Articles Posted in Divorce

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calculatorAn old joke among law students and lawyers theorizes that students enter law school because they are not good at math. If they were, so the joke goes, they’d bypass law school in favor of medical school or engineering. The reality, however, is obviously very different. Many lawyers are very adept at math, which is important because many areas of the law, including family law, can involve extensive math skills. Many times, success in your alimony or child support case can involve having a Florida alimony attorney who has extensive knowledge of the rules and recognizes when the math “just doesn’t add up.”

One example of a case in which the alimony math “didn’t add up,” and the wife secured a favorable judgment on appeal as a result, was the divorce of Danny and Gina. The couple divorced after 14 years of marriage, and their divorce judgment required Danny to pay Gina durational alimony in the amount of $3,800 for eight years. Gina appealed the trial court’s order, contending that the amount of alimony the trial court awarded was too low. Specifically, the wife argued that the trial judge calculated the amount of alimony she should receive incorrectly because the judge failed to take into account the tax consequences of the alimony award.

The appeals court sided with the wife on this point. The evidence presented to the trial judge showed that the wife had a monthly financial need of just over $5,600 per month. Based on the wife’s work history, the trial judge imputed income to the wife in an amount just under $2,100 per month. Using these numbers, the court arrived at the $3,800 monthly obligation amount.

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houseWhen a couple divorces, there are several things they must work through in order to reach a settlement agreement, including the division of their property. Sometimes, parties may make certain payments contingent on other financial events, like the sale of the marital home. Thus, what happens if the house is put up for sale, but no one buys it? Issues like this highlight just how important it is to negotiate thoroughly and draft carefully any marital settlement agreement that you sign. When it comes to marital settlement agreements, it pays to have an experienced Florida property division attorney on your side.

A recent case involving this type of settlement agreement dispute involved the divorce of Jonathan and Angela. The couple worked out a marital settlement agreement in their divorce case that stated that they agreed to sell their marital home. They later amended the agreement to dictate that the home had a fair market value of $725,000 and an outstanding mortgage of $328,000. They agreed that each spouse was entitled to 50% of the equity in the home, meaning that each spouse was entitled to $198,500.

To accomplish this distribution, the agreement required the wife to sign over her one-half interest in the home to the husband. The husband agreed to pay the wife $80,000 within 10 days and the remaining $118,500 when the sale of the home closed.

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infidelitySometimes, divorces cases can be amicable or straightforward…or even both. Other times, though, they are the furthest thing from amicable or straightforward. Parties may seek to use whatever they have at their disposal that they think will give them leverage in getting the outcome they want. Sometimes, they engage in improper tactics. When that happens, there may be recourse for the spouse who was harmed by the other spouse’s improper conduct. As with almost any legal issue, however, the law only gives you a limited time to act. That’s why, if you think you’ve been a victim of coercion or duress in your divorce settlement, or that your spouse has otherwise acted improperly, you should talk to an experienced Florida divorce attorney right away.

One recent case from North Florida involved an apparently salacious example of potential coercion or duress. The underlying action was a complicated divorce litigation case involving a Jacksonville-area attorney and his wife. At some point while the divorce case was going forward, the husband encountered a serious problem. He had a mistress, and his wife had pictures of her husband and the other woman. The appeals court’s opinion stated that the wife “allegedly obtained” pictures of the husband and mistress that were “of a private nature.” The appeals court’s opinion did not elaborate further on the exact “private nature” of the images or precisely how the wife came to be in possession of those photos.

Regardless, the wife allegedly used the photos as leverage, threatening the husband with their public release if he did not agree to settle the couple’s divorce case on terms she preferred. In his court papers, the husband asserted that the divorce mediator told the husband that, if he did not give the wife “what she wanted,” he’d end up owing alimony, child support, and the wife’s attorneys’ fees, in addition to receiving no timesharing with the couple’s children. The husband capitulated to the wife’s demands.

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cashLife is full of twists, turns, and surprises. Sometimes, your family law issues can turn out to be the same way. Even though you may think that you have a firm grasp on everything that your case will entail, there can be unexpected events. It could be learning some previously undiscovered fact, or it could be something related to the law or procedural rules affecting your case. These are all reasons to have an experienced Florida alimony lawyer on your side. With a skilled attorney handling your case, you can respond appropriately, even when unusual or unplanned things happen.

A man named David found himself in such a scenario when going through the court system in South Florida. He and his wife, Liudmyla, were going through a divorce in Broward County. As part of that case, the wife asked for alimony. The judge denied the request entirely when he entered the final judgment of divorce. Some time later, the wife made a motion for disqualification, which meant that she was asking the judge to remove himself from the case. The judge granted that request, and David and Liudmyla’s case was reassigned to a different trial court judge in Broward County.

Two months later, the wife made a new request, this one with the new judge, asking for an award of temporary alimony pending appeal. In many situations, the correct way for a judge in Florida to decide a spouse’s entitlement to alimony is to weigh the requesting spouse’s need against the would-be supporting spouse’s ability to pay. The second judge reviewed the facts on the record in the case and, after weighing David’s ability to pay versus Liudmyla’s need, awarded temporary alimony to the wife.

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marital residence“Self help” is a phrase often used in legal cases involving landlords and tenants. It generally refers to a landlord who decides to throw out a tenant on his own, without going through the proper legal procedures required for an eviction. Serious negative consequences can befall a landlord who engages in self help. While the phrase “self help” doesn’t exist in Florida family law cases, a similar truth exists. If you think your ex-spouse has violated the terms of your marital settlement agreement, and you decide to respond by taking matters into your own hands and acting on your own without going through the proper legal channels, it can create significant problems for you. It is a much better plan, instead, to retain an experienced attorney to help you protect your interests.

One common situation in which this type of problem crops up, and was at issue again in a very recent Fourth District Court of Appeal case that originated in Palm Beach County, relates to the marital residence. Many marital settlement agreements may give the exclusive use and possession of the home to one spouse but require that the spouses share the responsibility for paying the mortgage on the home. These agreements may impose certain restrictions on what the spouse who takes the home can and cannot do. For example, an agreement might give the home to the wife but prohibit any unrelated males from living in the home while the wife has sole possession.

So let’s say a couple has an agreement like the one described above, but the wife moves her boyfriend into the house. What can the husband do? Can he simply stop paying his half of the mortgage? No, he generally cannot. Furthermore, if the home is the residence of not just the ex-wife but also the couple’s children, the consequences facing the husband if he doesn’t pay can be especially serious. That’s because, in the scenario outlined above, that husband’s payment of 50% of the mortgage is considered to be a type of spousal support and child support. Not paying the mortgage can subject the husband to contempt of court penalties, potentially up to and including jail, the same as any other parent who is not paying their child support.

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retirementIn law, as with a lot of things in life, it pays to be well-versed in the details, be they small or great. For example, if you are preparing to retire, and your transition into retirement means a significant reduction of your income, do you know which rights this change provides when it comes to your alimony obligation? This and other questions are areas in which it pays to have representation from an experienced Florida alimony attorney.

One man facing that type of alimony scenario was Anthony, a firefighter. Anthony had filed for divorce in 2013 after 22 years of marriage. Anthony and his wife, Amy, worked out a marital settlement agreement. The agreement called for the husband to pay the wife $1,250 per month in durational alimony. The agreement said that it became enforceable when both spouses signed it, which happened in mid-September 2014. The trial judge, however, did not sign the final judgment in the divorce case until December 30.

These dates all mattered because of the change that occurred in the husband’s employment. In early December 2014, his pension board approved his retirement, effective Jan. 23, 2015. Three months into his retirement, the husband went back to court to seek a reduction in his alimony obligation. In support of his request, he pointed to his significantly reduced income in retirement.

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insuranceWhen a court makes a determination that an award of alimony is appropriate in a divorce case, one of the things with which the court may concern itself is taking steps to ensure the obligation is met. To do that, the law allows courts to demand that supporting spouses purchase life insurance to secure the award. Florida law also, however, dictates some clear hurdles that must be cleared in order for such an order to be allowed. Two cases from this year show this aspect of alimony cases in action. A knowledgeable Florida alimony attorney can help you in an alimony case that involves the mandatory purchase of life insurance.

The more recent of the two cases was a Fifth District Court of Appeal opinion that reversed an alimony award in favor of a husband. As part of this ruling in a divorce case that originated in Seminole County, the appeals court overturned the trial judge’s order that required the wife to maintain a $500,000 life insurance policy as security for the alimony obligation that she owed.

Florida law permits courts to order supporting spouses to purchase and maintain life insurance as security for alimony obligations. However, the law also places some clear boundaries regarding when such an obligation can be demanded. In order for a supporting spouse to be legally obliged to maintain life insurance for this reason, the trial court must first make several specific factual findings. The court must make determinations about insurability, about the cost of the policy, and about the ability of the supporting spouse to afford the insurance, as well as the impact on the supporting spouse of ordering such an insurance policy purchase requirement.

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Treasury checkWhen you make a claim for alimony, there are multiple hurdles you’ll need to clear. You’ll need to prove that you have a financial need. You’ll need to prove that your ex-spouse has the ability to pay. You may also have to overcome arguments from your ex-spouse that seek to impute income to you. All of these are areas in which the knowledge and skill of an experienced Florida alimony attorney can provide a major benefit.

The key issue in the divorce case of Carlos and Anemey was alimony. In making the necessary findings regarding the husband’s ability to pay and the wife’s need, the court must make income determinations for each spouse. Additionally, the court may impute income to either spouse if the judge concludes that that spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. In this case, it was the imputation of income that sent the case all the way to the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Anemey was a stay-at-home parent during most of the couple’s marriage. By the time the couple began going through the divorce process, Anemey was a 62-year-old with a GED and minimal work experience. She last worked for a cosmetics company in California, making $12 per hour. She testified that she intended to work full-time, but she had received no replies to any of the job applications she submitted. Nevertheless, the court concluded that she should be capable of landing a 40-hour-per-week job that paid $10 per hour, so it imputed income to her in the amount of $400 per week.

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checkbookIn many divorce cases, one of the key areas to resolve is equitable distribution. In some marriages, the couple may have a mixture of marital assets, non-marital assets, and maybe non-marital assets that were improved or acquired in part by using marital funds. Reaching a conclusion on equitable distribution can be very complex and is yet another example of where the experience of knowledgeable Florida divorce attorneys can help. One Tampa-area case involved just such a complication when the couple had used marital funds to pay the mortgage on a non-marital asset.

In this case, the wife, Bridgett, owned one-half of a duplex. That asset was the wife’s non-marital property. During the marriage, the couple paid $350 of marital funds toward the duplex’s mortgage from November 2004 until the wife’s half of the duplex was destroyed by fire in November 2006.

Sometime later, Bridgett and her husband, Ricky, divorced. During the divorce hearing, the husband sought credit for the duplex mortgage payments in calculating the couple’s equitable distribution. The trial judge agreed with the husband and gave him dollar-for-dollar credit for the full amount of the 24 mortgage payments made on the duplex during the marriage.

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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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