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In a dissolution of marriage action, the court is required to identify all the marital assets and to establish the value for those marital assets.

Stock is just one example of what might be considered a marital asset in a divorce case.  Stocks which are traded routinely on an exchange have a value that is easily determined.  What do you do however when you are dealing with stock in a privately held company, or stocks commonly referred to as penny stocks?  How do you go to go about valuing these types of stocks?

Bring your valuation experts to court, and present their full testimony.  For certain, a trial judge should not make a finding of value until all the evidence has been presented to the court regarding valuation.  Additionally, if both parties to the proceeding offer evidence of differing valuations, it is not appropriate for a court to take an average of the two conflicting valuations in order to assign a value to the stock.

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Child support, under Florida law, is initially established by applying the Florida child support guidelines.  The child support guidelines are applied to not only a final hearing in a dissolution of marriage action, but are also applicable in temporary support proceedings

Florida Statute 61.30(1)(a) specifically states that the child support guideline amount is utilized to establish the amount of child support,  whether in a temporary or permanent proceeding.

When the court is assigned the task of determining the amount of child support that is going to be paid, a trial court is permitted to deviate from the amount of child support as provided for in the guideline amount, based on a myriad of different factors, as noted in Florida Statute 61.30(1)(a)(11).  There are 11 separate factors itemized under this statute which provide for different scenarios for deviating from the child support guidelines.  Take a few moments to read through that section to see if any of the listed factors will provide you with a basis to seek additional child support over and above the amount as set forth under the child support guidelines.

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There is a general rule in Florida that essentially says that a trial court should award the primary residential parent exclusive use and possession of the marital residence after divorce, until the child or children reach majority or are emancipated.

As we often discover in life, there are exceptions to every rule, and this holds true in situations dealing with the marital residence.

When “special circumstances” exist, it may be appropriate for the court to order the sale of the marital residence, rather than awarding exclusive use and possession to one of the parties.  Special circumstances may exist “when the parties incomes are inadequate to meet their debts, obligations, and normal living expenses, as well as the expense of maintaining the marital residence.”  This concept was set forth in the case of Coristine v Coristine, 53 So3rd 1204, (Florida 5th DCA 2011).

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A trial court in a divorce proceeding lacks the legal authority to order the sale of jointly owned real property, unless there was a specific pleading asking for partition of the real property.

Partition is a request that is made by one of the parties to sell jointly owned real property.  The court in the case of Martinez v. Martinez, 573 So.2d 37 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990) specifically held that a court has no authority to partition or order the sale of  jointly held real property in the absence of an agreement between the parties or a specific pleading filed in the case requesting partition.

The court does, however, have the right to award a 100% interest in a parcel of real property to one party or the other in a dissolution of marriage case, as part of the equitable distribution ordered by the court, as provided under Florida Statute 61.075.

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Bonus income can be paid on a regular and routine basis, or it could be paid for an isolated event.

The law is clear however, that in order to include bonus income in a child support calculation, there must be evidence that the bonus is regular and continuous before it can be included in a party’s income for purposes of calculating child support.

In Rudnick v. Rudnick, 162 So 3rd 116 (Florida 4th DCA 2015), the husband experienced a substantial spike and his income for the year of his divorce.  He testified that he was a political consultant, who experienced an unusually high level of income in the year 2012 due to the presidential election that year.

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How does a Florida Family Court judge deal with the issue of foreign law?

There is no doubt that Florida is a multi-cultural state, drawing residents from around the world.  Oftentimes those residents will come to Florida with prenuptial agreements executed in their home countries.

These agreements usually will contain a choice of law provision which basically spells out that the law of their country will apply to the provisions of the agreement, even though a divorce action is filed in Florida.

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Extreme caution should be exercised when a party in a dissolution of marriage action seeks temporary emergency relief without giving notice to the other party.   This is what is commonly known as ex parte relief, which is seeking relief without providing any notice whatsoever to the other side.  These types of proceedings are at substantial risk of reversal based upon a denial of due process of law.

There is a basic premise under the law that states that absent an emergency, failure to give notice to the other party is tantamount to a denial of due process of law.   The appellate courts throughout the State of Florida routinely reverse temporary custody orders entered without notice to the other party, or with insufficient notice, or with insufficient opportunity to be heard.  Putting it a different way, there are at least two sides to every story, and both parties should be afforded the opportunity to present their position to a judge, prior to the Court making any adjustments regarding a previously existing time-sharing schedule between the parents.

The former husband, Basem Yunis, ran afoul of these basic principles when dealing with an ex parte motion seeking emergency relief.  You can read about the facts in his case in Suleiman v. Yunis, 168 Southern 3rd 319 (Florida 5th DCA 2015).

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An adoption subsidy paid by the State of Florida to the parents of special needs children may not be considered as a credit against the spouse’s child support obligation.

The Legislature has made adoption assistance, including financial aid, available to prospective adoptive parents who adopt a child with special needs through the state’s foster care system.

The purpose of the adoption subsidy is to encourage individuals to adopt special-needs children by assisting the parents with the extra care a special needs child requires.

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The failure to pay court-ordered child support can lead to a finding of contempt of court if the payor has the financial ability to pay the court-ordered child support.

What happens however, when the payor spouse files a petition for downward modification of the child support obligation, and the recipient of the child support files a motion for contempt?  How will these competing pleadings be handled by the trial court?

A petition for modification of child support should either be heard before or simultaneously with a motion for contempt, in order for the trial court to determine if in fact there is a factual basis to reduce the child support obligation.

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A denial of due process can come in many different forms.  When an incarcerated spouse filed a timely motion to appear at his final hearing by telephone, and his motion was denied, he was effectively denied due process of law. The trial court committed reversible error in Rodriquez v. Rodriquez when this specific request to appear by telephone was denied.

The importance of clearly setting forth the nature of a specific hearing, in either a court order setting a matter for a hearing or in a notice of hearing cannot be understated.  If a trial court conducts a proceeding that expands beyond what was noticed for that particular hearing, over a litigant’s objection, a denial of due process will occur.

In Shah v. Shah, the trial court conducted a final hearing for dissolution of marriage, in spite of the fact that the case was noticed for a status conference, and not a final hearing.  The court’s notice to the litigants clearly stated that either a final hearing or a status conference would be conducted, however, if the pro se wife filed an answer than the court would only conduct a status conference.  In spite of the fact that the pro se wife did file an answer, the court went ahead anyways and granted a dissolution of marriage.  The appellate court stated that under the circumstances of the facts presented in this case, a denial of due process had occurred.  A fundamental prerequisite to due process requires proper notice and an opportunity to be heard.