the news. It is also being addressed more and more often in the realm of family law. Parents in a custody dispute may allege the other parent is not a fit parent because of their own weight problems. The argument then follows that the parent will not be able to provide proper care for the child because he or she won't be able to keep up with the child. Alternatively, parents may hurl allegations at each other because of the child's weight problems. Here, arguments may be made that a parent is not looking out for the best interest of the child because he or she allows the child to eat predominantly unhealthy things or doesn't promote adequate exercise. This failure to ensure an appropriate diet and active lifestyle puts the child at risk for developing serious medical problems such as diabetes or heart disease. It may also subject the child to additional ridicule from their peers damaging their self-esteem and psychological well-being.

Pre-Nuptial Agreements

Given the statistics on the likelihood of divorce, many couples are opting to enter into pre-nuptial agreements to protect their rights in the event of a divorce. A pre-nuptial agreement is a private contract between the parties entered into prior to their marriage that outlines how assets and debts will be handled if the parties subsequently divorce. A basic and straight-forward pre-nuptial agreement would provide that each party retains anything they acquire in their own name and that anything marital or acquired jointly will be divided based on the divorce laws. A pre-nuptial agreement may also provide for an increasing amount of support to a spouse based on the number of years married or number of children produced. Alternatively, one spouse may be required to pay support as a punishment if they commit adultery during the marriage.

Health Insurance as part of Support

One frequent question in the context of divorce is what will happen to health insurance coverage in the context of a divorce. Generally, a spouse cannot drop the other spouse during the context of the divorce. Health insurance is often considered in the context of support and spouses are obligated to provide support for each other during the marriage. Once divorced, however, you cannot remain on your ex-spouse's health insurance plan. If you are unable to obtain alternate health insurance on your own right away you can look into COBRA coverage.

Social Security Benefits in Divorce

A party in divorce may be entitled to collect social security benefits based on the earnings history of their spouse. Your spouse must already be at least 62 years old and receiving their social security benefits. Several conditions must be met before a party is entitled to their spouse's benefits. First, you must have been married for at least ten years. Second, you must presently be at least 62 years old. There is an exception to the age requirement if your spouse is deceased in which case you can start collecting at 60 years old or 50 years old if disabled. Third, your social security benefits based on your earnings history must be less than your spouse's benefits. You can only receive one social security benefit and should opt for whichever is higher. Finally, you cannot be presently married. There are exceptions to this rule as well. Specifically, remarriage is permissible if it occurs after age 60 or age 50 if disabled.

Military Deployment as Custody Factor?

The US House of Representatives just passed a bill that would prohibit family courts from considering military deployment as a factor when awarding custody. The bill was introduced by Representative Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and will now be headed to the US Senate for a vote. The rationale behind the bill is that individuals who are ordered into deployment by one branch of government should not be punished in the form of adverse custody decisions by another branch of government. Presently, family court judges can cite deployment as a factor in determining a custody order. The bill would only prohibit deployment as a factor if the individual being deployed cannot bring family members with them on their assignment. Further, the assignment must be between 60 days and 18 months in length.

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