Articles Posted in Divorce / Dissolution of Marriage

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In most Florida family law matters, especially those concerning the long term care of shared children, judges prefer to have individuals reach their own agreements about how the divorce is going to structured, including how to share time with their children, divide their property, and decision making about raising their children.   Clients routinely ask, “do we have to go to mediation? If we don’t get along, how on earth will we agree on anything?”   Simply put, mediation is magic in many but certainly not all cases.

Over the years and hundreds of cases, we have seen even the most difficult cases and parties find resolution with their spouse or former spouse through the process of mediation.  Mediation is where the spouses meet with a neutral third party, who acts as a go-between in order to find solutions to the parties’ disputes over their dissolution of marriage, modification, or other issues that may be worked out.  Typically, parties remain separated in two rooms, and may never see one another, or may briefly at the onset of mediation for the mediator to explain the process and the rules.

While getting to an agreement may seem like an insurmountable task, using a trained mediator and having an experienced family law attorney at your side makes mediation an excellent opportunity to have control and input in deciding the most important components of your family law case.  Not only that, mediation discussions are prohibited from coming into court for the judge to consider if your case goes to trial, therefore, people feel more willing to discuss their concerns and also to be open to creative solutions that may not be available should a judge decide your case.

Marital-Home-Florida-Family-LawAs experienced family law attorneys, we get many questions from prospective and current clients about moving out of their shared home and their concerns about “abandoning” the home.  As with any relationship, the answer is usually “it depends” but in reality, it’s important to realize that certain circumstances make the answer very simple, and courts quickly step in to help parties to deal with the temporary “split up” in the face of divorce.

Under Florida law, if you are married and residing in home that you purchased together, the marital home is a shared asset.  Simply moving out of the house does not mean that you have abandoned the property. In instances where your ex spouse or potential ex spouse has been violent or threatened  you with accusations (even false) of domestic violence that could have devastating impacts on your life, leaving the marital home is with good reason and would not result in you being viewed as an “abandoner.” In addition, courts recognize that when parties are going through a split up and tensions are high, getting out of the shared residence may be the best way for people to start working together to either co-parent or start the process of dividing to lead to resolution.

You do not lose your legal or property interest in the marital home, and while you should continue to make sure that the residence is continuing to be maintained, you can come to agreements with your separated spouse to divide the associated expenses to maintain the property.  If you are “breadwinner” spouse or the spouse who traditionally has paid for the home, ensuring that you are maintaining the financial status quo while occupying another place to live, is a reasonable approach to continue consistency and showing your ongoing interest in the marital home.

Spy-Snoop-Florida-Family-Law-300x225Divorce makes married people do amazing things to one another.  In many cases, spouses both realize that a relationship is broken and need to move forward.  Some cases, however, present where one spouse is blissfully unaware that the other spouse is having an affair or hiding assets. That is, of course, until reality strikes and the truth comes out.

In those situations, many unaware spouses begin to go down a path to uncover the entire truth.  Soon, the possibility of hacking emails, hiring private investigators, and following your spouse on social media becomes a temptation few are able to ignore. But is it worth it?

For many spouses, so long as they do not break privacy laws, this is a short lived exercise where they try to find out information that they do not already know, and quickly realize that they have the facts, or that information has been so blocked it will be impossible for them to find out the truth.   Conversely, there are times where some spouses flaunt their new paramour on social media or around the children, already fueling the fires of resentment and pushing the drive for more information to its apex.

Copurt-Order-300x242Dissolving your marriage in the State of Florida , in many cases, is a lengthy process.   Issues of property division and child timesharing cause couples to have conflicts without a great deal of guidance when they are attempting to finalize their plans moving forward. If you are divorcing in Florida, and specifically in the Jacksonville area, courts enter a standing family law order, once a divorce is filed with the clerk of court. This order provides some guidance on how couples should conduct themselves during the pendency of a divorce.

First, these orders prohibit one spouse from selling or hiding property, owned either individually or as a couple.   This order will typically hold off a spouse from cleaning out the bank accounts, selling off personal or real property, or hiding assets that ultimately need to be divided in the divorce. One tip that is essential to moving forward is to take a copy of this order to your bank upon receiving it, so that your financial institution is aware of the current status of your marriage, and protections can be put in place for your money.

One exception to this provision to the taking of assets is when a spouse needs to sell an asset for usual household expenses or attorney’s fees. In these cases, your spouse may be able to sell an asset without your consent in order to make financial obligations. This is another area that may cause continuing conflict, and could be avoided through communication or representation by an experienced family law attorney.

Marital-Home-300x205A question that commonly comes up in Florida Divorce consultations and cases is whether a client should move out of the marital home once one of the parties has filed for divorce. While many times spouses recognize that if there has been a divorce filing, eventually the time will come where they will no longer live together, this is a decision that should be made with planning and careful consideration.

The marital home is often the largest asset that the parties share, and its division in extremely important when considering how assets and debt will be allocated in a divorce case. In some cases, a spouse bought the house years prior to the marriage, or before even knowing the other spouse, in those cases, the house may be considered a non-marital asset. Conversely, many times, a home is purchased either right before or during a marriage, with the anticipation that the parties will live together as a married couple and ultimately a family, which would then make the house a marital asset.  In Florida, when a married couple buys a home, the property is held in a “tenancy by the entireties”. Only married couples can hold property in this manner, and the deed will reflect that the parties are married at the time of purchase, and that is how the property is deeded to the couple. Being married is a prerequisite to the property being held in this manner. When the parties divorce, the “tenancy by the entireties” is destroyed, and both parties are joint tenants of the property. In both cases, the parties own 100% of the property, but when the house is sold, equity is divided in half, unless special circumstances permit that a party is awarded a more significant share of the proceeds.

A Florida Family Law Lawyer can advise you as to your legal rights prior to and during a divorce proceeding.  Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. based in Jacksonville Florida has represented parties in divorce and post divorce proceedings since 1957.  At Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., we are On Your Side – At Your Side.

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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.