Articles Tagged with Boca Raton divorce attorney

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There is never a good time to divorce, when everything will be simple, but some issues, such as those related to division of property, seem even more complicated when the parties are elderly.  Perhaps Florida’s most notable case is that of Burt and Lovey Handelsman, who started divorce proceedings after 67 years of marriage and after amassing a fortune through ownership of commercial real estate properties throughout South Florida. Although it does not involve the same huge sums of money as the Handelsman case, Zelman v. Zelman might be an even messier case, because one of the parties is suffering from dementia.

Details of the Zelman Case

In 2014, Martin Zelman was in his 80s and suffering from dementia and short-term memory loss.  His son Robert Zelman petitioned the court to appoint him or one of his sisters (Martin’s daughters) as their father’s guardian. The petition also mentioned Lois Zelman, Martin’s wife to whom he had been married since 1993, among Martin’s “next of kin,” but it did not recommend her as a guardian and implied that she was an unsuitable choice to act as such. The court appointed Robert as Martin’s temporary guardian, in charge of his health and financial affairs.  As soon as the court appointed Robert as Martin’s guardian, Robert, acting on Martin’s behalf, filed a motion with the court to have Lois removed from the marital home, claiming that she had been abusing and neglecting Martin in his vulnerable state of health. In response, Lois provided the court with evidence that she and Martin were happily married and that she had remained true to her vow to care for him in sickness and in health. The court ruled that Lois must leave the couple’s apartment, and she complied, moving into another apartment in the same building.

Lois argued that Martin was not sufficiently incapacitated as to require a guardian; she proposed instead that the court appoint a power of attorney and health surrogate for him and that he receive in-home health assistance around the clock. Many other petitions followed, filed by Lois and by Robert, disagreeing over details of the extent of Martin’s incapacity and over whom, if anyone, the court should appoint as his guardian. An attorney representing Lois alleged that Martin’s children were trying to force Martin to divorce Lois. The court ruled that, even if the court dissolved the marriage, such a dissolution would not count as a divorce, and that Lois would be entitled to the same assets from Martin’s estate, upon his death, as if they had still been married. Continue reading

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Florida is one of only a few states in which judges can award permanent alimony to the spouse with the lower income or earning potential as part of a divorce decree. For a novelist with a certain mindset, Florida’s spousal support laws could be a plot point in a farce about materialistic social climbers and wealthy business tycoons. (Would Bunny Lebowski in The Big Lebowski have had to stage her own abduction if she could have just sued for permanent alimony?) In practice, permanent alimony is one of the least frequently awarded forms of spousal support.  The only people who are even eligible to receive permanent spousal support are those who have been married for 17 years or more. Most permanent alimony recipients are elderly or have a chronic illness that would make gainful employment difficult or impossible.

Local media have recently highlighted the complexities of high asset divorce by reporting on the divorce of Nancy Hua and Dennis Tsung, an affluent South Florida couple. As of August 2017, the details of how to divide the couple’s assets have yet to be completely worked out. The rulings issued so far in the divorce and in Nancy Hua’s appeal reveal many interesting things about the way Florida courts view property division between divorced spouses.

Wealth Plus Time Does Not Always Equal Permanent Alimony

Nancy and Dennis were married for almost 18 years. In the original divorce case, Nancy requested permanent alimony of $20,000 per month. For most of the marriage she had been a stay-at-home parent with no income. The spousal support award she received was for rehabilitative alimony; Dennis was to pay her $2,500 per month for two years. He was also to pay $12,000 toward her educational expenses; the plan was for her to attend nursing school and then begin working. The court estimated that she would be able to earn an annual income of $50,000 working full time as a nurse. The reason for the court’s decision to award rehabilitative alimony is that Nancy Hua had plenty of potential for gainful employment. She was in her early forties and in good health, and her children were old enough not to require full time childcare. Continue reading

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In previous decades, divorcing spouses may have hired private detectives or other surveillance to catch their spouses in lies or questionable behavior. In recent years, however, such resources have become almost unnecessary since many Americans tend to broadcast nearly every detail of their lives online. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and more allow people to post statuses and photos that allow a look into their daily activities. Such posts can make it very easy for divorcing spouses to catch each other in lies or combat arguments made to the court.

No matter how often divorce attorneys warn clients to stay off social media, we are constantly surprised by how many people ignore this basic advice. Some clients believe their online activities are okay because they “defriended” or “blocked” their spouse. However, you likely still have some online contacts in common with your spouse, and those “friends” may always report information back to your spouse. Information online is widely discoverable, so it is always the best idea to stay off these sites or even suspend your profile until after your divorce is final. The following are some issues that social media posts may adversely affect in your divorce.

Spousal Support and Property Division

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When most people think of divorcing couples who own homes, they may likely think of the question: who will get the house? This question usually implies that one spouse or the other will remain in the family home, while the other spouse must find a new residence. However, there is another option that many spouses do not consider—that neither spouse will get the house.

If a couple cannot reach an agreement regarding who may stay in the home, the issue will have to be litigated in court. The court will look for a way to most equitably divide the property in accordance with Florida divorce law. Often, this may require the couple to sell the family home at fair market value, pay off the mortgage, and then divide the net proceeds equitably, if there are any.

Note that equitable distribution of property is not always 50/50 as the court considers many factors when deciding how to fairly divide property. For example, if one spouse had an affair, gambling problem, shopping addiction, or other factor that caused them to waste marital funds, the court may award that spouse significantly less proceeds for the home sale.