Articles Posted in Alimony

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It is understandable that some spouses who are divorcing are not necessarily in the mindset to cooperate with one another. After all, fighting and disagreements have likely played a role in the decision to end their marriage. However, refusal to come to an agreement regarding one or more issues in a divorce can cause serious delays and can increase the cost of a divorce.

Before a court will grant your divorce, you and your spouse must settle numerous issues including:

  • Property and debt division;
  • Child support;
  • Time-sharing and visitation;
  • Parenting plans;
  • Alimony.

If any one of those issues cannot be settled out of court, the divorce can be delayed as the court will have to decide for you. You and your spouse will have to present evidence to support your arguments for how you want to resolve the issue at trial and the judge will rule on the matter.

A recent divorce case demonstrates just how much a divorce case can be affected by adversarial disputes instead of cooperation. After 25 years of marriage, the wife of the founder of Cancer Treatment Centers for America filed for divorce. The filing occurred in 2009 and the case is still dragging on due to several disagreements regarding a prenuptial agreement, custody, and division of their millions of dollars in assets. The case has involved numerous hearings, appellate hearings, changes of lawyers, contempt orders, and other complications, and is now finally going to trial over asset and property division. In the meantime, both spouses have likely spent an enormous amount of money, stress, and time dealing with the divorce proceedings and have been unable to remarry since their marriage is not yet dissolved after more than six years. Continue reading →

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Divorce can be an uncertain or stressful situation for anyone. After all, many facets of your life from your living arrangements to your finances to your relationship with your children will likely change. While these changes may be difficult for anyone, they can be particularly difficult and stressful for a parent who has decided to stop working to stay home and care for the children and the household.

Being a stay-at-home parent is never easy, as there is a great amount of responsibility involved in constantly caring for small children on a daily basis. In addition, a stay-at-home parent is often tasked with a large percentage of cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other household chores. Such contributions can be extremely valuable for a household, especially if it eliminates the need for costly child care, housekeepers, or other services. In addition, a stay at home parent agrees to put his or her own educational or professional goals on hold for the greater good of the family.

Unfortunately, when it comes time for a divorce, the breadwinner of the family tends to focus on his or her financial contributions and not appreciate the sacrifices the stay-at-home parent has made. Because they have contributed more financially, they often believe they deserve more financially, as well. Luckily, family courts generally take the non-financial contributions of stay-at-home parents into considerations when making determinations regarding alimony and other financial support in a divorce. However, it is always wise for stay at home parents to do the following and more to protect their rights: Continue reading →

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The end of a long-term relationship can be emotionally difficult and can make people act in ways that may be out of character. Sometimes, people who are getting a divorce feel a newfound sense of freedom that allows them to pursue new social or romantic options. In other instances, a divorce can cause individuals to engage in emotional coping mechanisms such as substance abuse or overspending. While these are natural and human reactions to the end of a relationship, sharing this type of behavior on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram could have a negative effect on the way that certain issues in your divorce are resolved. Some of the ways that social media posts could affect your divorce are detailed below.

Sharing on Social Media Could Affect Child Custody Determinations

Under Florida Law, the guiding principle that courts must follow when making child custody determinations is the “best interests of the child.” In figuring out what type of custody arrangement is in a child’s best interests, courts may consider any factor that they deem relevant. For this reason, social media posts that indicate that a person is engaging in behavior that the court believes could affect a person’s ability to be an effective parent could potentially be introduced as evidence in cases in which child custody is disputed. Continue reading →

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With the recent breach and data leak regarding approximately 32 million subscribers to the “married dating” website Ashley Madison, many married couples have likely been facing difficult situations as news of possible infidelity became exposed. It would not be surprising, in fact, if numerous couples end up in divorce court over a leaked Ashley Madison subscription. This leads to the common question: What role, if any, does a spouse’s adulterous behavior play in a subsequent divorce case?

Questions of Fault

In Florida, you must file for divorce on a “no-fault” basis, which means that no specific reason–such as adultery–can be given for the divorce. Insteading of blaming one spouse, all divorces are based on the assertion that the marriage is irretrievably broken. For this reason, adultery has no effect specifically on basic questions of fault in a divorce.

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The Florida Senate and House of Representatives will consider a newly proposed bill that would effectively end lifetime alimony awards in our state and make several others changes to existing alimony laws. Florida is currently one of only a few remaining states with laws that allow awards of lifetime alimony. A similar bill failed in 2013, however the new bill does not retroactively affect individuals already receiving alimony, which was a major issue that concerned Governor Scott and other opposition in previous versions. In fact, the new bill is largely supported by lawmakers

Under the new law, courts would also have significantly less discretion in alimony awards and the formula would instead closer resemble child support determinations, which are based on a specific income-driven formula. Instead of arbitrarily choosing alimony amounts and the length of awards, courts would use a formula that considered the income of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and other specific factors. Courts would still have the discretion to go outside the guidelines when they believe there is justification to do so. However, the guidelines would largely help to standardize alimony awards so spouses would have a better idea of what to expect in a pending divorce case. Additionally, there would always be an end date for an alimony award.

Some of the other changes to alimony laws that would take place should the bill pass include as follows:

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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

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Determining the requirement for and amount of child support and/or spousal support is an important part of many Florida divorces. The amount of income the paying spouse earns is highly important to these determinations, as it helps show their ability to pay a certain amount. Unfortunately, many soon-to-be former spouses use certain methods to lower the amount of income they earn or to misrepresent their earning power in order to avoid orders of high amounts of child or spousal support.

Specifically, many spouses develop “RAIDS,” a term commonly used in family law that stands for “Recently Acquired Income Deficiency Syndrome.” RAIDS occurs when a high-earning spouse suddenly reports a decrease in income, thereby expecting lower support requirements. Depending on their employment situation, spouses may have different methods of achieving this deceptive goal.

Salaried Spouses

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Under Florida law, all marital property is equitably distributed between spouses that are divorcing. Marital property includes all debts and assets that a couple accumulates during a marriage. For couples that have been together since they were in school, this often raises the question of whether professional degrees or licenses allowing one of the spouses to engage in a particular profession are considered marital property. This is particularly at issue in situations where one party to the marriage chose to forgo his or her own educational or career opportunities in order to support the other spouse in their pursuits.

In Florida and most other states, the answer to the question posed above is “no.” Importantly, while a professional degree itself is not considered marital property, there are other arguments that can be raised in order to ensure that the spouse without the professional degree or license has his or her financial needs met after a divorce.

The Florida Alimony Statute

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When you are facing a divorce, it is always important to have a skilled, experienced attorney handling your case. In addition to knowing the rules and procedures of family courts, a qualified attorney has many resources that may help you get a favorable outcome in your divorce. One such resource is a vocational expert.

What is a vocational expert?

A vocational expert is a professional who studies which skills are most in demand in the current job market and, additionally, how much income a person should potentially be able to earn with those skills in certain careers. A vocational expert will examine an individual’s education level, professional experience, interests, abilities, and other factors and compare those with others in the job market. As a result, these experts can estimate for which jobs a person may qualify and how much money that person may expect to earn.

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Your life will likely change significantly following a divorce. Depending on your circumstances, you may have to move to a different home, divide up some of your valued possessions, and have to share custody of your children. Florida courts recognize the difficulties divorce may present and try to make divorce as fair and equitable as possible for both parties, depending on the particular circumstances in each case. One tool the court uses to even the playing field after a divorce is alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance. Alimony is financial payment from one former spouse to another.

Many spouses sacrifice educational or professional opportunities for the sake of the marriage, family, and household. For example, a husband may decide to stay at home to take care of the children so his wife can pursue advanced degrees and high-paying jobs. If the couple gets divorced, he may have significantly fewer economical and professional opportunities than his wife due to his sacrifice, at least for a certain period of time. In such cases, the court may require the wife to pay alimony to the husband until he can adequately support himself.

Types of Alimony

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