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Articles Posted in Divorce

The law office of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., recently secured an important victory in the Third District Court of Appeal on behalf of a Miami-Dade divorce client who had received an unfair ruling in the trial court. The court of appeal’s decision overturning that trial court ruling is an important reminder of the profound importance of having the right legal team in your corner. It is also a reminder that, while the law gives trial court judges very broad discretion in making their rulings, there are limits on what they can do.

The divorce case involved, among other things, the issues of alimony, child support and a parenting plan. The wife was a successful attorney who worked for the federal government and made more than $113,000 per year. The husband was a disabled former construction worker who made less than $30,000 per year, all from various forms of government benefits.

The spouses were able to use mediation successfully and resolve the division of their assets and liabilities. They also worked out a parenting plan at that time. When the case went to a hearing before the court, the spouses asked the judge to decide alimony, child support, and to adopt the parenting plan. The judge indicated that the parenting plan would be ratified.

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There are lots of things that can “sneak up” on you, but a judgment of divorce shouldn’t be one of them. If you’ve received notice that your spouse has obtained something called a “default judgment of dissolution of marriage,” chances are high that you didn’t have an attorney. If that happens, you may not know what to do. Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do: don’t panic, don’t despair and definitely don’t give up. Instead, do reach out to an experienced South Florida family law attorney who can help you explore your options for reversing that default judgment and getting an outcome that’s fairer to you.

The law prefers that all cases – especially family law matters – be resolved on their merits, not on procedural bases. This gives your request to overturn a default judgment enhanced odds of success.

For example, consider this South Florida husband’s divorce and default judgment case. His wife filed for divorce. The husband submitted an answer that said he didn’t oppose dissolution, but he did oppose the equitable distribution the wife proposed.

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When going through a divorce, the #1 issue for most spouses is their minor children. In terms of inanimate objects, though, the most valuable asset with which most divorcing spouses must deal is the marital home. Obviously, one of the last things you want is to have your name on the mortgage if your spouse is the one remaining in the home after the divorce. No one wants to be attached to a debt for a home they have no legal right to occupy. There are ways to safeguard yourself financially, both before and during a divorce. One of those ways is by retaining a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney to make sure you are fully protected.

Refinancing a marital home after a divorce can be a particularly tricky thing here in South Florida. Given the area’s tendency to undergo large fluctuation in home prices, the marital home you’re seeking to address may have a ton of equity, or it may be underwater (meaning you owe more than it’s currently worth.)

Often, when two spouses divorce, one will desire to keep the house. The other spouse, in order to protect him/herself, will insist that the spouse staying in the home refinance the outstanding mortgage loan to finance the property in the receiving spouse’s name only. However, given the complexities of the mortgage lending industry and the volatile value of South Florida real estate, refinancing may be easier said than done. So, you may wonder, what happens if your ex-spouse got the house, but your name is still on the mortgage? That was the quandary faced by one Palm Beach County spouse in his divorce case recently.

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Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about states decriminalizing the use of marijuana. There is, however, another decriminalization movement underway that you’ve likely heard less about. The State of Utah did it in 2019, and Virginia took action earlier this year. Bills are under consideration in Minnesota and New York. What is it that’s being decriminalized with such increased frequency lately? Adultery and/or fornication.

While lots of states are taking action, Florida isn’t one of them. Section 798.01 of the Florida Statutes makes “living in open adultery” a second-degree misdemeanor. It’s been on the books since the 19th Century, and the Legislature has not yet taken action to repeal it.

While you technically can face a fine of up to $500 and spend up to 60 days in jail for open adultery, there are only certain specific situations where an extramarital affair – whether yours or your spouse’s – will have an impact on what the judge decides in your divorce.

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If you have a court order that obligates you to pay a reasonable amount of alimony to your ex-spouse and you’re capable of paying it, then the best thing you can do is… pay it. Of course, life isn’t always that simple, especially in this time of coronavirus-fueled economic instability, which is affecting more and more ex-spouses who are under court orders to pay alimony. If your court-ordered amount is more than you can pay or is otherwise unreasonable, then you should reach out as soon as possible to an experienced South Florida family law attorney so that your attorney can begin working on getting your alimony obligation modified.

Simply allowing yourself to fall behind on alimony is almost never the right answer, and can come with some serious consequences. However, even if you have made the mistake of racking up an alimony arrearage, failure to pay does not mean that you are without any rights. You are still entitled to certain legal protections and there are still certain processes and procedures the court must go through before administering certain penalties.

As an example, we can look at a recent alimony case from Broward County. That husband owed alimony to his ex-wife in excess of $600,000, and the wife filed a motion to find the husband in contempt.

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As anyone who’s been through divorce litigation knows, getting a favorable ruling from the judge is a huge step, but it may not be the last step. There may be occasions where, despite a clear order from the court, your ex-spouse doesn’t do what he/she was supposed to do. This is one of the many reasons why it pays to have a skilled South Florida family law attorney on your side: so that you can not only win your case in court, but can win the legal battles that come afterward.

For example, look at A.L. and K.M., a married couple who created a postnuptial agreement. That agreement said that the wife would pay the husband a one-time equitable distribution payment. The payment, which was $250,000, was due within seven days of the spouses’ signing of the agreement.

The wife didn’t pay the whole $250,000, though. Instead, she paid $225,000. The husband responded by filing a contempt motion. The magistrate who heard the case initially recommended that the court rule in favor of the husband and order the wife to pay the remaining $25,000.

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Many families with children – even those where divorce is involved – may go through the children’s entire formative years with everyone living in one state. For a lot of other families, though, that’s not the case. When you’re in that latter group, any legal disputes regarding parental responsibility and timesharing can become profoundly more complicated and may possibly force you to have to litigate in some far-away state. Having a skilled South Florida family law attorney by your side can provide you with immense benefit when it comes to seeking to avoid such a disadvantageous situation.

The story of an ended marriage with children and a post-separation family spread across two states hit the news recently. Devoted fans of the Real Housewives of New York reality TV show will undoubtedly recognize the name “Jules Wainstein” as one of the cast members during Season 8. People following celebrity “gossip” news will also recognize Jules Wainstein as a new divorcee. People.com reported that she and her husband, Michael, who share two children and who separated in 2016, received their final judgment of divorce this fall. Although Wainstein and her husband resided in Manhattan, she told BravoTV that she and the kids “temporarily” relocated here to South Florida, living with her parents in Boca Raton.

The mother’s comments to Bravo seem to indicate a clear intent to return to the Big Apple but, certainly, Wainstein wouldn’t be the first New Yorker who “temporarily” moved to South Florida and ultimately decided to stay. If the mother and children were to remain in Florida, any child custody issues that they would have to litigate in the future would implicate a statute known as the “Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act,” or UCCJEA.

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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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