Articles Posted in Divorce

alimonyWhen a court faces a question about the calculation of an alimony obligation, it generally looks at the requesting spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. In many situations, that may involve just looking at the income and the expenses of each spouse. There are situations, though, where a court may be legally obliged to consider more than just the respective incomes of the two spouses. One circumstance where that’s the case occurs when one spouse is voluntarily unemployed or voluntarily underemployed. If you are involved in a case that includes issues of alimony and/or child support and your spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, then be sure you have the skill of an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

J.M. and T.M.’s divorce case was one where alimony was one of the key issues in dispute. In the case, the husband sought to have income imputed to the wife. Intentionally avoiding work, or avoiding working at an income level commensurate with your education and professional experience, can have the impact of skewing the calculation of the proper amount of alimony. When the court decides that this “voluntary unemployment” or “voluntary underemployment” has happened, then the law allows the judge to do what’s called “imputing income” to the spouse who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed.

In that process, the judge determines how much the voluntarily underemployed or unemployed spouse would be making if he/she were earning up to his/her reasonable capabilities, and then makes a determination about alimony based on that figure, not the spouse’s actual income. This is true whether the allegedly voluntarily underemployed or unemployed spouse is the one seeking alimony or is the one who may be ordered to pay alimony.

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financesGoing through the divorce process can be, and often is, a difficult time, both emotionally and, in many situations, financially. Divorcing spouses may be forced to deplete financial accounts or sell assets to pay for necessary things like living expenses and legal fees. When you do, the expenditure of those assets may impact the outcome of your case with regard to equitable distribution. In any equitable distribution outcome, your goals certainly include not being penalized for depleting assets for legitimate reasons. To make sure you get a genuinely fair equitable distribution, make certain you have the services of an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

For an illustration of the rules regarding the dissipation of marital assets, there’s the very recent case of T.M. and H.M. from Palm Beach County. Each spouse petitioned for divorce in 2016 after nearly 25 years of marriage. The couple’s divorce case covered several important issues, including equitable distribution and child support. After the trial was over, the wife appealed. In her appeal, she objected to several decisions the trial court made regarding equitable distribution as well as the calculation of her income for child support calculation purposes.

The outcome of the appellate argument regarding the equitable distribution of the couple’s marital assets was particularly useful. In T.M. and H.M.’s case, the trial judge awarded the wife her checking account and her savings account. The documents in the divorce case identified the value of the savings account as $13,275 and the value of the checking account as $13,212.

Legal News GavelWhen it comes to alimony, the law recognizes that the goal of the award is to provide needed support for the recipient spouse. To further that objective, a court may order the payor spouse to go out and purchase a life insurance policy that will, in the event of the payor’s untimely death, allow the recipient spouse to obtain the equivalent of the alimony ordered in the divorce. If you are the spouse whom a judge has ordered to pay alimony (and make the purchase of life insurance), it is useful to bear in mind that the law requires the court to make certain specific findings of fact about your situation and, if the judge doesn’t, you may be able to get the order commanding purchase of insurance reversed. Whether you are the spouse ordered to buy insurance or you are the alimony recipient, it is wise to have the representation of an experienced Florida family law attorney to protect you interests and needs..

A divorce from the panhandle county of Okaloosa, which ended up going all the way to the First District Court of Appeal, was a case where life insurance was a contested issue. The trial judge ordered the husband to pay child support and also to pay $1,500 per month in alimony. The alimony was durational for a period of four years. The court also ordered the husband to purchase a life insurance policy to act as security for the child support and alimony obligations.

In order for a spouse/parent to be required by law to purchase life insurance, there are certain procedural steps that the court must complete. For one thing, the law requires that the judge must make specific factual findings about the supporting spouse/parent’s ability to pay and the recipient spouse/parent’s need, just as the law requires for an award of alimony generally.

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Legal News GavelThe issue of alimony can be a difficult and contentious one in some divorces. That can be especially true if the former spouse who is now seeking an alimony award is already living with someone new. In spite of all the emotional difficulty that such issues and relationships can create, it is important to understand that not all relationships will impact the calculation of alimony. Whether you are seeking alimony or opposing payment of alimony, make sure you have an experienced Florida family law attorney on your side.

This type of complex set of relationship dynamics was in play in a recent case from Osceola County. The husband and wife were married for 20 years before the couple separated. During the marriage, the wife typically earned less than $15,000 per year working customer service jobs on nights and weekends, so that she could be at home with the couple’s children. The wife had a college degree and a teaching certification, but that certification was no longer valid. She suffered from many medical maladies, including hearing loss, permanent arthritis and several herniated discs in her back. The husband, on the other hand, made in excess of $70,000 per year as the regional branch manager of a library.

After separating, the wife moved into a home that she shared with her boyfriend. That fact factored into the outcome of the wife’s alimony request. The trial court determined that the wife had a need for alimony and the husband had an ability to pay alimony, but the court still awarded no alimony. The reason? The “wife has changed the nature of the request for

Legal News GavelIn a perfect world, the result you get in the order of final judgment from your divorce case is wholly satisfactory to you. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t a perfect world, and the divorce judgment you get isn’t always ideal. When that happens, you may have certain options for getting it thrown out. One of these is if the judge waited too long after the final hearing to finally hand down the written order of judgment in your case. For all of the legal options available to you, consult a knowledgeable South Florida divorce attorney.

A recent example of a delay triggering a reversal was the divorce case of Elizabeth and Marc. This couple’s divorce litigation was initially a typical case. There was the petition for divorce, pre-trial steps, and then a final hearing. And then nothing…for more than two years. Two and a half years after the final hearing, the court entered a final judgment.

Not happy with that final judgment, the wife appealed. The appeals court agreed that the delay was a problem. That meant that the wife won her appeal and a reversal of the trial court’s order.

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Legal News GavelThere are several things that are essential in order to make a proposed marital settlement agreement appropriate for you to sign. Any agreement should appropriately protect your interests. The agreement also, though, should be completely clear and unambiguous so that any disputes that arise later will not trigger a whole new round of discovery and litigation. For all of these things, rely upon a skilled Florida divorce attorney to help you get the marital settlement agreement you need.

The case of Michael and Regina was an example of what happens when a marital settlement agreement isn’t unambiguous. When the couple married in 1987, Michael was a seven-year veteran of a local police department in Broward County. In 1989, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office absorbed Michael’s employer. When that happened, the couple decided to cash out the husband’s pension and spend the money.

After becoming an employee of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the husband became eligible for an account with the Florida Retirement System. The FRS allowed some members, including this husband, to purchase service credit, which meant that the employee would be entitled to a larger benefit when he retired.

Legal News GavelThere is an old and colorful saying about the perils of making assumptions. The saying, which popped up on a 1973 episode of The Odd Couple, admonishes that you should “never assume” and reveals its lesson by separating the word “assume” into its first through third letters, its fourth letter, and its fifth through sixth letters. Before entering into any contractual agreements, including marital settlement agreements, it would be wise to heed this advice. It would also be wise to seek out the advice and counsel of an experienced Florida divorce attorney.

One case in which one of the spouses didn’t heed that advice was a recent action that originated in Sarasota County. James and Pamela were married for 27 years before their marriage ended in divorce. James was the son of very wealthy parents. In fact, James’ parents’ wealth was the source of the couple’s retirement plan. According to the court, they never saved for retirement; they simply made plans to live in their retirement years off the very large lump-sum inheritance they expected James to get once both of his parents had passed away.

James’ parents survived longer than James’ marriage to Pamela. Thus, when it came time for James and Pamela to enter into a marital settlement agreement, they simply included their assumptions about James’ inheritance in their MSA.

Legal News GavelThere are certain things that are generally true across a wide variety of legal issues, even if those cases have little in common factually. One of those nearly universal truths is that long periods of time during which you could have taken action but did not do so rarely have a positive impact on your case. Long delays are rarely your friend. If you think you have a claim or a legal argument to make, your best move is to consult knowledgeable Florida family law counsel right away.

An example of this was a recent divorce case from Broward County. Afnaan was married three times. A court in the country of Jordan issued a decree in 2000 ending her marriage to her first husband. That order stated a “divorce date” of 1998, likely due to the fact that Afnaan had married her second husband between the 1998 date and the decree date. She and Husband #2 divorced, and she married Saad in 2011. Afnaan’s third marriage ended as the first two had, with a Florida court issuing an order of dissolution in 2014.

Saad appealed that order. His argument was a novel one:  he contended that the 2000 Jordanian decree ending the wife’s first marriage was not valid under Florida law, which allegedly would mean that the Florida courts didn’t have jurisdiction to dissolve his marriage.

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Legal News GavelWhen you go through a divorce, there are several steps that you must complete. The equitable distribution of marital assets is one of them. Of course, most people’s marital estates are not an unchangeable thing but instead experience change every time the couple buys or sells something or every time an asset fluctuates in value. So how do you determine when to analyze the marital estate in order to complete an equitable distribution? For answers to these types of questions, as well as what they mean for you and your divorce, you should act promptly to consult a knowledgeable Florida equitable distribution attorney.

A recent case from central Florida shone a light on this issue. The spouses, Orlando and Diana, divorced after 23 years of marriage. During the marriage, the couple owned multiple pieces of real estate. Orlando and Diana, as Colombians, observed the Colombian tradition of parents providing for their children and, motivated by that, deeded four of the properties they owned to their sons. After these transfers, they still had left an apartment in Colombia, a condo in Naples, and a house in Marco Island.

After the trial’s conclusion, the judge issued a decision on equitable distribution, giving the husband the house in Marco Island plus two of the properties that the couple had previously deeded to the sons. The wife received the apartment in Colombia, the condo in Naples, and a vacant lot that the couple had deeded to their sons. The court ordered the fourth property that had been deeded to the children sold.

Legal News GavelAn 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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