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Articles Posted in Divorce

Family law is full of various rules, but few of them are completely black-and-white. The law recognizes that each family in a family law case is unique, and a just outcome should reflect that. That’s why having a skilled South Florida family law attorney is so important. Your experienced attorney will have that knowledge of all of family law’s nuances and gray areas that non-lawyers don’t, and know how to use them to your best advantage.

Very recently, this blog covered the issue of alimony and its relationship to the length of the marriage. That time, the wife was seeking permanent alimony after having been married for less than 13 years, or a marriage of “moderate duration.” (Florida law says marriages of seven years or less are “short term,” marriages lasting more than seven years but less than 17 years are “moderate” in duration and marriages of 17 years or more are “long term.”)

In law, including alimony law, there are “presumptions.” These are default positions that will be the final outcomes in most cases, but not in all of them. You can overcome a presumption if you have enough of the right evidence to do what’s called “rebut” the presumption.

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When you go through the divorce process and your spouse seeks alimony, you have several challenges. One of those is to avoid outcomes where your ex gets more alimony than they should, or gets it for a longer duration than Florida law says is appropriate. To help in making sure that your outcome is a fair one, get skilled legal representation from an experienced South Florida alimony attorney.

When it comes to the duration of alimony, the law has some pretty clear limitations on awarding permanent periodic alimony, which was on display in the case of B.P. and his wife, S.P. The couple married in 2003, separated in early 2014 and the husband filed for divorce in 2016. At trial, the judge concluded that the marriage was of moderate duration and that the wife was entitled to $6,912 per month in permanent periodic alimony, as that amount and duration was necessary “to maintain the standard of living to which” the wife was accustomed.

The husband successfully appealed the alimony ruling. As both the trial court and appeals court noted, B.P. and S.P.’s marriage was a “moderate-term” one under Florida law. (Florida law has created three different levels of marital duration that judges use in making alimony decisions. Those groupings are: “short-term,” which is seven years or less, “moderate-term,” which is more than seven years but less than 17 years, and “long-term,” which is 17 years or more. That duration period is measured as the period from the date of the marriage until the date of an approved filing for divorce.)

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in many ways, including financially. Some may be struggling to keep their homes, while others may be struggling to feed their families. Some of those who have been thrown into dire financial straits here in Florida are people who have alimony obligations. If that’s you, the worst thing you can do is sit idly by and do nothing as you fall behind on your alimony. Instead, take action right away to get in touch with an experienced South Florida family law attorney and begin taking the actions that the law lets you take.

Even as Florida has re-opened most of its businesses, problems remain. Late last month, the government once again shuttered all bars, according to a NBC Miami report. You can imagine then, if you’re the proprietor of a popular bar in Fort Lauderdale Beach (from which you derive most of your income) and you’re also a divorced spouse who owes a monthly alimony payment, the re-closure of all bars in the Sunshine State is a source of major stress for you.

The law does still give you options, though. To get your alimony payments lowered, you will have to clear several legal hurdles. The first thing you absolutely must do is prove that you have a change of circumstances. Furthermore, that change has to be both (1) substantial and (2) something that could not have been anticipated when alimony was litigated (or set via a mutual agreement.) In other words, if you’re 63 years old when you sign your alimony agreement, you may not be able to turn around at age 65 and get a downward modification of alimony based on your retirement (and the reduction in income it created.)

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When it comes to planning, nothing is more important than doing the planning necessary to protect your family. By retaining the services of a skilled South Florida family law attorney, you can be sure you have the right “safety net” to protect your most priceless treasure: your relationship with your children.

No one wants to think about planning for a potential breakup of their new marriage or newly expanded family, but that’s when you should begin planning to give yourself the “safety net” your family needs. If you’re a gay or lesbian parent whose children are the biological offspring of your spouse/partner but have no biological link to you, it is especially important that you do the proper planning to protect your relationship with your children.

It may be easy to think that, when the U.S. Supreme Court made its marriage equality ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case five years ago, all of the unique risks that LGBT+ parents face went away, but that’s simply not true, and a recent case from the Orlando area just further highlighted that fact.

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As you prepare to create a marital settlement agreement in Florida, there are several things you should be certain you do. One is to negotiate carefully and diligently to include all of the terms you need and exclude everything that you need left out. After that, you need to be sure that the written document presented for your signature accurately reflects everything for which you negotiated. This is vital because, if there is a dispute later, the court will rely heavily on what is in “black and white” in the written marital settlement agreement. An experienced South Florida divorce attorney can provide you with invaluable representation throughout this process, including both the negotiation and drafting of your marital settlement agreement.

Jay and Jane were a couple in Broward County whose marital settlement agreement was on center stage in their Court of Appeal case. The spouses had created a marital settlement agreement in the fall of 2015 and finalized their divorce shortly thereafter. Just a few weeks later, the husband passed away.

The couple had agreed in their MSA that, as a “contingency arrangement for the equalizer payment,” the husband would pay the wife 120 monthly payments of $5,000 each starting in November 2015 (for a total of $600,000.) The husband’s estate, though, paid Jane $400,000 up front and then made 28 monthly payments of $5,000, after which the payments stopped.

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The plethora of people engaged in COVID-19-related self-isolation, whether due to infection, exposure without yet having symptoms, or governmental “safer at home” orders, means that millions of Floridians are shut in at home. They’ve been at home for days or weeks, and will be for weeks into the future. This is a radical disruption in many people’s routines. While some have joked that this period of couples “stuck” at home with extra free time could lead to a “baby boom” in late 2020 and early 2021, many professionals who deal with married couples know that there is a flip side:  a potentially significant uptick in the number of divorces. If you’ve come to the conclusion that your marriage is hopelessly beyond saving, you should immediately make plans to contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney.

This phenomenon of an increase in divorces among couples on “lockdown” has been seen across state – and even national – boundaries. Page Six spoke to attorneys in New York City, where at least one Manhattan “power divorce attorney” saw “a 50 percent increase.” In London, a Fleet Street law firm, which had previously identified a 230% increase in “I want a divorce” internet searches after the Christmas holiday, expected a similar uptick as a result of the widespread self-isolating that Britons are performing, according to a CNBC report.

As with the winter holidays, people are removed from their regular daily routines, and, for lots of folks, being “off-routine” is a source of stress in and of itself. It may make them easily agitated, or it may make them depressed and aloof.

We all make mistakes. For some people, that may mean putting some less-than-perfect information in a tax return. For others, that may mean using that flawed return in a divorce proceeding. Now, to be clear, you should never cheat on your income taxes and you should never provide to a court any proposed piece of evidence that is inaccurate, misleading or false. However, even when you have made mistakes in the pursuit of a divorce, there are still limits on the actions that the judge can take. An experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney can help in cases like this in many ways. Your experienced attorney can help you make sure that you avoid submitting documents to the court that lack candor and, if you’ve made mistakes before you hired counsel, your attorney also can help protect you when a judge oversteps her legal authority.

As an example of how these kinds of boundaries can work, there’s the Orange County case of M.B., who was a self-employed commercial truck driver and a husband going through divorce. At his divorce trial, the husband presented numerous financial affidavits and three years of tax returns. “The tax returns — which included deductions for business expenses and for cost of goods sold — showed a significant disparity” between what the husband actually made and what he declared as his final taxable income, according to the appeals court.

At trial, the husband disclosed that his work entailed only transporting goods, and that he did not actually sell goods. That, of course, was a problem for the husband and his case. Based on this evidence, the judge decided that the husband’s tax documents did not accurately display his true income and the judge imputed income to the husband.

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Late last May, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion called In re Amendments to the Florida Evidence Code. As a spouse contemplating divorce or a parent potentially facing a parental responsibility/timesharing case, you may think that a thing like a Supreme Court opinion on “amendments to the Florida Evidence Code” would be some sort of “hyper-technical lawyer thing” that would have little or no impact on your case. And, quite possibly, you’d be wrong in thinking that. Of course, it really isn’t reasonable to expect you, as a non-lawyer, to be keeping up with all the new changes to the Florida Rules of Evidence. This is a great reason, among a host of others, why it pays to have a knowledgeable Florida attorney on your side. Your experienced Fort Lauderdale family law attorney is going to be up to date on all of those changes and how to use those amended rules to your maximum benefit.

That May opinion from the Supreme Court altered the way that trial courts analyze whether or not expert evidence is admissible proof in a case. Up until the Supreme Court’s opinion, the rules for determining whether expert evidence was admissible were contained in a 1923 federal appellate case. Going forward, Florida’s rules of evidence for expert evidence admissibility will rely much more on a 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case called Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals.

Under the new rules in Florida, expert evidence is admissible if the testimony “is based upon sufficient facts or data” and “is the product of reliable principles and methods.” Additionally, the expert witness advancing that testimony must have “applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.”

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When people think about the services that their skilled Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney provides, the first thing probably involves the attorney standing before a judge (or filing legal documents) to make strong and persuasive arguments that get the client to a successful outcome versus their ex-spouse or partner. Certainly, that is a big part of what your family law attorney does… but it isn’t everything. Another service is something that takes place outside court. That service is giving you the knowledgeable and unbiased advice you need to hear in order to be best equipped to make sound decisions about your case.

Take, for example, a misguided ex-husband from Kansas. D.O. and his ex-wife were involved in family litigation in a court in Iowa. The couple contested many issues, according to 850 WFTL, including property distribution, parental responsibility, timesharing and property taxes.

D.O., frustrated by the court filings submitted by his ex-wife’s lawyer, hatched a plan. He made a motion requesting permission “to settle his differences with his ex-wife by having a sword fight,” according to the report. Yes, that’s right… a sword fight… complete with authentic samurai swords imported from Japan. The husband’s motion for trial by combat stated his goal as hoping to “rend [the] souls” of his ex-wife and her lawyer “from their bodies.”

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Florida, like all states, has laws governing awards of spousal support (also known as alimony) following a divorce. Typically, alimony involves a monetary payment from one spouse to the other to help the less well-off spouse maintain something close to the standard of living he/she enjoyed during the marriage. Florida has many different types of alimony, so if you’re considering a divorce, whether you’re the wealthier or the less wealthy spouse, you should take the time to retain a skilled Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney to help you ensure that the alimony ordered in your case is a fair outcome.

Unfortunately, in several areas of the law, society evolves and changes faster than the law. In some ways, that’s good, as the law should be a stable and consistent thing. Other times, though, it isn’t, such as when it doesn’t keep up with important shifts in the way people live. Believing that some of Florida’s alimony laws fall into the latter category, some members of the state legislature have, once again, championed alimony reform, with HB 843 having been introduced in the legislature in December.

One of the key targets that HB 843 seek to reform is the concept of permanent alimony. Generally speaking, permanent alimony means that the recipient spouse is entitled to continue receiving payments until she dies or remarries (or, in some situations, begins cohabiting with a partner.)

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