Articles Posted in Divorce / Dissolution of Marriage

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Life after a divorce can be very difficult both for the co-parents and for the children of the former marriage.  Part of what makes it easier is that children are still seeing both parents regularly and have the same social circles, schools, and sometimes home that they already know. But then life strikes, and the need to relocate has reared its head. Someone has to move, and that means that the children will be thrown into massive change again.  No matter how you slice it, when a parent has to move with or without the children, it is a huge change for a child. Making the decision to relocate is not one to take lightly or make out of haste.

In most cases, Florida law requires that if you are relocating that you must follow the very specific procedures set forth in Fla. Stat. 61.13001.  These relocation procedures become applicable when either parents who is entitled to timesharing with the minor children intends to move more than fifty (50) miles away.  You can obtain permission to relocate either through the agreement with the other party, or by filing a Petition with your family court.

When co-parents agree to the relocation, you still must make sure that you agreement conforms to Florida Law.  In order to comply, your agreement must be in writing, must consider transportation and related expenses, must specify a new parenting plan, and ultimately be sanctioned by the Court to be considered valid.

Travel-Out-of-the-Country-300x300Love knows no boundaries, and multicultural families are very common in our society.  Things, however, become complicated when couples separate, and at times, intense emotions lead can lead to bad decisions. At times, foreign spouses threaten to take a child or children out of the United States, leaving the American born spouse in fear of losing the children.  The issues under these circumstances include how to protect the children from parental abduction and what limitations exist on how parents can travel post-separation.

Being vigilant and having open communication is always the best step to avoid a future issue when considering the safety of your children. If the other spouse makes a legitimate threat to take your child, you may be able to request a emergency order to keep your children in the state or country.   You may also be able to obtain an order enjoining the other spouse from taking the children to locations.

These orders may not be without limit, but they may provide a sufficient warning to  a spouse who is considering taking the next step and removing the children. In addition, there are federal safeguards that require that both parents to participate in getting a minor child a passport. The Two Parent Consent Law requires that both parents provide notarized signed consent for the issuance of a passport for a child. In addition, parents can register their children with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program, which is governed by the Department of State. If a parent registers with the Department of State, and provides the necessary documentation, a child’s passport application will be denied after being approved for acceptance by the program. It is important to know your legal rights in a family law case by consulting with an experienced Florida Family Law Attorney.

Wedding-300x238When two people are getting married, the excitement of planning and celebrating the upcoming matrimonial bliss is the focal point, but in actually, it is really two people entering into a legal binding contract.  In order for the contract to be valid, there are certain requirements that have to be met.  Parties have to come to a meeting of the minds and must be capable of entering into an agreement freely and voluntarily.  Ultimately, when this contract is breached or broken, however, the parties go to divorce court. For most people, when a marriage ends, they file for divorce, because the marriage is irretrievably broken. But for a small fraction of individuals, an annulment can be filed, which states that the marriage was invalid from the beginning.  While annulments can seem like an attractive or less complicated approach, it is not a simple fix and Florida has specific legal requirements and proof standards for a situation to qualify for an annulment ruling or court order.

In Florida to receive an annulment, you have to show that there was:

1 Bigamy– meaning that the person you thought that you were marrying is actually already married to someone else; OR

Laboratory-300x200Many couples dream of having a child to add to the love and home that they are starting to build. In some heart breaking instances, couples experience trouble conceiving a child, and seek out medical help to become pregnant and look to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as a way to make that dream a reality.   When couples use IVF, they typically create several viable embryos at the time, which are then stored for later use. Fortunately, for many, IVF procedures bring success and before long, the couple welcomes a beautiful baby and the joys of parenthood. In some instances, however, after IVF has been successful, the other viable embryos remain cryogenically frozen, and due to breakdowns within the marriage, an issue arises during Florida divorce proceedings about what to do about the children who have not yet been born.

When children have been born, the court balances a multitude of factors in determining how timesharing with children should be divided between parents.  The most important of these factors is the “best interest of the child.”  This issue become more difficult when considering how to deal with children who are yet to be born.  Florida is one of the few states to have actually dealt with this emerging issue as more and more couples are turning to IVF.   That being said, every case is different, so it is important to discuss your case with an experienced family law attorney who can help you to navigate this issue and what the evolving law states on the issue.

In Florida, when a couple starts IVF, each person signs a contract between each other, and the treating physician, that should address what should happen to the stored genetic material: sperm, egg, and pre-embryos upon death or divorce.   Obviously, when couples are starting to take the very big step of IVF, then they should consider the “what if” seriously, but it is a daunting task, as emotions are high and anticipation of a “dream come true” is so close.  These agreements have been determined by the court to be legally binding, so discussing this issue with an attorney may lead to reducing conflict and turmoil later.

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When you file for divorce, paternity, or are involved in a dispute regarding your children with your former partner in the State of Florida, there are requirements that both parties exchange financial information.  Under the Florida Family Rules of Procedure, specifically Rule 12.285, when a family law matter is filed in circuit court, then the parties have to turn over certain documents to the other side.  These include the following financial documents: three years of tax returns, three months of proof of income, three months (at least) of bank statements, retirement information, credit card statements, and the list goes on.  This is required so that both parties and the court have a clear picture of the financial assets and debts of each side, and that the needs of the spouses and children are met based on the income between the parties.  Without it, the court cannot do its job to ensure that the outstanding issues between the parties can be handled completely and that resolution can be final.

In many instances, clients, or the opposing party, does not want to turn over financial information.  This is especially true when parties are already divorced and have been living separately for years.  The requirement, however, remains the same.  Having an experienced Florida family law attorney to guide you through the necessary disclosures from your documents, and also ensuring that you receive the documents that you will need to prove your case is essential.  This is frequently a hot bed for issues that result in one party refusing to fully comply, and requires motions to be filed before the judge to decide not only when you should receive the information, but also if sanctions, like attorney’s fees should be assigned to the non-compliant spouse.

Ensuring that you are in compliance with the required, or further requested documents, is essential to safeguarding yourself from facing possible sanctions as well.  By providing organized documentation to your legal representative gives them the ability to review and submit with confidence that you are in compliance with the required disclosure.  These documents are important to your case. In some instances, bank statements, credit card purchases, and income statements can show an experienced family law attorney aspects of your case that will help to make you successful in claims of spousal support, child support, or the distribution of assets and debts. These documents are also helpful when received from the other side in demonstrating what their need for support, ability to pay support, or where funds may be wasted which in turn in also helpful to your case.

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Breaking up is hard to do. Sometimes, one person finds out that another has been unfaithful, or another person may just be out of love, and a Florida divorce can come as a surprise or without very much warning. But for most when a marriage is on the rocks, both parties may be considering filing for divorce. Clients coming in for an initial consultation about getting divorced will ask in many instances the following questions:

Does it matter that I file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage first?

Will my spouse get the upper hand if he or she files first?

Tax-Reform-300x300When couples divorce in the State of Florida, one consideration is will there be alimony and if so, how much for how long? Alimony comes in different shapes and sizes, but one aspect has consistent: the spouse that pays the alimony is allowed to reduce his or her payments from the gross income in the IRS Income Tax filings, and the receiving spouse needs to include these payments in his or her gross income.  This may soon, however, become a thing of the past. Tax reform is one of the biggest issues in Washington D.C., which will have an impact on every person in the United States.  There are many aspects in the proposed 2017 tax reform, but one that seems to less talked about is the plan to change how alimony is treated. Instead of the paying spouse being able to deduct alimony payments from gross income, the proposed reform will no longer recognize that deduction. Further, the receiving spouse will no longer have to claim the alimony as part of his or her income.

Since tax reduction has been one way to make alimony more palatable to the paying spouse, this change will have significant impact on the likelihood of couples reaching mediated agreements or settlements in a Florida divorce case.  One reason given for the proposed change is that while most paying spouses claim their alimony deduction, many receiving spouses do not include alimony in their taxable income.   This possible change, however could have considerable effects on how divorce will evolve, as family law attorneys and judges will need to consider the tax implications far more closely when determining if alimony is not only appropriate, but also what the likely ramifications will be to the payor spouse.

Alimony is  one of those issues that continues to be an area of contention, battle, and court fight between divorcing spouses. While it is reasonable that the spouse who stayed home to raise the children, should have some financial support, the legislature and courts in Florida have already started to chip away that at the presumption that financial support from a divorced spouse should last for decades or the rest of a spouse’s life. The burden to overcome not only the need for alimony, but now the ability of a paying spouse will become far more difficult to show in court if this proposal ultimately becomes law.

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Unfortunately, divorce has become a common reality in our society and in the State of Florida, and it has far reaching impacts for individuals, couples, and their children. Twenty percent of divorces are highly contested, causing courts to label these cases as “high conflict,” meaning that there is a troubling trend in communication style between the parents of the children in the case. With intervention, almost 80% of those “high conflict” cases improve and parties are able to address the needs of their children as a team.

Being in a high conflict Florida divorce, throughout the process and after, can be physically and emotionally damaging to the spouses and children. Improving your communication is the single most effective strategy to long term growth in co-parenting conflict. So, how can co-parents improve how they communicate? There are a variety of strategies that can be used to reduce conflict and anxiety. That being said, if you are in fear for your safety or your child, then your best course of action is to remove yourself and your children from danger.

First, stop building a case against your ex, former spouse, or former partner. Judges do not look favorably on parents having long text exchanges that start out discussing the children, and end up in name calling. Requiring your former spouse to only communicate in writing is also unhealthy. In situations where you feel that you need to memorialize a conversation, a follow up email to your co-parent detailing what you discussed in a phone call is more appropriate. Having an experienced Jacksonville Florida Family Law Attorney to conduct the litigation on your behalf is the best tool to helping improve your communication with your co-parent. Leave the lawyers to do their job, and focus on your child in your communication with your co-parent.

Florida-Family-Law-Divorce-300x200For many people, when you and your spouse are getting divorce, the last thing that seems possible is that you will come to agreements about how life will work once you are divorced. Florida courts, however, routinely order that couples attend a Florida Family Law Mediation to work out their differences. Many times, our clients will ask, “why do I have to go to mediation?”

The short answer to that question is simple, “because it works.” Another answer would be because it is ordered by the Judge. Research has indicated that when spouses can have some input and control over the outcome of the divorce that both sides tend to work better at holding to that agreement and being more satisfied than if the judge decides. Mediation in Florida divorces is an opportunity for each spouse to communicate through a third party over how each spouse’s finances, parenting responsibilities, timesharing with the children, and assets can be split based on the priorities of the family. Mediation occurs in a casual office like setting, so the environment is more comfortable for reaching agreements as opposed to the formality of the agreements. Additionally, you and your spouse usually sit in separate rooms with your respective attorney, and the mediator, who is typically a lawyer or counselor trained in family law, talks to both sides individually to help create an agreement for the future of this family. Also, at mediation, everything that you say is confidential, and negotiations can not be used against in court later, so this gives each side freedom to make offers to find a resolution and not worry that their words will come back to haunt them in front of the judge.

In addition, when it comes to timesharing with your shared children, you can craft a parenting plan that is not only going to work for the particular needs of both parents, but it is focused on the needs of the children. For example, maybe your soon-to-be former spouse has an work schedule where the work overnight shifts, mediating a parenting plan can help to take those considerations into account when you and spouse come to an agreement about how to maximize time with the kids and parents, considering the work hours of both parents.

The dissolution of a marriage can be a frightening and stressful ordeal that many divorcing couples might not be emotionally equipped to handle on their own. Because emotions run high, even for the spouse who is seeking the break-up of the marriage, unresolved issues that led to a divorce often-times takes years to resolve. These problems are compounded when children are involved and add additional emotional issues that can led to severe complications for both parents and children. Divorce can be one of the most difficult, life altering events that can take place in a person’s life. The judicial process, once initiated can also be a daunting reality which adds to the emotional stress experienced by one or more of the spouses. The final outcome in divorce matters is usually decided by the courts if mediation does not present a remedy for the parties involved. Having an effective opportunity to resolve differences is usually not experienced during divorce proceedings without the guidance from an experienced attorney. At Wood, Atter and Wolf, we have experienced first-hand, the pain and suffering endured when clients are not guided in the right direction. We understand that unresolved issues stemming from an unsuccessful marriage can bleed over into the experience divorced couples endure after the legal issues have been resolved. We try to guide our clients towards, not only a successful outcome, but ways former spouses and children can deal with the trauma of divorce and find common ground moving forward. We find that the quicker you can put anger and unresolved issues behind, the sooner all parties will be happier and enjoy fulfilled lives again. This is why we encourage a collaboration between divorcing couples, working through their differences and trying to proceed with the interests of both parties in mind. While seeking an amicable solution, many formerly married couples can become happy singles again.

Roadblocks for Divorcing Couples

In most divorce cases, unresolved issues left on the table can feed over into post-divorce issues that complicate and exacerbate even simple matters. Just because a divorce decree has been finalized doesn’t always mean that all parties have moved on emotionally.  Especially when children are involved, parents with new co-parenting roles should try and develop a shared communication allowing parents to work together in the mutual best interest of the children. At Wood, Atter and Wolf we try and promote an ever evolving, harmonious relationship between former spouses focusing on what is truly important, the future, rather than mistakes made or regrets of the past.