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Articles Posted in Divorce

When you’ve decided to divorce, it can go one of two ways. It can be adversarial, with issues decided by the judge, or it can be more collaborative, with the two spouses working out some or all issues through negotiation. It obviously pays to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney in the first scenario. What too many people overlook, though, is that a knowledge family law attorney can also provide invaluable aid in the second scenario, too. So, whether you are reaching your divorce outcome through litigation, negotiation or some of both, be sure you have the quality legal help you need.

You might wonder why you’d need legal representation in a divorce where you are trying to negotiate an outcome out of court. There are several reasons, actually. For one thing, there’s no guarantee that you’ll settle all your issues and never have to litigate anything before the judge. Secondly, a seasoned attorney can help you assess whether the terms your spouse has offered are fair or are unreasonable.

Thirdly, the right attorney can protect you in the event that a dispute arises about what has happened during the negotiation process and what legal meaning those processes should hold. That was the case for one husband in Panama City.

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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the signs are everywhere… in some places, literally. In the Tampa Bay area, a billboard contains the name, website and phone number for a divorce law firm on the bottom half. On the top half, it says in large all caps “COVIDIVORCE.” In fact, #COVIDivorce has been trending on social media for months. What all of this reflects so clearly is one undeniable reality: the COVID-19 pandemic and its stay-at-home orders, job losses and distance-learning educational issues have upped the stresses on families and have increased the number of married spouses who no longer want to be married. If the events of these last 6+ months have led you to the unavoidable conclusion that your marriage is hopelessly broken, be aware that the courts and legal system remain operational during this time of pandemic, so you should reach out without delay to contact a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney.

As CBS Miami reported in early September, the uptick in spouses contacting local family law attorneys about getting a divorce began just three weeks after the government’s stay-at-home orders went into effect in Miami-Dade and surrounding counties. While the courts were closed for a time, local family courts have begun to utilize various emerging technologies to re-start the provision of services while still minimizing the risk of mass transmission of COVID-19.

For one, the courts in Miami-Dade County have Zoom hearings. These hearings allow for you to move your case forward while still maintaining the optimal level of distance. Additionally, the courts in Miami-Dade County are now encouraging parties who are handling their cases without an attorney to sign up on the Florida Courts e-Filing Portal system. That system allows parties to turn in their pleadings and other documents to the court over the internet.

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Here in Florida, as in every state, the time that you have for pursuing your rights in a civil court action is limited. These deadlines are called statutes of limitations or limitations periods. If you wait too long to file your lawsuit, the other side can seek a dismissal of your action, and can get it thrown out no matter how strong your factual evidence is. So, if your ex-spouse isn’t doing what he/she promised under the terms of your marital settlement agreement, then it’s important to know just how long you have to act, and make sure you’re not waiting too long. For this and other essential pieces of legal knowledge, rely on advice from an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

While all kinds of legal actions where you’re seeking enforcement of your marital settlement agreement have a limitations period, not all of those periods are the same length of time, as a recent case from southwest Florida illustrates.

In that case, the spouses signed a marital settlement agreement in March 1997. The agreement called for the husband to pay the wife the sum of $487,000, either as one lump sum due Jan. 1, 2001, or as five installment payments (plus interest) due on Dec. 31, 2001 and each Dec. 31 thereafter.

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While marital settlement agreements (MSAs) are unique in some ways, they are also a lot like any other contract in many ways. As you progress toward a final agreement, there are several checkboxes that must be checked. Does the agreement include everything you must have? Does the agreement contain none of the terms that you consider a “deal-breaker?” If yes, then you have the framework of a potentially workable agreement. Doing this, though, means taking ultimate care because, whatever happens later, you’ll still be bound by the terms of the MSA you signed. To make sure the MSA you’re signing is an MSA that is truly fair, get the legal representation you need from the right South Florida divorce attorney.

As an illustration of what we mean, there’s the recent case of M.J. and B.J. from the Tampa Bay area. The couple divorced after 26 years of marriage. Generally, in cases decided by a judge, a marriage of 26 years qualifies as a “long-term” marriage and the spouse who receives alimony is entitled to receive permanent alimony.

This husband avoided that outcome by working out an MSA with his wife that included an alimony provision. The agreement said that the husband would pay the wife, who was 54 years old at the time of the MSA’s signing, durational alimony of $4,500 per month for eight years. The agreement also stated that the duration of the alimony could not be changed later through a modification action. The contract said nothing about the wife getting a job during those eight years.

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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.

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