Articles Posted in Equitable Distribution

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When most people think of equitable distribution of property in a divorce, they likely think of houses and properties, investments, and other monetary assets. However, there is usually a significant amount of personal property to be divided and making decisions regarding this kind of property can raise disputes and cause issues in a divorce. Like real property and assets, Florida law requires that personal property is divided equitably between the spouses, and agreeing on what is equitable can be challenging. The following is some information regarding handling personal property in your divorce.

Disagreements Can Be Costly

In the popular movie When Harry Met Sally, a main character is discussing divorce and states, “This eight dollar dish will cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the legal firm of That’s Mine, This Is Yours.” While intended to be humorous, this concept is unfortunately a reality for many contemptuous divorcing spouses. When spouses refuse to agree on certain issues, those issues must be decided by the court and such litigation can be costly. In order to avoid spending $1,500 in legal fees determining what happens to $300 worth of holiday decorations, it is always best that you and your spouse attempt to agree on how the personal property will be divided. If there are certain items that cause particular sticking points, a mediator may be able to provide a more efficient resolution than taking the issue before the court. Continue reading →

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Dividing money and property in a divorce can always be complex. However, the process can become more complicated if one or both spouses have retirement accounts. Like any other assets, investments, or property, the state of Florida requires equitable distribution of the retirement accounts between the spouses. The process of dividing retirement accounts can require additional paperwork, calculations, and more, so it is important to have an attorney on your side who understands how to negotiate for the fairest division of these accounts in accordance with Florida law.

One important tool in dividing rights to retirement accounts is the Qualified Domestic Relations Order, commonly called the QDRO. When a person owns a retirement account, he or she will likely initially be the only payee who will receive the proceeds of that account. However, retirement funds saved and invested during a marriage are considered to be marital property, even if the funds only came as a result of the job of one spouse. In the event of a divorce, one spouse may obtain the rights to also be an alternate payee for the retirement account.

However, certain plans such as those under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) will not simply pay the funds to an alternate payee without the appropriate paperwork. In such situations, a QDRO is needed to ensure the divided funds go to the former spouse or other dependent. Continue reading →

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Recent research has focused on the growing trend of older adults deciding filing for divorce. A study called “The Gray Divorce Revolution” conducted by sociologists at Bowling Green University focused on the rising number of divorces that occur in later stages of life. In 1990, less than one-tenth of divorcing individuals were over 50 years old, but today that number has increased significantly to one-fourth. In addition, one in ten divorcing spouses are over the age of 65, which is more than twice the number 30 years ago. With the increase in “gray divorces,” it is important to examine some of the legal issues that may be more prevalent for these divorcing spouses.

Keeping the House

Staying in the family home may not be a priority for many younger spouses who end their marriage, but older homeowners may have potential benefits in being awarded their house. The following are some benefits of homeownership in retirement years:

  • As you age, you may become eligible for tax waivers and exemptions for your real estate;
  • Owning a home can provide benefits when applying for Medicaid or other public benefits;
  • You may need the tax benefits of deducting mortgage interest to offset higher tax liability in retirement;
  • Homeowners age 62 or older become eligible for a reverse mortgage, which can help with financial support;
  • Even if you choose not to live in the home, it may provide rental income or significant equity if you have owned the home for a long time.

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.

Alimony

Though adultery cannot be considered for fault purposes, it can be considered when the family court is making other determinations, such as whether to award alimony. However, the court cannot award alimony simply as a punishment for a cheating spouse. Instead, the court must further find that the adultery affected the non-cheating spouse’s need for financial support.

Child Custody Determinations

In addition to alimony determinations, a court may consider infidelity as a factor in deciding how to award physical and legal custody. For example, courts regularly examine the moral fitness of each parent when deciding what type of custody arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. Adultery, especially flagrant or particularly scandalous behavior, may lead the court to doubt the moral fitness of the spouse who cheated and may influence a decision to limit custody or timesharing if the court believes the affair had an adverse effect on the child’s well-being.

Division of Property

Florida law requires division of marital property to be equitable and fair based on the particular circumstances of the spouses. If the court finds that the unfaithful spouse spent marital assets on an affair that otherwise would have been divided, the court can award the other spouse more assets and property. Similarly, if the cheating spouse incurred debts to pay for an affair, the court may find that those debts are the sole responsibility of that spouse instead of dividing the debt balances between the two parties.

Call a Boca Raton Divorce Attorney for Help

As you can see, adultery can play a role in a divorce case. If you suspect that your spouse has been unfaithful or if your spouse has accused you of adultery, it may cause a number of potential complications throughout the divorce process. It is important that you have the representation of an experienced Boca Raton divorce lawyer and keep your lawyer fully informed regarding any possible issues or accusations that may arise during your divorce. Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton understands how to face such issues head-on with your best interests in mind. Call our office today at 954-229-1660 to talk about your case for free.

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Celebrity divorces can be difficult, not only because of extensive media coverage but also because one or both of the spouses may have a significant amount of wealth. In one recent divorce, a wife is attempting to obtain a large portion of her husband’s $85 million fortune as well as a large amount of additional ongoing support.

The wife of songwriter, singer, and successful music producer Timbaland filed for divorce at the end of June. She previously filed in 2013 though that case was dismissed as they attempted to reconcile. Apparently that attempt at reconciliation was not successful, as now she has not only filed again but requested many different types of financial support, including the following:

  • Child support for both their biological daughter and her son from a prior relationship
  • Support for private schools, summer camps, and vacations
  • Life insurance
  • Lump sum financial award
  • Spousal support while the divorce is pending
  • Rehabilitative alimony
  • Permanent alimony
  • Attorney’s fees

Because of the amount of money that she is seeking, it is likely that the couple did not sign any type of premarital agreement limiting the support she would receive in the event of divorce.

The amount of support she may be granted will depend on many different factors. For example, reports indicate that she does not have assets of her own, so she has no way to immediately support herself and her family. It will also depend on the amount of money Timbaland actually earned during the marriage and how much will be considered separate property if it was amassed prior to their wedding in 2008. The division of property will also depend upon state laws because, unlike Florida’s equitable division law, California is a community property state and has different methods of property distribution in divorce.

In regard to child support, Timbaland will likely be required to provide a substantial amount for their biological daughter. His wife claims that, even though he is not the biological father of her older child, Timbaland claimed the child “as his own” both privately and publicly. It remains to be seen whether or not the family court will find enough evidence to require Timbaland to provide support for a child that is not legally his own.

Overall, it seems that the divorce will involve complex issues and may require extensive negotiation and court intervention to settle them.

Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Today

Any divorce can have legal issues arise. However, divorces involving parties with significant assets, children, and no premarital agreement can become particularly complicated and costly. If you have a substantial financial fortune, it is imperative that you seek help from a divorce lawyer who knows how to handle this type of case. Boca Raton family law attorney Alan R. Burton has extensive experience handling all types of divorce cases, including those with a lot of money at stake. Mr. Burton will protect your best interests, so call today at 954-229-1660 for help.

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German media recently reported a story regarding an angry husband who decided to take the division of property into his own hands following a split with his wife of 12 years. The man posted a video on Youtube that showed him taking a chainsaw to many of his and his wife’s possessions and literally cutting them in half. The video shows the resulting half of a bicycle, a couch, a bed, a laptop, an iPhone, a teddy bear, and even their car. The husband claims he sent one set of halves to his wife and posted his own set on eBay.

While this husband’s video entertained millions of viewers and his actions garnered international attention, pulling such a stunt is not advisable in the face of divorce from a financial and legal standpoint. In fact, in a Florida divorce case, that husband would likely face financial consequences for destroying marital property in such a manner.

Property Division in Accordance with Florida Law

Florida law mandates that division of all marital property must be equitable. Equitable does not mean equal (and especially does not mean cutting everything directly in half), but instead means that the division should be fair. What is fair will depend on many factors including the nature of the property, the length of the marriage, contributions to the household, and much more.

Many angry spouses may have the desire to destroy some of their marital property simply to keep their spouses from having it. This can include spending lavish amounts of money or physically destroying personal property. However, courts will take such behavior into consideration when making other determinations regarding the divorce case. For example, if you waste money or property, a court may award your spouse more of the remaining property to make up for it. Courts may also award your spouse additional alimony due to your wrongdoing. Furthermore, vengefully destroying property can also affect how a court views your character when making custody determinations. The court can also take into account whether you seem to be uncooperative in the divorce process when deciding what is fair and equitable.

In short, while sawing your property in half may make for an entertaining viral video, it will likely cause difficulty in your divorce case. It is always important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before taking any action regarding your property, especially before doing anything dramatic or impulsive that may affect your case.

An Experienced Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Can Help You

One of the main functions of a qualified divorce attorney is to advise you on what to do and what not to do throughout the course of your divorce case. A Boca Raton divorce lawyer will be able to provide an objective point of view with Florida’s divorce laws in mind to ensure you receive the most favorable outcome possible. If you are facing divorce or want to discuss any matter involving family law, call the law office of Alan R. Burton at 954-229-1660 for assistance today.

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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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In any Florida divorce that involves any type of financial issues such as property division, debt division, child support, and more, each spouse is required to disclose certain information regarding their finances to the other spouse. This trading of information is referred to as Mandatory Disclosure and is required by the Florida Family Courts Rule of Procedure 12.285.

In accordance with Mandatory Disclosure Rules, both spouses must submit the following:

  •         A financial affidavit using a particular long form for income over $50,000 or another short form for income under $50,000. The information on these forms includes a detailed breakdown of your gross monthly income, monthly deductions, expenses, liabilities/debts, and assets.
  •         Three years’ worth of personal federal, state, and personal property tax returns.
  •         Three years’ worth of corporate or other business tax returns if applicable.
  •         Evidence of income for the past three months, such as pay stubs.
  •         Leases, promissory notes, or deeds in which the spouse has or recently had an ownership interest.
  •         Any loan or credit applications prepared within 12 months.
  •         Three months of statements for any credit cards, loans, leases, or other types of debt.
  •         Certain number of account statements for all checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market accounts, brokerage accounts, and more.
  •         All life, health, or dental insurance policies covering you, your spouse, or any dependent children.
  •         Statements for all retirement accounts including pensions, 401(k), IRA, 403(b), and more.
  •         Any court orders for current child or spousal support obligations.

In addition to the above information, if you or your spouse is claiming that certain property is nonmarital and thus not subject to equitable distribution, evidence supporting that claim must be submitted as part of the mandatory disclosures. Also, a spouse must submit any premarital agreements they claim are will come into play in the divorce.

While it may seem daunting to have to compile and disclose all of the above financial information, your spouse must also do the same. These Mandatory Disclosures ensure that your spouse is not lying about his or her financial situation in order to avoid paying certain support or to influence a property division determination. Such disclosures will give both sides a clear view of the whole financial picture of the marriage, which can help ensure that any division or support decisions are fair.

There are certain situations in which Mandatory Disclosures may be waived, including simplified divorces and collaborative divorce proceedings. A financial affidavit may still be required in those situations, though the additional paperwork may not be necessary depending on your situation.

A Boca Raton Divorce Attorney Can Assist You

You always want to make sure to give an accurate picture of your situation in Mandatory Disclosures to ensure that you receive the property and support that you deserve in your divorce. Additionally, correctly reporting all of your liabilities may help make sure the court does not require you to pay more support than you can afford. Alan R. Burton is an experienced divorce attorney in Boca Raton who can help you through every step of the divorce process and make sure your rights are protected. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

 

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Many divorces involve heated custody battles regarding time-sharing with the children between the two parents. Florida law presumes that sharing time and fostering a relationship with both parents is in the best interest of the children, unless sufficient evidence is presented to the contrary. However, courts in Florida are significantly less concerned with the well-being of “children” of the furrier variety—namely pets, such as dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats often have very close relationships with their owners, much like a parent-child relationship. Often, couples who do not have children consider themselves parents of their pets. Therefore, if a couple divorces, the question often arises: How is time with the pet shared? While some states have laws regarding time-sharing of pets, Florida does not have any laws specifically addressing this issue.

Florida Courts Not Very Concerned About Pet Time-Sharing Determinations

In the 1990s, one Florida couple became involved in a fierce battle over the custody of their dog in the case of Bennett v. Bennett. The court gave the husband primary custody with visitation rights to the wife, however both parties filed numerous motions for modifications of the custody arrangements and took up a great amount of time in court. Finally, a Florida Court of Appeals decided that it is not a job for the courts to spend time deciding custody disputes over pets. The appellate court stated that courts have a difficult enough time resolving custody matters involving children, and they should not waste resources regarding pets. Instead, the decision stated courts should treat pets like any other type of marital property and divide ownership equitably.

Pets Often Treated as Property

Because Florida courts will generally not make pet custody decisions, pets are treated like marital property in a divorce. Because marital property is equitably divided between the spouses according to state law, the pet usually ends up solely with one spouse or the other. Since both spouses may have equally close relationships with a pet, they may each be willing to fight at length for possession of that pet. For this reason, pet ownership can lead to costly litigation in divorce cases.

If you and your spouse can come to your own agreement regarding sharing time with a pet, you may both get to spend continued time with the pet and the property determination will not be left up to the court. For this reason, it is always best for a divorcing couple to work on a compromise regarding pet time-sharing. If you are unable to come to a compromised agreement on your own, dispute resolution techniques such as mediation or collaborative divorce may assist you.

Pet custody is only one issue in a divorce that many couples do not foresee to be a contested matter. An experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney can help you negotiate to come to a favorable agreement so that you can continue to spend time with your beloved pet without the need for expensive litigation. If you are facing a divorce, call the law office of experienced attorney Alan R. Burton for assistance today.

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In recent weeks, gossip headlines have been exploding with rumors of impending divorce for music superstars Beyonce and Jay Z. The couple married in 2008 and have one child, but media outlets report that they are currently booking separate hotels and hardly speaking. It is widely speculated that the couple is merely trying to keep up appearances due to their current joint tour.
It is not surprising that they would want to successfully complete the tour, as the pair will receive a $100 million paycheck after the tour ends in Paris in September. The tour promoter, Live Nation, has stated that a divorce during the tour would be devastating for public relations, since so many fans specifically want to see them perform as a loving couple. At this point, completing the tour together may be a feat, as they reportedly had an emergency meeting with Live Nation and a group of lawyers four days before the tour was to kick off. Four lawyers are allegedly accompanying them on tour to negotiate any conflicts that arise between the pair.

Business in the Midst of Divorce

When spouses are business partners, both parties’ livelihood is often dependent on the success of that business. If a couple divorces, the company is considered marital property and must be equitably divided. There are a couple of ways couples may choose to equitably divide their business:
· Liquidate and split the proceeds; or
· Have one spouse buy out the other spouse’s interest in the business.
Neither of the above options may be attractive to spouses in certain situations, however. If a business is particularly lucrative or meaningful to them, they may want to keep the company in operation, so liquidating is not an option. Additionally, neither spouse may want to be bought out and have to start a new business for the ground up. For such reasons, equitable division of a business can be a serious issue in a divorce.
A third option is for the spouses to end their marriage, but continue to run the business together. This option is, for obvious reasons, highly impracticable for spouses who can no longer communicate or agree in a healthy, productive manner. For couples who split amicably, on the other hand, it may be possible to continue to work together and profit from the success of the business they built. Some couples view a family business as a child–they cared for the business before the divorce and will continuing to care about it after the divorce.
It is not uncommon, however, for a divorcing couple to decide to keep working together only to have their working relationship later deteriorate. Beyonce and Jay Z thought they could remain professional and get through a tour, only to have the chances of making it to the $100 million paycheck seem slim–and they are not even divorced yet. These are all reasons why it is very important to make the correct decision regarding a family business in a divorce.
Boca Raton divorce attorney Alan R. Burton can advise you on all aspects of your divorce, including how to handle a family business. Contact our office today for help.