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Family law concerns sometimes sparked by storms, disasters

People across the country, and certainly in Florida, have been riveted over the past several weeks on information and news relating to Sandy, the unprecedented storm that, with outsized momentum and fury, laid waste to many parts of the East Coast, most especially New Jersey and areas of New York City.

Although the obvious focal point of such a disaster in its immediate wake is on the physical destruction it caused, some commentators are also noting implications that may be at the fore in some instances in the context of family-law concerns.

Take divorce, for example. It is posited that the divorce rate jumped by about 10 percent in the New Orleans area following the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Financial stress was noted by many separating couples in Louisiana as a prime catalyst in their divorces.

One media article recently included some points of consideration for divorcing or divorced couples to consider if they are, unfortunately, residing in a storm area such as that produced by Sandy.

One recommendation concerns domestic violence, which, when nerves are taut and stress is elevated, can be a heightened possibility in certain instances. A soon-to-be or currently divorced ex-spouse should under no circumstances refrain from seeking immediate emergency help if domestic abuse is occurring or seems imminent.

Another focal point for many storm victims centers on assets -- realty and personal items. A divorcing couple should seek to accurately assess all damaged items and have them accurately appraised. Doing so can go far toward an equitable property division.

Parenting issues -- most centrally child custody and child support -- should also be discussed and fully attended to. A storm such as Sandy can certainly make for disruptions in those areas. Perhaps visitation can be reconfigured over the short term. Perhaps payment duties need to be temporarily adjusted (e.g., unemployment assistance needs to be procured).

Couples should also note that, in locales deemed disaster areas, relief -- ranging from financial to services that provide for clothing, food and other items -- may be available through a number of agencies. Local government agencies and FEMA are good places to begin checking.

Source: Huffington Post, "Dealing with disasters & aftermath of superstorm Sandy, divorced or not," Bari Zell Weinberger, Nov. 12, 2012

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