Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
Board Certified in Marital & Family Law
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houseWhen a couple divorces, there are several things they must work through in order to reach a settlement agreement, including the division of their property. Sometimes, parties may make certain payments contingent on other financial events, like the sale of the marital home. Thus, what happens if the house is put up for sale, but no one buys it? Issues like this highlight just how important it is to negotiate thoroughly and draft carefully any marital settlement agreement that you sign. When it comes to marital settlement agreements, it pays to have an experienced Florida property division attorney on your side.

A recent case involving this type of settlement agreement dispute involved the divorce of Jonathan and Angela. The couple worked out a marital settlement agreement in their divorce case that stated that they agreed to sell their marital home. They later amended the agreement to dictate that the home had a fair market value of $725,000 and an outstanding mortgage of $328,000. They agreed that each spouse was entitled to 50% of the equity in the home, meaning that each spouse was entitled to $198,500.

To accomplish this distribution, the agreement required the wife to sign over her one-half interest in the home to the husband. The husband agreed to pay the wife $80,000 within 10 days and the remaining $118,500 when the sale of the home closed.

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infidelitySometimes, divorces cases can be amicable or straightforward…or even both. Other times, though, they are the furthest thing from amicable or straightforward. Parties may seek to use whatever they have at their disposal that they think will give them leverage in getting the outcome they want. Sometimes, they engage in improper tactics. When that happens, there may be recourse for the spouse who was harmed by the other spouse’s improper conduct. As with almost any legal issue, however, the law only gives you a limited time to act. That’s why, if you think you’ve been a victim of coercion or duress in your divorce settlement, or that your spouse has otherwise acted improperly, you should talk to an experienced Florida divorce attorney right away.

One recent case from North Florida involved an apparently salacious example of potential coercion or duress. The underlying action was a complicated divorce litigation case involving a Jacksonville-area attorney and his wife. At some point while the divorce case was going forward, the husband encountered a serious problem. He had a mistress, and his wife had pictures of her husband and the other woman. The appeals court’s opinion stated that the wife “allegedly obtained” pictures of the husband and mistress that were “of a private nature.” The appeals court’s opinion did not elaborate further on the exact “private nature” of the images or precisely how the wife came to be in possession of those photos.

Regardless, the wife allegedly used the photos as leverage, threatening the husband with their public release if he did not agree to settle the couple’s divorce case on terms she preferred. In his court papers, the husband asserted that the divorce mediator told the husband that, if he did not give the wife “what she wanted,” he’d end up owing alimony, child support, and the wife’s attorneys’ fees, in addition to receiving no timesharing with the couple’s children. The husband capitulated to the wife’s demands.

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cashPursuing a family law case can be expensive. Attorneys’ fees and costs can be very costly. Sometimes, the fear of the cost of pursuing your legal claims may work as a barrier to filing. Concern about costs should not make you surrender your legal rights. In certain cases, the law may allow you to obtain a court order that requires your opponent to pay your attorneys’ fees and costs. Having representation from an experienced Florida family law attorney can help you ensure that you are protecting your rights and availing yourself of all possible options.

On the issue of attorneys’ fees, the Fifth District Court of Appeal, whose decisions affect cases originating in Orange County (Orlando), Marion County (Ocala), and Volusia County (Daytona Beach), among others, made an important ruling with regard to attorneys’ fees earlier this month. The case that triggered the ruling was a paternity action filed in Brevard County. Eventually, that case went before the Fifth DCA.

The mother, as part of her appeals case, asked the court to grant her an award of her appellate attorneys’ fees under Section 742.045 of the Florida Statutes. The mother acknowledged that a previous Fifth DCA ruling from 1999, Starkey v. Linn, specifically stated that parties can’t recover appellate attorneys’ fees in paternity cases, but she argued that the 1999 case was wrongly decided and that the court should award her fees in spite of that ruling.

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hourglassIn any family law case, it is important to keep your case moving forward. Depending on the details of your case, a failure to take action within a specific period of time can have disastrous consequences. As a respondent, it can result in a default judgment against you in which the other side gets exactly what they want. As a petitioner, it could mean that your case gets dismissed on procedural grounds, regardless of the merit of your claim. However, sometimes, a court may conclude that you’ve not acted within the allotted time when, in fact, you have. What do you do then? It is in these and other times when it pays to have experienced Florida paternity counsel handling your case.

An example of this type of scenario, and a party’s successful handling of this challenge, was a paternity action filed by a man named José. While many people may think of paternity actions as cases brought by mothers seeking court orders declaring certain men to be legal fathers of their children (and, as a result, obligated by law to provide support for those children), there are actually several reasons why a man might choose to file a paternity case. For example, a man may know or believe that he is the biological father of a child whose mother is not his wife. In a case in which the mother and father aren’t married, the father may file a paternity case to obtain a court order that declares him the legal father, which triggers all of the parental rights established under Florida law.

Apparently, a period of inactivity occurred in José’s case because, on Jan. 25, 2017, the trial court or court clerk dismissed José’s lawsuit “for lack of prosecution.” The term “lack of prosecution,” in a civil lawsuit, means that the plaintiff took no action for a certain prolonged period, and, because of that inactivity, the court was entitled to throw out the case. Florida’s family law procedural rules state that, if a plaintiff in a family law case does nothing for 10 months, the court can serve notice that the case is at risk of dismissal. If another 60 days goes by after the notice with still no activity in the case, the case can be dismissed.

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cashLife is full of twists, turns, and surprises. Sometimes, your family law issues can turn out to be the same way. Even though you may think that you have a firm grasp on everything that your case will entail, there can be unexpected events. It could be learning some previously undiscovered fact, or it could be something related to the law or procedural rules affecting your case. These are all reasons to have an experienced Florida alimony lawyer on your side. With a skilled attorney handling your case, you can respond appropriately, even when unusual or unplanned things happen.

A man named David found himself in such a scenario when going through the court system in South Florida. He and his wife, Liudmyla, were going through a divorce in Broward County. As part of that case, the wife asked for alimony. The judge denied the request entirely when he entered the final judgment of divorce. Some time later, the wife made a motion for disqualification, which meant that she was asking the judge to remove himself from the case. The judge granted that request, and David and Liudmyla’s case was reassigned to a different trial court judge in Broward County.

Two months later, the wife made a new request, this one with the new judge, asking for an award of temporary alimony pending appeal. In many situations, the correct way for a judge in Florida to decide a spouse’s entitlement to alimony is to weigh the requesting spouse’s need against the would-be supporting spouse’s ability to pay. The second judge reviewed the facts on the record in the case and, after weighing David’s ability to pay versus Liudmyla’s need, awarded temporary alimony to the wife.

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marital residence“Self help” is a phrase often used in legal cases involving landlords and tenants. It generally refers to a landlord who decides to throw out a tenant on his own, without going through the proper legal procedures required for an eviction. Serious negative consequences can befall a landlord who engages in self help. While the phrase “self help” doesn’t exist in Florida family law cases, a similar truth exists. If you think your ex-spouse has violated the terms of your marital settlement agreement, and you decide to respond by taking matters into your own hands and acting on your own without going through the proper legal channels, it can create significant problems for you. It is a much better plan, instead, to retain an experienced attorney to help you protect your interests.

One common situation in which this type of problem crops up, and was at issue again in a very recent Fourth District Court of Appeal case that originated in Palm Beach County, relates to the marital residence. Many marital settlement agreements may give the exclusive use and possession of the home to one spouse but require that the spouses share the responsibility for paying the mortgage on the home. These agreements may impose certain restrictions on what the spouse who takes the home can and cannot do. For example, an agreement might give the home to the wife but prohibit any unrelated males from living in the home while the wife has sole possession.

So let’s say a couple has an agreement like the one described above, but the wife moves her boyfriend into the house. What can the husband do? Can he simply stop paying his half of the mortgage? No, he generally cannot. Furthermore, if the home is the residence of not just the ex-wife but also the couple’s children, the consequences facing the husband if he doesn’t pay can be especially serious. That’s because, in the scenario outlined above, that husband’s payment of 50% of the mortgage is considered to be a type of spousal support and child support. Not paying the mortgage can subject the husband to contempt of court penalties, potentially up to and including jail, the same as any other parent who is not paying their child support.

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retirementIn law, as with a lot of things in life, it pays to be well-versed in the details, be they small or great. For example, if you are preparing to retire, and your transition into retirement means a significant reduction of your income, do you know which rights this change provides when it comes to your alimony obligation? This and other questions are areas in which it pays to have representation from an experienced Florida alimony attorney.

One man facing that type of alimony scenario was Anthony, a firefighter. Anthony had filed for divorce in 2013 after 22 years of marriage. Anthony and his wife, Amy, worked out a marital settlement agreement. The agreement called for the husband to pay the wife $1,250 per month in durational alimony. The agreement said that it became enforceable when both spouses signed it, which happened in mid-September 2014. The trial judge, however, did not sign the final judgment in the divorce case until December 30.

These dates all mattered because of the change that occurred in the husband’s employment. In early December 2014, his pension board approved his retirement, effective Jan. 23, 2015. Three months into his retirement, the husband went back to court to seek a reduction in his alimony obligation. In support of his request, he pointed to his significantly reduced income in retirement.

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gavelDifferent circumstances can create different needs for different couples. Many people going to court seeking an end to their marriage desire a divorce. Sometimes, though, the person filing seeks not a dissolution but an annulment, which has a different impact on the spouses in terms of the rights of each. Regardless of whether you’re going to court to seek a divorce or annulment, one thing remains constant (in these and other cases), which is the parties’ fundamental right to due process of law. Experienced Florida divorce counsel can help you protect your rights as you engage with the legal system.

The case of Jeffrey M. and Karen N., which provided a clear illustration of a due process violation, was the result of the couple’s very brief and presumably unsatisfying marriage. The pair wed on May 9, 2014. A mere seven months later, the husband filed a petition in court, asking the judge to annul the marriage. In his court papers, the husband contended that the pair had separated immediately after the wedding, that they had never lived together as husband and wife, and that they “never consummated the marriage in any manner.”

The pair eventually worked out some of their issues when it came to the payment of certain debts and other financial matters. The wife eventually filed a request seeking to enforce a settlement agreement the two had created.

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gavelThere are several things you should assess before you decide to go to court seeking a modification of a divorce judgment or alimony, child custody/timesharing, child support, or other family law-related court order. First, you have to “have a case,” meaning that the facts of your case must indicate that the law is potentially on your side. Second, you have to be entitled by the law to bring your case in the place where you want to file (which is known as “jurisdiction”). If you don’t have these things, you likely won’t be able to achieve the outcome you want. An experienced Florida child custody attorney can help you make these types of analyses and determine a path forward for you and your family.

The issue of jurisdiction can potentially trip up litigants because it involves a more technical understanding of legal and procedural intricacies. Take, as an example, the case of Clifton, who lived in Jacksonville. Some years earlier, Clifton had married Elizabeth, and the couple had three children. The couple later divorced, and a New York court entered the divorce order terminating the marriage. The couple agreed that the mother would be the primary residential parent and that the father would pay child support until the children turned age 21.

As happens for a lot of families, things evolved over time. The two older children had each turned 18, and one of them had moved in with the father in Florida. The mother and the other two children lived in Georgia.

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holiday treeIt is once again fast approaching the “Holiday Season” time of year. For many people, especially those with children, that can mean hosting family from out of town or making travel arrangements to visit faraway relatives. For some families, though, the holidays are more complicated. For divorced parents with minor children, reaching a workable solution for the holidays can be challenging and, sometimes, may even require the involvement of the courts, as one recent South Florida case exemplified. If your holiday visitation situation has become so complex that it seems like it may require litigation, you should make sure you have skilled Florida child custody counsel on your side.

One important thing to remember if you are going through a paternity case or a divorce case is that Florida law clearly states that both parents should receive shared parental responsibility unless the judge makes a finding “that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.” In the majority of cases, the judge is not going to make such a finding and is going to order shared parental responsibility for the child.

Additionally, courts have wide latitude when it comes to timesharing orders. A court can even order that one parent receive no visitation with a child. However, that occurs only in a small fraction of cases. In the large majority in which visitation is awarded, the non-custodial parent has certain rights when it comes to getting the children (or child) over the holidays.