If you watch enough TV courtroom drama shows, you’ve likely seen it at some point. One of the lawyers will attempt to introduce some piece of evidence, and the other attorney will exclaim, “Objection! Hearsay!” While hearsay objections may be more commonly associated with criminal cases, they also take place in civil matters as well, including family law disputes. In a case recently before the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the hearsay rule and its exceptions were the key issue in deciding whether the wife had proper evidence to support her argument for imputing income to the husband. Since the appeals court decided that the wife’s evidence wasn’t admissible, that meant that the trial court order had to be reversed.
In an alimony case, the law gives trial judges a certain amount of discretion in how they structure an obligor spouse’s alimony payments. Even with this discretion, there are limits. For example, an alimony award should not automatically increase at some future date unless there are specific extenuating circumstances that warrant structuring the alimony obligation in that way. In the case of one Broward County couple, the husband’s alimony obligation, which automatically increased by 140% upon the couple’s child’s graduation from high school, was reversed by the Fourth District Court of Appeal because the trial court in the case listed no extenuating circumstances in its order.
When you think about alimony, you probably think about a court order that obliges one ex-spouse to pay the other ex-spouse a sum of money every month for a certain period of time (or permanently). The law also, however, allows the courts to hand out lump-sum awards of alimony. As with other alimony awards, the law has specific rules regarding when that type of alimony is appropriate. In one recent Second District Court of Appeal case, a lump-sum alimony award was overturned because the trial judge didn’t make the findings necessary to show that the award complied with the law.
Sometimes, the intervention of a divorce can create some serious wrinkles in the estate plans two spouses created while they were married. Other times, the couple’s estate plans can sometimes create wrinkles in an equitable distribution plan. In the case of one southwest Florida couple, that is exactly what happened. When they divorced, one of the pieces of property that the Collier County trial court distributed was a home in California. The Second District Court of Appeal threw out that distribution because, prior to the divorce, the couple had transferred the home into an irrevocable trust, so it was outside the reach of their divorce’s equitable distribution.
When you are going through a divorce, especially one without a minor child of the marriage, one of the most important issues to resolve may be equitable distribution. While equitable distribution may be fairly straightforward in cases in which every asset is clearly marital or non-marital, many divorces and equitable distributions are more complex. In one recent case decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, the court was called upon to address a case in which the couple’s home was the wife’s non-marital property, but the property had appreciated in part due to improvements made using marital funds. In this case, the trial court’s decision to credit 50% of the marital portion of the appreciation to the husband was improper when the court also gave the home 100% to the wife.
When you enter into divorce litigation, there are certain things you know at the outset. One of these is that the law presumes that your spouse and you should split all marital assets 50-50. This presumption is not ironclad, however, since fairness and the law dictate that a 50-50 split is not the proper outcome in all cases. In order to receive an uneven distribution in your case, the law requires your trial judge to make certain findings. In one recent case from the Tampa Bay area, the trial court’s failure to make the obligatory findings led the Second District Court of Appeal to throw out a distribution awarding the wife more than 50% of certain assets.
A South Florida doctor’s wife succeeded in obtaining a reversal recently of a trial court order that awarded her only durational rather than permanent alimony. Since the couple was married for 18 years, the wife should have received permanent alimony unless the trial judge made a finding that permanent alimony was inappropriate. The Fourth District Court of Appeal‘s decision in this couple’s case was also interesting in reaffirming that simply because the state legislature created durational alimony a few years ago did not mean that its creation wiped out the legal presumption in favor of permanent alimony in cases involving long-term marriages.
In Florida, the laws regarding divorce have followed a “no-fault” system since 1971. Today, there are only two bases for obtaining a divorce: that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, or that one spouse has been declared mentally incompetent for at least three years. Before that, there were nine bases for obtaining a divorce under the old statute. One of those bases was adultery. Even though adultery is no longer a ground for divorce, a trial court in a divorce case may consider a spouse’s infidelity and, depending on the facts proven, may use that affair to alter the decisions it makes on alimony and equitable distribution. A recent Fifth District Court of Appeal case originating in Flagler County offers an example of how this works.
A Florida man successfully appealed a trial court ruling that declared the couple’s home to be the wife’s separate property. The Fifth District Court of Appeal overturned the trial court’s ruling, based upon the wording contained in the couple’s prenuptial agreement. That agreement gave each spouse the right to give away, sell, or distribute via estate planning tools his or her separate property. By transferring the title of the couple’s home from her name alone to the husband’s name alone, the wife completed exactly such a valid gift, which made the property the husband’s alone.
A recent study is reporting that there are specific peaks of divorce filings in March and August. According to researchers, people who want to get divorced do not want to file during the summer family vacation season or before the winter holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The study found that divorce filings peaked in March and August and were the lowest in November and December. Divorce filings also decreased in April and did not increase until August.
Researchers examined divorce cases in 37 of 39 counties in one state between 2001 through 2015. Irrespective of the size of the counties, the trends appeared to be similar. The research indicated that there were 430 divorce filings in December, 570 divorce filings by March and 558 in August. From December to March the divorce filings increased by 33%. Similarly, from December to August divorce filings increased by 30%. The peaks in divorce case filing happen in the months after the winter and summer breaks.
The delay in divorce filings may be attributed to socially sensitive times during the year. People enter holiday seasons with rising expectations even though they may have had a substandard year. They leave the holidays looking for a new opportunity, a fresh start and a change. For unhappy marriages, vacations can be very stressful when they do not meet expectations. After spending a lengthy vacation with a spouse, individuals often find that they are even unhappier and begin to plan for their divorce.