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Equitable Distribution at the Dissolution of Marriage in Florida

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Divorce is always a hard topic. Even if there are not children involved in the marriage, spouses must divide their belongings and assets earned during the marriage as they part ways.

In the state of Florida, we have what is called an “Equitable Distribution” of assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. This basically means that any marital property will be equally distributed after a divorce. These include assets acquired jointly by the spouses during the marriage; enhancements of non-marital property due to the efforts of a spouse; jointly titled property, even if it was acquired as non-marital property; gifts from one spouse to another during the marriage; and joint bank accounts.

Just as assets are divided, so must liabilities.  A marriage between two people can have many benefits and successes, but also comes with risk and sometimes failures. Equitable Distribution covers both sides.

The Process of Dividing Through Divorce

During the divorce process, the first consideration is always the dependent children, if there are any. The court will handle issues of custody and child support prior to the equitable distribution of property. After the children are taken care of, the court will award each party their non-marital property, or items that were acquired before the spouses were legally married. However, it’s important to note that non-marital property can become marital property, as in the example of a spouse’s name being added to the title of a property owned by the other spouse before the marriage.

An example of non-marital property could be a personal bank account that is only in one spouse’s name that was opened prior to the marriage and not used for marital expenses.

The equitable distribution of properties acquired during the marriage will follow the non-marital assets. After the equitable distribution of property, the court will determine alimony, if any is awarded.

What Does the Court Consider?

According to Chapter 61 of Florida Statutes, which discusses equitable distribution. The following items are considered by the court when dividing the marital assets and liabilities. Some items may be awarded in a larger percentage to one spouse over another depending on “competent and substantial evidence” of the lawyer of that spouse.

(a)       The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.

(b)      The economic circumstances of the parties.

(c)       The duration of the marriage.

(d)      Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.

(e)       The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.

(f)       The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.

(g)       The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.

(h)      The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.

(i)        The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within two years prior to the filing of the petition.

(j)        Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

In an amicable divorce, both parties will sign a “Marriage Settlement Agreement” (MSA), which will lay out exactly how everything will be divided after the dissolution of the marriage. However, in many cases, this process will be handled in mediation or by a judge.

Courts will be as equal as possible when dividing assets and liabilities at the end of a marriage, but a competent family attorney may be able to help a spouse recover exactly what he or she is owed. If you are facing a divorce, contact a family attorney as soon as possible in order to assist you through the distribution of property earned over the course of your marriage. The Spatz Law Firm is here to answer your questions. Please give us a call at 305-442-0200.

References:

A Seven-Step Analysis of Equitable Distribution in Florida Part 2: Distributing Marital Property. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.floridabar.org/news/tfb-journal/?durl=/DIVCOM/JN/jnjournal01.nsf/Articles/8323D0F2AB6652FB85256ADB005D627A

Equitable Distribution in Florida Dissolution of Marriage – Florida Divorce Source. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.divorcesource.com/ds/florida/equitable-distribution-in-florida-dissolution-of-marriage-3703.shtml

 

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

 

4 Ways Divorced Parents Can Ease Holiday Stress

Ways Divorced Parents Can Ease Holiday Stress

 

Holidays bring magic, laughter, and memories to last, but sometimes, holidays can be stressful, especially for families of divorced parents. As a family law firm, we are all too familiar with stress that child custody (i.e., timesharing) can cause year round, yet holidays can add even more emotion to an already complicated matter.

Whether this is your first holiday season as a divorced parent or even if you’ve been sharing custody for quite some time, taking extra steps can make all the difference. Here are some ways to ease holiday stress for your whole family:

  1. Put the children’s interests first.

Be flexible and sensitive to their wants and needs. For example, do they have a favorite holiday tradition with your ex-spouse’s family? Allow them to participate if it’s feasible. Splitting time on a holiday might add more stress on the children. Alternatives to splitting time during each holiday is alternating holiday years and maybe celebrating the holiday on another day, before or after, the day the actual holiday falls on. The less transitional phases kids have to go through, the more enjoyable the day(s) will be.

  1. Plan ahead.

Planning ahead can help ease stress on both parents and children, as everyone will know what to expect during the day and celebration. Planning ahead can help avoid unfavorable behavior from both parents and grief from extended family members. If an agreement cannot be made, refer to the custody agreement. If one is not made, we strongly recommend discussing one with an attorney.

  1. Communicate.

Making sure your plans are in order before discussing them with your children will help ensure an enjoyable experience for all. Communicating about travel plans, gifts, and other events during the holiday season is vital for parents to ease additional stress on their children. Children might be used to certain holiday traditions a family unit, but encourage them to enjoy the holidays by discussing new traditions and still being a family unit, just in a different way. If children see their parents supporting each other, they will often feel more relaxed and enjoy themselves more.

  1. Possibly plan some celebrations together.

If divorced or separated parents and their extended families are able to celebrate the holidays together without hostility and mal behavior, parents should consider this for their children. Sometimes it’s difficult for parents to put on a “happy face” when in the vicinity of their exes, but think of the smiles on your children’s faces and that will help put your differences aside.

If your family needs assistance with custody, divorce, or other family planning needs, we a family law attorney assist you and help keep your families best interest a priority.

References:

Cannavo, A. (2016, December 12). 3 Stress-relieving holiday tips for separated or divorced parents. Retrieved December 18, 2016, fromhttp://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/health-family/moms/article120371338.html

Rubin, R. L. (2016, November 11). Putting Children First: The Best Gift Divorced Parents Can Give Their Children This Holiday Season. Retrieved December 19, 2016, fromhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/randi-l-rubin/putting

What you need to know about post-divorce debt

Most states view debts, as well as assets, acquired during a marriage as shared property, and they are divided similarly. If possible, you and your ex-spouse may be better served by dividing the debts up, with each different debt assigned to a single person.  If you can’t agree, a judge will do so.

While the responsibility of debts between divorcing parties is clearly defined by the courts, creditors don’t see it the same way.  Your credit can be damaged if it is still tied to your ex-spouse’s.  These steps can help you protect your credit after a divorce:

  • Alert all creditors that any debts belonging to you be put in your name only
  • Close all shared accounts, including credit cards
  • Refinance shared loans, including auto and home loans, to a single creditor
  • Monitor your credit report closely
  • Make all loan payments on time, and minimize new credit attempts

Failure to fully separate your debts from an ex-spouse can have far-reaching impact on your credit report. If they fail to pay off credit cards or default on a loan, you can be impacted if you haven’t fully extricated yourself from them financially.

If it does occur that your ex-spouse’s failure to pay their share of debts has impacted your financial standing, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau. The court can also compel them to pay.  If they are found in contempt, you can also request compensation for attorney’s fees.

Financial matters related to divorce are complicated and can have far-reaching impacts. Make certain you have a family law attorney to protect your best interests. In Florida, assets you and your spouse own will be divided equitably, but not necessarily in a 50-50 split. Attorney Russell Spatz gives clients comprehensive guidance about how to approach the division of their assets. He will listen to your concerns and provide honest advice about the best options available to you. You can rest assured knowing he will never keep you in the dark about the progress of your case.

Source:

Niemeyer, Brooke. “Why Your Ex Is Still on Your Credit Report.” USA Today. Gannett, 29 May 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.

5 Things to Know Before Filing for Divorce in Florida

Filing for divorce is a difficult process for most. Knowing what to expect, and having the trusted guidance of an attorney throughout the proceedings can make it a little less painful. Here are a few key things you should know before filing for divorce in Florida:

  1. Where to file: Each local circuit court has a Family Department. One spouse can file a “Petition for the Dissolution of a Marriage.” The other spouse will be served papers and then they may respond.
  2. Average length of process – Depending on the type of proceeding, a divorce can take anywhere from four months to years. An uncontested divorce—where the parties involved have no dependents and agree to the divorce and division of their assets—can be completed in four months. Initially contested cases, in which one party disputes either the divorce or its terms, are generally resolved in mediation prior to a final hearing. These take about six months, sometimes more. Contested cases take the longest, as they typically end up in court. In these cases, a year or more is not uncommon.
  3. Alimony – A court may order alimony depending on how long a couple was married, what their standard of living was, and the age and health of each spouse. Alimony can be short or long term, and may be awarded to allow one spouse an adjustment period, such as in the instance where education or retraining expenses which may be required by a spouse who did not work outside the home during the marriage. Durational or permanent alimony can be awarded, particularly for longer marriages.
  4. Assets – Assets and debts acquired over the length of the marriage are to be divided fairly between the divorcing parties. These are “marital assets.” “Non-marital assets” include whatever the couple entered into the marriage with. Each party is entitled to keep their non-marital assets, as long as they were not used to acquire marital assets (such as shared property).It is important to have all documentation – tax returns, bank statements, mortgage information, and any other significant financial information when filing
  5. Custody and Child Support – In Florida, the term “custody” is no longer used in courts. Instead, the concept is referred to as “timesharing.” When it comes to timesharing, if you and your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement, the court will make a ruling based on what it determines the “best interest” of the child or children. Unless there is a reason one party is incapable of caring for the children, timesharing is generally divided up as a shared responsibility. Factors taken into account are each individual’s fitness as parents, preferences of the child, and ability to provide for the child. As for child support, it is determined upon a variety of factors. Florida’s standard needs table assesses child support amounts based on the child’s age, health, and child care costs. Judges use those guidelines to determine how much each parent is obligated to pay.

In a perfect world, divorce would be swift and painless. In reality, it can be a trying time. An well-versed family law attorney can provide practical levity at a time when their clients may be inclined to emotional decision-making.

Sources:

10 Things to Know About Divorce for Florida Residents, www.attorneys.com

Getting a Divorce in Florida, www.divorcenet.com, Lina Guillen

How Long Does a Divorce Take in Florida?, myfloridalaw.com