Boca Raton Divorce Lawyer Blog
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Engagement and wedding rings are often an important symbol of a marriage. While these items often lose meaning after a married couple decides to file for divorce, they are often valuable pieces of property and each spouse may wonder who gets to keep the rings after the separation is finalized The answer to this question will depend on the particular circumstances surrounding your divorce, and an experienced attorney can better advise you after learning the specific details of your situation.

Are rings non-marital or marital property?

Rings are property just like a home, assets, furniture, or other valuables. Under most circumstances in Florida, each spouse is able to keep his or her own belongings brought into the marriage. Such belongings are referred to as non-marital or separate property. Florida divorce laws, however, require that all marital property be equitably divided between the two spouses. Equitable does not mean equal, and courts will take many different factors into consideration in deciding how to divide property.

In order to help determine what happens to engagement and wedding rings, a court must first determine whether each is non-marital or marital property. First, an engagement ring is generally given to a bride-to-be months before the marriage, thus she owns the ring while she is still single. Even though the future groom purchased the ring, the future bride takes ownership when she receives it as a gift. Therefore, an engagement ring is generally considered separate property and the bride tends to keep the engagement ring.

On the other hand, wedding rings are exchanged at the marriage ceremony, so Florida courts generally consider these rings to be marital property. For this reason, the value of the wedding rings would need to be equitably divided, just like any other piece of jewelry or property the couple acquired during the marriage.

Coming to an Agreement with Your Spouse

In many cases, divorcing couples are able to work together to decide how to divide marital property so that the court does not have to intervene. In these situations, the couple may acknowledge that each spouse should keep their own wedding rings, regardless of the value. This type of situation is almost always preferable as each spouse’s feelings may be better respected and they will be able to do what they wish with their own wedding rings.

Even if you and your spouse cannot immediately agree on issues such as property division, an experienced attorney has many options to help you come to a settlement agreement, including mediation, negotiation, or arbitration.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Help Today

Engagement and wedding rings are likely only one piece of a substantial amount of property that couples will need to divide equitably in a divorce. In order to ensure that you receive the best deal in your divorce possible, you should always contact the office of experienced divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton. Mr. Burton is committed to helping divorcing couples come to satisfying and efficient resolutions, so call today to discuss your case.

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Each divorce case is different, and therefore each case may require different tools and resources to achieve specific goals. However, you may not even be aware of certain resources that may significantly improve your chances of receiving the rulings that you deserve regarding many different issues, such as child support, spousal support, and the equitable division of marital property. One such resource that can be extremely helpful in divorces with complicated financial issues is the assistance of a forensic accountant.

Helping Divide Complex Portfolios

Dividing property can be hard enough for couples who simply have a home, two cars, personal belongings, checking accounts, and credit card debts. As you can imagine, such property division may become substantially more difficult for a couple who has a complex financial portfolio. Some assets that may be more difficult to divide include:

  •         Restricted stock or stock options;
  •         Closely held businesses;
  •         Professional practices;
  •         Retirement accounts;
  •         Various types of trust accounts;
  •         Life insurance plans;
  •         Properties in different states or countries;
  •         Accounts in different states or countries; and
  •         Valuable art, antique, or jewelry collections.

In some cases, a spouse will present complicated financial records that may be quite disorganized and may take time for an attorney to sift through, therefore driving up attorney’s fees. A forensic accountant will have a better ability to analyze complex financial statements, organize appraisals and valuations, and testify to the state of the couple’s overall financial affairs.

Helping to Identify Hidden Assets

In some cases, a spouse may unfortunately try to hide assets in order to avoid making them subject to division. Some ways spouses may attempt to hide assets include the following:

  • Opening secret or off-shore accounts
  • Changing accounts to the name of a friend, family member, child, or other party so the assets are not attributed to the spouse
  • Voluntarily delaying commissions or paychecks until after the divorce is final
  • Secretly making large purchases for gifts (that will be returned after the divorce)
  • Dumping money into a business or other venture and then increasing expenses

If you have any suspicions that your spouse may be attempting to hide assets, a forensic accountant can review all of your accounts and identify any suspicious changes or inconsistencies that may expose the hiding of assets or other marital property that should be rightfully and equitably divided. Even if the funds cannot be exactly located, an accountant can testify to the inconsistencies and other red flags to demonstrate to the court that your spouse may be unlawfully hiding assets.

Forensic accountants are only one type of professional that can help in your divorce case. An experienced divorce attorney can evaluate all of the circumstances of your case and can identify any resources or professionals that may help you receive a more favorable result. Boca Raton divorce lawyer Alan R. Burton has experience in both relatively simple divorces with little property, as well as complex divorce cases with high assets at issue. No matter what type of divorce you are facing, do not hesitate to call our office for assistance today.

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Many couples wonder, for one reason or another, whether or not they should sign a premarital agreement (also known as a prenuptial agreement or “prenup”) prior to tying the knot. The following are some reasons you may want to consider having such an agreement in Florida.

  1. To know what you are getting into. Though engaged couples are ideally in love and know each other very well, some people may keep some important information secret. For example, one spouse may be embarrassed of significant debt or poor financial habits. A premarital agreement allows you to sit down and put financial issues out in the open so there are no surprises after marriage. If your partner does, in fact, have a high amount of debt, a premarital agreement can state that only your partner will be responsible for the repayment of that debt if you get divorced.
  2. To protect your property. If you have property that you owned pre-marriage and you plan to make it the family home, your spouse will likely be entitled to a share of it in the event of a divorce. Premarital agreements can state that you will retain full ownership of your property should a divorce occur.
  3. To protect a business. In the same way that you likely want to protect your property, you also want to protect any businesses that you own with a premarital agreement.
  4. You and your partner have significantly different wealth. If you are substantially wealthier than your partner, a premarital agreement can limit their access to your fortune if you get divorced. Not only will this preserve your wealth for you, but it can also assure you that your partner is marrying you for the right reasons, and not for your money. On the other hand, if your spouse has more wealth than you, you can use a premarital agreement to protect yourself in the event of a divorce.
  5. To protect your estate plan. If you have a specific estate plan that you would like to protect that may involve leaving certain heirlooms or property to individuals other than your spouse, you can address this in a premarital agreement.
  6. To plan to be a stay-at-home parent. If you and your partner have discussed this and you plan to quit working and stay home to care for your children and the household, you will inherently give up future income, job experience, and other professional opportunities that may make more challenging for you to support yourself if you get divorced. A premarital agreement can protect you by setting alimony that will ensure you are able to support yourself until you begin working again.
  7. To make a divorce easier. Many different issues are involved in a divorce and arguments over these issues can drag on. If you decide many issues ahead of time in a premarital agreement, it will help the divorce process go faster and more smoothly.

If you have any questions regarding premarital agreement, do not hesitate to call Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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Harold Hamm is a 68-year-old oil magnate who is CEO of Continental Resources, an oil-exploration company that is known as a pioneer in the oil industry. Hamm has been on the cover of Forbes magazine, served as energy advisor to presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and is estimated to have a net worth of around $15 billion, making him one of the wealthiest men in the United States. Hamm married Sue Ann, an attorney in 1988 and, though he claims they have been separated since 2005, Sue Ann filed for divorce in 2012.

The divorce dragged on for over two years, culminating in a trial over the summer that lasted over two months. On November 10, 2014, a judge in Oklahoma City ordered that Hamm should have to pay his former wife a settlement of $995.5 million, which is one of the highest divorce settlements in history. The judge ordered Hamm to pay at least $320 million by the time 2014 ends, with monthly payments continuing at least $7 million per month until the settlement is paid off. The judge placed a lien on a substantial amount of Hamm’s stock in Continental Resources to ensure he comes through with the payments.

The Decision Could Have Been Worse

Though $995.5 million is an astronomical amount of money to most Americans, the settlement could have been more. Forbes reports that the highest divorce settlement ordered in the history of the world was $4.5 billion, which took place in the case of a Russian fertilizer tycoon. Hamm’s settlement comes in at the fourth largest that has been reported in the world thus far.

Rumors had been circulating regarding the divorce for months, most of which predicted Hamm would lose much more. For example, because most of his fortune is tied up in Continental Resources stock, some people estimated he would lose enough stock to fall below 50 percent ownership in the company (he currently owns over 70 percent). Losing majority ownership in the company he built would have been devastating. Additionally, others predicted that Sue Ann would receive around half of the $15 billion dollar fortune, and in reality she only received about seven percent of his net worth. Hamm released a statement thanking the court and stating they all believed this was a “fair and equitable” decision and result in their case.

High Asset Divorces Can Be Complicated

Most high worth divorces are complex because they can involve many different kinds of assets, including business ownership interests, real property, stock, funds in offshore accounts, and much more. For this reason and more, you should always have an experienced family law attorney representing you to ensure that any property division or support determinations are fair and equitable. Alan R. Burton is an experienced divorce attorney in Boca Raton who knows how to handle high worth divorces and stand up for your best interests. Call our office today for help if your are facing divorce.

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Everyone knows that divorce can be emotionally charged and stressful for everyone involved. Cases may be especially difficult if one spouse files for divorce while the other wishes to remain married. One recent Florida news story reminds us how sometimes tension in a divorce can become dangerous and lead to domestic violence and tragedy.

Violence in Port Orange

After 25 years of marriage, David and Cynthia Mohney were facing divorce and Cynthia and her attorney were preparing for mediation sessions, which are used to attempt to reach a settlement between divorcing spouses outside of court. Reports indicate that David Mohney was unhappy about the divorce and made numerous comments stating the couple would be back together and that the divorce must stop.

In mid-October, David woke up his sleeping wife and brought her to the kitchen of their home, where he showed her a gun and reportedly stated, “If you don’t come back to me and stop the divorce, I will kill our children.” Cynthia had no access to a phone, so she ran to a nearby neighbor’s home for help.

While she was gone, David shot all three of their children and then himself. Their 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son both died from their injuries, as did David. A 9-year-old daughter has been reported to be in a medically-induced coma yet in stable condition.

Courts can help many domestic violence victims

The Mohneys’ tragic situation reminds us all that even threats of violence from a spouse or partner against you or your children should always be taken seriously. You should not wait until it is too late to ask for help. Florida courts can issue injunctions of protection–commonly referred to as restraining orders–against the potentially violent family member to prohibit them from coming within a certain distance of you and can force them to move out of the family home.

While an injunction for protection cannot ever fully guarantee protection for you, such orders help numerous victims of domestic violence stay safe every year in Florida. You can obtain a temporary injunction or protection at any time of night and even on weekends or holidays. An attorney will know how to contact a judge during work hours or off-hours to help you.

How a lawyer can help

If you have experienced or fear you or your children are in danger of domestic violence, you should contact the authorities as soon as possible. You should also contact Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance in obtaining the necessary court orders to protect your and your family from possible violence.

Even if you are not experiencing threats of domestic violence, an experienced family law attorney can help make the divorce process go as smooth as possible to try to keep tensions low whenever possible. He can also assist you with finding counseling resources that you may need to get you through the process. Divorce is never easy, but we can help, so please do not hesitate to call our office today for assistance.

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Previously on this blog, we have discussed the complicated divorce of Alan Grayson, a United States Representative elected out of Florida. Grayson had accused his wife of bigamy and was seeking an annulment and for the marriage to be found void. He alleged that his wife had still been married to her first husband at the time of the their marriage and therefore claimed that his marriage was never valid. Bigamy is also a criminal offense in Florida. Grayson’s wife, Lolita, asserts that her first marriage had been dissolved and that they require a divorce, not an annulment.

Prior to the bigamy allegations, Lolita accused Rep. Grayson of pushing her and obtained a restraining order against him. However, a video of the incident reportedly showed Lolita Grayson pushing her husband and charges were never filed.

Newest financial allegations

The latest allegations in this public, messy divorce seem to revolve around finances and Rep. Grayson’s monetary support–or alleged lack thereof–of his wife and four minor children.

Lolita Grayson and her children live in a large home in Orlando. Lolita is a stay-at-home mom with no income at all, so she relies upon her estranged husband to financially take care of her and their children, as she has for the entirety of their 24 year-long marriage. She now claims that since he left the family home, Rep. Grayson has allowed the house to fall into a state of disrepair, including broken windows, a leaking roof, and a mold problem due to the rain seeping into the house. She went as far as to call her husband a “slumlord” for his lack of financial contribution to repairs.

Rep. Grayson, on the other hand, denied that he has failed in financially supporting his children and soon-to-be former wife. He claimed that he spends more than $10,000 every month on the following for his family:

  • Child support for the four minor children;
  • College tuition for their oldest son;
  • Monthly mortgage payments;
  • Utility bills for the house; and
  • Other miscellaneous household expenses,

He went further to state that any problems with the home are due Lolita being a poor housekeeper and not due to any lack of support on his part.

These are only the latest allegations in the very public divorce and it seems that the divorce will only get more contentious as the process continues. Acrimonious divorces may often be more expensive and more stressful as they may require additional filings and proceedings in court. Having an experienced divorce lawyer can help you solve issues agreeably and secure the support you deserve or your family.

Call Boca Raton attorney Alan R. Burton for help today

Divorces can be extremely messy with numerous allegations, true or false, from both parties to try to get the best financial outcome possible. Alan R Burton is an experienced divorce attorney committed to helping the residents in and around Boca Raton with a wide variety of family law matters. If you are facing divorce or any other family-related legal matters, please do not hesitate to call our office for help today.

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When two people decide to end their marriage, one of the most contentious issues can be child custody. Florida law does not recognize the concept of “custody” when it comes to children, but rather imposes a “time-sharing” scheme that determines how much time a child or children will spend with each parent.  The law gives Florida courts wide discretion in ordering time-sharing determinations, which must be made by considering the “best interests of the child.” Time-sharing can range from equal time-sharing to sole parental responsibility for a child based on the particular circumstances of a case. The relevant statute lists a variety of factors that the court may consider, including the following:

Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.”

As a result of this provision, the court may consider anything it deems relevant to a time-sharing schedule, including a parent’s financial problems, criminal history, tendency towards domestic violence, substance abuse problems, or other issues that could affect the best interests of the child. On the other side of that coin, a court may also consider a parent’s efforts and demonstrated ability to manage and ameliorate these and other issues. While it is obviously true that individuals can make positive life changes without the intervention of professionals or support programs, these are often effective ways to establish the existence of positive change to courts making time-sharing schedule determinations between parents. Some of the types of activities that can influence a court making a time-sharing determination include the following:

Participation in a 12-step program – For parents who have had issues with substance abuse that has affected their perceived ability to parent their child or children, participation in a 12-step program may be the type of evidence that a court could consider in determining whether these issues still exist. Often, the testimony of a sponsor or other member can help establish that the parent is successfully abstaining from substance abuse.

Credit counseling – In some cases, a court may be hesitant to award a parent a significant amount of time-sharing with a child or children due to poor living conditions caused by financial problems. For example, a parent could be in living in substandard conditions or have a history of having utilities disconnected due to nonpayment. Participation in credit counseling courses and a period of financial responsibility may be sufficient to allay any concerns the court may have that a parent’s financial situation could be detrimental to his or her ability to parent.

Anger management or other forms of counseling – The relevant statute specifically mentions that domestic violence convictions create a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. This means that the burden rests on the parent convicted of domestic violence to present evidence that time-sharing with that parent would not constitute a detriment to the child. In addition, other acts of violence may also be considered by the court. Participation in anger management or other forms of counseling may be sufficient to convince a court that a parent is adequately dealing with any violent tendencies that may have existed in the past.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton is dedicated to helping people with family law issues resolve them as favorably as possible. Do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.

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Many couples who get married later want to end their legal relationship. Generally speaking, the first option that people consider is divorce, but in certain situations there may be other options available. One of the most commonly used alternatives to divorce is known as “annulment.” Just like divorce, an annulment dissolves the legal relationship between a married couple, but in an annulment the court is in essence declaring that a valid marriage never existed. For some people, is it important to avoid divorce due to the perception that it may involve some sort of social disgrace. Others may have personal religious opposition to divorce or may believe that their faith requires an annulment rather than a divorce. Annulment can be much more complicated than divorce, and often requires much more intensive assistance from an attorney. Consequently, it is important for anyone who is considering pursuing an annulment to discuss all of their options with an experienced Boca Raton family law attorney.

What are the Grounds for Annulment?

Not every marriage can be annulled. Interestingly, Florida statutory law details the procedures through which a couple can obtain a divorce, but is silent as to what reasons justify annulment. The law has been developed through court decisions interpreting common law, which are binding on lower courts through the doctrine of precedent. Some of the common grounds for annulment recognized by Florida courts include the following:

  •         One spouse was still married to someone else
  •         One of the parties to the marriage was underage
  •         The marriage was illegal
  •         Consanguinity
  •         One spouse engaged in fraud or misrepresentations in order to induce the other spouse to get married
  •         The marriage was never consummated
  •         Lack of capacity due to mental issues or intoxication

What are the benefits of obtaining an annulment rather than a divorce?

Because Florida annulment law can be very complicated, it is important for anyone who believes they may be entitled to an annulment to discuss their circumstances with an experienced lawyer. Some of the benefits of annulment over divorce include the following:

  •         The complications regarding the division of property or child custody are limited
  •         No obligation to support the other party after the annulment has been granted
  •         Avoidance of any social stigma that you believe may be associated with a divorce
  •         If the grounds for annulment are agreed-upon, the avoidance of legal battles with the other party to the marriage

While these advantages may make a significant difference to some couples, for others they may not. In some cases, it may be simpler for two people who agree that a marriage never should have happened in the first place to simply obtain a divorce instead of an annulment. This way, they can agree to the terms of the divorce through a settlement agreement and incorporate that settlement into the divorce decree, making it binding. Of course, each case should be thoroughly reviewed by an experienced attorney in order to determine what course of action is best based on your specific circumstances.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

Florida lawyer Alan R. Burton has been helping people with legal issues related to family law for over three decades. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at (954) 229-1660.

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Many people who must pay child support mistakenly believe that their payments should only ever be used to pay for a child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Though child support laws intend for the support payments to contribute to basic necessities, the Florida family courts have busy schedules and do not generally have the time to monitor how parents are spending their child support payments. Therefore, in reality, child support funds may go toward supporting many more aspects of a child’s life.

It is generally up the custodial parent receiving the child support how to best put the child support payments to use. Some parents may use these funds specifically for the needs of the child, while others may combine child support payments with household earnings in order to pay rent, utilities, or make purchases for the entire family. The following are common parts of a child’s life that child support may cover.

Education

Child support payments may go toward tuition, uniforms, or other costs. Even if the child attends public school, support payments may help cover lunch money, books, school supplies, and more.

Transportation

Children need to be transported to school, activities, visits with the non-custodial parent, and other appointments in a safe and secure manner. Therefore, a parent may use child support to cover fuel, car insurance, car maintenance, and more.

Childcare

If neither parent is able to stay home with the child on a regular basis, it makes sense that child support would contribute toward the costs of daycare centers, babysitters, nannies, or other childcare arrangements.

Medical expenses

Child support is often used to pay for any out-of-pocket medical expenses including deductibles, co-pays, special medications or treatments, or any bills that exceed the limits of insurance coverage.

Entertainment

Parents often use child support to pay for technology and activities that are age-appropriate for the child’s entertainment. These may include iPods, computers, gaming consoles, or trips to the amusement park or a movie theater.

Extracurricular Activities

The costs of sports programs, camps and other activities are generally shared between parents in Florida. The parents must usually come to an agreement on how these extra costs will be handled as part of their parenting plan. If they cannot reach an agreement, a family court may order each parent to pay a certain percentage.

The only time a custodial parent’s use of child support may come into question is if the other parent suspects the child’s basic needs are being neglected or that the receiving parent is engaging in some type of criminal or wrongful activity with the child support funds. If a parent suspects that any such situation is occurring, he or she may request that a court or child support agency review how the child support was being used and monitor future use of the funds. Misuse of funds may lead to a modification of a child support order or of child custody arrangements.

If you have any questions regarding child support or any other family law issues, please call the Boca Raton office of experienced family law attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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On Monday, October 6, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declined to hear a number of cases involving marriage equality. The Court gave no explanation for this decision, though its refusal to be involved in the same-sex marriage debate means that the decisions by the Courts of Appeals invalidating same-sex marriage bans will stand.

Several Courts of Appeals had ruled in favor of marriage equality, striking down any same-sex marriage bans on the basis that such bans violate the constitutional rights of gay couples. Specifically, courts reasoned that bans violated the rights of homosexual couples wishing to marry to equal protection of the laws. Many of the states within these judicial districts had appealed the decision to allow gay marriage, asking SCOTUS to review the rulings.

Though SCOTUS has refused to hear gay marriage cases at this point, this may change in the future if a Court of Appeals decides to uphold a state’s same-sex marriage ban. In that case, the high Court will likely have to sort out the conflicting decisions.

The Quick Expansion of Same-sex Marriage Rights

When SCOTUS declined to review the Courts of Appeals rulings, the justices opened the door for same-sex marriage to be quickly legalized in numerous states. The effect of the decision was noticed almost immediately, as same-sex couples gained the right to legally marry in several more states over the next 48 hours. Courts in Virginia reportedly started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple only hours after SCOTUS announced its decision. In addition to this immediate effect, many states have had court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage and though additional action is required, the path is open for marriage equality to take effect in the near future.

At this time, same sex marriage is fully legal in the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C. Several other states are expected to see their bans invalidated in the next few days. Additionally, the other federal court circuits who have not yet issued decisions are expected to rule on the issue in the coming months.

What does this mean for Florida?

In Florida, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage currently remains in place for the time being. Several judges in lower courts have ruled in favor of marriage equality. These cases are now pending review by the appellate courts, which can either uphold or reverse the decision. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is also expected to review a decision on gay marriage and any pro-marriage equality ruling in that court would affect the state of Florida, as well.

Though same-sex couples do not yet have the right to marry nationwide, it seems to be only a matter of time following the SCOTUS decision. If you have any questions regarding marriage or divorce of any kind, please call the Boca Raton family law office of Alan R. Burton for help today.