Category Archives: Divorce Law

Mediation in Family Law Cases

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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

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Alimony in the State of Florida

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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