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Fort Lauderdale Divorce Law Blog

Issues to consider when going into property division negotiations

When a divorce is pared down to its basic elements, it is an undeniable fact that financial issues often take center stage. The only issue that garners more attention than property division is the fate of any children involved, and even then, finances are an important consideration. Both parties will benefit by entering into settlement negotiations with at least a basic understanding of the financial implications of a divorce. 

In Florida, marital assets are to be equitably divided between the parties, which typically means that each spouse will leave the marriage with close to 50 percent of the marital property. Moreover, nearly every asset acquired by the couple during the marriage could be subject to property division in a divorce. This includes property such as individual retirement plans, bank accounts and investment accounts that a person may believe are separate property. Under certain circumstances, some assets may be considered separate property, but that may only apply to that portion of the asset that was acquired prior to the marriage.

Common provisions in Florida orders for protection

In situations where domestic violence is alleged, the party claiming to be the victim may desire to obtain some form of legal protection against further contact with the person accused of perpetrating the abuse. Here in Florida, orders for protection may be issued to bar that person from having contact with a victim. Such an order can contain numerous provisions.

Nearly all protective orders include a no-contact provision, which means that the person identified as the abuser may not contact the victim by phone or other electronic means, physically assault the victim or otherwise disturb him or her. In some cases, a Florida judge will even order an abuser from being within a certain distance of the victim and/or certain places frequented by the victim, such as work, school and home. Another provision could require that person to leave the residence shared with the victim prior to the incident.

Could Facebook be a service alternative in a high asset divorce?

When a Florida resident makes the decision to end a marriage, certain legal requirements must be met in order for the marriage to be dissolved. For instance, one of the first tasks to be completed after a divorce petition has been filed is to "serve" the papers on the other party, which means that he or she was personally given legal notice of the divorce. Sometimes, fulfilling this requirement can be problematic -- including in a high asset divorce -- and an alternative method of service may be required.

Ordinarily, a process server -- or some other legally authorized person -- is enlisted to personally give the papers to the other party. When the filing spouse is unable to locate the other party, or that person is actively avoiding being served, Florida law allows for the service requirement to be made through an alternative method. However, it is necessary to obtain court approval first.

Studies suggest issues that can cause complex divorce

Currents statistics show a high divorce rate in the United States, which would obviously include some couples who reside in Florida. A recent article draws attention to a list of issues that some studies suggest cause a propensity toward divorce. A marriage counselor and psychologist helped compile a list of bullet points that couples wishing to avoid complex divorce might take into consideration.

In a 2011 study, it was noted that men who are without paid employment are at higher risk for leaving their spouses. The reverse as suggested was also true, that wives of unemployed men are likely to leave a marriage. Some say that the stress of financial crisis, lack of job security and instability of lifestyle leads to marital discord.

Domestic violence charge against Jonathan Taylor withdrawn

Circumstances recently changed in a well-publicized case outside of Florida involving a former college football player and a woman who had accused him of assault. The young woman is said to have recanted her accusations of domestic violence. The athlete had been removed from the football team's roster due to the charges against him.

Police reported that the 24-year-old woman had initially filed charges of assault against defensive tackler, Jonathan Taylor, of the Crimson Tide football team. She gave official statements, saying that during a recent argument, Taylor had become violent and police reportedly witnessed slight injuries to her neck that she said were a result of the assault. The man was arrested and had multiple degrees of domestic violence charges issued against him.

Results vary if Florida courts are in charge of property division

When a divorcing couple relies on Florida's courts to divide their property, the results could leave both parties feeling unsatisfied. This is mainly due to the fact that the courts are bound to follow established laws regarding property division. Even so, judges do exercise a good deal of discretion within those laws, and there are no guarantees for the couple.

Some couples combat this eventuality by negotiating and executing prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements. These agreements allow the parties to decide ahead of time who will receive what property if the marriage ends. In addition, the parties are able to avoid the adversarial process that comes with a court battle.

Will joint child custody be the norm in the future?

Nearly everyone in Florida would agree that being a single parent is challenging. Even as more couples are sharing child custody, the National Parents Organization estimates that nearly 83 percent of all custody rulings give primary custody to one parent while the other is awarded visitation. Other statistics indicate that this arrangement has detrimental effects on the children, often through no fault of the single parent.

Despite a parent's best efforts, the data indicates that behavioral issues, teen suicides and other self-destructive behaviors are more common among children in single-parent homes. This is why many Florida couples are putting aside their differences in order to co-parent. Parenting plans are being negotiated outside the courtroom in order to allow each parent as much time with the children as possible.

Want a prenuptial agreement? Ask as soon as possible

Talking about finances can be awkward for newly engaged Florida couples. Moreover, neither party wants to think that the marriage may not last. Therefore, it can be uncomfortable to bring up the subject of a prenuptial agreement. However, waiting too long to discuss the issue can end up doing more harm than good.

Prenuptial agreements can be invalidated by a Florida court for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is that the document was signed under duress. In the event of a divorce, one spouse may attempt to have the agreement invalidated by the court, and timing can be an important factor if that person is claiming that he or she felt as though he or she had no choice but to sign the agreement.

Dealing with child support issues as a Florida parent

When Florida parents first decide to go their separate ways -- regardless of whether they were married or not -- providing for the children's emotional and financial needs becomes a priority. This ordinarily entails dealing with custody arrangements and child support. Under normal circumstances, determining the amount of child support one parent pays to the other involves looking to the state's child support guidelines.

Most people already know that the parties' net income is the main factor in this calculation, but Florida judges may take other factors into consideration as well, depending on the needs of each child. For instance, if a child has special needs that require additional financial assistance, those needs will be examined and will dictate the total amount of the support obligation. The process can be overwhelming, but with the advice and guidance of an attorney, a fair and correct amount can be reached.

More details regarding Florida alimony reform come to light

On Feb. 24, 2015, we reported that alimony reform was once again a topic of discussion in the Florida legislature ("Florida alimony law once again under consideration by lawmakers"). Recently, more details regarding the proposed reforms were released, as bills in both the state House and Senate move forward. The changes go well beyond creating a formula for alimony similar to the one used for child support.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, parties who were married two years or less would not be eligible for alimony. For marriages over two years, Florida judges will have the ability to consider the income potential of the spouse requesting support. If a couple was married more than two years, but less than 20 years, payments would not last as long or be as high as they were in the past. Spousal support and child support payments combined would not be more than 55 percent of the payor's net income.

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