August 9, 2012

Continuing as partners in the family business after divorce

Married couples acquire many things together over the course of their marriage, including homes, vacation homes, bank accounts, automobiles, and stock portfolios. They frequently start businesses together as well.

What happens to the family business after divorce? How does it get valued, how does it get divided, who gets to continue to run the business .... these are just a few of the questions that need to be addressed in this situation.

Generally speaking, the courts do not like to keep the parties together in a business after a divorce. That being said, the business would have to be valued by a professional, and one party would have to make arrangements to buy out the other party's interest. This is the scenario which plays itself out most often.
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There are those rare occasions when divorcing couples can, however, continue to operate a business together if they can agree on that arrangement. A story was reported today in the New York Post that dealt with the continuing operation of the Philadelphia Eagles by the divorcing owners, Jeffrey Lurie and his wife.

Although their particular situation is not generally the norm, it does occur. If you have questions about your particular business, professional practice, or any other jointly owned enterprise, it would be a good idea to obtain some professional advice from an attorney experienced in these matters.

August 7, 2012

The importance of a prenuptial agreement

Why is a prenuptial agreement important and what purpose does it serve? A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two adults, and it can cover a myriad of issues, limited only by the imagination of the contracting parties.
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A prenuptial agreement most definitely, and frequently will, alter the rights of the parties should a divorce subsequently occur. Many agreements provide for the complete waiver and relinquishment of alimony and other support obligations from one party to the other. However, under Florida law, a waiver of temporary alimony under an agreement is unenforceable. You may wish to confer and consult with an experienced divorce attorney regarding this, as well as any other aspects of a prenuptial agreement.

Valuable property rights can also be given up under the provisions of a prenuptial agreement. In Florida, marital assets are most frequently divided 50-50 upon a divorce, so if one party feels that they will be contributing to the marriage in a greater proportion, they might want to provide for that contingency.

The actress Courteney Cox, who is involved in a divorce proceeding with David Arquette, apparently overlooked the importance of a prenuptial agreement. You can read her story now by following the link to her story in Forbes.

Although a marriage is considered a "partnership", that partnership does not necessarily have to be an equal partnership. This, in essence, is what a prenuptial agreement is all about. Courteney Cox may learn an expensive lesson in failing to participate in the execution of a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements must, at a minimum, include complete financial disclosure by both parties; be executed without duress; and each party should have independent legal advice. Many times the validity of agreements are challenged, so a financial sanction should be assessed against the challenger who does not succeed in their endeavor to void an agreement.

Further information may be obtained on this area of the law by contacting Alan R. Burton, Esq. directly. Appointments are available in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale.

August 7, 2012

Modification of support orders

Support orders in Florida, including child support and most alimony awards, are subject to modification, based upon a change in circumstances.

There is a statute on point in Florida which governs the procedure for modifying support orders. See Florida Statute 61.14.

The statute is broad, but the essence of the law is to provide for a modification when there is a material and substantial change in circumstances, which was unanticipated, or when the financial circumstances of the parties warrant a modification.

Divorce in Florida is conducted in "courts of equity", and fairness to all those involved is an underlying characteristic of these proceedings.

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If an obligor who is paying support has fallen on bad times through no fault of his or her own, the court should be readily willing to make the appropriate adjustment in support, either on a temporary permanent basis.

August 7, 2012

Collecting child support is not always a simple matter

The payment and collection of child support in Florida as well as around the country is not always an easy process. Its surprising to see all the stories in the media today, which deal with individuals in the "public eye" who are not paying their child support.

For example, the gold medal champion, Gabby Douglas, made a recent announcement at the Olympics, that her father was a "deadbeat dad",who neglected his responsibilities. This story was recently reported in the New York Post.

This is just one of the many stories I have come across this week, all of which deal with either celebrities or prominent sports figures who, for one reason or another, seem intent on neglecting their most important resources...their children.
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Former NFL star Warren Sapp reportedly filed bankruptcy recently, where it was disclosed by Mail Online that he owed substantial child support to four different women.

We are all familiar with the Michael Jackson story, but are not as familiar with all of the collateral stories, until now. Randy Jackson is embroiled in litigation with his family over the Michael Jackson estate. It may not be a coincident that he allegedly owes over $500,000.00 in back child support.

These figures obviously represent the accumulation of child support arrears, over an extended period of time. If you are the recipient of child support, the lesson to be learned here is to act fast. Don't sit back waiting for a miracle......be proactive, and "nip the problem in the bud" before it becomes an impossible situation to ever rectify.

As an attorney with an active divorce practice in Boca Raton, Florida, and all surrounding areas, including Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, with over thirty years of experience, I can implement a strategy for collecting child support payments which are due and collecting child support arrears.

Don't let this problem escalate to astronomical numbers and act today!

August 6, 2012

Time sharing and technology

Time haring with minor children in Florida is keeping up with technology. As a matter of fact, there is a specific statute in Florida that deals precisely with this issue.

Florida Statute 61.13003 is titled as "Court ordered electronic communication between a parent and a child.

This type of communication can be ordered by the court when the situation is appropriate. Some of the court ordered factors that are considered are whether it would be in the best interests of the child; whether or not the electronic equipment is readily available and affordable to the parties involved; and any history of drug use or domestic violence involved in the case.
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Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, there is a rebuttable presumption that telephone communication is in the best interests of a minor child. None of this is , of course, designed to take the place of face to face time sharing and contact; it is designed to supplement the contact.

Frequently electronic communication issues arise in the context of relocation cases. Having years of experience in trying many cases in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and Broward, and Palm Beach County, Florida, you can rest assured that you will have a competent lawyer to represent your interests.

August 6, 2012

Set offs and credits from the marital home in Florida

A person claiming entitlement to any credits or set offs fom the marital home must provide for these items in their marital settlement agreement.

1387294_rural_yellow_villa.jpgIf there is no agreement, and this issue is to be resolved by the court, the court will consider the factors in Florida Statute 61.077.

Among those factors are the following:

Whether exclusive use and possession of the home is being awarded
Whether or not alimony is being awarded
Whether child support is being awarded
The value of the use and occupancy to the person in possession
The value of the loss of use and occupancy to the person not in possession
Which party will be able to claim the deductions associated with the property, such as
Taxes, interest, etc
Capital gains taxes
Any other factor necessary to do equity

Many of these items can be overlooked when you are involved in the mediation process, and considering the disposition of the marital home. Don't overlook the importance of having a competent, well qualified attorney to represent your interests in your divorce case. There are many issues that an inexperienced litigant can easily overlook.


August 6, 2012

Custody litigation should become extinct in Florida

Child custody issues, or extensive litigation in order to "win" the title of primary custodian should become a thing of the past. All of the reasons to litigate these issues have been abolished under Florida law.

Instead, Florida has adopted what is now referred to as time sharing with minor children, which is established under the provisions of a parenting plan. The requirements for a parenting plan are found in Florida Statute 61.13.
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Furthermore, the trend today is approximating an equal time sharing arrangement whenever possible. Each case would be decided on its own merits, but if it is geographically feasible based upon the distance between the parents home, and consideration of other statutory factors as found in Florida Statute 61.13, the most likely outcome will be a 50-50 split.

The best interests of the child will always be the guiding principal in consideration of the court approving a parenting plan. The plan, at a minimum, must establish how the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child are to be apportioned; the times each parent is to have with the child; who is to be responsible for the health insurance for the child; and which parent's address is to be utilized for school purposes.

A parenting plan can be as detailed as the parties require, or it can simply cover the minimum requirements under Florida law.

August 5, 2012

Can Facebook ruin your marriage?

Yes!

Facebook is mentioned in at least 33% of all the divorce cases filed in the United States in 2011. This is according to a story aired by ABC News.

There is no doubt that social networking and facebook are and will continue to play an integral part of all of our lives now, and well into the future. Privacy rights are now the exception, rather than the rule. Technology has taken over all aspects of our lives.

Someone is always watching you, and in a divorce proceeding, there are countless ways in which your actions can be used against you by your spouse. Custody and time sharing issues, and marital waste are just too examples.

Information, both helpful and useful, as well as damaging to your case, is just a click away.

August 5, 2012

Divorce, a private matter

Generally speaking, a divorce should be a private matter. The proceeding often times involves sensitive and personal issues, which should not be made public. However, in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and in other courtrooms throughout south Florida, contested divorce proceedings are conducted everyday.

1267479_broken_heart_pic.jpgMany times someone will say something, in a fit of anger or for other reasons, and then their statement comes back to haunt them in court. Never say anything that you do not want repeated in open court.

Not only are your statements admissible in court, but all of your postings, photographs and comments that you place in the public arena on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, become open game. Be careful what you say or do during a divorce....it could harm your case and significantly impact the outcome.

Most recently there has been a barrage of public divorce cases and separations involving celebrities, including Tom Cruise, Stevie Wonder, and Kristen Stewart, just to name a few.

You do not want to achieve your notoriety in the context of your divorce case.

August 4, 2012

Equitable distribution of retirement benefits, 401(k)

Equitable distribution of retirement accounts in Florida, including 401(k) accounts, is governed by Florida Statutes 61.075.

To first determine if in fact a particular retirement account is a marital asset, you first have to understand the definition of a marital asset. A marital asset is defined as any asset acquired during the marriage, either individually or in joint names. Although there are other aspects to this definition, this is the primary definition.

Marital assets also include all vested and non vested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation and insurance plans and programs.

We can see that retirement accounts, including a 401(k) account, even if it is in the name of one party, it will be considered as a marital asset if all of it or a portion of it was acquired during the marriage.
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Giving up any portion of a retirement account that was accumulated during the course of a marriage can be a "difficult pill to swallow." The usual reaction by an individual is that "I worked hard my whole life for that money", and "I'm not going to give up one penny of of it."

You may not necessarily have to give up a portion of the asset, but you most certainly will have to give up 50% of the value, and offset it against other assets.

Psychologically, I know it is difficult to surrender an asset many consider to be very personal. A recent article from a Jamaican Newspaper demonstrates the global aspects of an individual's view of his or her retirement accounts. They will fight to the end to protect what they perceive as their own individual assets.

August 4, 2012

Relocation with minor children in Florida

The divorce process becomes more complicated when there are minor children involved. This is especially true when one parent wishes to relocate.

Relocation with minor children in Florida is governed by Florida Statute 61.13001.

If a parent wishes to relocate from south Florida cities such as Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or from anywhere else in Florida, they must comply with Florida Statute 61.13001 if the move is more than 50 miles from their current residence.

The easiest way to comply with the statute is to obtain the written consent from the non-relocating parent, If that consent will not be given, you will then have to file a petition for permission to relocate. The petition is filed in the County that granted the initial divorce decree.

These cases are factually intensive, and each individual case will be heard on its own merits. Some of the relevant factors for the court to consider is whether or not child support is being paid and whether or not it is current; the reason for the requested move; whether or not alternate time sharing arrangements can be made, and who will be paying for those addidtional expenses.
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Relocation cases are important. Do not take them lightly or for granted. BE PREPARED! Feel free to call me if you have unanswered questions about the process, or whether you require any assistance in your quest to either relocate or to defend against such a proceeding.

August 4, 2012

Does the length of my marriage make a difference when I get divorced?

The length of a marriage becomes one relevant consideration for the court to consider in a divorce case if alimony is an issue in the proceedings.

The Florida legislature has attempted to bring some standardization to the awards of alimony in divorce proceedings. Alimony has historically been that unknown "wild card" in contested divorce cases.
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Permanent alimony is now reserved primarily for long term marriages, which by statutory definition, is now defined as a marriage in excess of 17 years. A short term marriage is one under 7 years. Anything in between is a marriage of moderate length.

Bridge-the-gap alimony can be awarded to a spouse in a short term marriage, and it may not exceed 2 years. Bridge-the-gap alimony is not subject to modification.

After bridge-the-gap, you will see rehabilitative alimony and durational alimony awards. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to assist the recipient in either re-establishing the skills to be financially self sufficient, or to obtain the skills to do so. This type of alimony may end with non compliance with a proposed plan of rehabilitation on the part of the recipient.

Durational alimony may be awarded for up to a maximum number of years equal to the length of the marriage. The number of years is discretionary, based upon other factors which the court may consider.

You can read the Florida alimony statute by clicking the link attached. All of the factors which the court will consider are included within the statute.

Having appropriate, competent representation in a divorce proceeding is important, and becomes ever more so important when the duration of the marriage increases.


August 4, 2012

Is the payment of child support voluntary?

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to discuss child support issues with many parents. A frequent question that often arises is whether one parent has the right to waive the receipt of child support from the other parent?

The answer to this question is simple, NO! There are scores of cases in Florida which clearly state that the entitlement to child support is a right that belongs to the child, not to the parent, and the parent has absolutely no right to waive receipt of those funds.

What about the situation when a father proclaims his desire not to have any part in the child's life, in exchange for a release of his child support obligation. Will this work to release the father from his obligation? Again, the same answer, NO.

I recently read an article dealing with individuals in the "public eye," which dealt with this very issue of waiving the obligation to pay child support, and I find it contrary to law. This of course would be the story of Kate and Jon, which is all over the internet. Kate has publicly indicated that she has released Jon from his child support obligation. It was reported in a story in the Star magazine. There will be more to this story in the future. Most likely an agreement is in place for a temporary abatement of support, but certainly not the total eradication of support for all those kids. Stay tuned.

The payment of child support is not discretionary, it is mandatory. The payment of child support is a joint obligation of both parents. The Florida Child Support Guidelines are based upon this concept, so that each parent bears their proportionate share of the expense to raise their children.

Further information on this subject, as well as on other issues, can be found on my website at www.alanburtonlaw.com. With over 30 years of experience, I am well qualified to answer and address any and all of your concerns with family law issues of any kind, including divorce, annulment, paternity and child support issues.

August 2, 2012

What does it take for a marriage to become irretrievably broken?

In Florida, no grounds for divorce are required other than the fact that the marriage must be irretrievably broken.. As a matter of fact, you can find this provision under Florida Statutes 61.043, which indicates that all one need do in a petition for dissolution of marriage is to assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken. No other grounds are required.

Over the years, I have had many people tell me that their "spouse has abandoned them", or "deserted them", or engaged in "acts of either mental or physical cruelty against them". They want a divorce and want to know if these are sufficient grounds.

The reality of the situation is that all of these reasons, although valid reasons to seek a divorce, are not a prerequisite or requirement for obtaining a divorce. All one need do is to allege that the marriage is "irretrievably broken."
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What makes one couple's marriage broken may be very different than for another couple. Sometimes people grow apart; sometimes they engage in mental abuse, and sometimes......

Well, you decide. Is the victim of a knife wielding spouse involved in a marriage which you would consider to be irretrievably broken? This was a story recently reported in the Huffington Post. Check it out!

August 2, 2012

August is Child Support Awareness Month

Child support is designed to cover the basic necessities of life for a minor child, such as food, clothing and shelter.

Every state has "Child Support Guidelines in place, and Florida is not excluded. Florida Statute 61.30 deals with the support of minor children, and includes the child support guidelines adopted by the Florida legislature.

A compilation of various statistics regarding child support was recently reported in an article found at Ebony.com. As an example, the story indicates that child support is paid primarily by men, 85% to be precise. This is indicative of the mother generally being responsible for raising the children.

There are a host of penalties that one could suffer by not paying child support, including wage garnishments, seizures of property, loss of driving privileges, and jail time.

Take a moment to check out the article, with its other statistical information. It i informative.