Articles Tagged with equitable distribution

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Even people who do not have a romantic bone in their bodies find it heartwarming to see elderly couples who have been married for many decades. For example, after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on Florida, readers all across the country took comfort in the news story about Harvey and Irma Schluter, a Washington state couple who have been married since 1942. Florida’s divorce lawyers know, though, that not all long marriages result in couples living happily ever after.  Divorce cases involving couples who have been married for more than two decades are often the most complex when it comes to property division, especially if the couple is wealthy. The divorce case of Burt and Lucille “Lovey” Handelsman, which has made news headlines recently, practically sets records for complex divorce, both because of the length of the marriage and because of the high value of the couple’s jointly owned assets.

Who are Burt and Lovey Handelsman?

Even if you have not heard the names Burt and Lovey Handelsman, their business dealings play a role in the lives of many Floridians. The Handelsmans own approximately $750 million in commercial real estate in Florida and New York state. Among their most famous holdings are the upscale shops on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach. Burt and Lovey are both in their late 80s; they have gradually built their real estate empire over the course of their 67-year marriage, and their three children are also involved in the family business.

In 2016, Lovey filed for divorce, convinced that Burt was having an extramarital affair with Jane Rankin, a friend of the Handelsmans who has also been involved with the family real estate business.  Burt denies the affair; he believes that the couple’s children have intentionally alienated Lovey from him, thinking that they will gain more of the family wealth sooner if their parents divorce. The couple’s son and two daughters deny these claims. Continue reading

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Florida is one of only a few states that still allow permanent alimony, and for that it has gained some notoriety. Of course, the requirements for awarding permanent alimony are quite strict, and the cases that involve it tend to be complex. The guiding principle that Florida courts use in determining spousal support and other matters related to property division is equitable distribution. Equitable distribution means assigning to each spouse the assets and obligations that the court deems fair based on the couple’s unique circumstances. As you might imagine, there is plenty of room for disagreement about what is fair. The Wayne v. Einspar appeal is a recent Florida family law case in which a former spouse challenged the court’s decision regarding equitable distribution.

Background of the Wayne v. Einspar Case

Matthew Wayne and Susan Einspar divorced in 2013, after their son had reached adulthood. At the time of their divorce, both parents had separately cosigned for various loans for their young adult son. Wayne was a cosigner on the student loans, and Einspar was a cosigner on the car loan. In the original divorce decision, the court did not count the loans as marital property.  Additionally, the court required Wayne to pay permanent alimony to Einspar and to keep a life insurance policy with Einspar as the beneficiary in order to secure this alimony. Wayne filed an appeal, challenging the court’s original decision on 10 counts, many of them related to alimony. Continue reading

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When two people get married, it often makes sense to combine finances. Spouses open joint bank accounts and combine their incomes to help each other pay off debts–both pre-existing debts and new ones acquired during the marriage. In many situations, spouses may depend on one another to be able to cover their monthly bills. This can all lead to a messy situation if the spouses decide to get divorced.

During a divorce, Florida law requires the fair and equitable division of all jointly-owned property and this law applies to debts, as well. However, dividing up debts can be complex, especially if some debts are owned individually and others jointly. The name on the debt does not always mean that person will be solely responsible for the payments, however, and it is important to discuss debt division with an experienced divorce attorney who understands the relevant law. The following is some brief information regarding the division of certain debts in divorce:

Student Loans

Student loans are often individual debts unless the spouses cosigned on the loans or the loans were acquired during the marriage. In such cases, the loans would be considered marital debt and you may be held responsible for sharing the payment unless you and your spouse can agree otherwise. However, even if you agree that your spouse will be responsible for the loans, your name will likely remain on the loans and any failure to repay could affect your credit. Continue reading

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A major part of any divorce case will likely be the equitable division of assets as directed under Florida law. Not all assets owned by the divorcing spouses will be subject to division, however, as only assets considered to be “marital property” must be divided. Marital property is anything owned by both spouses together while separate property is only owned by one spouse (and the owner spouse will get to keep that property). It is important to take particular care when you are deciding which property is classified as marital and which is separate. If you misclassify certain property, you may lose valuable assets in your divorce to which you otherwise would have been entitled.

Marital assets generally include any property that is acquired by either spouse through the duration of the marriage. This can include real estate, investments, retirement accounts, cash, and personal property. Even if only one spouse purchases a property or opens a retirement account, if he or she uses would-be marital funds to do so, the property will be considered marital regardless of the name(s) on the title. All too often, a spouse believes that because he or she started a business or titled a vehicle in only one name, that the property will be considered separate. In fact, in these situations, any business proceeds or vehicle equity acquired during the marriage should be divided between the spouses. If marital funds were used to acquire the property or if the proceeds of the property/assets would benefit both spouses, the classification should generally be “marital.” This can be confusing in many situations, so it is wise to review all property and asset classification with an experienced divorce attorney who understands Florida law. Continue reading

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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