Articles Posted in Divorce

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Judge With GavelWith many family law litigation matters, finances can be an important part of the overall case. Your South Florida family law attorney can go over with you some of the scenarios in which you may be able to obtain a court order forcing your ex to pay your court costs or fees. Often, these matters come down to the respective spouses’ need and ability to pay. In certain scenarios, however, those factors are not the only factors. In one recent case, the wife’s misconduct led the court to give her a much smaller fees and costs award than she desired.

In January 2014, Sharon filed for divorce from her husband, Brian, after eight years of marriage. That was the beginning of a prolonged and bitter battle. Shortly after she filed for divorce, she filed for a domestic violence protective injunction. Among other things, she accused Brian of molesting the couple’s children. She made these accusations, not only to the judge, but also to the children’s pediatrician and their school principal. She told the pediatrician that she thought that the father was giving illegal drugs to the son. There was one major problem with the abuse allegations, however:  they were all false, according to the court.

Along the way, the mother also asked the court to appoint a guardian ad litem for the children to aid in determining timesharing, even though she had already agreed with the father as to shared parental responsibility and equal timesharing. The mother also argued that, since the father was wealthier, he should have to pay for the guardian ad litem.

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stack of cashIn your alimony or child support case, there can be many components that go into calculating the appropriate amount of support owed. Part of making that calculation is ensuring that only a supporting spouse (or parent)’s regular and continuous income is factored into the determination. Whether or not you are the supporting spouse or parent, getting this determination of income correct can be integral to your case and is one of many ways an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney can help. For one husband and father, his counsel persuaded the Second District Court of Appeal that a lower court erred by using an older year’s bonus income instead of his most recent bonus in calculating his alimony and child support payments.

In the recent divorce case of Matthew and Jilla, originating in southwest Florida, one main item with which the courts wrangled was the calculation of the husband’s income for determining his support obligations. The man made a little more than $100,000 per year ($8,476 per month) in salary. He also, though, got an annual bonus. The trial court, in making its calculations in this case, used the husband’s 2013 bonus ($133,332) to arrive at an income figure of $19,583 per month. This $19,583 sum was the figure the court used to determine both alimony and child support.

The husband appealed, and he won. The problem was that the methodology for calculating his income was legally flawed. Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes requires the inclusion of bonuses in calculating a supporting spouse or parent’s obligations. The courts have made it clear that, in order to count in this calculation, bonus income must be regular and continuous. Thus, using an example from a Second DCA case from March, when a man received a $30,000 bonus each year for 12 years, the trial court in that matter properly added $2,500 to the man’s monthly income because that bonus income was regular and continuous.

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moneyWhen you, as a spouse who owes an obligation of alimony, experience a substantial chance in your income, the law may provide you with certain avenues to obtaining a reduction in, or the elimination of, your alimony payments. In many situations, that change may even apply retroactively to some date in the past. A knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney can help you navigate the path to seeking a modification and a retroactive application of that modification. In one recent case, the First District Court of Appeal concluded that the elimination of a husband’s alimony obligation should have applied back to the date that his ex-wife began receiving payments from his military pension, since that was the date when she ceased having a need for alimony.

Holli and Michael were a couple from Santa Rosa County who had divorced. The couple had children, but their children were all legal adults. The one issue that proved to be a source of extensive litigation was alimony. The trial court issued one order modifying alimony, and the husband appealed. The appeals court reversed and sent the case back to the trial court.

At that time, the only basis for the award of alimony to the ex-wife that the appeals court could identify was the wife’s continued financial support of the couple’s children in college. This was a problem in Holli’s case because one parent’s support of a couple’s adult children is, in Florida, not a valid basis for determining that a spouse has a need for alimony. If a parent has a court-ordered obligation to support a child (or children) in college, that potentially can be the basis for a determination of need. In Holli’s situation, though, there was no judgment to that effect, meaning that she had no legal obligation to support the children, and her support could not be the basis for a determination of her need for alimony.

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signatureThe law gives parties wide latitude in how they structure the terms of their contractual agreements. The same is generally true when it comes to spouses and the terms of their prenuptial agreements. For example, one Florida couple entered into a prenuptial agreement that waived all rights to future alimony claims but permitted the wife to receive a “salary” for two years after a divorce. According to a recent Fourth District Court of Appeal ruling, that agreement was valid and meant that the courts could not order an award of alimony and couldn’t use contempt powers if the husband didn’t pay the salary.

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calendarA well-worn catch-phrase opines that “timing is everything.” In the law, timing isn’t necessarily everything, but sometimes it can be the only thing that matters. Failing to follow precisely the rules of procedure and the time limits they impose upon you can have dire consequences. A South Florida case involving a couple of Ecuadorean citizens, who lived most of their married life in that country, provides a prime example of this concept.

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shell gameAn ex-wife secured an important victory in the Fourth District Court of Appeal, with that court ruling that she could pursue the ex-husband’s insurance assets and homestead property if she could establish that the ex-husband engaged in fraud. The ruling was a significant one in that it rejected the notion that “homestead property and insurance policies are always exempt from the contempt powers of the court regardless of fraud.”

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cash in handIn divorce cases in which issues related to minor children do not play a role, the biggest issue facing many spouses is that of the division of assets. For many of those couples, the largest single asset with which they must deal is the marital home. Frequently, one spouse will receive the marital home, but that distribution will require the recipient spouse to make a cash payment (or payments) to the other spouse in order to achieve a truly equitable distribution. In a recent case involving a Palm Beach County couple, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled on what the law demands in terms of signing a deed on the house, the submission of an equalizing payment, and the timing of each.

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Bank statementIn a divorce case in which equitable distribution is an issue, there are many details that can substantially alter the result in your case. For example, the decision regarding which date to use for assessing the value of an asset can make thousands of dollars of difference, as was demonstrated in a recent First District Court of Appeal case. In that dispute, the First DCA ruled that a husband shouldn’t be punished in the equitable distribution process for depleting thousands of dollars of assets by paying for his living expenses and the expenses associated with the marital home.

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gay coupleMarriage equality for same-sex couples has existed in Florida for two years, ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The first state to recognize same-sex marriage was Massachusetts, and it did so just over a decade ago. Same-sex couples in committed relationships have existed for much longer than either of those dates, of course. Sometimes, these couples entered into agreements related to providing financial support for each other. In a recent case originating in Broward County, the courts were asked to decide whether or not two men in a decades-long relationship had also created an “oral cohabitation agreement” and, if so, if that agreement entitled one man to a large award of damages.

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handshakeDivorces can often be stressful times for the spouses involved. The pain and stress, in some circumstances, may motivate some divorcing spouses to try to achieve as swift a resolution to the case as possible. While that can be an understandable motivation, it is important not to agree to just any marital settlement agreement simply to resolve your dispute. As a recent Palm Beach County case demonstrates, the terms of your marital settlement agreement can have long-lasting effects for you, even years after your divorce has been finalized.

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