Articles Posted in Alimony

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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:

  • Courts would need to consider whether parties are living up to their earning potential prior to awarding them alimony.
  • Alimony increases will not be simply tied to increases in income for the payer.
  • If the alimony payer remarries, a new spouse’s income and assets will not be considered as a factor in increasing alimony.
  • Retirement will constitute a “substantial change in circumstances” that allows the payer to request a reduction or elimination of payments.
  • No alimony will be awarded to a spouse married less than two years unless extreme circumstances exist.
  • No individual will have to pay combined alimony and child support over 55 percent of their net earnings.

Such alimony reform will likely ease the fears of spouses divorcing after lengthy marriages that they will be handing over large payments indefinitely. However, the bill is not meant to solely benefit the alimony payer. Due to the standardized formula, many spouses will be awarded greater alimony than they may have been otherwise. The bill aims to promote fairness and balance between both payer and payee, though whether it will become law is yet to be seen.

An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney can answer your questions

Many people considering divorce in Florida may have concerns about the changes in the family laws and may wonder whether it is better to file for divorce before or after the potential change in the alimony laws. An experienced divorce lawyer can evaluate your individual situation and provide advice on what is in your best interests, as well as guide you through the divorce process. Please do not hesitate to call Boca Raton 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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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

The most common way for spouses receiving a salary or hourly wages to hide income is to suddenly decrease overtime hours. Regular overtime can substantially increase earning potential. If a spouse declines to work overtime for a period of time prior to a divorce, their paystubs will clearly reflect less income. Such spouses often return to their regular overtime hours and income immediately following a court ruling.
Salaried spouses may also renegotiate their contracts to temporarily receive some of their income as additional benefits, expense reimbursement, or some other form of compensation not readily identifiable as income on a paystub.

Commission-Paid Spouses

Spouses who work as salespeople and receive much or all of their income in the form of commissions may also develop RAIDS. This is often achieved in one of the following ways, among others:
· Not selling up to their full potential for a period of time;
· Continuing to make sales, but delaying the finalization of sales (and payment of commission) until after the divorce is final; and
· Having a fellow salesman take credit and receive commission for a sale, and then pay the spouse the commission in cash that you are unaware exists.

Self-Employed Spouses

It is perhaps easiest for self-employed spouses to significantly reduce or hide income. First, many self- employed individuals often transact in cash for at least some of their business deals, and they may easily hide this income by simply not reporting it to the IRS on their taxes. At that point, you may have to look to personal logbooks or other records of cash sales to prove that income. Additionally, self-employed individuals may substantially increase their business expenses, which works to lower their overall “income” on their tax returns.
These are only some examples of how spouses can use RAIDS to reduce the amount of support they are ordered to pay. An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney knows how to examine tax returns, pay statements, and other financial documents to identify RAIDS and make an argument to the court in favor of the child or spousal support that you truly deserve. If you are facing a divorce, do not hesitate to call the office of Alan R. Burton as soon as possible for assistance with your case.

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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

Under the Florida alimony statute, courts are authorized to use a variety of factors in determining whether either party will be awarded alimony. In addition, alimony can be “bridge-the-gap,” rehabilitative, duration, or permanent, and can be awarded as both periodic payments or lump sum payments, or both. Courts are allowed to consider whether either spouse was unfaithful in determining how much alimony to award, and can also consider the following factors:
· The standard of living the couple had during the marriage;
· How long the marriage lasted;
· Both parties age and physical condition;
· The financial resources of each party, including both marital and nonmarital assets;
· The earning potential, job skills, and employability of each part, as well as the time it would take for either party to get the training or education that would allow that party to become employed;
· Each party’s contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, education, child care, and career building of the other party;
· The responsibility that either party will have in terms of any children of the marriage;
· The tax ramifications to either party of an alimony award;
· The sources of income available to each party; and
· Any other factor that may be necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
As this list should make clear, courts have wide discretion in determining whether and how much alimony to award, and it specifically addresses the situation in which one spouse contributed to the education or career building of the other spouse. As a result, while a professional degree or license earning during the marriage will not be valuated and divided as part of the division of property, any contribution to that degree or license will be a factor in determining whether and how much alimony to award.
A specific type of alimony that may be awarded in a circumstance where one spouse forwent education in order to support the other is considered rehabilitative alimony. The alimony law authorizes that alimony may be awarded to a party seeking self-support through the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience to develop work skills or credentials.

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

Divorce proceedings in Florida can raise a number of legal issues that may have a significant impact on a person’s life. As a result, anyone who is considering or currently going through a divorce should call Florida divorce attorney Alan R. Burton today at (954) 229-1660.

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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.

How does a vocational expert help in divorce?

When a person is facing divorce, there are several ways a vocational expert may help. First, if you are seeking alimony, your spouse may insist that you do not need support. Even if you have been staying at home for years, a spouse may assert that you are qualified for a career with a large income and therefore can fully support yourself. A vocational expert can give an objective opinion on your chances of securing work in the current employment market and the kind of income you may expect to receive. This evidence can help show the court that you will need spousal support to pay the bills, at least for a certain period of time.
Additionally, your spouse may attempt to avoid paying spousal or child support by suddenly reporting a significant decrease in income. It is not unheard of for a high-earning spouse to actually resign from a position and take a lower-paying job to try to influence the court to order less child support or alimony. A vocational expert can examine your spouse’s true earning potential based on available jobs and your spouse’s qualifications and report their findings to the court. This can help expose any devious tactics your spouse may be using to avoid paying the true amount of support you deserve.
Finally, if your spouse reports a change in circumstances post-divorce that may modify court-ordered child or spousal support, a vocational expert may analyze the situation and determine whether there was truly a necessary change of circumstances. Additionally, if you have suffered a change in circumstances that renders you unable to pay court-ordered support, a vocational expert can corroborate the fact that your circumstances have truly changed due to illness, injury, or other factors that may affect employability.
If you believe you are on the brink of divorce, your first call should be to the Boca Raton office of Alan R. Burton. Mr. Burton provides the highest quality of representation for divorces and all family law matters and works to ensure that every client receives the best possible outcome. Do not hesitate to call our office for assistance today.

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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

Alimony determinations are regulated by law in the state of Florida. Under Florida Statute Section 61.08, a court may award one of four types of alimony:
1. Bridge-the gap: Short-term alimony for up to two years to make the married-to-single transition easier;
2. Rehabilitative: To help one spouse support themselves for a limited time while they take the necessary steps to support themselves, and the spouse requesting alimony must present a rehabilitative plan to the court, which may involve school or job training;
3. Durational: Support for a limited period of time, but does not require that one spouse submit a rehabilitative plan;
4. Permanent: Long-term payments, which are usually reserved for longer marriages; permanent alimony is used to allow a spouse to enjoy the standard of living experienced during the marriage. Permanent alimony is most often awarded to an older spouse, or a spouse who cannot work due to illness or other factors.

Factors for the Court

In order to decide whether to award alimony and which type to award, the law advises the court to consider numerous factors, including:
· The length of the marriage;
· Standard of living enjoyed during the marriage;
· Age, health, and abilities of the spouses;
· Division of assets in the divorce;
· Each person’s contribution to the marriage, including both financial contributions as well as childcare, tending to the household, supporting the other party, and more;
· Custodial arrangements;
· The education, skills, employment prospects, and earning capacity of each spouse;
· Other sources of income, such as investments or insurance policies;
· Any other factor the court considers relevant for an equitable and fair determination.
As you can imagine, alimony requests are usually contested, so both spouses must argue their cases in court regarding the above factors. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to help handle alimony or any other matter that may arise during a divorce. If you are facing divorce in the Boca Raton or Ft. Lauderdale areas, call attorney Alan R. Burton today for help.

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The current alimony laws “on the books” in Florida have been under recent attack. Although major changes were approved by the legislative branch of the government last year, the Governor issued a veto at the “11th hour.”

You should expect to see a further attempt to pass some significant changes to the alimony laws this year as well.

Currently, there are four categories of alimony that an individual may be entitled to receive. None of the categories are mutually exclusive; a recipient may qualify for more than one type.

On short term marriages, those of which have a duration of less than 7 years, bridge-the-gap alimony may be appropriate. This type of alimony is to assist an individual with certain identifiable needs, and to assist one from making the transition from married life to single life. Bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed a period of two (2) years, and is not modifiable once awarded.

Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to an individual in order to give them the appropriate education or training to become self sufficient. The presentation of a specific plan of rehabilitation, along with the cost, is required.

Durational alimony is available to an individual who has been involved in a short term or moderate term marriage. A moderate term marriage is one of over 7 years, but less than seventeen (17) years. The length of the award of durational alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage. The amount of the award is subject to modification, but the length of the award is not, subject to exceptional circumstances.

A long term marriage, one in which the duration is in excess of 17 years, entitles one to become a candidate for permanent alimony. The Court is required to make a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and equitable between the parties if it is the intention of the Court to make this type of award. Permanent alimony is subject to modification, and it terminates upon the death of the recipient or the payor.

When the issue of alimony is presented to a Court, the Court is required to examine several factors in determining the appropriate amount and type of support. THe court will examine the following factors:

1. Standard of living of the parties.
2. Duration of the marriage.
3. Age of each of the parties, along with the emotional and physical health of each
4. Financial resources available to both parties
5. Education of each of the parties; vocational skills, earning capacities
6. Contribution to the marriage, including services rendered for homemaking and
raising children, and assisting the other in building their career.
7. Tax treatment of any alimony awarded, such as whether it will be taxable to the recipient or not.
8. Income from any sources available to each party
9. Responsibilities for minor children after the divorce
10. Any other factor necessary to do justice between the parties
If you wish to examine the alimony statute in Florida in more detail, you can find it under Florida Statute 61.08.

More detailed information, specific to your individual situation, can also be obtained by calling me directly at 954-229-1660. I will be more than happy to discuss your case with you, free of charge.

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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.

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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.

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Currently there are four types of alimony awarded under Florida law. Florida Statute 61.08 provides for the possibility of an award for Bridge-the-Gap, Rehabilitative, Durational, and Permanent Alimony.

Although permanent alimony is “still on the books”, there have been strong movements forming in south Florida and across the country for the reform of alimony, including the abolishment of permanent alimony entirely.

As an example, a recent article in the Asbury Park Press addressed the efforts to have the New Jersey Legislature examine the alimony laws currently in existence in that state, just as Massachusetts has done in recent years.

In Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and throughout south Florida the “Second Wives Club” is an organization that has strong support for the abolishment of permanent alimony. A recent article appearing in the Sacramento Bee is illustrative of the frustrations felt by many people.

Recent legislation in Florida has taken steps to make it more difficult to receive permanent alimony if the duration of the marriage is under 17 years in length. There must be significant and exceptional circumstances at play for a judge to award an individual permanent alimony in a marriage of less than 17 years.

For more information on this timely issue, contact a family law attorney who has substantial experience in dealing with these as well as other family law issues.