Category Archives: Divorce Law

How to Tell Your Kids About Divorce

talking to your kids about divorce

Maybe you tried everything you could to make your marriage work, but the unfortunate reality is that it is not. Sometimes, couples feel as though the only way to create a happier life each partner is to separate and move on with their lives apart. While this may make each spouse more comfortable in the long run, during the short-term, you still have to deal with the day-to-day of going through a divorce. If you have children, this can be even more complicated. You may be wondering how to tell your kids about divorce.

How to Tell Your Kids About Divorce

As scary and disrupting as divorce can be, the fact of the matter is that it is pretty common. According to the American Psychological Association, 40-50% of married couples in the U.S. divorce, and the rate increases for subsequent marriages. Even if you have not been through a divorce before in your family, the chances are that if you have older children, half of their friends have been through the divorce process in their families. Therefore, older children may be susceptible to rumors or negative stories from their peers regarding the process of divorce.

Each separation is different than others, and people divorce for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, when speaking to your children, make sure to be very clear without giving away too many details. The line of communication between parent and child should remain open throughout the process. Additionally, the age of the child should be considered when having this conversation, so it is best to speak with a child specialist before diving into this complicated conversation.

Here are a few general tips for telling your kids about divorce.

  • Do not tell your kids that you will be divorcing until it is really going to happen. Many couples may go back and forth trying to decide if it’s right to separate, and it may be tempting to tell the kids in order to get their reaction early on, but this is a mistake. Children need stability in their lives for proper growth, so any disruption in the family will be a challenge. Therefore, you don’t want to send them on an emotional rollercoaster if you can prevent that from happening. Wait until you are sure to have any conversation.
  • Don’t go into details about why the divorce is happening, especially if it paints one of the parents in a particularly bad light. It may make you feel better to tell your child the divorce was a result of the other spouse’s infidelity, but this will not help your child. Keep adult issues between adults, and let your child enjoy their childhood without taking on the burden of the problems of your marriage.
  • Have the conversation as a family unit. If you have multiple children, make sure that all of them are present for the talk. The last thing you want to do is put one child against the other if he or she feels that he gets information first or last. Additionally, make sure that both parents are present for the conversation so that the children understand that this is a family decision and that both parents care for them deeply. This will also help keep gossip among parents and children to a minimum if the conversation happens out in the open together as a family.
  • Try as much as possible to keep a routine for your family throughout the divorce. This may be difficult if parents begin to live in separate homes, but as much as you can do it, stick to the routines that your children know in order to reassure them that their lives will remain steady, simply with mom and dad living in different locations.
  • If possible, connect with a child psychologist or therapist early on in the process to help you and your family emotionally through the separation. By opening up early on, you may be able to help your children move through the divorce and past it without a large amount of emotional damage.
  • As with any change in your child’s life, make sure that you are paying close attention to their moods, and any changes in behaviors or school performance. Significant shifts in life circumstances can cause children to act out in different ways. Parents should pay attention to these changes to help their child cope with divorce in a healthy way.

Divorce is never easy on a family, but it’s imperative that you work with an experienced family law attorney who has your best interest in mind throughout the process. Your attorney will work with you on issues related to asset separation and child support, which can be complicated and require someone with legal knowledge. Your lawyer can also be a great source of advice for handling the intricacies of a family separation.

 

References:

Marriage and Divorce. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

Heidelberger, E. (2019, February 06). How to gently talk to your kids about divorce. Retrieved from https://www.mother.ly/life/how-to-gently-talk-to-your-kids-about-divorce

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What to Know About Your First meeting with Your Divorce Attorney

The decision to get a divorce is extremely difficult. When two people decide that their marriage is no longer working, it can signal the beginning of a long and stressful process of separating two lives that have lived as one. If there are children involved in the marriage, this process can be even more difficult and emotionally draining as the family navigates a life that will be very different from what they are used to. When the decision is made to get a divorce, each spouse should meet with a family attorney to assist them through the process. Here are a few things to keep in mind about your first meeting with your divorce attorney.

Before the Meeting

Before you meet with an attorney, it’s important to do your research. Take some time to find an attorney that is competent in family law, and who has a track record of success for his or her client. Read reviews or ask for a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member. It’s essential that you pick a credible and experienced attorney to assist you through the most challenging time in your life.

You should also make sure that you are prepared before your meeting. Write out questions you want to ask, and have all documentation ready to show your attorney. Your first meeting will contain many questions on both sides as your attorney gets to know you and your marital situation, so it’s crucial that you come prepared to give him or her as much information as you can about your marriage. You must be prepared and focused for this important meeting.

During the Meeting

Your attorney should make you feel comfortable and at ease. If he or she does not, then maybe it is not a good match. It’s important that you trust the person advising you through the divorce proceedings because you don’t want to make the process any longer or main painful than it already will be.

Make sure you take notes during the meeting and ask for a recap or next steps. Your lawyer will charge by the hour, so you want to make sure that you are using your time wisely. Having as much information ready to go and asking for specific instructions on how to proceed will save you time and money moving forward.

The circumstances of your marriage will determine how the meeting will go. If you and your spouse have agreed to an amicable divorce, the meeting may be very different than if the divorce will be contentious. It’s important that you tell your attorney everything that you and your spouse have discussed and agreed upon prior to the meeting. Your attorney should also ask a lot of questions about the state of your marriage and your finances. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal and important when decided alimony and child support or any other separation of assets.

During the meeting, you should be prepared to discuss alimony, child support, and any division of property, assets, or debts. These issues will all be determined over the course of the divorce proceedings, so it’s important that you have an understanding of what should be expected.

Documents to Bring to Your First Meeting with Your Divorce Attorney

Make sure that you bring all financial documents to your first meeting with your divorce attorney. Any documentation that describes the current status of assets owned by you and your spouse should be brought with you. Your financial situation and the status of your marital finances will all be used to determine alimony and child support and other asset and liability distribution following the dissolution of the marriage.

These documents include:

  • Tax Returns- at least three years worth
  • Pension Plans/401(k)s/IRAs
  • Bank & Investment Statements
  • Pay Stubs from the last three paychecks
  • Real Estate documentation such as deeds or mortgages
  • Any other documents that you think would be essential and necessary related to your marital finances

At the end of the meeting, you should feel confident in your attorney’s ability to support your best interests through the divorce proceedings. If this is not the case, it may be a good idea to find a different attorney before you are too far along.

If you are in the process of considering a divorce, it’s important that you contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.

 

References:

Lowenstein, M. S. (2012, February 08). What To Bring to Your First Appointment. Retrieved from https://www.wife.org/lowenstein-002.htm#wrap

 

Guillen, L. (2013, April 03). Your First Meeting With A Divorce Attorney. Retrieved from https://www.divorcenet.com/states/massachusetts/your_first_appointment_with_your_divorce_lawyer

Facts About Prenuptial Agreements in Florida

When two people decide to enter into a marriage, what they are really doing is signing a legal contract of marriage. Though the hope is that they maintain the contract until death, the reality is that many couples that get married also get divorced. Because divorce can be messy, and a separation of assets does not always leave each spouse in the same place or better than, many prospective spouses choose to sign a prenuptial agreement in Florida.

Why Sign a Prenup?

Spouses may want to sign a prenup if one or both of them has a large number of assets that they want to protect in the event of a divorce. If there are children from a previous marriage, the parent of those children may also want to protect their inheritance in the unfortunate event of a divorce. Additionally, a prenuptial agreement may be in place to pre-determine which spouse will be paid alimony and for how long if the marriage contract is broken.

What Can be Included in a Prenuptial Agreement in Florida?

Usually, a prenup will cover the financial rights of each spouse. This includes the ability to manage property and who gets what property in the event of a divorce, as well who will be in charge of the property in the event of a death or other disability.

A prenup will also state what assets will remain with the spouses following a separation or divorce. For instance, if one spouse enters the divorce with significantly more assets than another, he or she may want to protect those assets from being separated if the marriage dissolves.

Life insurance policies, retirement plans, and alimony are also topics that can be included in a prenuptial agreement. However, it’s important to note that the issue of child support cannot be pre-determined through a prenuptial agreement. The courts will calculate Child support at the time of divorce depending on the financial status and ability to care for the children of each parent at that time. Custody of the child will also be determined by a judge based on the child’s best interest at the time of divorce or separation.

Enforceability

A prenuptial agreement must be in writing, and both spouses must sign it. If it is found that one spouse did not sign voluntarily, or was threatened by physical or psychological punishment, the courts may find the agreement void. Additionally, if one spouse was not given fair and responsible disclosure of the other spouse’s financial assets and debts at the time of signing the agreement, the spouse may challenge the validity of the agreement.

Even if the agreement is unfair, it may not be ruled void unless it can be proven that one spouse did not receive accurate and fair information regarding the finances of the other prior to the marriage and signing of the agreement. It’s important that at the time of preparing the prenuptial agreement, both spouses disclose their finances in full.

Changing or Canceling the Agreement

If the spouses want to change or cancel the prenuptial agreement at any time during the marriage, they may do so as long as they put the changes in writing and both sign the document.

It may be sad to think about what would happen in the event of a divorce prior to a marriage, but it is important that each spouse protect themselves financially, especially when it comes to assets that were acquired prior to the marriage. At every step of the way, it would be beneficial to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can help you through the process of preparing a prenuptial agreement.

 

References:

 

Thomas, A. (2015, March 27). Prenuptial Agreements in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/prenuptial-agreements-florida.html

 

 

 

A Father’s Custody Rights During Divorce

fathers rights during divorce in florida

Losing the custody of a child can be the most devastating time in someone’s life. Having time with both parent important for the mental and emotional growth of a child, and also contributes to family happiness. When a family goes through a divorce, everyone loses, but many times fathers lose more than mothers when it comes to having an active role in their child’s life. This may be partly due to a father’s lack of understanding of the law, or fear of going to court to fight for equal custody of their child.

Equal Rights

Fathers should know that during a divorce they have the same legal rights to the child as the mother does, meaning they have equal rights to custody of the child. Each parent has equal standing under the law until there is a signed legal document containing the custody agreement, or the judge hands down his or her opinion on custody. However, if a father does not know this and gives up his full custody rights, he may lose them before he had the opportunity to fight for them.

Equal rights means that if the mother takes the children away from the father, he has just as much right to bring them home. He also has the right to know what is going on with the children at school or at the doctor’s office. Until there is a signed custody agreement, both parents have equality when it comes to matters of the child.

Fear of Fighting

There may be a lot of fighting during a divorce about everything from the family home to special heirlooms. Fathers may feel that they don’t want to drag the subject of custody through the courts for fear of eventually losing out to the mother. Therefore, many fathers may even allow the mother to dictate when he can see the child before a court-ordered custody agreement is in place. This behavior can be detrimental to a father’s ability to gain custody because the longer that a father allows his ex wife to dictate the child’s schedule, the more he may lose favor in the courts, which is why it’s very important for fathers to know that they have equal rights.

Custody and the Courts

According to divorcepeers.com, many custody agreements are decided without ever going to court, and most of them are in favor of the mother. Meaning, there are many men who are giving up their rights before giving themselves a fighting chance.

It’s important that any father who is going through a divorce hire a family law attorney who will fight for his equal rights for custody. Fathers have a right, and arguably an obligation to fight to be a part of their children’s lives on a consistent basis.

If you are a man with children who is going through a divorce, do not let your ex-wife dictate when you can see your children before a custody agreement is signed. Just because someone you know was not granted equal custody by the courts, it does not mean that you will not be given equal custody. Don’t agree to any custody document without consulting with an attorney and fighting for your right to be in your child’s life.

In the end, the man goal is to do what is best for the child. If you believe that you at risk of losing you parental rights during a divorce, contact me to learn more about how you can remain in your child’s life.

References:

Meyer, C. (n.d.). What Custody Rights Do Fathers Have? Retrieved from https://www.liveabout.com/a-fathers-legal-rights-to-child-custody-before-and-during-divorce-1103351

 

Mediation in Family Law Cases

closed up photo of man in black blazer facing tablet

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Anytime there is a dispute within a family, whether it has to do with a divorce or child custody issues, emotions can be high, and it can be difficult to come to an agreement that works for each party. Many times, this is when the courts get involved. Family members may have to present to a judge, and in some cases, may be subject to the decision of a judge or jury.

However, there is one way that disputes can be resolved that gives more decision-making power back to the people who are having the conflict. If conflicting parties are ordered to or choose to go to mediation, it is possible to settle a family dispute outside of the courtroom.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a way for people to discuss their dispute in the presence of an impartial party. In certain cases mediation is court-ordered while in other cases the two parties can choose to go to mediation. The neutral mediator is often chosen by the courts in issues of family law. He or she must be certified by the Florida Supreme Court, but is not allowed to give legal advice, or provide therapy or counseling. The mediator may help the discussion along by providing ideas of ways that the disputing parties can come to an agreement.

Whenever there are issues involving the family, it may be difficult for opposite parties to operate without being emotional, and it can often be hard for each person to see the issue any other way. A mediator’s job is to spark ideas that may lead to an ultimate agreement, or simply the agreement that a mutually satisfying resolution cannot be made.

Once there is an agreement in mediation, both parties will be asked to sign a document that explains the details of the agreement, which becomes a contract. At this point, the terms of the contract are legally binding and must be followed by all parties involved. If an agreement cannot be made, then the issue may be sent back to the courts for a judge or jury to ultimately decide.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation is a way to keep a dispute out of the courts, and may save time and money. It is an opportunity to resolve conflict with an impartial person who can offer up suggestions that may not have been considered by either party. Additionally, the mediator can help overcome communication obstacles or emotional barriers that have stalled the issue from being resolved or moving forward. He or she can assist with listening and help each party stay focused on the real issues that need to be discussed

Perhaps the biggest benefit to mediation is that it keeps the decision-making power with the parties involved in the dispute as opposed to a judge or jury. An agreement established in mediation is one that is created by the people who will be affected the most by any terms, and therefore, it may be appealing to some to have the power to make that ultimate decision.

Mediations are also private and confidential, which is different than public hearings that wind up on the record. There are no judges or juries involved in the mediation process, and attorneys are not required, but advised.

Tips for a Successful Mediation

Any time that you will be going to mediation, you should absolutely consult the advice of a family law attorney. Your attorney will be able to help you understand what terms would be most beneficial to you.

Make sure you are prepared and arrive on time. If you are ill prepared for the mediation, you may end up agreeing to something that does not work in your favor.

It’s important to also arrange for childcare if needed. Children are often not allowed in the mediation room.

Mediation in family law cases may last an hour or several days, depending on the time it takes both parties to agree on terms to a resolution. In the event that you are going to mediation or feel that you may need to in order to resolve a legal conflict, contact an experienced family law attorney who can properly advise you through the mediation process. The Spatz Law Firm can be reached at (305) 442-0200.

References

Mediation in Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.flcourts.org/Resources-Services/Alternative-Dispute-Resolution/Mediation-in-Florida

Alimony in the State of Florida

shutterstock_304652984

A former Miami Dolphin was in the news recently, not for making plays on the field, but for skipping out on an alimony payment to his ex-wife. Jason Taylor was divorced from his wife of 14 years back in 2015. At the time, a judge ordered Taylor to pay his ex-wife $8.67 million in a lump sum alimony payment. This summer, his ex-wife filed a lawsuit in Broward County claiming that Taylor still owes her $3.4 million, and despite attempts to retrieve the money peacefully, she has not had any success in obtaining the funds owed to her.

Alimony Controversies

Alimony has been a hot topic lately as many argue that that statutes and conditions of traditional alimony are outdated now that women have a higher earning power. Some may say that permanent alimony keeps ex spouses tied to each other until death, and often brings children and current spouses into unnecessary legal fights.

For example, in one Florida case, a woman is suing her former husband’s current wife for legal fees stemming from her alimony case. According to her lawsuit, her ex- husband neglected to pay alimony for years, and when he was ordered by a court to pay his ex hundreds of thousands of dollars in back alimony, he transferred many of his significant financial assets to reside under his current wife’s name so that he could escape collection of his debts. Hi ex-wife claims that she is attempting to retrieve what is owed to her by the lawsuit against the current wife’s assets.

What is alimony?

In the state of Florida, alimony, or maintenance, can be granted to either party after the dissolution of a marriage. The purpose of awarding alimony can range from acting as a “bridge-the-gap” payment, which is set in place until the recipient is able to get to a better financial situation after the marriage, to a permanent alimony structure, meaning one spouse pays the other until death. Alimony can also be durational with a stop date, or rehabilitative, with a structured plan in place to get the recipient from one status to another with regards to employment or disability. A court can order that the payments are made on a monthly basis, or in a lump sum, as the Taylor case represents.

What factors are considered in awarding alimony?

A court will decide if either party needs financial maintenance and whether the other party has the ability to pay. There are many factors that are considered when determining alimony. A court may look at some or all of the following factors:

  • Standard of living established during the marriage.
  • Duration of marriage (less than seven years is considered a short-term marriage, seven-17 years is a moderate marriage, and 17+ years is long-term)
  • The age, physical, and emotional state of each party.
  • Financial resources of each party, including marital and non-marital assets.
  • Earning capacity, education, and skill level of each party.
  • Contribution to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare.
  • Responsibility of each party to minor children.
  • Sources of income and tax treatment of each party.
  • Any additional factors that account for equity and justice between parties.

Additional Alimony Requirements

A court may require the payer of alimony to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy as a way to secure the alimony payments. It’s important to note that any alimony payments cannot cause the one who is paying to have a significantly lower income than the recipient unless there are exceptional circumstances as noted by the court.

If you are considering a divorce, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney will explain the options available to you throughout the process of the dissolution of your marriage.

References:

LAMBIETjose@gossipextra.com, J. (n.d.). Miami Dolphins legend Jason Taylor secretly divorced in 2015. Now, he’s being sued. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.miamiherald.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/jose-lambiet/article165207992.html

Joseph, S. (2017, July 18). Lawyer’s Ex-Wife Asks Court to Make New Wife Pay Her Legal Fees. Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.dailybusinessreview.com/id=1202793290507/Lawyers-ExWife-Asks-Court-to-Make-New-Wife-Pay-Her-Legal-Fees

(2017, August 10). Retrieved August 10, 2017, from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099%2F0061%2FSections%2F0061.08.html

 

Legal Separations for Older Americans Skyrocket

Legal separations for those over 50 have doubled since 1990 in the US, and have tripled for those over 65. This phenomenon can’t be set down to one common denominator, but researches point to a variety of factors that could be contributing to the surge in divorce rates in the higher age brackets. “Gray divorce,” as it’s been coined, can be attributed to these issues:

  • Empty nesters – As children grow up and have their own lives and families, some couples who have stayed together for the sake of the children may decide that they no longer have to maintain the image of a happy relationship for the sake of their children.
  • Stresses of second marriages – Older people are more likely to be in second marriages. These unions often carry the emotional and financial challenges of blended families.
  • Longer life expectancy – As people live longer, 50 or 60 year olds still have many fruitful years ahead of them. The idea of spending 20 or 30 more years in an unsatisfying marriage, even if it isn’t a harmful or even a truly unhappy one can cause a partner to seek separation or divorce.
  • Less stigma to divorce – Many Americans are less adherent to their church’s teachings on divorce, and the social stigma against separation has diminished greatly.
  • Changing role of women – More women have their own incomes, and so are less fearful of the financial insecurity of divorce. As women’s roles have evolved over the years, many have different opinions about division of labor than their partners.

Whatever the reason for a late in life separation or divorce, there are many legal issues to deal with in a lengthy union. An experienced family law attorney will protect your financial and property interests if you find yourself in a “gray divorce” situation.

Sources:

Over 50s fuel US divorce revolution: Record number older couples break up with a quarter now splitting later in life, www.dailymail.co.uk, Jennifer Newton, 3 Nov 2015

After Full Lives Together, More Older Couples Are Divorcing, www.nytimes.com, Abby Ellin 30 Oct

Attorney Representing Self in Divorce Court Proceedings Sanctioned

Anthony Zappin, an attorney in New York who has been handling his own divorce case, has been sanctioned $10,000 for his repeated acts of misconduct. Justice Matthew Cooper of Manhattan delivered the verdict, saying that Zappin’s actions were a misuse of his law license.

Zappin is involved in an acrimonious divorce with fellow intellectual property attorney Claire Comfort. The proceedings include child custody disputes over the couple’s 2-year-old child. Zappin has been representing himself in the proceedings, and has challenged the authority of judges and sought to undermine the custody case by attempting to disqualify Harriet Cohen, the attorney appointed by the court to look after the best interests of the child.

Zappin was sanctioned as a result of ongoing misconduct, including:

  • Attempting to halt child custody proceedings by claiming to have relocated to two different states and discontinuing the divorce proceedings mid-trial
  • Trying to disqualify the attorney appointed by the court to protect the child’s interests and to discredit the psychiatrist hired to evaluate his child
  • Inundating Southern New York, District of Columbia, and Federal Courts with actions suing the defendant and her family, and filing appellate motions against the judges involved
  • Ignoring the authority of the court, including frequent verbal and written insults to judges during court proceedings

Cohen, the attorney in charge of protecting the child’s interests, and Claire Comfort, Zappin’s wife, also an attorney, made multiple requests for sanctions prior to Justice Cooper’s decision. Zappin was ordered to pay half of the $10,000 sanction imposed to Cohen, and half to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.

Zappin vowed to appeal.

Matters of family law involve complicated legal concerns and the parties involved often are often driven to make emotional rather than rational decisions. A seasoned attorney will represent the best interests of their client and make sure that family issues and material assets are protected under the law.

 

Source:

Attorney Sanctioned for Actions in Handling His Own Divorce, http://www.newyorklawjournal.com, ben Bedell, 22 Sept 2015

Facebook Approved by Judge as Means to Serve Divorce Papers

A recent case in New York granted Brooklyn resident Ellanora Baidoo permission to serve her husband, Victo Sena Blood-Dzraku, divorce papers via Facebook. The couple wed in a civil ceremony in 2009 but never lived together. The bride-to-be was also promised a formal wedding that observed the traditions of their native Ghana, but according to the report, Blood-Dzraku changed his mind about participating in the traditional ceremony and the relationship quickly began to unravel.

Ms. Baidoo’s lawyer, Andrew Spinnell, was granted permission to contact his client’s husband via Facebook message to inform him of the decision, since other, more traditional methods of contact were not open. Mr. Blood-Dzraku proved difficult to locate, not having identification, a known address, or an employer, all avenues that papers might be served by.

The case is unusual, but not unprecedented. Last fall, a Staten Island man was granted permission to serve his ex-wife notification that he wanted to cease child support payments due to his son coming of age. When his ex-wife and their daughter did not return phone calls, a Family Court official deemed that notification via her active social media account was a viable option.

Moving on with your life when matters of family law are unresolved can be extremely challenging. Serving papers with due process to someone who makes it difficult to be found, whether intentionally or not, can prolong both emotional and financial turmoil for all parties.

An attorney well versed in the intricacies and challenges of issues related to divorce, custody, and other family law issues will be able to offer the support and guidance you need to achieve a fair outcome in your proceedings.

Sources:

Woman granted permission to serve divorce papers via Facebook, Anthony Domanico, 6 April 2015

Judge Oks serving legal papers via Facebook, Julia Marsh, Reuven Fenton and Bruce Golding, 18 Sept 2014