Articles Posted in In the News (Divorce)

Florida Family Court Judge and former prosecutor Susan Aramony, of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court (Broward Circuit), passed away in her Fort Lauderdale home on Monday April 8, 2013.

Ms. Aramony graduated from Emory University School of Law in 1981 and went on to lead a successful career as a prosecutor. After graduation, Ms. Aramony served as a Broward County Assistant State Attorney for the Juvenile Division of Broward County. Prior to her appointment to the bench, Ms. Aramony had ascended to head of the Juvenile Division. During this time, Ms. Aramony operated as a member of the Gang Activity Prevention Advisory Board and as the chairwoman of the Juvenile Justice Board of Broward County.

After having served over 12 years in the Juvenile Division, Governor Jeb Bush appointed her as the Unified Family Court Judge of the 17th Circuit, Broward Circuit in December 1999, taking office the following January. Then-governor Jeb Bush explained his motivation in selecting Ms. Aramony, stating that “Susan’s hands-on experience as an assistant state attorney within Florida’s legal system has given her the knowledge and skills needed to do a tremendous job”. According to Bush, her experience in the juvenile system gave her the perspective to see the harmful effects crime has on the family unit and how to best be fair to the parties. In 2008, Ms. Aramony was re-elected as County Family Court Judge for an additional six year term.

Ms. Aramony’s reputation was renowned throughout the Florida family court system, and her thirteen year legacy on the bench has garnered admiration for her character and dedication. Chief Administrative Judge Peter Weinstein described Ms. Aramony as “one of the most caring, kind and concerned human beings I’ve ever known”. These views were shared by Broward County’s top defense attorneys and prosecutor, with State Attorney Mike Satz describing her as “a very good person who touched the lives of many, many people” and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein recounting that Ms. Aramony was “always fair, as a judge and as a prosecutor”.

Aramony’s family has expressed their wishes that cause of death not be disclosed but mentioned that she was home at rest with her husband and sons when she passed away. However, according to the Daily Business Review Broward affiliate, Ms. Aramony had suffered a long battle with cancer.
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Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court agreed for the first time to hear two cases that challenge state and federal laws that define marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. One case challenges a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex spouses in states where gay marriage is legal. Depending on how the Court rules, the other case may decide whether Americans have a constitutional right to marry a partner of the same sex.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear two of seven recently appealed cases that deal with same-sex relationships. The Court’s review will take place at a time when nationwide surveys reportedly show a majority of Americans support same-sex unions. In February 2011, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. stated although the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) would continue to be enforced, President Obama believes the law is unconstitutional and would no longer defend it against legal challenges. In addition, nine states now authorize gay couples to marry.

One case the Court agreed to review is a challenge to Section 3 of DOMA. The case arose after one member of a same-sex couple who was married in Canada died. Although the surviving partner inherited all of her spouse’s property, she was required to pay more than $360,000 in estate taxes despite the union. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit struck down DOMA, and the case was quickly appealed. The other case that will be heard by the Supreme Court challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage. Although the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held the ban was unconstitutional, it is unclear whether the high court will limit its holding in the case to the State of California.

Although a number of states now allow gay marriage, many couples face hurdles with regard to Social Security survivor benefits, filing joint tax returns, and inheritance taxes. Gay couples who marry legally and later relocate often face additional legal difficulties. In addition, same-sex couples who split currently face what many refer to as the “gay divorce tax” because a transfer of wealth between former partners is generally more costly from a federal tax perspective. If you are facing the end of a same-sex or other long-term relationship in Florida, a competent family law attorney can explain your legal rights and obligations.

In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed the Florida Defense of Marriage Act. Under the law, the State of Florida will not recognize same-sex unions whether or not they were entered into legally in another state. Although gay and unmarried couples cannot divorce in Florida, important legal issues may be addressed in a legal separation agreement. A separation will normally divide a former couple’s property and debt and address both child custody and support. Facing the end of any long-term relationship is difficult. If you have questions, contact a qualified family lawyer to help you protect your rights.
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According to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, a husband’s relationship with his wife’s family is a good indicator of future marriage success. A forthcoming study published in the journal Family Relations analyzed 373 married couples over a 26-year-period. At the beginning of the study, all couples were married for less than one year and each spouse was between the ages of 25 and 37. Researchers asked each member of the couple to rate how close they felt to their spouse’s family and then followed the success of each marriage over time. The study reportedly found that couples were 20 percent more likely to remain married when the husband had a good relationship with his in-laws. In addition, couples in which the wife had a good relationship with her spouse’s family were reportedly 20 percent more likely to end their marriage.

Lead study author, Dr Terri Orbuch, believes the disparity may arise from the differing ways in which men and women view themselves and their familial relationships. Orbuch said relationships are generally more important to women, so it is a positive characteristic when a man gets along with his wife’s family. For women, Orbuch stated, their role as a wife and mother tends to be very important. Orbuch believes women may become too involved in their husband’s family and fail to set boundaries. Consequently, any statements made by even a well-meaning in-law are often interpreted as meddling. Men, on the other hand, allegedly identify most with their role as a provider. According to Orbuch, husbands are simply much less likely to take the actions of their in-laws personally.

Sadly, 46 percent of the couples in the study later divorced. Although no one expects divorce to happen to them, about half of all marriages in the United States will eventually be dissolved. If you are considering marriage, you should discuss entering into a premarital agreement with your future spouse. A prenuptial agreement is a contract between the members of a couple that is signed prior to marriage. Normally, such an agreement will address how a couple’s assets will be distributed if the marriage ends. It will also describe any spousal support obligations that may arise in the event of a divorce or the death of a spouse. Entering into a premarital agreement is always a smart move. Many Florida couples who fail to enter into a prenuptial agreement before they marry later regret their decision. If you have questions about premarital agreements, you should contact a skilled family law attorney.
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Last month, North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre’s nephew, Ricardo Brutus, was recently arrested and charged with felony charges for practicing law without a license. He was released from the Miami-Dade County Jail after posting a $25,000 bond.

Brutus’s arrest comes while he is awaiting trial in a separate case. He was previously arrested on March 25, 2011 and charged with unlawful compensation.

His recent charges stem from a Florida Bar complaint by a lawyer who claims that Brutus signed his name on two Miami divorce petitions filed in 2009. The lawyer who reported Brutus stated that he paid him to file cases or complete petitions, but he did not authorize him to sign documents which should only be filed by divorce lawyers in South Florida.

35-year-old World Wrestling Entertainment star and Tampa resident John Cena has reportedly filed for divorce from his high school sweetheart after three years of marriage. According to Cena’s divorce filing, the couple’s marriage is “irretrievably broken.” His soon to be ex-wife, Liz Huberdeau, has allegedly hired the same Miami divorce attorney who represented Linda Hogan in her divorce from former professional wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan. In that case, Hogan’s ex-wife was awarded nearly 70 percent of the couple’s assets.

Cena is currently worth an estimated $18 million. Prior to the couple’s wedding, Huberdeau reportedly signed a prenuptial agreement that will make it difficult for her to access most of Cena’s assets. According to some news reports, the agreement even allows Cena to recover gifts given to his wife during the couple’s marriage. Although Cena is unlikely to be required to share the bulk of his assets with his soon to be ex-wife, it will be interesting to see how the court handles the case since the couple has been involved in a relationship for the past 14 years. They do not have any children.

The split is expected to get ugly as reports claim Huberdeau was shocked when Cena filed for divorce. Although the couple was allegedly having marital issues, Huberdeau was reportedly convinced they would be worked out amicably. According to news reports, Cena asked Huberdeau to sign a pre-divorce settlement agreement prior to filing for divorce. She allegedly refused to sign the document.

In the State of Florida, a prenuptial agreement is a written contract signed prior to a marriage that outlines how a couple’s assets will be divided in the event of divorce or death. Cena should benefit from having a prenuptial agreement in place prior to his marriage as negotiations over assets and spousal support obligations should have been decided well in advance of the marriage. Unfortunately, it is common for individuals with few assets to enter into a marriage without a prenuptial agreement in place. Too often, they later regret their choice.

Postnuptial agreements can also be a useful tool for Florida couples who are contemplating a separation or divorce. A postnuptial agreement will normally address how marital assets will be divided and outline any spousal support obligations. Although such agreements may also include provisions regarding child custody and support, they are always subject to modification by a Florida family law court.
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More than $31 million in last minute statewide budget cuts have Florida’s court clerks scrambling to reduce costs. Proposed funding to the various offices was cut in the last two weeks of the 2012 legislative session. As a result of the budget cuts, the state’s court clerks claim civil cases such as divorces will likely be significantly delayed well into 2013.

Court clerks receive, process, and store all Florida case documents. Their budgets were cut by 17 percent in 2009. After lawmakers cut court clerk budgets by another seven percent earlier this year, the clerks held an emergency meeting on March 14th to discuss the ramifications. Sharon Bock, Palm Beach County Clerk, said her office alone has seen a $10 million decrease in funding during the last three years. Bock believes she cannot operate the court in a constitutional manner if she reduces her staff any further. Instead, she plans on tabling technology expenditures and cutting staff overtime. As a result, Bock has warned that civil courts in Palm Beach County will be disturbed and residents can expect to have their patience tested.

Bock predicts lines will be longer this year at the Palm Beach County Clerk’s office. She also believes a general backlog in civil cases such as divorces will necessarily follow the most recent round of budget cuts. The constitution mandates due process and the right to a speedy trial in criminal cases. Unfortunately for divorcing couples and others, such requirements do not extend to civil cases. Constitutional requirements, budget cuts, and an increase in foreclosure and red-light camera ticket cases means more civil cases will likely be delayed.

If you are considering divorce, it is important to remember that Florida is a no-fault divorce state. This means no one needs to be blamed for the end of a Florida marriage. If the parents of minor children choose to dissolve their marriage, the former couple’s final judgment of divorce will include a custody arrangement and a parenting plan, also called a time-sharing plan. A Florida time-sharing plan will outline which parent a child will spend overnights, holidays, and other days with each week or month. If you are faced with divorce or another stressful family law matter, it is a good idea to contact an experienced Florida family law attorney to help you navigate the legal process. Having legal counsel on your side during a contested marital or family law matter can have a significant effect on your future.
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Broward Circuit Judge Susan F. Greenhawt, the present administrative judge of the unified family court, has notified Governor Rick Scott that she is retiring from her nine year tenure on the bench, effective June 30, 2012.

Divorce lawyers in Fort Lauderdale have been informed by Chief Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein that Circuit Judge Arthur Birken will step in and become the administrative judge of the unified family court. Judge Birken presently presides over marital and family law cases involving alimony, child support, time-sharing, parenting plans and paternity.

Judge Weinstein was surprised when Judge Greenhawt informed him in February of her plans to leave the bench and become a mediator. Judge Weinstein, along with many marital and family lawyers in Broward County, Florida, believe that Judge Greenhawt has displayed an extraordinary work ethic.

Two bills passed by the Florida House died in the Senate as the legislative session ended on March 9th. House Bill 549 would have put an end to permanent alimony in the State of Florida. House Bill 1209 was designed to ban Florida courts from considering foreign or religious law in legal decisions. As the session ended, the Florida Senate chose not to call either bill to the floor for a vote. Proponents of both measures have vowed to reintroduce the proposed laws in the future.

A spokesperson for the Florida Alimony Reform group, Alan Frisher, expressed disappointment in the Senate’s failure to pass alimony reform during the recent legislative session. According to Frisher, current alimony laws promote extended periods of animosity between ex-spouses. He believes the state should instead focus on the length of a couple’s marriage as well as transitional alimony which would purportedly encourage both spouses to become self-sufficient. Frisher stated the organization will continue to fight to change the state’s allegedly antiquated alimony laws. The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar Association strongly opposed House Bill 549 and the organization’s head, David Manz, referred to the Florida Alimony Reform group as a vocal minority.

The Florida Senate also declined to vote on House Bill 1209, “Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases.” Although the measure did not single out Islamic law, it was often referred to by critics as the the “anti-Sharia” bill. If re-elected, Senate sponsor Alan Hays of Umatilla plans on reintroducing the measure in the next legislative session. Opponents of the failed measure have stated such a law is unnecessary and expressed concern over the intent of the bill as well as its effect on family law matters such as divorce and child custody. According to Hays, the measure was simply designed to ensure United States law is the only law considered by Florida courts.

In Florida, a court may award alimony where there is a need on the part of the alimony receiver and an ability to pay on the part of the alimony payor. A needs assessment will examine the distribution of marital assets and the couple’s standard of living prior to the divorce. If the potential alimony receiver has the ability to maintain the same standard of living after all assets are distributed, a Florida court generally will not award alimony.

Each year, many Americans find themselves in the midst of divorce proceedings. Although the range of emotions associated with the end of a marriage can feel overwhelming, the financial damage can also be devastating. If you are faced with the dissolution of your marriage, contact a qualified divorce attorney to help you protect your interests. An experienced divorce lawyer will discuss your options with you and help you file your case.
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Last week, the Florida House passed a bill which would ban all courts in the state from considering foreign or religious law in legal decisions and contract disputes. Despite passionate opposition from a variety of religious activist groups as well as two Jewish lawmakers, House Bill 1209 passed with a vote of 92-24. Although approximately 50 witnesses were on hand Tuesday to provide statements against the bill, lawmakers chose not to allow their testimony and instead went straight to the floor for a vote.

Critics refer to House Bill 1209 as the “anti-Sharia” bill in reference to religious based Islamic law. Although the bill was passed by a wide margin, Representatives Jim Waldman of Coconut Creek and Elaine Schwartz of Hollywood strongly opposed the bill. Representative Schwartz stated thousands of her constituents wrote to her expressing their concern over the measure. Because the bill would ensure Florida law trumps religious or foreign law in family law cases such as divorce and child custody disputes, she also expressed worry regarding how the law would affect divorces mediated by Jewish tribunals.

The bill, titled “Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases,” was sponsored by Representative Larry Metz of Eustis who stated the proposed law was designed to prevent Florida courts from upholding Islamic law as has recently occurred in other parts of the country. He also stated he believes the law is fair because it applies to every foreign and religious law equally. Representative Metz cited increasing economic internationalization as an additional factor behind the law. He sponsored a similar ball last year.

Carin Marie Porras, chair-elect of the Florida Bar Association’s Family Law Section, believes the proposed law impairs the rights of Florida citizens. She stated Florida courts do not currently consider foreign laws that contradict public policy. The law’s effect on divorce and family law has the potential to be widespread. Before the bill becomes law, it must be approved by the Florida Senate. An identical Senate Bill 1360 is now under consideration by state lawmakers.

Each year many Americans find themselves in the midst of divorce proceedings. The range of emotions associated with the end of a marriage can feel overwhelming. The financial damage that can accompany a divorce can also be devastating. If you find yourself faced divorce, you owe it to yourself to consult with a qualified divorce attorney to help you protect your financial and other interests. An experienced divorce attorney will discuss your options with you and help you file your case.
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The members of the bar and bench are mourning the death of Maxine Cohen Lando, a veteran Miami-Dade Circuit Judge who died today at Mount Sinai Medical Center from cholangiocarcinoma, a bile duct cancer. She was 61.

Since spring of 2011, Judge Lando had undergone surgery and chemotherapy. Her condition began to deteriorate when she fell at the courthouse in October 2011. She had been in the hospital since February 2012.

Judge Lando began her legal career 40 years ago at the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s office. She was an Assistant Public Defender from 1974 to 1985, where she served in the Felony Division, and was a Senior Trial Assistant for both the Juvenile Division and the Misdemeanor and Traffic Division.