Articles Posted in Divorce

Typically, under most circumstances, assets and debts acquired during the time that a couple is married are considered by the law to be marital assets. That applies to student loan debt just the same as any other debt, generally speaking. There are, however, special circumstances that may make one spouse’s student loan debt acquired during the marriage non-marital debt or debt that is otherwise required to be distributed unequally.

In order to win that, the spouse seeking the unequal distribution (or classification of the debt as non-marital) must show the court that special circumstances exist. So, whether you’re arguing for a 50-50 division of the student loan debt or for some other type of distribution, you need to have on your side a skilled South Florida divorce attorney with an in-depth knowledge of Florida law and what that law requires in this kind of dispute.

A.T. was a Gainesville-area man with student loan debt who was going through a divorce case with his wife, N.T. During the time that the couple was married, A.T. incurred more than $10,000 in student loan debt. When the time came for the trial court to rule on the equitable distribution of the couple’s assets and debts, the court declared that the student loan debt was the husband’s non-marital debt and that he was 100% responsible for paying that debt.

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Sometimes, the story of your marriage and divorce, for purposes of your divorce case, can be very straightforward. Many times, though, it’s not. Many, if not most, divorcing couples, have some nuance, quirk or other atypical element to their story. To make sure that you are getting the best possible outcome from your divorce case, it pays to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side to spot those unique things and to help you understand what those things can mean for you.

J.H. and W.S. were one of those couples with an atypical element in their case. They married in 1997. Late in 2000, they separated. The pair was quite serious about divorcing, with the wife filing a divorce petition and the pair completing and signing a marital settlement agreement early in 2001.

Then… fate intervened. The husband received a diagnosis of colon cancer and the two got back together. The wife dismissed her divorce filing and (according to the wife, anyway) resumed living together as husband-and-wife for another 15 years.

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Reason #237 why it pays to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney on your side: because winning your case requires an in-depth knowledge of the law… all of the law.

Some people may think they can pursue their divorce case without legal counsel. They may reason that they have strong grasp of the relevant facts of the case, and may even claim a working knowledge of certain divorce-related Florida laws like alimony law, parental responsibility law, child support law or equitable distribution law. As the recent case of one Flagler County couple demonstrates, winning your case may require more than that.

A.R., the wife, reportedly filed for divorce in 2016 after 17 years of marriage. The couple had three children together. The spouses worked to negotiate the terms of a marital settlement agreement and, eventually, the husband sent the wife the agreement, which he had already signed. The wife talked to her attorney, wrote down five handwritten statements on the document, signed the agreement and sent it back to the husband.

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An old saying proposes that “numbers never lie.” They may not, but they can be deceiving. That is one of the reasons why you should avoid jumping to conclusions in your legal case, but instead talk to an experienced Florida family law attorney. Even if some of the numbers on your and your spouse’s financial disclosures seem to be stacked firmly against you, there may be other factors and other numbers that can sway the outcome in your favor.

The case of A.L. and T.L. is an example. In 2015, T.L. filed for divorce from A.L., her husband of 36 years. In her divorce petition, the wife asked for permanent alimony in the amount of $1,000 per month.

The husband’s financial documentation indicated that he made roughly $3,000 per month after taxes, and had monthly expenses of $5,937. The court deducted $1,553 of those expenses because they related to bills that the husband was not actually paying at the time (as those bills were connected to a home that was in foreclosure.) Nevertheless, that still left the husband with $4,382 in monthly expenses, meaning he had a monthly deficit of more than $1,300.

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When it becomes necessary to go to court in a family law dispute, there are several things you expect to obtain through the litigation process. One of the most basic is that you’ll receive a fair hearing and a decision made by an impartial judge. However, what happens when you find out information that calls that expectation into question?

If it turns out that the judge in your family law case has a history with your ex and/or your ex’s attorney, Florida’s court rules give you certain options. Making sure that you get a truly fair trial may mean knowing how to use those options to your maximum benefit, which is one more reason (among the countless others) why you should be sure you have an experienced South Florida divorce attorney representing you.

So, what can you do if you find yourself in that kind of circumstance where your judge has a connection to the other side? There’s a recent case that serves as a real-life example. O.B. was a husband who filed for divorce in Miami-Dade County. In mid-June, the court held a hearing on several motions. Immediately after the hearing, the husband discovered that the opposing counsel wasn’t just his wife’s divorce attorney. A few years earlier, that lawyer had also been the judge’s divorce lawyer.

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When you hear the phrase “marital gift,” it may call to mind poring over an engaged couple’s wedding registry to select just the right item (or items,) or perhaps bring back memories of sending out dozens (or even hundreds) or thank-you notes for the things you received at your own wedding.

What you may not know is that, in Florida law, “marital gift” has another meaning, and this other meaning may have a major effect on the division of your assets in the event of a divorce. Under this “marital gift” legal concept, it is possible for a non-marital asset to become part of your marital estate subject to equitable distribution in your divorce. What this should remind you is that divorce law is full of many subtleties, nuances and concepts probably unknown by even knowledgeable non-lawyers. That’s why, if you’re going through a divorce here in the Sunshine State, you need the experience of a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side.

A recent case of a Brevard County couple is an example of divorce where a “marital gift” mattered a great deal. In the case, the couple had a marital home that was purchased with a mortgage and an $80,000 down payment. The $80,000 for the down payment came from a gratuity given to the husband by a former employer, as a “thank you” for services he had performed prior to the husband’s marrying the wife.

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When a court in Florida contemplates the amount of alimony a spouse will receive, the judge looks at several financial factors. One of these is the standard of living that the couple enjoyed during the marriage prior to its breakdown. If you and your spouse lived a high-end lifestyle during the marriage, then that is a factor in determining the proper amount of alimony. If sufficient funds exist, the recipient spouse should be entitled to live a lifestyle somewhat resembling the life she knew immediately prior to the marriage’s end.

As noted above, there are actually numerous factors that go into an alimony decision. To make sure you’re getting the full amount to which the law says you’re entitled, be sure you have the knowledge and experience of a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side.

When it comes to alimony in the case of a wealthy couple, P.D. and W.D.’s case was a clear illustration. The two were married for 20 years. During that time, the wife was a stay-at-home mom and the husband was a successful ophthalmologist. Following the equitable distribution in the divorce, the wife had an income of roughly $60,000 from investments, while the husband was making around $950,000 from his medical practice. The judge, based on those numbers (and each spouse’s expenses,) found that the husband had the ability to pay alimony and that the wife had a need for alimony, so the court ordered the husband to pay the wife $12,000 per month in permanent alimony.

Recently, this blog touched upon the issue of a parent receiving child support credit for expenses and what happens when the parent doesn’t actually spend that money. In child support cases, this matters because of those expenses’ impact child support guideline calculations.

In alimony, the problem is similar but somewhat different. In alimony law, the judge is tasked with setting an amount of alimony that properly reflects the recipient spouse’s need and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. If the recipient spouse is getting credit for an expense that she’s not actually paying for, then the court’s calculation of her need is greater than what her true need really is. When that happens and you are the supporting spouse, then you need a modification of your alimony that lowers your payment. An experienced South Florida family law attorney can help in pursuing that change.

M.H. and A.M.H.’s post-marriage situation was an example of this problem. Reportedly, the couple divorced in 2003 and, at that time, worked out a marital settlement agreement, which included an award of alimony to the wife. Although the husband was in his early 50s at the time, neither that settlement agreement nor the court’s final judgment of divorce were so forward-looking as to address what would happen to the husband’s alimony obligation once he retired from working.

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Here in today’s modern electronic age, there are many things we have to navigate that people even just a generation ago did not. One of these things is computerized processes for filing court papers in your Florida family court case. Whereas everyone might have delivered a paper document to a human deputy at the court clerk’s office in the 1990s, today the rules of procedure allow filing electronic documents via an Internet website.

As we all well know, technology can be great… when it works. However, would you know what to do if your very important filing in your divorce case got rejected as late due to technology problems that were no fault of your own? It is reasonable to imagine you might not. To make sure your case or appeal gets the hearing it deserves, and that you are equipped to handle all the “bumps in the road,” no matter how unexpected, be sure you have an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

L.B. was a man who found himself in that position. He was going through a divorce in St. Lucie County and, after the judge issued the final judgment, he and his attorney determined that it was in his best interest to appeal. The law gives you 30 days to file your appeal document known as a “Notice of Appeal.” L.B.’s notice, if he wanted to file one, was due on January 9, 2019. His lawyer attempted to file on that day. (There are several very legitimate reasons why it might be helpful, necessary or unavoidable to wait to file until near or on the last day.)

Sometimes, success in your case is about the facts, sometimes it’s about the law, sometimes it’s about the rules of court procedure and sometimes it’s a combination of the above. That is one reason among many why it pays to have skillful South Florida family law counsel on your side fighting for you. You know the facts of your case, but you probably don’t know all the details and specifics of Florida law or of Florida’s procedure rules. Your skilled attorney can help you make sure that the case you put on is the strongest one possible.

Your attorney can also help you spot problems that occur in your case. Sometimes, the judge in your case may do something the law doesn’t allow. Even if it was harmful to you, it very possibly was something that you did not know was impermissible. Again, having a knowledgeable advocate helps.

As an example, there’s H.F. and C.R.’s case. They were a couple whose divorce was finalized in late 2007. There was also a supplemental judgment issued in 2010. The judgments stated that certain personal property (that was being shipped from Kuwait) worth $100,000 was to go to the husband. The husband was ordered to pay the wife $111,000 over the course of four years, at $2,320 per month.

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